It took me a long time to get involved in the wider gaming community.
My brother and I both gamed while I was growing up of course, as did many of our friends. When I was a kid that was all that mattered since the internet wasn't yet a part of everyday life. Later though, when others were excited to play the new online games and join online communities, I tended to avoid MMO's and forums. It wasn’t so much that I was inherently asocial, it just felt safer and more comfortable keeping to myself and playing single player games. Besides, I didn't feel I had anything worth saying to anyone outside my own circles.
These days, I write a blog, contribute to a website, am on a weekly podcast, try to be active on game forums, and was excited to write this piece for the Extra Life community. I have a voice and try to share my thoughts in both writing and speech. I enjoy connecting with other gamers, and this very community is one reason I can say that now.
2013 was the first year I heard about Extra Life. A friend of mine mentioned on his livestream that he would be participating and told stories about the previous year. The idea of gamers getting together for an amazing cause like Children's Miracle Network Hospitals sounded like something I'd love to do. There was only one problem: I'd never streamed, and wanted to do more than just hang out during his stream.
With plenty of trepidation, I started learning the basics of streaming and was soon practicing for the main event. Streaming had always sounded like fun, which was why I tended to guest on other streams. But running a stream myself? So many things could go wrong, and I could end up looking foolish. I made myself push through my nervousness, knowing this was for something bigger than me. In doing so, I realized the community was clearly willing to help.
I wasn't the only one focused on the larger goal. As the day approached, I received advice and good wishes from gamers I'd never met before. “For the kids,” bridged the gap to make an instant connection. I noticed we weren't just supporting a charity, we were supporting each other. To my surprise, I started to see a side of gaming I'd been missing out on.
My stream, incidentally, went just fine. I had to close it off a couple hours early due to my laptop wanting to overheat, but the rest of it was perfectly enjoyable. My only regret is forgetting to save it before it was auto-deleted by Twitch. I felt good about what I'd done, not just in collecting donations, but in becoming a part of such a supportive community.
In 2014, I didn't quite trust my laptop to hold up for a 24 hour stream. I planned to spend the day doing a group run of DC Universe Online with some friends instead. While that worked fine for hours, we had to end early due to the streamer's health. I was at a complete loss for what to do. I couldn't stream, didn't have anything planned, but didn't want to stop the marathon.
Instead of heading to bed, I logged into my favorite MMO, The Secret World. At the time I didn't know many people there, but I knew a number of players were participating in Extra Life. I thought I'd tag along with them, if I could find them and they let me. If not, at least I knew I could play the game for hours.
When I asked in chat if anyone was still running, the response was immediate warmth and welcome. Once again, players I didn't even know were jumping over themselves to include me and congratulate me for participating. The beginning of my connections in this game wound up being incredibly important, as those connections are one reason I later auditioned for, and became a part of, the Beyond the Veil podcast!
This year, I have a new computer for marathon day. I'll be running with my friends over in The Secret World and co-streaming on my own channel. I am comfortable in belonging and excited for another chance to support the cause. I know I can reach out to other runners for support and friendship, and when I do stream I know I can ask and receive helpful advice.
Extra Life is always primarily about the kids. It's an amazing thing we do each year, and it's important to keep the real goals in mind. What we do during these gaming marathons makes a very real difference to very real people. Many children of my friends and family have been helped greatly by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. I can't say enough about how valuable supporting them is.
Still, the way the community members open up and support each other is also a beautiful thing to see and an important aspect to recognize. While we're doing something great for the kids, we can do something great for each other, too. As I get ready for Extra Life 2015, I'll be taking some time to welcome new participants and appreciate the old. I hope we not only break our high score for donations this year, but also bring a record number of new gamers into a supportive and friendly community.