The Story Behind Gamers Gift - The Power of Video Games #1

It's a story told before. The same story we tell everyday, in fact. Every time someone asks "What is Gamers Gift?" We refer back to the same story you can find on our homepage. It's necessary to have a streamlined explanation with essential keywords, for if we told the whole story, no one would bother to read or listen.

Well let me preface by saying this is me, Dillon, CEO/Founder of Gamers Gift. The important story is usually where I begin, about my best friend, Chris, in 5th grade. Today, we are going to start before that. Since as early as I can remember, I've loved video games. Like, loved them. I can't point out a specific reason why I love games, and truthfully I'm a bad gamer. I mean that in two ways. Firstly, my grandfather could probably get more no scopes than I could. I usually don't excel at one specific game, or even genre. That excludes Call of Duty 4, which is a story for another time. Apart from my inability to lay a single hit on my enemies, I also cannot stand sticking with one game. I buy a game (thank god for Steam sales), play it for a few hours, or maybe days, and move on. I'm so bizarrely impatient when it comes to games. 

Playing games as a young-ling, I was faced with heavy scrutiny and judgement from everyone: Friends, peers, neighbors, and sadly, my parents.  I was a chubby little thing, hated sports, and had a Super Nintendo. Needless to say, I sat around a lot. This caught the attention of people around me, and they became appalled by my behavior. There were typical gamer stereotypes thrown around, nerd being the most common. What hurt the most, was my dad. He was (still is) a hard working man who started his own business after facing a troubling life. One of those kind of guys who believes hard-work is the most important thing in the world. He saw video games as a gateway to his son being an idle slob. He, naturally, wanted this to end. Unfortunately, his strategy to resolve it was verbal harassment. Obviously he was never going to physically abuse me for playing games, but he would often explain how lazy I was and how lazy I was going to become. I know he was looking out for me and he wanted to me achieve success, but in doing so, he made his son extremely insecure about his own hobby. I couldn't play games without feeling like I really was wasting time, wasting life. Things became even worse when I tried to drop out of sports because of how much I hated them. It wasn't that I didn't want to exercise, I just didn't want to exercise with a bunch of sweaty dudes. This continued, and escalated, until Sophomore year of high school. We'll get to that later.

Fast forward to fifth grade. I don't remember the exact details, but I do remember having a SUPER AWESOME cell-phone. The same weird monstrosity that iron-man ended up using at some point in the first film. That phone was basically the best thing in the world. Anyway, that phone started to ring. I answered with my pre-puberty mickey mouse voice and greeted the caller, and next thing you know my best friend has cancer. I had no idea what "Hey Dillon, I have leukemia" even meant. That is, until I called my mom and told her what Chris had told me. As she explained - well actually she just cried - Chris was screwed. Naturally, I made visits as much as possible. Thing is, two kids in a room, one with cancer, and the other with a best friend who has cancer, isn't very fun. We tried the basic visitor activities, puzzles, books, and whatever else the nurse recommended. 

That just wasn't going to cut it, I wanted our old smiles back. Where did our old smiles come from? Video Games. I can't remember the exact process in which it happened, but I know that eventually Chris' room was loaded with a PlayStation 2 and occasionally my Pentium Dual Core laptop. From that point forward, the focus of my visits shifted from sad apologies to cooperative gaming. I know longer asked if he hurt, I instead helped him choose what game to play. At one point we even fantasized Make-A-Wish buying him an 'Epic Gaming Setup'. He ended up opting for a trip to Disneyworld over a gold-plated Playstation, something I'll never forgive him for (joking). 

Chris managed to defeat the cancer. I like to imagine it's because of our time playing 007 Nightfire together, but I'm sure it's because of his courageous spirit. We continued to game together, and apart. Both of us using it as an outlet for all of our sadness, frustration, anger, and any other negative emotion we might've had. I gamed because it made me happy and it challenged me, and from my recent conversations with him I'm sure he feels the same. 

