Every year has its shares of ups and down, but 2020 has seemed so far to be trying its best to take the cake. Each year always comes with the saddening loss of our favorite influencers, natural disasters like wildfires and hurricanes, and other struggles, but 2020 came with what might be the defining disaster of the decade: coronavirus.

With social tensions increasing naturally during an election year here in America, the COVID-19 pandemic added fuel to the flames, impacting every industry we know. Thousands of people were laid off, and many plans were spoiled—from conventions large and small even down to the release of games. So what is there to be happy about?

That’s where our #StayHomeGameOn movement comes into play. Despite all of these things and especially despite our varied experiences, we can always find something in common: our desire to share joy.

Seriously, Gaming

People already make some pretty bold stereotypes about games, so it may seem out of place to talk about them as the redemption for our chaotic year. However, time and time again, people resort to play for various reasons. Whether it is a doctor coming home to relieve the stress of a long day, a way for a separated family to stay connected, or the driving factor in a charity stream, games belong in this conversation.

From the locker, Fortnite players can select from an array of animations that create memorable moments for anyone spectating.

To play into the hand of some stereotypes, games do in fact impact our social behavior. Just think of Fortnite dances. Beyond the viral memes, the dances became common celebrations during casual social events and even triggered lawsuits behind their origin. What we do in our spare time, as well as the decisions of these companies, has far-reaching effects.

Whether it is completing quests throughout Tamriel or competing on Summoner’s Rift, we have a lot of opportunities to interact with others. We should do our best to choose kind words and offer assistance. Gaming is our bond. Remember that there is still a person behind that screen. Even if you don’t win the game, you could be the one responsible for the emotions they are feeling.

A Resilient Response

When COVID-19 put a halt on planning the in-person portion of the first year of PwR^South Bend, it still managed to open doors, because we recognize that with every challenge comes an opportunity. It made us all sad that we would not be able to see our friends in person or meet new influencers and vendors, so we returned to what we knew was bringing us together: gaming.

Out of this, we created the #StayHomeGameOn movement, because we still wanted to celebrate together. This moment in time highlights our need for community, so we used the tools available to us—streaming platforms and chat servers—to offer the best space available to share this experience.

Along with the experience, we wanted to provide something tangible to commemorate our #StayHomeGameOn movement. Extras coming to our store soon!

Our main event shifted focus to the many individuals who have backed our values and vision from the start. We invited a small group to play Jackbox to share laughs and show that people who have never met before can quickly become friends on the first night.

Then, we shifted the spotlight to our community members. Everyone has something special within them, so we wanted people to see that gaming was more than just play. It’s music. It’s storytelling. It’s entertainment. It’s community. Gaming can be what the player makes and we can share that experience with others.

On the final day of the event, we hosted a Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament to feed the competitive spirit of those who have it. A small group of 15 players competed in what was dubbed Smash From Home 2020. With several of them being regionally ranked, the finals were bound to be thrilling. Pokelam took home the championship, coming back to win 3-2 in the final series.

We also recognized that COVID-19 has complicated already tough issues for many people, so we found a charity to believe in with South Bend Heritage Foundation. They provide many resources and programs for the local community, and given that our first convention was set to take place in South Bend, it seemed like a good idea to provide support back. More than $750 was raised including donations from general guests and proceeds from sales.

While we were not able to connect in person, the events of #StayHomeGameOn brought hundreds of people together for a weekend of fun. However, the movement should continue to live on beyond this one weekend. Let’s choose to be resilient in the face of challenges—using video games as an outlet, not an escape.