Caring Is Not The Only Sharing In Extra Life

The annual 24-hour video game livestreaming event for children's hospitals draws its longevity and strength from its group-wide experience.

Caring Is Not The Only Sharing In Extra Life
Extra Life background for Zoom. Source: Extra Life (Web)

When I first got into livestreaming for charity for the annual Extra Life event back in 2015, I felt absolutely intimidated by it. While my personality and my professional work in games as a Community Manager prepared me well for extended exchanges of talking to a camera and an audience, the intimidation factor came more from the fact that I didn’t quite have the experience, best practices, or other things you were supposed to do in order to have a good charity livestream. And while I ultimately was able to raise a couple hundred dollars (which was a couple hundred more than I was really expecting), I still kind of felt a bit rough around the edges in terms of wondering if I’d done good.

The thing that helped my first time doing that, and every time afterward for the next 3 years, was the idea that Extra Life was a shared experience. It wasn’t just me in front of a webcam and who might not have the reps to feel as comfortable doing so for 24 hours, but a ton of other people around the world doing and feeling the same thing as me. That we were all moving in the same direction to help benefit children’s hospitals, cancer research, and other worthy causes helped me power through that first nervous day-long livestream. And as I got more comfortable, so did the incentives - I got my first tattoo, dyed my hair a wild red and green color, and shaved my head, all in the name of charity and all with the support of my friends, family, and professional colleagues.

After 4 years and $5,000 raised, I decided, as I was getting older and busier, that it was time to retire from annual 24-hour charity livestreams. I really liked doing them, but my body was having trouble keeping up. It seemed like a good time to hang up my charity livestream boots and call it good. But as Extra Life’s 15th anniversary came around this year, I began considering a comeback, perhaps one more time to help celebrate that milestone. I went back to old wells for inspiration for incentives and games, ended up raising $1,500, giving away a bunch of random games, and committing to my 6th tattoo somehow integrating Extra Life’s now-recognizable logo of a controller with angel wings and a halo. It took me some days to recover, but I was, of course, ultimately satisfied, as I would have been even if I’d managed $15 instead of $1,500. Every little bit helps, after all.

Returning this time around, however, I feel like Extra Life has ramped up one of the best parts of its annual campaign in the 5 years that I was away from it, and that’s really in increasing that shared awareness of a community that participates every year.

With tools like a Discord server that had multiple channels for help, boosting charity pages, and folks looking for mentorship or just plain encouragement, the community had leveled up. You not only knew you weren’t alone but had an entire real-time chat-based space at your fingertips to know that was the case. Robust and attentive social media from Extra Life ensured that charity livestreams no matter how small or large from an audience or goals standpoint were recognized and encouraged.

And on game day itself, there was always someone around to help if needed. For example, a constant technical problem in the middle of my livestream that was making it freeze my video and crash my Streamlabs instance was quickly resolved with a few, somewhat frantic chats to Discord that quickly discerned the problem was one of my browser sources and scene collections sucking up memory. Random folks on X/Twitter/Bluesky/Threads made sure my technical issues communications went out properly, and I was back in business within a few minutes. That’s the kind of thing that I think I don’t remember being around as much the last time I livestreamed in 2018, but was glad to see had matured in 2023.

The results of this attention to the shared community resources aspect of Extra Life speak for themselves. The effort raised over $8.5 million in 2023, and we’ll likely see a bit more added to that number before the year is out. More importantly, I feel more than ever that I participated and shared this effort not just with my immediate social and professional circles, but with many others who I don’t know personally who put in the time and effort to have a wonderful game day for children’s benefit. It’s enough to make me consider a regular livestream (with obviously much shorter sessions) to continue to raise money for charity - something I would never have considered when I started participating in Extra Life back in the day.

I feel like that doesn’t happen as smoothly as it does without the shared spaces, resources (both from Extra Life and from Extra Life participants), and encouragement that came from others. Good community and good sharing practices are the heart of successful events and are a self-perpetuating circle of positive energy. That kind of effort is especially important given that we often live in circumstances and times where it’s sorely needed in the midst of the ills of the world and its events. If Extra Life can continue to do its part to bring joy and care to children everywhere, then it can, in part because of the community sharing they do, continue to create something that has far-reaching consequences and impact for a long time to come. I’m proud to be a part of that.