Playing Games to Help Kids: Extra Life
Five years ago, a buddy of mine—always the idea guy, this one—shot me a text: “Ever heard of Extra Life? I wanna do it this year.”
At the time, I had to admit I had no idea what he was talking about—after all, I was four years deep into DadBrain and if something didn’t have a Pixar or Disney character attached to it, it may as well not exist in my world.
He gave me the highlights: it’s a charity event; it helps Children’s Miracle Networks; it’d be tabletop roleplaying and board gaming all night for a good cause. The hook baited, I showed up at our FLGS against the weird November almost-cold, a cloth bag of polyhedral D&D dice and a copy of Munchkin in hand, and got to work. The next morning, after experiencing just how deep the game rabbit hole goes, making great new friends, and playing the one and only game of Cards Against Humanity that I have been ever invested fully in, I was already pumped for the next year.
I was also pretty tired. Can’t overstate that. Put it this way: a well-rested player doesn’t lucid dream that he’s actively taking turns (like I managed to in plays of both Talisman and Pandemic). But back to the important stuff.
We’ve grown SO much since that first event. We’ve partnered with a local con, another gaming store, and other local businesses to co-host. We’re courting sponsors to let us give away their D&D supplements, or raffle their polyhedral dice sets, or board games, or RPG props. We expanded our one weekend into three events. My favorite was the all-roleplaying-game “One Shot Weekend” with dice hitting the table for Fate, World of Darkness, D&D, and Index Card RPG. But no matter the game, the dice rolls, and whose turn it is, we’re still just great friends trying to do good work.
2017 saw Extra Life take in nearly $11 MILLION in events around the world. Locally, in our years together, Team Kid-ical Success has raised nearly $2,500 (including over $1,000 for the first time ever this year!), mostly in small-dollar donations. It’s based in the generosity of a friend or coworker who’s down for the cause, or attendees who’re trying to score that sweet gaming swag at the raffle table. Speaking of, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our amazing sponsors, including Dice Envy, who have contributed a staggering $2,900 worth of goods and shop credits to help us out just in 2018.
Through all of this, though, I think about our teammates Ryan and Alan, or Abby (one of our local business partners) and their families. Without our local CMN Hospital, they would have had to travel over an hour one-way to receive treatment for their children’s needs. In the age of everything-on-demand, the concept of driving that far for basic care is anathema to us. So, if it means that Alan or Abby and their kids can go 15 minutes away and be seen regardless of their ability to pay for care, you bet your sweet CON check I’ll get my guys to the table!
But it’s become something bigger for me too. Now, I’m not trying to bend this to any kind of agenda here. To me, that local game store has become a welcome respite. We’re in an increasingly divided, polarized and isolated world, but there we’re all trying to stake that vampire or loot that dragon’s vault. We’re all matching wits with decks and dice. It’s the best example a dad and a gamer can set: putting all our hashtags and such aside for the greater goal of everyone having a good time.
And doing all that, hitting all those positive notes to ease the load on sick kids and their families sure seems like a Crit Success to me.
Visit the Extra Life website If you are interested in learning more.
In the real-world, Jeff Chaffee is a level-15 speech therapist, multi-classed into 10+ levels of Hubby/Dad. When not slaying the sentient grasses of Northern PA or rolling yet another character up for that game he's TOTALLY going to be running, he can usually be found teaching a new game or figuring out how to illustrate a new beta test with only Wingding fonts in Photoshop.