By Brian N. Willhite
As gamers mashed buttons and competed against each other they did so not for bragging rights or claiming top honors but in a unified effort to support a nationwide charity event known as Extra Life, which benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
The event was held in the Student Union on the California State University, Bakersfield campus for all gamers that signed up to represent team CSUB in the nationwide gaming event Nov. 9, with proceeds directly benefitting the Lauren Small Children’s Medical Centerat Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. Students, members of the community and game enthusiasts of all kinds reached out and garnered donations of at least $20 to participate in the 12-hour event, many raising more than that.
“We raised $6,000 online and another $3,001 at the event. So our unofficial total is $9,001,” said Ed Webb, founder of Campus Gamers. “Last year we raised $4,300 and that was our final total, so we destroyed that.”
Webb added that they are still receiving donations, including another $165 from a supporting vendor and $500 for a community engagement project proposal written by Webb that was selected to receive funding.
Donations for the event will continue until Dec. 31 when the program officially closes. Webb said that he believes the grand total will be upward of $13,000 once the event closes.
During the event, gamers lined the walls and corridor of the Student Union, and filled the lounge area, multipurpose room, Rowdy’s Place and the hallways with a plethora of gaming consoles. Some played a “Marvel Vs. Capcom 3″ tournament, which was featured on the big screen in the multipurpose room and streamed live over the Internet.
Others took to the non-digital entertainment and played card games like “Magic the Gathering” or “Cards Against Humanity,” like graduate student Robin Richardson, who said that she enjoyed the opportunity to be around like-minded people.
“I think gaming is so much more mainstream and acceptable now. People aren’t necessarily hiding in their basements, they’re actually coming out and socializing,” Richardson said.
Richardson arrived when the doors opened at 10 a.m. and contributed to the festive occasion by cosplaying as Zoey from the “Left for Dead” series.
Shane Elliot, an outside adviser to The Ascend club at CSUB added that the event was very relaxing and created an inviting atmosphere.
“This is probably like most of these grown up people’s dream of still being child-like. You get to just chill all day and play video games with no stress or pressure,” Elliot said.
Together with friend Justin Greer they volunteered to run the sports gaming section and spent their day playing football and basketball video games.
Bakersfield College student Matthew Cecil, who was playing in a “Street Fighter 4″ match with recent CSUB graduate Giovanni Quebral, said that students at BC were talking about Extra Life and he decided to check it out and was happy he did. He added that getting to support the children’s hospital and meet new people was a unique experience.
“It brings people closer together than other charity events because you’re interacting with people at the event that you don’t even know — you’re meeting people, playing games with them and forming these connections and possibly friendships,” said Cecil.
There were approximately 200 gamers that attended the event this year, including people from Lancaster and Ridgecrest, compared to the 80 from last year, according to Webb. He added that next year they will be looking to expand to possibly add 100 more spots but said that it wouldn’t be possible without all the support.
“We received tremendous support from Emily Poole, E.J. Callahan and the rest of the staff in the Student Union. Members of the National Honor Society, the Sensational Sophomores, students from the CSUB Nursing program, [the computer science and engineering club], and Japan and Beyond were absolutely instrumental to the success of the event. And, of course, CSUB members who donated their equipment,” Webb said, giving a special thanks to Lourdes Nilon with the Children’s Miracle Network and the Lauren Small Children’s Medical Center who “helped make our marathon a huge success.”
Along with the many sponsors that donated food, prizes, and their time, there were two individuals who raised a large portion of the proceeds, including CSUB alum Mickey Mello who raised more than $1,000 and Ed’s wife C.J., who raised more than $500.
“The list of ‘thank you’s’ is seemingly endless,” Webb said.