When the wifi is too bad to even play Minecraft, you tend to spend all your time helping others.
It wasn't a misguided vanity project -- it was endorsed by Save The Children. Which has an entire page on him, because the Twitch-based charity he founded, Gaming For Good, has raised 23 million dollars for them. CNBC, IB Times, CBS, and others have done profiles on his charity work.
They ran into some trouble when trying to register themselves as a charity, and everyone had a laugh when one of their members jokingly suggested they just register as a religion ... until they realized that was a good idea.
"[Registering as a charity] turned out to be problematic due to the fact that we mobilize our audience to donate not to us but directly to the charities that we know are effective. As a result, we ran into the funny obstacle of every lawyer telling us we can't prove that it's us doing the fundraising. The twist we then came up with was: What if our non-profit would be a religion that is basically just critical thinking? The response we got from lawyers that we consulted was that this is a possibility, and we're now waiting to see if we get approval for it."
Scientology got one and they're basically a shitty sci-fi book club.
All of that leads to one final question ...
So, Is This Really A Cult?
There isn't a clear-cut framework for cults. There's no "cult stamp" you can just smack on a form and make it official. So where do you draw the line between an exploitative, possibly dangerous situation, and just a gaggle of geeks playing mind games?
And before you say "mind-control goggles" and "dead-eyed stares" ...
Athene does portray himself as the one guy in the world who can teach you how to be happy, and that's a pretty cult-like move. On the other hand, he doesn't want your money, or for you cut all ties with your family -- the classic cult "one-two" combo. We don't know what his endgame is: Maybe the German police will bust down the doors after the neighbors complain about a nasty smell one day, maybe they'll all just quietly move on to something new after a few years, maybe it'll all turn out to be an elaborate prank, or hey, maybe they really will discover the meaning of life. But for now, they are, as far as anyone can tell, completely serious about it.
"Athene and myself initially threw all our savings into it and thus far we've been fortunate to get enough donations from our viewers on Twitch to keep the lights on. We sort of improvise as we go along. And the side effect of putting together a team of people who are financially self-sufficient and love to think outside the box is that you tend to end up with mostly entrepreneurial individuals. We have members of the team who've been with us for almost two years now, and others who have just been part of it for about a month. From anywhere from the UK to Serbia to New Zealand."
Just one, big, happy family. And they all claim to have banged your mom.
We only know this: Someone who got famous for playing video games and trolling has raised millions of dollars for charity, while also convincing people to come live with him in a compound and participate in strange experiments on the human mind. We're calling it: That's the plot of the next BioShock.
Tiago is on Twitter. Mark is too, and he also has a book.
For more looks into creepy cults, check out 7 Horror Movie Scenes I Lived Inside a Real Apocalyptic Cult and The Cult My Parents Forced Me Into Was A Hippie Sex Scam.
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