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Blog: General News


Microsoft Giving Campaign

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Each year, Microsoft employees participate in fundraising and volunteer activities which support a diverse number of charities. In 2016 alone, more than $142 million was contributed to nonprofits and schools across the globe.

Through the “Giving Campaign,” Microsoft matches employee donations to nonprofits dollar-for-dollar, up to $15K. The Giving Campaign takes place throughout the year, with a special push every October.

This year, we’re proud to announce Gamers Outreach will be visiting Microsoft as a “featured charity” among the many causes Microsoft employees contribute towards. We’ll be hanging out on Microsoft’s Redmond campus on October 9th, 11th, and 19th to raise funds / awareness for Gamers Outreach programs and our anticipated expansion.

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If you’re an employee at Microsoft, we hope to see you throughout the month of October, and look forward to sharing the progress being made in pediatric hospitals nationwide. You can support our efforts and unlock a matching contribution from Microsoft through the Benevity charity portal by searching for “Gamers Outreach Foundation.”

For any of you that may have available hardware or software, we are currently seeking in-kind contributions for controllers, consoles, and games! Anything you can spare would be truly appreciated.

Hope to see you on campus!

Gamers Outreach Receives Community Service Award from SXSW

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Awesome news to share, fellow gamers! We’re proud to announce Gamers Outreach has been selected to receive a Community Service Award from the organizers of SXSW!

The SXSW Community Service Awards celebrate the unique spirit of community in Austin by selecting six individuals and six organizations to receive grants to further their goals, complimentary badges to SXSW, and a chance to spread the word about their work to the SXSW community. As an award recipient, we’ll be one of the organizations to receive more than $50,000 in shared grants and be honored in a ceremony on March 12, 2018 during SXSW.

The free and open to the public ceremony does not require a SXSW badge to attend and is one of the most anticipated events hosted by SXSW in March. You can read more about the award and the selection process here.

Team members from Gamers Outreach will be attending next year’s event to accept this award, and to speak with the SXSW community about our quest to support hospitalized patients through digital play.

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We’re super thankful to the folks from SXSW for creating this award, and recognizing the impact being made by so many great causes, including our own! We can’t wait to advocate for the patients and families who benefit from the support of our community. We hope this brings more awareness to the importance of interactive technologies within medical environments, and ultimately generates more support for the work being done!

Looks like we’ll be seeing you in March, SXSW! Massive thanks!

Lurie Children’s Hospital Adds Four More GO Karts

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This past July, Lurie Children’s Hospital brought its grand total of GO Karts in its wing to 7 thanks to the effort of its Child Life department.

Located in the Windy City, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital) has more than 1,200 physicians on staff and has been treating kids in the midwest for 130 years. For a major hospital in the heart of the country, 7 GO Karts can do wonders for the team’s efforts when it comes to boosting the moods of patients and their families, or assisting with physical therapy if any injuries or ailments correspond to any of the tissue or function also used while gaming.

We were lucky enough to submit a robust lineup of possible gaming titles for patients to choose from as well, including Rocket League, Minecraft, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, NASCAR Heat, and the Mega Man Legacy collection. A wide breadth of titles means all the more adventures to choose from those who truly need it most, and we’re thankful to the teams and companies that brought them to life and continue to update them.

Special thank you also goes out to the entire team at Lurie Children’s Hospital for being so incredible to work with every step of the way — we hope these Karts bring your staff and their patients some more joy and laughter each and every day.

 

NETWAR Gears Up for LANFest Oct. 6-7

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Since this past spring, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have a number of individuals, organizations, and corporations contribute to our dream of delivering and maintaining GO Karts in every children’s hospital in the country (and one day, the world over). From the teams at Xbox and Bluehole Inc., to Child’s Play and the Dooley family (to name a few), more children and their families have good reason to smile and laugh a little more each day due to the kindness and generosity of the aforementioned men and women. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you, that much is clear.

Anyway, you can’t really open a blog post like that and be surprised when we tell you that at The Mark on October 6th and 7th, NETWAR — the Omaha, Nebraska chapter of the national LANFest organization — will host one of its biannual BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) weekends with Gamers Outreach (and by extension, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center of Omaha) being the charitable focus of the proceedings. Tickets to this incredible 586 seat, 26 hour-long LAN are still available but hurry: If you planned on attending but haven’t registered yet, they’re going fast! Passes can be purchased online here. Have a specific question about anything pertaining to the event? Their info page is a good place to start.

