EDIT: [As of 8/8/15, I will be joining team OtterDown for this year’s event. Team Otterly Gaming will still be running, by all means check ’em out on the big day! 🙂 ]
Today’s post is partly to announce that both my own page and my team page (Otterly Gaming) for Extra Life 2015 are live. My friends in The Secret World, the “other otters” of team Otterdown, have also opened their 2015 page – I’m fully expecting otterly fabulous hijinks out them as well. 🙂 The big day for the 24 hour marathon is November 7/8, so mark your calendars now. It’s something that’s important to me; I’m sure I’ll be posting about it more than once. I have some fun stories I can tell from the last few years…
Today, though, I want to talk a little about Extra Life and why I’ve participated for the last three years. I’ll warn you that it’s a messy topic for me this year, feel free to jump to the last two paragraphs if you’d like the TL;DR version.
The basic information about Extra Life can, of course, be found on their website. It’s a yearly gaming charity started in 2008 to honor a young girl’s fight with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The charity has continued, growing in both participants and donations ever since. Each year thousands of gamers all over the world collect donations (all of which go directly to local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals) and then participate in a 24 hour gaming marathon. Think of it like pledging for a charity race – only we’re marathoning with games. Participants play anything from board games to card games to video games; the total amount raised last year was the most yet, at $5.4 million. Many participants also livestream their game day, sharing their reasons for playing and their experiences as they do.
But why do *I* play for Extra Life? There’s the obvious and biggest reason – helping hospitals treat sick kids. CMN hospitals help children and families even when the families can’t afford the care they need; they are literal lifesavers in so many cases. It’s a kind and noble purpose; I can’t say enough good things about them. What you may not know is that the CMN hospital nearest me has treated my nephew and the children of friends of mine, so I have some personal reasons for wanting to see them continue their mission.
Many charity groups exist for CMN donations, so why is it this one that I choose every year? I value being able to do something truly good with my hobby, and the chance to come together with thousands like me with a passion for both gaming and doing something great, something larger than any one of us can do on our own.
Last year, I have to admit there was a pall over the big day, as much as we all did our best to focus on the task at hand. There’s been some heavy issues in gaming since last fall that I’ve not yet decided how to address, or even if I should on this blog. Some people in the gaming community had been doing some awful things; and for that matter, some still are. I’ve watched friends of mine get hurt and say hurtful things, I’ve been in an atmosphere where I was uncomfortable discussing my thoughts on gaming and the gaming community for fear of reprecussions, and I’ve felt vicarious pain and outrage for those hurt whom I do not know personally. (I don’t say that last to make other people’s stories about me, the more important part is how they are affected.) The thing is, I also know amazing and giving people involved in the hobby, in the industry, in online media, and in academia related to gaming. I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember, and I don’t appreciate other gamers trying to speak for me in ways I would never speak.
I didn’t begin participating in Extra Life to make any kind of a statement, and I’m not going to change that in 2015. It would cheapen things and would also feel dishonest since I’ve been doing this for a few years now. However, I’d be lying if I said that doing good things related to gaming hasn’t become even more important to me. The spiraling toxicity of some members of the gaming community has not stopped me from gaming, from meeting great people, from trying to be the best person I can be, or from trying to do good both in and through the community. Really, Extra Life is one of those things that can and will always rise above. In 2013 we were DDoS’d multiple times and still emerged triumphant.
I participate in CMN fundraising because they are a wonderful group of people that deserve all the help anyone can give. Other than helping sick kids and their families in general, they’ve helped kids in my own family and those of my friends. I help through Extra Life because in spite of everything, most gamers are also wonderful people that I am proud to stand with in order to do great things. Last year, we hit $5.4 million; I’d like to see us beat our “high score” again. I love watching Extra Life grow and get better known every year. There was an article posted in 2013 by CNN.com about Extra Life, and it felt like such a win to have that kind of coverage. 🙂
I welcome and encourage folks to join in this year; whether by donating, joining a team, starting a team, or just getting the word out – whether you consider yourself a “gamer” or not! Scan the livestreams on November 7/8, it means so much to have that encouragement. If the games you play don’t have an official team (many do!), encourage them to think about it. We’ve got most of the year in front of us to make this the best year ever – at least until next year. 😉