There is a light layer of snow on the ground and a crisp chill in the Madison air. As the semester winds down, the impending holiday buying frenzy looms ever closer. While we could easily do a lame holiday wish list or do yet another recap of this past semester's gaming news, that's frankly been done to death. We've been talking about great games all semester long — and if people don't know what titles to look for, they are beyond our help.

This week, we've decided to change things up a little from the typical defensive stance our column takes. People often assume that video games are a horrible influence on society, with few positive images of gamers reaching anyone. With holiday cheer in the air, everyone's favorite game junkies are making it our goal to spread a positive message of gaming to our readers. So pour yourself a cup of hot cocoa (toss in a little peppermint schnapps if exams have you down), curl up on the nearest couch and prepare for some delightfully positive gaming news. Game on.

Ryan:

Let's be honest — society doesn't typically give gamers a very good rap. They are often depicted as gore-hungry losers with nothing better to do than sit on their couches and experience countless hours of digital entertainment. Well, it's somewhat true. But for every "hot coffee" story, there is a handful of equally positive tales.

For three years now, the creators of Penny Arcade have been running a grassroots charity called Child's Play. Basically, gamers from all over raise close to a million dollars in toys, video games and money for children in Children's Hospitals. Penny Arcade does all of this without any administrative fees, simply giving the items to sickly children.

Sundeep:

Ryan's right. Society tends to look down on the gaming community for their lack of drive and unusual obsession. I mean, let's be serious, video gaming tends to inherently be self-gratifying. However, it's nice to see that Penny Arcade and others have taken initiative and begun donating to Children's Hospitals around the country. What's more are the types of big name companies who've jumped on for the philanthropic ride. Everyone from Blizzard to Microsoft has a stake in helping sick kids around the country. But remember it's not just large corporations who are involved with Child's Play. Anyone can donate to the cause.

Ryan:

Something like this truly shows that gamers have hearts. At the same time, game developers are glomming into this charity and giving thousands of dollars to needy kids. Software powerhouses like Bungie and Bioware are donating both their time and resources to this worthwhile cause. This year marks a new change, with the organization going worldwide to help Children's Hospitals throughout the world.

Consumers can either log onto the charity's website www.penny-arcade.com/childsplaycharity/index.php to make a donation or go to one of the hospital's Amazon.com wish lists to select some items to donate.

Sundeep:

The Child's Play website will allow those who want to donate to view what kinds of holiday gaming fun kids are yearning for. Kids want everything from Xbox bundles to the Nintendo DS. But if you're worried about spending too much, no worries, you can also purchase other charitable items like books and movies. Those who visit the website can also view letters sent in from patients and relatives of patients who have seen what video games can do for people. So far, the group has raised just over $200,000 and their total continues to grow.

Ryan ([email protected]) and Sundeep ([email protected]) are hopelessly addicted to video games. They'd like to wish everyone happy holidays and officially announce their new Facebook group. C'mon, nerds love technology.