For announcements leading up to the event or updates the weekend of, you can follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

 

NZXT Donating Portion of Online Sales 8/30-9/5 to Gamers Outreach!

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While it may be true our GO Karts currently house consoles like Xbox and PlayStation, but that doesn’t stop PC-centric companies like NZXT from wanting to help support so many of the children’s hospitals across the country that could benefit from a GO Kart.

For online purchases made from August 30th through September 5th, NZXT has pledged to donate 10% of each sale to us as part of their HUEmanatarian Labor Day Sale! They’ve slashed prices across the board in celebration of the holiday weekend, so if you’re in the market for any cases, cooling, or other PC accessories, you should definitely peruse the wide-selection available on their site.

If you pick anything up, we’d love to see it! Tweet us and NZXT a pic of what you snagged so we can witness your rig in all it’s newfound glory!

Helping Others Level Up at PAX West 2017

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If you’re attending PAX West in Seattle, we’ll be hosting another panel this year at 4:30pm in Sandworm Theater!

For “Helping Others Level Up: How Games Support Health Care”, the topic will be centered around how video games and virtual reality have incredible therapeutic potential within the hospital environment. Those attending will learn how games can be used to support the healing process, in addition to how you yourself can make a difference at your local hospital. A list of those comprising our stellar panel can be found below:

If you’re able to attend the panel and curious to revisit some of the discussion, check out the content roundup we’ve created here: PAX West 2017 Panel Discussion.

Independent of the panel above, Gamers Outreach crew members Zach Wigal and Nikki-Colette Manzie will be on two additional panels: “Play It Forward (Charity and Giving Back in Games” and “How to Broadcast Safely as a Marginalized Streamer,” respectively.

We hope to see you there!

Forbes 30 Under 30: Gamers Outreach Feature

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Earlier this year, Gamers Outreach founder Zach Wigal was recognized by Forbes as part of their 2017 class of “30 Under 30” honorees.

As a team, we’ve been proud to share this honor, and we’re thankful to Forbes for recognizing the work of our volunteers and donors who help us make a difference in the lives of hospitalized children.

Forbes recently dispatched a film crew to interview Zach in Los Angeles, where they had the chance to learn more about the impact Gamers Outreach programs have within hospitals. We’re incredibly proud of how the footage turned out, and feel it does a fantastic job of summarizing how games can help children going through treatment.

The video interview can be found below…

We continue to be grateful to everyone who has been a champion for the kids and families we support on a daily basis! Major thanks go out to the crew from Forbes for highlighting Gamers Outreach!

You can read the full write-up on their site, located here.

PUBG Merch Benefiting Gamers Outreach

Image courtesy of PowerUp Factory

Image courtesy of PowerUp Factory

Ever since Early Access, the demand for PUBG-related merchandise has sky-rocketed alongside the game’s popularity. Recently, the game’s developer Bluehole Inc. has partnered with two online merchandise stores — Design by Humans and Power Up Factory — to provide official PUBG clothing for the community.

If you’re wondering why we’re posting about this (besides the fact the game rules and the PUBG community organized a massive charity invitational this past spring), it’s because Bluehole has decided to donate 50% of the profits from their merchandise sales to two charities – ourselves, and Game Changer – two organizations they believe are doing a wonderful job of helping kids in need of medical treatment and special care.

Shipping is available worldwide, so grab yourself some new threads as summer starts to fade and support two great charities!

Massive thanks to the team from Bluehole for being so generous. Their crew is making a tremendous impact on kids and families going through hospitalization!

Streamer Spotlight: OpTic Flamesword

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Michael Chaves, more affectionately known as Flamesword, has been a main-stay in the professional gaming scene since Halo 2’s heyday and a close friend and supporter of Gamers Outreach for years. We got some time with him recently to find out where he’s been, what he’s been up to, and what’s next.

How long have you been involved in eSports for? How did it all began?

I want to say I’ve been involved since 2005 when Halo 2 was MLG’s main game — the memories just thinking back are incredible. I only started competing in 2008, went pro in 2009, and then finally started competing for the money in 2010 and a lot of good stuff has followed ever since.

