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December 7, 2013, is a date forever etched into the heart and mind of Jason Hay. It was the day his son Magnus Edward Hay passed away at just three months old.
After a lengthy and difficult birth, Magnus was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis—which negatively affects the digestive system—and eventually passed away from the complications surrounding his condition. Magnus never left the hospital he was born in. Hay and his wife Jennifer were devastated. There is no one sure-fire way to cope with such a tragedy, but the Hays turned to their other love for help: video games.
“Even before Magnus was even an idea, I had been collecting video games for me to one day play with him,” recalls Hay. “He was always going to be my little player two.” Given Hay’s collection of video games that totals over 600 titles spanning from the Atari 2600 to the PS4, he certainly had enough titles to keep a young one playing until almost the age of 16.
For the next year, every time Jason played a co-op game, it was hard for him. He would lay out a controller next to him and imagine his son there seated beside him ready to play along. “I always imagined him there with me.”
Come February 2014, an advertisement for a fundraising event called Extra Life caught Hay’s attention. “It felt like lightning went through me. I just stopped and immediately dedicated the rest of my year towards it,” says Hay. “It really felt like something I could do personally to honour my son, Magnus.”
Extra Life is an event that gathers gamers from around the world to play video games for 24 hours straight to raise money and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Hay recruited friends, family, and other gamers to come to his aid; when the day (October 25) finally came, Hay streamed the entire 24 hours on his YouTube channel under his online alias, the Canadian Zangief. When it was all said and done, Hay had raised $890 for his efforts and earned a silver medallion that is now framed in his gaming room from Extra Life in recognition for the event.[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”4″ gal_title=”Forever My Player 2″]
Where are the Hays at now in 2015? As a couple they will be volunteering again at the second annual Retro Gamers Winnipeg Convention, Hay is hoping to raise over $1000 during Extra Life 2015 (November 7, 2015), and if He’s lucky (or if one generous Geekdom House reader feels so inclined) he hopes to add Suikoden II for the PS1 to his collection (it’s on the top of his most wanted list and runs about $110 for a loose disc).
When asked if there was anything else he wanted for 2015, Jason did not even hesitate, “I still want my little gamer. I can always use a player three.”