This year I decided to do a charity program called Extra Life. The "activism" portion of the drive is that I will be sitting down on October 19th and play video games for 24 hours.
Sounds like a dream, right? But not for me.
Anyone who knows me well will understand that I really don't like long gaming sessions. One of my cousins came to visit a couple of years ago when I had just got the Playstation 4 for Christmas. In a desperate bid to find a game we could play together since the online functionality of the system had been taken down by asshole hackers, I bought a hard copy of Terraria for the PS4. And we played. And played. And played.
He was like some sort of caffeine fueled superhuman. We played all night and all day after. But even after I decided to kick the shit bucket and go to bed, he found time during my short six hour slumber to keep fucking playing somehow. And I felt like miserable shit, physically and mentally. Part of me was glad to see him go; I just couldn't keep up.
Today I'm laying around mostly, suffering a migraine, catching up with my favorite YouTubers. And this particular video reminded me of just how serious video game addiction can actually become.
Not even a month after he came for a visit, I lost my job. I was laid off for reasons I presume to this day relating to my mental health at the time. I had been on anxiety medication for the better part of two years, and I had a very conservative boss who was unhappy with that fact. I'd never accuse anyone of prejudice or whatever; I am no self-victimizer. But that, I think, paired with many other personal differences were some of the reasons he decided he didn't want me working for him. I was off for seven days which I had reserved specifically to come off of my anxiety meds, and the night before was when he pulled the trigger.
It didn't affect my so-called recovery which was insanely difficult physically, but not so much mentally at that time. I had a fit a few months later where I was close to needing the meds again due to the stress that had amassed during that period, but I got through it. However, for the whole week I was off and essentially bed ridden, the withdrawal of the meds something akin to being spun around in a centrifuge every time I tried to lift my head, and I needed something to do. So I turned to Final Fantasy XIV.
Unlike the Happy Console Gamer, I had played FFXI years earlier but never became addicted. I'd play not even every night and it was fun, but never enough to lock me down. But for the entire week of my recovery I was up all hours, and played FFXIV basically non-stop. It felt like a lifetime.
I made a slew of friends in my guild in a short period, and got to a pretty high level in that time. And even a day or two after I was officially over the withdrawal stage, I kept playing. But it was a little easier for me to quit; I have a wife, kids, responsibilities and I was unemployed and needed to find work. However, I still have memories both good and bad about that experience. It was the first time in years I had sat down and really hardcore PLAYED video games for an extended period. And frankly, it was sort of miserable.
Flash forward to today.
When I told people I was raising money for sick kids they said, "...what? YOU?" I'm not known to be particularly kind or charitable. Even what it means to me, charity, is about as pessimistic a definition as is possible to describe what most would term an altruistic act. I donate to charity once per year because it makes me feel good. There is a cause that hits a soft spot with me, in this case kids, and I feel like it is a very minor gesture to throw a few bucks in that direction. If my objective here as a human is to take and eat and destroy, it's the least I can do to "give back" to a world from which I take so much.
My friends then went on to say, "but you HATE people."
Yes, that's true. But people are different before the age of twelve or so. They aren't fucking abject and reprehensible. Being more seriously, I actually like people individually a lot of the time. And nothing breaks my cold, vile little heart more than seeing kids sick. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like if one of my own fell ill with something terrible. I don't think I'd have the strength to handle it, especially if worse came to worse. It's a truly terrifying concept.
I understand the reality. I am at 325 dollars raised as of the time of this writing. And that is not even a drop in the pond of being remotely useful. It probably wouldn't pay for one single vaccination. But as part of some vague moral construct I've created in my own mind that only matter to me I am compelled to do something like this from time to time. And 325 dollars is a lot more than I've ever been able to do on my own.
Usually the activism element of a charity is supposed to be something remotely unpleasant. And at first I thought, "what a stupid idea. Sit on your ass and play games all fucking day, how is that going to help?" It also doesn't help when people shave their heads or grow their beards. But I've come to realize it is a very ritualistic act. You are projecting intent however irrelevant along with the act of actually proceeding to contribute something financially. It sparks momentary attention. There probably won't be many people tuning in to our stream when it happens. But there will be a few. It says "I am committed" maybe, in some way.
Frankly, I dunno. I'm so pessimistic and skeptical and really gravitate towards thinking gestures like buckets of ice and shaved heads are kind of dumb. But now that I'm in those shoes, I've run out and grabbed a PS4 camera and am going to stream/update for 24 hours on October 19th. And trust me folks, 24 hours straight of gaming? For me, it's gonna be bloody torture.
And now, if you've managed to get to the end of this...whatever you want to call it, here is the link and the info to my actually pledge page. If you can, I'd most appreciate the gesture of pledging a few bucks. I'm way past my goal of 100 dollars already, but it all goes to Alberta Children's Hospital (my local organization) and there is no upper limit.
Thanks, girlfriends. Click the pic for the info.