Today we are featuring Jamison McLean and Rob Paquet from Chits and Bits, as well as Random Acts of Gameness. They encompass both community and board game media. Chits and Bits is the name of their Extra Life team who raise funds for the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital in Portland, ME. Random Acts of Gameness is their blog where they talk about gaming, charity, society and life in general. Jamison and Rob will be joining us at Granite Game Summit next month.
THREE RANDOM FACTS ABOUT JM:
- Has a pathological aversion to mayonnaise
- His favorite all time TV show is Friends.
- He uses complete, grammatically correct sentences even when texting
THREE RANDOM FACTS ABOUT RP:
- Has an entire room in his house devoted to action figures, toys, games, and general nerdness.
- Does not eat eggs, watermelon, peanut butter, hot water, or tomatoes
- He can’t order the same thing that anyone else does at a restaurant. It’s a thing.
Questions by Kimberly Bullock (KB), answers by Jamison McLean (JM) and Rob Paquet (RP).
THREE BOARD GAME MEDIA/ COMMUNITY QUESTIONS:
KB: How did you first hear about Extra Life?
JM: I first heard about Extra Life after the first year of the game marathon we run. The first year, we were working with Child’s Play, which is the charity started by Penny Arcade. I had reached out to our local children’s hospital, The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, and Kate, one of our contacts there told me about Extra Life. I liked the idea that all the funds would stay local to our community, so from there on out, our charity of choice was Extra Life and I can’t be happier with the decision. Extra Life has lead us to meet some of the most amazing and big-hearted people from all over North America.
RP: The best part of Extra Life is the flexibility of the program. You can raise money whenever and however you like. Getting together with a couple friends on a weekend or gathering an entire gaming community for an all out game marathon. The important thing is to have fun. We are given the opportunity to do something we love and at the same time raise money for sick children. The money all stays local, and that has a huge impact on people. While most of us have not needed the resources provided by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, most of us do know someone who has. We have met some amazing children and their families through Extra Life. They have all been more than kind in their words towards us. Making a difference in a child’s life is a feeling that cannot be expressed through words.
KB: What inspired you to start Chits & Bits and what is it that you do?
JM: Close to four years ago is when I first started getting into tabletop gaming. I had been an RPG player most of my life, but I hadn’t really gotten into board gaming at all. I played a game of Pandemic with some friends and was hooked instantly. At about the same time, Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop show was out, and I watched all of it. I was living in Belmont, NH at the time, and began driving to Crossroad Games in Standish, Maine (I’d been RPGing there for years) on Sundays to take part in the board game club running there. At the same time, I found out about Child’s Play, and International Tabletop Day, and decided I wanted to try to do a fundraiser. I pitched the idea to the new friends I had made, and everyone was on board.
The first year was small but a ton of fun. There were about a dozen of us that played games for nearly 30 hours straight. Through donations and raffle prizes, we raised a little over $1,000 for Child’s Play. Additionally, I met Rob, who quickly became one of my best friends. He helped
tremendously in making the first year a success. We decided to team up, and keep the marathon going. Our second year, we made the transition to Extra Life, and we raised over $5600 for BBCH. Not only that, but the connections we had helped make between Child’s Play and BBCH resulted in them receiving a yearly payout from the charity. The Child’s Play money (which so far is approximately $30,000) has put Xbox One’s in every child’s room at the hospital.
This year was our biggest yet. We gave our team a name, Chits & Bits, and we’ve expanded our efforts to include events and fundraisers throughout the year. We went to Extra Life United, Extra Life’s national game tournament, where I placed 1st in the tabletop division, and 5th overall, bringing home $5,375 in prize money for the hospital. Between that, the additional fundraisers, and the marathon, we’re currently sitting at just over $23,000 raised this year. The marathon was a blast with over 100 people in attendance, over 100 prizes in the raffle, and tons of support from our local community, and game companies all over the country.
Chits & Bits is a labor of love, and it has been worth every ounce of effort that Rob and I put in. We’ve raised over $50,000 since the beginning, but Rob and I both feel like the best is yet to come.
RP: The Name Chits and Bits arose from the need to brand ourselves. We felt that if we were going to make our efforts even bigger moving forward we needed a face. Something that everyone could remember, and showcased what we do. Chits are cardboard game pieces as well as another name for children. Bits are also game pieces, and another way to say a small amount, which is what we hope that people will donate. We have been asked which one of us is Chits and which one is Bits? Well the real answer is, we all are. Chits and Bits is much bigger than the two of us. It’s everyone who has ever donated towards our fundraising efforts. We all make up the pieces trying to make the lives of children better, one small amount at a time.
KB: Are there other areas of media and/or community in which you are hoping to dabble more?
JM: One of the things that came out of Extra Life United this year, was connections with a number of board game media creators, especially Stephanie Straw of the “On Board Games” podcast, the “DFW Nerd Night” Twitch show, the “Meeples Included” Twitch show (and guest on just about every other board game related show out there). Stephanie was a fellow competitor at ELU, and we became fast friends. She invited us to do guest spots on DFW Nerd Night, which was a blast. We also did some local radio interviews.
All of this made Rob and I want to try our hand at being media creators. We’ve recently launched “Random Acts of Gameness” (www.randomactsofgameness.com)-our blog on life, board games and charity. We’re working on turning Random Acts into a podcast. We love to talk about the stuff we do, and we have an interesting dynamic, so it seemed natural. It also gives us another platform to talk about Extra Life, The Children’s Miracle Network, and how important charity is to our communities.
RP: Prior to this year’s marathon we also tried our hand at streaming on Twitch. It was fun to
talk about the plans we had and all of the great prizes that were donated. It also opened another avenue for us to help spread the word of our efforts. Moving forward I see this as being a fun addition to our media efforts.
THREE QUESTIONS JUST FOR FUN:
KB: What are some of your favorite foods for gaming marathons?
JM: A staple has to be pizza (that’s a no-brainer) and these custom cupcakes made by one of our donors “Shirl’s Sweets”. They’re seriously amazing.
RP: ”Pocket Red Bulls” are a must for any gaming event, not just marathons. If I had to choose a snack, it would have to be fudge.
KB: Are there any games in your collections that get more play than others?
JM: Scythe has been hitting the table quite a bit lately, as well as Ryan Laukat’s Islebound. A few of our all-time favorites are Caverna, Dig Down Dwarf, and Keyflower.
RP: In addition to what Jamison said, some other games that we are very excited to play lately are Terraforming Mars, Captain Sonar, and Above and Below. (We are big fans of Ryan Laukat)
KB: Do you have any personal pet peeves?
JM: People that try to make me cry (ahem, Rob) and try to invade my personal space just to make me uncomfortable (once again, Rob).
RP: The biggest thing I can say is just be yourself. I want to meet the real version of you, Wear your heart on your sleeve and don’t hold back.