Gamers With a Cause – Complete Gamers Evolved
If you grew up paying attention to the world of video gaming, normally charity work didn’t come up in the conversation. In recent years we’ve seen an influx of gaming organizations focusing on giving back. Extra Life is the most prominent, but other companies have sprung up to add to the cause.
Complete Gamers Evolved is a company focused on promoting gamers and hosting tournaments, but it was their efforts with local charities that caught my eye. Complete Gamers Evolved (CGE) is located in my hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, and for such a large city as Vegas has become, the brightest stars tend to shine above the muck downtown.
Started by Ed and Sharona Thompson, the company has grown to a few people helping to run and promote the business. Joanelle Cobos is a graphic designer who is lending her talents in helping create the visual message of CGE. The team also comprises of Cee Gayle, who does their marketing, and Jose Grullon who is an audio specialist. Jose creates music that their gamers can use in promotionals, YouTube videos, etc.
I was able to talk with Ed, Sharona and Joanelle about the company and its focus in both the gaming and Vegas communities. The idea behind CGE has evolved since it’s original incarnation, though Ed provided a great story as to how the idea came to be:
It’s funny – I like Zombies. Out of the whole Call of Duty series, I love the Zombies. Zombie anything: The Walking Dead and all that. I love Zombies. So, one night I’m playing Zombies with a friend and we thought we should have a Zombie competition with all of us, because at that time it was really, really popular when Call of Duty: Black Ops II came out. So we were just sitting there playing and we were like ‘Yea, we’re going to do this competition!’ We brought the idea to some other friends and then it started growing. We were all like “ok, this person is good at this” and “this person is good at that” and so we asked if they wanted to come on board and the agreed. It just grew from there.
This idea went from a simple tournament into much more. As the idea grew, hosting a tournament became providing a place for gamers to hang out, practice their games, get help with homework, filling out job applications, etc. Caring for the whole gamer, that is what Sharona thinks when she hears the name “Complete Gamers Evolved.”
When I heard Complete Gamer which was the original name before we had the change it to “Evolved”, I just thought the overall gamer. A gamer is not just a person who plays video games, that person has to go to school. So what do they need to succeed at school? They also have to make sure that they work out and take care of themselves. What about the parents of the gamers? They need to know that their child is not socially deviant, that actually playing a game or going someplace to play games is actually acceptable, and social relationships are good for them. So when I think of the complete [gamer], [it’s the] entire person as well.
The goal is to open a storefront in North East Las Vegas, to provide a place for gamers to hang out in a safe, open environment that also caters to the needs of those kids there. Some of the libraries are a pretty good distance from the location CGE is looking at, so by setting up a PC center they can effectively serve the kids and teens from about the five different middle schools and high schools in the immediate area. A place to do homework, a place to learn how to get through a job interview, and of course a place to chill and play some of the newest games around.
Serving and giving back seems to be at the heart of CGE. Recently the group partnered with BattleAutism Gaming in a T-Shirt contest (the logo on the shirt Joanelle designed, by the way), but they have also helped do fundraisers and events with local charities such as Three Square. Why give back? Well the answer, according to Ed, is quite simple.
Well, I mean…it could happen to you. When I look at things like Three Square, who we’ve worked with, they’ve been really good with helping us, especially when they heard the idea of our tournament, they were really good in helping us setting up things, they have the ability to really reach out and they know who needs what so us volunteering our time and working with them, it’s important. As I say, it could happen to you. You could be on that end of the spectrum. So I find it important that when I’m up to be able to help others get back up on their feet as well. Especially with food. I’m a chef, I cook. That’s what I do by trade. But I understand what it’s like to be hungry. To be able to help those that are in need I think is extremely important. There’s a lot of people that are in need, and it’s important that we don’t get lost behind our games, thinking that everything is ok. Three Square is the one we’ve gravitated towards, but there’s others out there like Battle Autism. We have a family member that has a son that has autism. Those are children that are in need. … I’m willing to put ourselves out there to be an advocate for it.
While serving in charities as well as the local community is at the core of the people running CGE, the company is also about promoting other gamers who aspire to be aligned with the pro gamers out there. Ed sees CGE as the “Jerry McGuire’s” of competitive gaming. They’re not out to take over or try and replace MLG, but rather use MLG’s established system to find the talent, put together the teams and help support those that might not have the opportunity to get into the tournament otherwise. CGE helps to organize those gamers, help them to better understand the rules of competitive play and provide them the necessary support to compete and win.
They take it a step further, which goes back to their charitable natures. Sharona uses their ability to promote as a way to help teach and mentor some of the younger gamers out there trying to break into the field.
We get a lot of gamers who ask us if we’re sponsoring or say “Hey can you DM me please?” or “Can you follow so I can DM you?” and I look at their Twitter feed and they’re asking No Scope and all these other well-known companies to DM them and I’m thinking “You don’t know how to approach them.” A lot of the companies say “We’re not going to DM you” or “We’re not going to follow back for a DM.” If you go to their website they have a set procedure they want you to do and they want to know all about you, they want to see that your Twitter feed is respectable, and so we can try to help those youthful gamers that don’t have the direction to know “I need to learn how to spell before I submit an application,” … and we can also help them with how to approach those companies and how to compete in tournaments.
While the company is still growing, they’ve already been able to secure a team to compete in Anaheim this June. And they’re not stopping there. They will continue to plan events, in fact they are in the stages of planning their first tournament to be held this Halloween here in Las Vegas. Of course, their commitment to giving back will never slow down either.
“We’re into serving,” says Sharona. “I think that comes across in what we want to do. I mean, I’m a teacher, I serve kids by teaching. Ed’s a chef, so he’s serving people and Joanelle serves people. That’s why we’re doing the fundraisers, the charities. So we hope that we can serve the Las Vegas community, the gamer community. The Mission Statement is “to provide opportunities for gamers” however that’s going to be.”