For Timmy Nelson ’11, playing video games for 24 consecutive hours is all about positively impacting sick and injured children in southeast Michigan.
Nelson is among the thousands of gamers worldwide who participate in Extra Life’s Game Day, an annual charity event where people marathon video games to raise money to benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. A group of gamers started Extra Life in 2008 as a way to honor a Texas child battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia and raise money for the hospital treating her.
This year marked the second Game Day for the University of Detroit Mercy alumnus, who played in support of Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Royal Oak Nov. 7-8 while streaming the action on Twitch.
As of Nov. 19, Nelson has raised $5,670 — far exceeding his initial goal of $2,020 and five stretch goals. In 2019, Nelson raised $2,750 through Extra Life, bringing his two-year total to $8,420 for Beaumont Children’s Hospital.
Video games hold a special place in Nelson’s heart, so being able to use that passion to help children is quite fulfilling.
“What comes out of this community of gamers, as we rally together and help improve the lives of future gamers, is unreal,” Nelson said. “I’m very blessed to have such a supportive community. Helping these kids play and grow just makes me smile; I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.”
Nelson’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in the Extra Life community. He’s currently the top-ranked gamer playing for Beaumont Children’s Hospital, as well as No. 3 in Michigan, No. 141 in the United States and No. 161 in the world. For raising over $5,000, Extra Life awarded Nelson a limited edition DxRacer gaming chair, which features Extra Life’s logo and white and blue color scheme.
What exactly goes into a hosting a 24-hour video game marathon? “So much planning,” Nelson said.
He has to decide which games to play and then create a schedule for viewers and supporters. There are also donation incentives, milestone markers, raffle prizes, promotional materials for social media, food and beverages for participants and a bevy of technological preparations.
“All of October for me is focused on two things: Halloween and preparing for Extra Life,” Nelson said. Planning and organizing is a skill he hones every day in his work as a communications specialist with Detroit Mercy’s Marketing & Communications Office.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on Nelson’s initial plans for Extra Life 2020.
“I normally host groups of friends and family at the house, taking shifts as guest players throughout the 24 hours. But safety and health were my number one priority this year,” he said. “We decided on four in-person players: my wife, brother, a friend and myself. All players were able to telecommunicate for work and self-isolate for 14 days prior to the event, as well as confirm a negative COVID-19 test with plans to self-isolate and test again post-event.”
Despite a small in-person group, Nelson wanted to make the day “as interactive as possible.” Titles such as Among Us, Fall Guys, Jackbox Party Games and Animal Crossing: New Horizons were popular inclusions and allowed for stream viewers, friends and family to play and interact with Nelson remotely.
“I hosted each of them on Discord voice so they could support the stream, engage with the chat, and most importantly, play video games,” Nelson said.
Providing an inclusive community is important to Nelson, who hosts video game and art streams throughout the year as a Twitch affiliate. During Extra Life’s Game Day, Nelson entertained people of all ages and engaged with children of friends and Detroit Mercy students.
“One of my favorite things about video games and streaming is how they can bring people together, regardless of age, ethnicity, faith, identity or disability,” Nelson said. “I build my streams to provide a safe space of entertainment, excitement, advice, support and chill vibes for anyone who wants to tune in and hang out. I think it’s important to engage with my audience, to teach them about the positive impacts of video games and philanthropy on our community. I also help younger players understand the importance of effective communication with parents and guardians. This helps establish a safety network to protect themselves while on the Internet and playing online.”
Year after year, Nelson is wowed by the impact video games can have on sick and injured children.
“The event was an absolute success,” Nelson said. “One-hundred percent of all money raised that day, including Twitch cheer bits normally donated directly to my channel, stayed local and was donated to Beaumont Children’s. And it would not be possible without the love and support of my friends and family.”
Game Day may be over, but Nelson and other Extra Life players will continue to collect donations for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through Dec. 31. To learn more, visit Nelson’s Extra Life webpage.