Fast forward to Sophomore year of high-school. My GPA is marvelous, my friends are awesome, and life is great. Ring Ring. It's Chris. Kaitlyn's Dead. May 4th, 2014, less than six years after his diagnosis, Chris was facing another major catastrophe. His sister, overcome with stress, had taken her own life. His loss was mine. Chris, Kaitlyn, and I had shared our fair share of adventures, most memorably struggling through the final levels of Portal 2 together

This level of tragedy is something you never plan for, and everyone recovers differently. Chris and I, naturally, went towards gaming. The day preceding our loss, we were sharing stories and emotions over a game of Counter Strike: Source. Not only was it a distraction from our painful reality, but it was an opportunity for us to express our emotions without facing direct confrontation. We cried together, we laughed together, and we defeated terrorists together. 

Shortly after Kaitlyn's celebration of life, Chris, myself, and a few other friends returned home to continue crying over a quality game of Grand Theft Auto: V. At one point, Chris left the room to help his mother unload flowers and posters from the funeral. For those of you who aren't familiar with Grand Theft Auto: V, there is a fairly elaborate stock-market built into the game. Players can buy low and sell high, much like in real life. Now before I admit to a crime I haven't yet told anyone, please keep in mind Chris and I have a wicked sense of humor and pulling pranks on each other is yet another way we show friendly affection. Shortly after Chris left the room, I decided I was going to prank him and invest all of his in-game money on a business I knew was doomed to fail (having completed the game). His balance went from high millions to a depressing $0. I thought it was a pretty good one, and I expected a fair share of laughs considering the pranks we had pulled before. Que Chris entering the room.

'Having fun? This was Kaitlyn's account, and she was pretty damn good. I'm pretty sure she has like billions of dollars.'

Uh oh.

This isn't exactly the most heartwarming gaming experience I've ever had (obviously), but it's a memory I'll never forget, and once I told Chris he couldn't help but fall on the floor laughing at my stupidity. 

As heartbreaking as Chris' loss was to everyone, it made us stronger. We eventually recovered, and at the end of it all we had all gotten closer. As highschool raged on, Chris and I lost contact, seizing to game together anymore. I'm sure we both still played our fair share, as we both had high-stress lives and needed an outlet, but it was never together like the good ole' days.

Fast forward once more to senior year of Highschool, where I joined an elective class called World Today. The class title was essentially a code word for what the class actually entailed, which was operating a real 501(c)(3) non-profit called Kids Helping Kids Sacramento. With my fascination for technology and video editing, I was voted as Assistant Director of Productions, which meant it was my job to convey every bit of the organization to public. Fundraising, Marketing, Outreach, and Operations. I took photos and videos of everything, which also meant I was able to experience incredible moments like asking Wells Fargo for $15,000 or giving a blind child an accessibility Ipad. I learned the ins and the outs of operating a non-profit, everything from raising money to spending it. 

Fast forward again to the second of my senior year when I was scheduled 3rd Period CSU English. As I entered the door to Ms. Shaw's classroom, I nearly screamed with excitement. Chris was in my class. A classroom where you could sit wherever you want. Needless to say, Chris and I sat next to each other, we brought our laptops, we played video games, and we quite obviously didn't do very well in that class. However, the most important part of this pairing was Chris was able to tell me his cancer was coming back. One day, the doctor informed him that his medicine wasn't working as well as it should, and they may need to increase the dosage.

I'm not quite sure what happened, but something inside of me clicked. Something inside of me realized that I may lose Chris. Something else clicked, too. I was going to use my experience in a non-profit to create my own, and I was going to use the experiences I shared with Chris to make people smile the same way I'd been smiling for years: Video Games.

February 11th, 2016. That's the day we received our federal exemption letter and began our adventure. Tons of incredible moments and experiences have brought us here, but we will always stay true to three basic philosophies. 

1. Relive Chris' legacy and making people smile through gaming and technology. 

2. Provide young-adults the opportunity to directly influence their community.

3. Eliminate gaming stereotypes and show it's true value in people's lives.

That's it for now. If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me directly at ceo@gamersgift.org.

Until next time, keep changing lives one level at a time.

 

 

I made sure to ask permission from Chris' family before mention of his name and story.