Gaming provides great opportunities for us to create community and do good. This year, Intelligame joins Extra Life, a 24-hour gaming marathon to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
TwitchCon offered tons of great sights and games to check out, but I’d argue that the most interesting parts of the show were in the back of the expo hall. Artist Alley and Inclusivity City both took up space near the rear, yet offered some of the most unique paintings and discussions I’d ever seen at a convention. And then there was Charity Plaza, a lane of multiple charities sponsoring everything from cancer research to military veterans. I made an appointment this year to visit with Extra Life so I could meet Camden Hall, an 8-year old Make-a-Wish recipient recently declared cancer-free.
Camden Hall seems like an everyday eight year old boy: he’s focused on everything and nothing at the same time, a ball of energy waiting to unleash itself on the world. Of course, the environment doesn’t help: he’s at TwitchCon, a convention full of games and lights and sounds just begging for his attention. Still, he sits with me to have a conversation about himself and why he’s at the Extra Life booth.
Truthfully, I’m terrible at talking with kids. Friends have told me to just “talk to them like they’re little adults,” but I still fill sentences with “uhms” and “ahs” as I struggle to figure out how to ask a kid about his experience with a life-threatening illness. So, instead, I lead off by talking video games and ask him his favorite. “Right now, I love Pokémon,” Camden tells me. He swings his legs as he tells me about trying to beat the Elite Four in Pokémon: Alpha Sapphire, then tells me about the upcoming Pokémon games coming out.
“A lot of people on YouTube has [sic] been speculating that there’s gonna be a third one: Pokémon Eclipse,” he says. He tells me that he’s going to get Pokémon Sun in the meantime, and I tell him I’m getting the same one. I use it as an opportunity for a high-five.
If he’s nervous at all, I can’t tell. He just seems like a normal kid: full of energy, happy, curious, sharp. His glance darts around the expo hall as I ask him questions.
“Over the past year, in 2015, I had cancer,” he tells me… I just recovered in August from finishing cancer, and I get to do a ton of fun stuff!” I’m about to ask him another question, but he cuts right in: “A few fun stuff that I have done is open Ninjagoland at Legoland, went to a giant gaming festival at Sony, and, um, and this!” He might have missed some of the linguistic nuances, but he’s obviously prepared for this.
We talk about YouTube, his friends and the games they play together (Marvel’s Age of Ultron and Plants vs. Zombies 2), whether he’d want to be a YouTuber or streamer one day. He’s one of the lucky ones that gets a future; thanks to supportive family, friends, and the medical treatment at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, we just might see him hunting Pokémon on the internet himself one day.
Back when I worked for a healthcare IT company, I helped with a software installation at Kosair Children’s Hospital. Sure, I’d seen commercials about children’s hospitals before, but I don’t think I truly understood what that meant until I stepped into Kosair. This was a building full of kids, many of which were fighting life-threatening illnesses before they’d ever had the chance to truly live. Even so, there was this air of happiness and hope around many of the nurses and staff. Working that install gave me a greater sense of gravity and purpose than many of my other assignments.
I’ve always wanted Intelligame to be about highlighting the human element of gaming, to showcase the power games have to make our lives better. Spending time with Camden, as well as his father and some of the Extra Life staff, reminded me about the fantastic opportunity they offer to do just that. On November 5th, Intelligame will host its first fundraiser as part of Extra Life: an all-day gaming marathon to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.
I’ll personally be raising money for OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. I’ve started an Intelligame Extra Life team so people can join me in the fundraising; you don’t have to do a giant marathon like me; just do 24 hours of gaming over whatever span of time you feel appropriate: maybe an hour a day? 8 hours for four weekends? It’s up to you.
I’d love to have your support in making this first Intelligame fundraiser a success. My personal goal is to raise $500; you can donate any time during the livestream, or you can donate beforehand by checking my donor page. The stream will take place at Twitch.tv/letsintelligame, the future home of Intelligame’s livestreaming content. You can watch the stream and chat with other viewers, so plan on grabbing some food or drinks and hanging out for a bit! I’m also hoping to have some friends and guests on to keep things interesting.