Gaming for me started pretty normal: I was part of the launch of Xbox Live which — took gaming to a whole new level — and learned about MLG from running into other online gamers. I continued to work on my craft until I felt I was in top-tier shape to compete with the rest. I created my own team, did my best to lead them, and was able to foster some of the best experiences of my life.

You’re pretty well known for the physique you maintain in a career that depends on you being stationary for long periods of time. When did you first get into fitness, and what makes you love it as much as you do?

My cousin played a huge part in my love for fitness. He was this high school wrestling champ who was just always working out — I always wanted to be in the kind of shape I saw him in.

I started taking it seriously at the age of 22, which is the same time I ran into some stomach problems which actually encouraged me to take my health even more seriously. That ailment forced me to make sure that I wasn’t just in good shape, but to also make sure I was treating my body as well as I could. I think I fell in love with it all because this one body we have is the only thing that stays with us from start to finish in our time here.

When did you first get involved with Gamers Outreach? Can you tell us how it all began + everything you’ve worked on with us leading up to today?

I first learned of Gamers Outreach through fellow competitor and living Halo legend, Walshy. I saw that he was involved and wanted to know what part I could play as I truly respected the organization’s vision and message. Being a gamer myself, I know gaming can be used to help reduce stress for these kids who are confined to their rooms due to certain illnesses, so the concept of the GO Kart was something I wanted to get involved with immediately. I wanted to do whatever I could to spread the word and help build as many Karts as I possibly could.

What’s been your proudest achievement in your career to date, and what’s been the biggest roadblock you’ve had to overcome?

As I get older I see my answer to this question changing more and more often, but I think I finally have it down: I’d have to say my greatest accomplishment was taking a leap of faith and giving gaming my all. Altogether I’ve built years worth of memories and even though I retired from competition, if I could go back and hit “Play” from the beginning I wouldn’t change anything, because every single one of those moments made me into who I am today.

My biggest hurdle was probably the fact that I was constantly comparing myself to everyone because of my competitive nature, but after I learned to let that go, I just started focusing on what I had to get done. Ever since then, everything — and I mean everything in both gaming and life in general — it’s all become so much more simple.

What have you been up to lately? Can you tell us a little more about your work with OpTic?

I don’t game much nowadays! I usually will during a Halo tournament, because watching gives me the itch to get back into it all. I do plan on playing a ton of Destiny 2 (currently waiting for the beta to download as we speak)! Destiny the game itself has opened so many doors for me, it’s only right that I get back on the sticks and hang out with the homies. I honestly can’t wait to check out Trials in D2!

OpTic work is fun — we’re all independent at the house, really. Everyone has their own thing: Obviously I’m the fitness guy but I’m also the one who isn’t afraid to live on the edge; I’ve jumped out of an airplane 20 times on my own, own a motorcycle — anything that gets my heart going, I’m there. I’m currently continuing my health and fitness efforts by putting a lot of time into my second YouTube channel, OpTic Strength.

Besides that, I’ve just got to figure out when I want to grow the OpTic BEARD out again so we can have our infamous 24 Hour Live Stream at the end of the year! With the power of the #GreenWall and the entire gaming community, I’m aiming to crush our donation goal (as usual) and get as many GO Karts built as possible!

 

Want more Flamesword? You can find him on Twitch, keep up with his regular Vlog postings on YouTube, or see what he’s getting into at the OpTic House or on the road by following him on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Streamer Spotlight: VernNotice

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In this latest installment of our Streamer Spotlight series, we spoke with VernNotice! If you’re behind, you can catch up with our previous spots on TheHaleyBaby and LadyDevann here.

What made you decide to get into streaming, & how long have you been doing it for?

I’ve been playing video games my whole life. I found a love of editing montages and other gaming videos way back when I was a freshman in high school, and that led to the birth of a YouTube channel in 2007. It focused mostly on gaming montages and editing tutorials until I started recording commentary videos. This is when I found my passion for not only video games, but entertaining and interacting with people as well.

From there it was a natural progression into streaming. I don’t remember the exact day I started streaming, but I want to say I’ve been doing it for about five or six years now. I’ve only been a full-time streamer for a little over two years, though.

