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TF2's Hats For Japan

There are now more gaming-related fundraising schemes for victims of the natural disaster in Japan than it's possible to enumerate. Hopefully all have been of some use, even the ones that seemed to involve more than a little self-promotion en route.

Now it's Valve's turn to stretch some fanbase muscle: via the quiet microtransaction giant that is Team Fortress 2, they've weaved a limited edition set of hats and noise makers, all proceeds from which will go to the Red Cross' disaster relief efforts in the suffering nation.

They're not kidding around here - the uber-est of the new items will set you back $99, of which Valve themselves apparently don't see a penny. That's for the Magnanimous Monarch, which looks like this:

You'll certainly be noticed, anyway. Does the hitbox go all the way to the top of that thing?

There's also the rather more affordable Humanitarian's Hachimaki ($7.99), the Benefactor's Kanmuri ($19.99) and two new noise makers ($0.49/$1.99). They can't be obtained in any other way than donating, and will be entirely wiped from the store come April 6.

Obviously, any and all gestures of this kind raise questions of whether and how much the apparently philanthropic company benefits from making them. That may be so. It may also be true that direct donations from the companies in question could amount to far more money than could be accrued from fans. It's a dense and cyclic argument- but the net result is money going to disaster relief in Japan, and increased awareness amongst gamers of the need for said relief. Promotion - e.g. this post - is an entirely inevitable by-product, not necessarily a cynical one. Perhaps there's always a better way, but that doesn't mean for one second that other ways are worthless. If an exclusive hat is what it takes to make you donate, that's no bad thing.

More details on the Japan pack at the TF2 blog and Wiki. You can also donate directly to the Red Cross here.

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