It feels like video games have been part of my life since the start.
When I was six years old, I distinctly remember going over to one of my cousin’s homes, where he showed me the cutting edge technology of the day: the Atari 800. This thing was a glorious beige box with not one, but two cartridge ports, and he even had the cassette attachment. That’s right, an honest to goodness cassette that was used to load up some of the bigger programs that the Atari could power.
I ended up using that Atari as my entry into video games. My dad and I would play a game called River Raid on Sunday afternoon, carefully traversing through a canyon while dodging incoming fire from ships and planes. We’d check out Pac-Man who, at the time, was the biggest celebrity on Earth. And I even learned how to code in a computer language called Basic, which essentially was me painstakingly copying hundreds of lines of code to make an 8-bit fireworks show that would rival the biggest celebration this side of Disney World.
Over the years, my hobby took me through several generations of consoles, and eventually it became part of my career. I felt there was a real need to be close to an industry I really enjoyed, and I’m thankful to have worked with and visited companies I would only dream of as a kid: from Nintendo to Blizzard, from Xbox to PlayStation, and many points in between.
But over the years, regardless of the industry you work in, you can start to feel a little cynical. That might just come naturally with age, or maybe you have some experiences that tarnish good ones. When the gates of that chocolate factory finally opened, Willy Wonka and his Oompa-loompas weren’t there to greet me.
Those days of playing games with my dad were slowly replaced by work, and more work, and eventually the work replaced any and all time actually playing these games. The solace and the comfort of those games started to dissipate, and that opportunity for joy was relegated to more worldly pursuits.
That is, at least, until I had a couple of kids of my own.
For all the technology we have here, and counter to my “early adopter” nature, we were initially guarded about providing our two girls with access to screens. Games and movies were pretty well-regulated in our house. We weren’t luddites, but we kept screen time limited to some tried-and-true Pixar movies, and nothing interactive.
That eventually changed with the introduction of the Nintendo Switch. It ticked off some pretty critical boxes for us: it was a closed platform, which meant, by and large, it was guarded from things that could interfere with a kid’s enjoyment of games. Things like chat were pretty restricted, their parental controls app was top notch, and, most importantly, the games were fun and wholesome.
Super Mario Odyssey was an early favorite of ours, starring the world’s most renowned plumber, Mario, as he set off on a wide-ranging adventure that was a ton of fun to watch, and eventually led to the kids learning how to play on their own (with some supervision). Games like Mario Kart followed, and most recently Animal Crossing, all of which also led to some high quality family time.
Of course, it hasn’t all been about games, as we’ve set out on adventures of our own over the years, but games have helped, especially during this challenging year.
They’ve given us a chance to do things together, like visit each other’s islands in Animal Crossing or build a house together in Minecraft. They’ve given us a common thread with our children that might have been otherwise tough to establish, and it is something I hope we continue in some way in the future.
Most of all, gaming has allowed us a chance to spend some more quality time together as a family, and that brings me to the importance of Cure Rare Disease.
I’ve been learning about the different, extremely unique challenges faced by the Cure Rare Disease families, and it has reinforced the priorities that we all share in life; specifically maximizing the amount of time we have with our families.
The work that Rich and the team at CRD are doing is truly special, and I implore everyone to read up on the amazing projects by going to cureraredisease.org. There is rarely a better, more significant way to impact a family than to provide them more quality time together, and that is where I’m very proud of helping CRD in whatever small way I can.
One of the lesser known aspects of gaming is its generosity, and I’m proud to work with a number of people and companies on philanthropic efforts to raise money for good causes through gaming events. I’m proud to say that we have raised almost $1M this year for charities like American Red Cross and Equal Justice Initiative, amongst others, and I’ve seen amazing charitable efforts from companies like Shacknews for the benefit of Children’s Specialized Hospital, and influencers like DrLupo for the benefit of St. Jude’s.
Over the next few months and into 2021, I am proud to help get the message out about Cure Rare Disease to the valuable and generous video game and esports audiences across platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and social media. We are going to have some fun playing a variety of games, both competitively and just for fun, all in a concerted effort to raise money and awareness of these efforts.
Please join me in my favorite hobby and find out why it’s been something that’s been very important in my life and for my family, and something that can help other families in some very big ways. Follow us on Twitter at @cureraredisease to learn more about how you can support our efforts!