Could you walk us through an what a typical streaming day looks like for you? From waking up all the way to when you head off to sleep?

Keeping a schedule is without question one of the hardest things to do for me. With all the traveling and random events throughout the year, a normal sleep schedule is not something I’m accustomed to. When I am home though, and things are going as usual, I’ll typically wake up around noon — I’ll eat a light breakfast and then head to the gym shortly after. I spend a couple of hours at the gym before coming home and getting whatever random chores need to be done that day (cleaning, laundry replying to emails, etc.). That will usually take me up until stream time which I do my best to start at 7pm EST every day. Then I’ll stream for about 6-8 hours. Finally it’s shower and bed time.

That is an ideal day. Though, sometimes things don’t go as planned.

How do you stay healthy and active with a hobby or passion that requires that you game/stream a certain amount of hours every week? Do you have a workout regiment or diet you try to stick to?

Staying active and living a healthy lifestyle was such a struggle in the beginning. So much so that I completely neglected my personal health for a long time. Growing up I’ve always been a bigger dude, but I was always heavily into sports, too. When I started streaming full time and really grinding out streams and games to make things work, it was easy to forget about something as important as taking care of my body. Recently though, I’ve been taking steps and making improvements to ensure a more healthy and fulfilling life. I purchased a motorized standing desk, and I’ve developed a regular gym routine that I’ve absolutely fell in love with. I even started doing cooking streams three times a week in hopes that I’ll stop eating so poorly. It’s all a work in progress, but that’s life.

When it comes to your community, what characteristic do you like about them most?

The community that has gathered around my channel has become sort of like a little family for me. I do my best to interact and get to know every name. We laugh and joke and just have a great time with each other every stream. They are always so supportive no matter how I’m feeling or what I’m doing. It’s why I’m so comfortable branching out from the normal “gaming” streams they’re accustomed to, and streaming things like me cooking dinner or even reading a book. Streaming can take such a mental toll on a person and it provides such relief knowing that those people are going to be there for the ride no matter what.

What made you want to get involved with a non-profit like Gamers Outreach?

For one, as content creators, we have the potential to reach a lot of people. While the streams are focused on having a good time and entertaining people, it’s nice to take a step back and talk about real life situations and issues. Giving charities the spotlight on our streams is a great way to bring awareness and actually do some good on top of the everyday entertainment factor.

I’ve done a lot of traveling and events for charities throughout the years but being from Michigan, Gamers Outreach is literally in my backyard. On top of that I’ve used a GO Kart myself after a tonsillectomy and more recently my brother had one available to him during a stint in the hospital. As someone who loves games and has had extended stays in the hospital, GO hits pretty close to home.

Do you have a favorite memory from your work with us?

The fact that this year (2017) was my first ever Gamers for Giving event is actually disappointing. It’s been so close for so long and just now things have finally worked out to where I was able to attend… And I had an absolute blast the entire weekend. My favorite part had to be the Bob Ross challenge. It was an insanely fun challenge where the streamers had to follow along with a Bob Ross video and try to paint with him (me being ignorant to any sort of creativity made it a little intimidating). The “challenge” part was trying to do this painting with the basic colors and one paint brush we were provided with. Throughout the event your stream was able to donate to unlock different colors, brushes etc. “Sabotages” were also introduced, as a way to mess with the other streamers participating. It was an amazing part of the the event that was filled with laughs and some backstabbing and ultimately raised a ton of money for the cause.

The question on everyone’s mind… What are you currently playing? And in addition to that, what game have you had the most fun streaming to date + why?

As a variety streamer, I bounce around a lot of different games and try to keep things interesting in the channel. We are currently playing games that range from Outlast 2 and The Walking Dead, to Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and LawBreakers. As far as picking favorites it really depends on the day. The Gears of War franchise always provides for some good times with friends — though, I’m a very competitive person so things can get pretty heated. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is also one of my favorite games to stream. I’ve logged so many hours in that game that I could practically play it with my eyes closed which makes it perfect for “chill” days or when I just want to hang out with chat while still providing some sort of gameplay. I’ve also logged a ton of hours into GTA V which have provided some amazing memories throughout the years.

 

Want more Vern? You can find him on Twitch here, and keep up with his Twitter musings here.