Sunday Conversation with Max Rubenstein

Teen channels grandmother’s love of video games for good cause


If you think video games are a bad influence on children, Max Rubenstein might make you think again. The 15-year-old from Sandy Springs is the founder of Game Givers, a new nonprofit that delivers video games into the hands of kids confined to a hospital bed. In just a few months, Rubenstein has raised more than $5,000, most of which he delivered to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Halloween to purchase video games and consoles for kids who wouldn’t be trick-or-treating. Rubenstein talked about his love of video games and the inspiration behind his nonprofit — his late grandmother Sandy Goldberg, who, incidentally, also happened to love video games.

Q: Why Game Givers?

A: Kids in the hospital need something to take their mind off of getting woken up at 3 a.m. to get poked. Game Givers raises money and works with a hospital to buy video games for kids. The nonprofit also has video game drives and gaming tournaments to raise funds and awareness. I have a lot of friends who have Wiis and other consoles and games sitting around gathering dust. Getting these into the hands of kids is really easy to do.

Q: Why do you like video games?

A: I have always had a connection with video games and my parents are both pop culture geeks so I was raised playing Pac-Man, Galaga and Donkey Kong. Video games are a more immersive way of storytelling than a movie.

Q: What do you say to parents who think they are bad for kids?

A: There has been this whole outcry, pinning all of these gun attacks on people playing video games. Personally, I don't play shooter games. Really, parents need to know what their kids are playing and if they are ready for those games.

Q: Can you talk about your grandmother?

A: She loved games. She played mahjong, card games and had a neon green Game Boy where we would have Tetris battles. The logo for Game Givers incorporates the teal ribbon for ovarian cancer, which she died from last month. She loved seeing everything I did with this charity and asked that all the donations in her memory go to Game Givers.

Q: How did you learn to start a nonprofit?

A: I applied to the GivingPoint Institute, a nonprofit that tasks high school students around Atlanta with creating social action projects. They are taking me through all the key elements I need to do to run a nonprofit. Working with professionals in the Atlanta area and having the ability to network and speak to business owners has taught me a great deal about running a company.

Q: How do you raise money?

A: There is a video game club at my school, The Galloway School, that puts on tournaments and raises money. It is not a lot to ask someone to pay $10 to play in a tournament for a good cause. I also have friends at other schools who are definitely willing to put on tournaments to help me out.

Q: Didn’t Paramount Pictures donate to Game Givers?

A: I sent an email asking if they had any games they could donate. I got an email back from the president of licensing and branding, saying that she was overnighting eight boxes of games and movies and merchandise. She also personally donated $1,000. That was crazy.

Q: So you are going to keep going?

A: Next steps include a partnership with Grady Hospital and a sizable donation to the recreation room for the Shepherd Center. My goal is to continue marketing Game Givers to different high schools around the area and really promoting community service to teens in a fun way.