Gamers on the Edge puts gamers’ skills to the test–but not in a traditional sense. This Florida-based group holds charity tournaments to provide hospital gaming rooms for the benefit of children who don’t get a traditional childhood experience.
For one Florida-based fighting game community, tournaments are more than a test of strength. Gamers on the Edge, run by Angel Miranda out of Clearwater, FL, transforms competitive gaming events into fundraisers for children’s hospitals. The group has provided multiple gaming rooms for hospitals across Florida to help give kids with major illnesses a chance to enjoy their childhood despite their circumstances.
Turning sorrow to selflessness
Miranda’s idea for the project took inspiration from his own hardships. “My wife and I both lost our jobs on the same day, when the economy went belly up,” he told me. “We lost our house, we lost our car, everything we thought was important at that time. We have three kids, two with respiratory issues. So, we ended up being kind of nomads for a while.” Miranda’s family jumped from his father’s to his mother-in-law’s houses throughout this period–which was especially difficult in the summer months. “My dad’s house has no AC, so here in Florida, my kids can’t breathe,” he explained. “My dad had room, but no AC, so we couldn’t stay regularly. We’d go to my wife mom’s, but she lives in a one bedroom apartment for seniors. We would hop back and forth between her place and my dad’s places for a while.”
Although his own family was struggling, Miranda realized that one’s circumstances are always a matter of perspective. Instead of bemoaning his lot in life, he decided to help others in need. “In the middle of all this, we’re trying to get something to do to help all of us, to help [our kids] recognize that, although we’ve lost a lot, there are a lot of people worse off than we are,” he stated. “We found out that we could do a 24-hour gaming marathon to benefit a local children’s hospital. We went out friends house to do it and ended up raising $233.”
That experience lit a fire under Miranda, who continued to work with local gamers to fundraise over ten gaming rooms for multiple hospitals in the state. “We’ve donated now just over $50,000,” said. “We take care of all the local consoles at the children’s hospitals. We have helped set up over 30 Xbox Ones and PS4s at our local children’s hospital for the kids in different game rooms. We came to help out with one room, and they asked to help us with more.”
Giving back through gaming
One instance in particular that stands out to Miranda occurred in a hospital’s cancer wing, where a ten-year-old girl had just received her diagnosis. “We set up a room in the cancer wing, since they can’t leave their area to play games,” he explained. “There was this ten-year-old girl in the wing who found out she got cancer. She had been playing Lego Adventures when she moved to the cancer wing. Her biggest concern was that the game wasn’t going to be on the systems there.” Hearing the news, Miranda dropped what he was doing and drove out to the location at 10:30 at night to pick up the system to install the game on his own wifi. “I called them up and got in contact with somebody in there, we got the XBox and took it home, put the game in there, and took it back. When she got to the cancer wing, the game was there waiting for her.” The trip wasn’t a chore at all for Miranda. “We take so many things for granted,” he said. “We get home and we know our games are gonna be there. For us to make that possible for her was a big deal, even though it was a simple thing.”
Gamers on the Edge works with local competitors to raise funds from venue fees. While the players gain the satisfaction of knowing that they are gaming for a good cause, they still get a payout if they make a top placement. “We donate from the venue fees, not from the entry fees- the players win their money, so it’s half and half,” Miranda explained. “From what we would make as TOs, that’s what we donate.”
More than volunteering
The players involved in GotE are in it for more than the pot bonuses. Andrew “Awen” Styrcula, caster and announcer for the group, knows that he is making a difference with every gathering. “There’s so much good to be done here,” he stated. “Gaming is a great and lighthearted way to spread the love and give these kids hope and a reason to fight. It puts a smile on everyone’s face, and it even teaches real world lessons about overcoming adversity in many ways.”
Shannon “BioGenx2b“ Peña, the group’s streamer, is also happy to volunteer his spare time and skills for a good cause. “I’m glad to help sick kids,” he said. “I haven’t had an experience like they’ve had, but I feel like my life has more purpose if I can make theirs better. That I can volunteer my time for the charity and have a noticeable impact feels extremely rewarding, as is the improvement of my relevant skills.”
Gamers on the Edge is hosting their annual Pro-Am, GotE for the Kids fundraiser this coming May. While the multiple events that GotE hosts are fun and rewarding, Miranda wants those tuning in to know that their ultimate aim is to help improve the lives of others. “Our main goal is to make a difference,” Miranda said. “We don’t want to get too caught up on what we want to do that we miss out on what we’re doing right now.”
GotE takes competition a step further. They, much like the #fitfgc, defy the “lazy gamer” stereotype: rather than train for their own benefit, the players invested in the group band together for a greater cause. And, who knows? Someday, the next fighting game pro could emerge from one this effort and knock the FGC’s socks off.