By Jeromy Adams, Team Extra Life, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals
Being classified as a gamer no longer carries the stigma of playing ninth-string in society’s orchestra. As video games have risen to become the most popular form of entertainment on the planet, so too have the fans of these games outgrown the stereotype of being the sunlight-deprived kid living out their early years in their parents’ basement. We're cool now.
Through above-average tech knowledge, we are incredibly connected with our friends. Through online venues, playing games has become an extremely social experience and as such, gamers are now among the most social creatures in the known universe.
Then there’s the gamer economics. New console games cost an average of $60. We can spend hundreds of dollars on “free-to-play” titles like League of Legends, or the more casual Candy Crush Saga -- all while paying mortgages, raising kids, and taking care of our aging parents, who just might live in our basement.
We’ve got jobs, friends, we’re raising families, and even at the ripe old average age of 32-36 years old, we still take time to have fun. We are doing all right.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that gamers are leading the charge in a war to save the lives of kids through Extra Life. In six short years, this gamer-fueled, grassroots initiative has grown to provide millions of dollars in life-saving care and equipment for kids at 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in North America including Boston Children's Hospital.
I founded Extra Life in memory of my friend Victoria (Tori) Enmon of Orange, Tex. Tori was a cheerleader and a gamer. She had cancer in her blood. Leukemia.
It was during her third fight with cancer that I asked some of my friends in an online gaming community to send their used games to help build a little care-basket for Tori.
As it turns out, they don’t make a basket that big.
A few days later, games began to come from all over the world. Piles upon piles of glorious games! So many that Tori gave most away to other sick kids. Tori’s fight against cancer raged on for several more months.
She passed away in January, 2008. It broke my heart.
Shortly after her funeral, I received a fundraising email from an old friend of mine who was participating in a bike event. I remember thinking how great it would be if I could do something like that in memory of Tori. If cyclists can bike, and runners can run, why couldn’t I… game? I invited my friends again. They went crazy again.
The first Extra Life event was held in dens around the world on October 15, 2008. Some 1,200 gamers raised $120,000 in Tori’s memory.
By 2010, we were hearing from gamers from all over the world who spoke of their desire to put Extra Life to work on behalf of kids near them. That’s how Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN) became the beneficiary of Extra Life. With a core tenet of CMN being that money stays where its raised, it meant that a dollar raised by an Extra Lifer in Boston would go to Boston Children’s Hospital, while a dollar raised by a player in Toronto would benefit kids at SickKids. We gave our players what they wanted, and they gave back, big time.
In 2012 alone, they raised more than $2 million dollars.
This year, Extra Life Guilds and street teams have sprung up from Boston to Edmonton to Seattle, with members focused on recruiting more gamers in the fight for the lives of kids.
The passion of these gamers is driving the growth of Extra Life.
Extra Life is also growing by virtue of inclusivity and flexibility. Extra Lifers can turn anything that they enjoy doing into a lifesaving fundraiser for local kids. They can even reschedule Extra Life on a day that works for them. Even more are now fundraising year round!
Above all, though, I believe that Extra Life works because these gamers I’ve been telling you about are passionate, decent, and loving human beings who have managed to grow into their adulthood without losing touch with their inner child.
Gamers will change the world. Join us. Do what you love to raise money for kids near you.
And by the way: My parents wish you to know that they do not live in my basement.
In loving memory of Tori and in gratitude for my very healthy kids Jack, Max, and Stella.
Jeromy Adams lives in Houston, Tex., with his wife Lesley and three children. He is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and spent 11 years in radio before joining Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in 2009.
The State of Play blog, organized by MassDiGI, features posts by digital and video game industry insiders writing about creativity, innovation, research, and development in the Massachusetts digital entertainment and apps sectors. MassDiGI, based at Becker College, is a statewide center for academic cooperation, entrepreneurship, and economic development across the local games ecosystem. Follow along @Mass_DiGI
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