I can honestly say that I’ve grown up alongside the video game industry. My best friend down the street had an Atari 2600, so we began there with Centipede, Frogger, and the gang, before my family got a Nintendo (the original Nintendo Entertainment System). Spending countless hours with the likes of Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, Q*bert, and friends was the best thing I could do with my day. Then Contra appeared. The limitation of three lives made for a series of insane levels. This was our first exploration into the concept of “I don’t care how ridiculous this is, I will get past this!” Today, I could challenge any gamer from my generation what the code was and be met with that look of, "Really? You have to ask?" Say it with me: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start.
As the years passed, the procession of systems continued: Sega Genesis, Game Boy, PlayStation, Dreamcast, and Xbox, to name a few. I am proud to say I experienced many of these, playing a variety of games, from the good to the horrible and many in between. The extensive achievement lists of today’s games are a far cry from the simplicity that Pong or Dig-Dug offered. Sometimes a good card game or tabletop RPG can be as exciting as the latest release.
While some will scoff at the notion of playing Dungeons & Dragons, I have enjoyed adventuring into the random imagination of several dungeon masters over the years. My first exploration was in high school with a group of buddies, where literally anything could happen. If our dungeon master thought we were getting even slightly too bold, he had no issues with bringing out an epic level creature to wipe our characters completely. Few things are more humbling than having to start from scratch, with additional limitations because of your own behavior. My second party was in college, and had an interesting array of characters, both in game and out. It is awesome to see the varying degrees of how different people will play their characters. The meekest person you know may command a ferocious barbarian in game; or the local quarterback may skulk around as a pocket-picking rogue.
Almost a year ago now, I was thinking to myself, “I have played enough games of varying styles, I should find an outlet to share my opinion of games with others. I should be a game reviewer. Surely I have a valid opinion.” Let's be honest; who hasn't had that thought once or twice (a day) when they're in the middle of one campaign or another? Well, I found my outlet in a growing website by the name of BrutalGamer. They were kind enough to let me join, and now I can say that I write news and reviews for video games and comic books. Yay. We have seen everything; from a brotherly duo working in their basement for years to produce an exciting story all the way up to the AAA studio’s annual record-breakers. You never know what style of game will come across your desk next.
Shortly after I joined BrutalGamer, one of my new teammates was asking who signed up for the Extra Life marathon in November. I had no clue this marathon was even a thing. So I did what we do best these days; I googled Extra Life.
Lo and behold, I found that there are charitable organizations in the gaming community. Child’s Play, AbleGamers Charity, and Extra Life are only a few. Groups of gamers that will continue doing what they love to do while also lending their collective power to help those less fortunate. Extra Life in particular, has a push to host a 24-hour gaming marathon, and the money each participant raises goes to a Children's Miracle Network Hospital of their choosing. I figured something had to be amiss here. There is always a loophole, or some catch.
I tell you, there is no loophole, nor any catch.
Last year I raised $115 of my $150 goal, and helped support my niece and nephew's hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. I have met other Extra Lifers and gained some additional thoughts on raising money. Did you know you could have your own marathons, any time of year? Beyond that, some belong to Guilds and have regularly scheduled events! These angels raise money year-round! I had a friend dye his black hair a vibrant shade of orange for reaching his Extra Life fundraising goal.
Now, to be honest, this can easily sound overwhelming: Guilds, marathons, and fundraisers. If you break it down, it sounds that much more exciting. Guild is a lofty name for a bunch of like-minded gamers in your area that want to get together and play games. How bad can that be? Marathons, well who would dislike the thought of playing their favorite game(s) for hours on end? As for the fundraisers, take a few moments to get on your favorite social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) to let your friends and family that you want to raise money for children. That’s right, raising money for children in hospitals. In addition, you want to do it by playing games with friends. That doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? You can choose any game or games you want, and you can decide what date works best for you. What’s not to like about that?
Last year was my wife and my first time participating in the 24-hour Extra Life marathon, and we are planning to do so again this coming November. In fact, my wife just asked me last week when the sign-ups began, so we would not miss out. We have learned that several of our friends are board game and card game fans, so we may have to see if we can recruit them to our team this year.
If you are like me and you think this seems like a great way to raise money for a good cause while also having a good time, then you should check out Extra Life. They can be found in-person at almost any comic or gaming convention around the country. More than that though, you probably know more people that either participate or fund the group than you realize. When I go to Chicago’s Comic Convention next month, I look forward to stopping by the Extra Life booth and meeting new friends.
So what are you waiting for? Check out Extra Life today!
I'm Patrick Mackey and I play for Kosair Children's Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky.
If you don’t have a team, you are welcome to join or donate to ours!