Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gaming for a Good Cause

Sadly, we live in a world where there is no shortage of people in need. And, in Washington, DC, there is certainly no shortage of non-profit organizations, lobbyists, and independent philanthropists eager to promote their respective causes.  It can be challenging for someone who wants to give back to determine the best way to contribute, or which cause to support.  As for me, I never feel like I have the time or money to give back nearly as much as I want to and I constantly struggle to find the balance between family priorities, personal hobbies, work, and community involvement.

Last year, I came across the Extra Life marathon on social media. "Play Games, Heal Kids," was the headline I saw on their website.  I learned that it is a gaming marathon founded in 2008 in honor of Victoria Enmon, a teenage gamer that lost her life to leukemia.  Extra Life encourages participants to raise money for their local Children's Miracle Network (CMN) Hospital.  It works much like a walk-a-thon in that the 24-hour gaming period is completed on the honors system and can be any form of gaming: console, PC, tabletop, etc.  All the money raised by Extra Life participants goes to the CMN hospital of the participant's choice to save kids' lives. Last year, Extra Life raised an amazing $4.1 million! I signed up, raised a humble amount, and spent my gaming hours playing Defiance online.  By being involved in Extra Life, I even received some codes for upgrades and special gear for for the game.  It was awesome to have some fun gaming and also know that I had contributed to a great cause.  

As an avid gamer, I thought Extra Life was a great idea: a way to get gamers proactively involved to give back to children who need live-saving medical care.  On a personal level, it was a great way to balance my passion for gaming with supporting the community in a really meaningful way.  Since the birth of my little girl this past spring, the fundraising behind Extra Life has taken on even greater meaning for me as a parent.  Additionally, one of my neighbors had a son this year who was born with a very rare heart condition and recently received a heart transplant at Children's National Medical Center here in DC.  I'd like to think that the money raised through Extra Life, in some small part, has allowed him to get the long-term treatment he needs.  

The Extra Life DC Guild was founded this year to support an ever-growing number of gamers around DC who realize the impact that the gaming community can have through this gaming marathon for children all over the country.  The Guild has participated in many recent conventions and gaming events around DC to recruit new members and increase awareness about this great cause.  Keep an eye out for us at upcoming local events, including Magfest 8.5, the Red Bull Battlegrounds, and Anime USA. (check out a complete calendar of upcoming events at my website.)

It is great to see that Extra Life and other gamer-oriented charities are showcasing how gamers are doing good things--combating the stereotype of the lazy, couch-potato gamer in his or her "bubble," disconnected from the world.  I would be remiss if I did not recognize the many initiatives out there besides Extra Life that demonstrate the gaming community is giving back in different ways:  Gaming for Good, which sells games online with the proceeds going to Save the Children; Child's Play, which provides video games and consoles to children's hospitals; and Special Effect, which leverages new technologies to allow handicapped individuals to play video games, just to name a few.  If you work with another great gamer-oriented charity, please comment below to give them a shout-out.

The bottom line is this: if you're a gamer and aren't currently involved in charitable gaming, think about joining the community.  Find your cause, step up and give it a shot.  You might be surprised at how much satisfaction you get from giving back a little!  If you think Extra Life might be a good start for you, please give it a try and sign up for free at