Long-time Everquest II player Carri Hoover has a son not quite as old as the game is. Sadly, however, six-year-old John Hoover is terminally ill, with doctors estimating he has only weeks left to live.
Last Tuesday, March 6, she posted a request to the "Norrathian Homeshow" board on the official forums, a place where players who enjoy decorating their in-game houses and guild halls compare notes. She wrote:
This is a depressing post but I need some help. My 6 yr old son has cancer and was recently given 6 - 12 weeks to live.
He has a frog that he likes to run around Tenebrous Tangle Island on; however, it is sparse and he has requested to add trees, fences, stairs, animals and all kinds of other items to make his island fun and exciting.
Are there any decorators out there that would be willing to assist in adding these items (and any others their imagination poses) to help me make the island even more fun for him. I don't know how much I'll be able to accomplish on my own while still providing him quality time to enjoy it.
Fewer than 12 hours later, a team of players had already begun to get materials and systems in place so that players who wished to contribute their real time or virtual money and goods could do so easily. And by the end of the day, Hoover's request had become a rallying point, with players taking it upon themselves to schedule and advertise a server event for Saturday, March 10.
And with that, the plans were underway. Community representatives and SOE staff became aware of the plans and highlighted the upcoming event in their community news, as well as on the EverQuest II Facebook page.
Players working around the clock joined and power-leveled a new guild (reaching guild level 70 in, reportedly, approximately 65 hours) in order to have access to goods, housing and amenities ready for the big day. And when it came, they turned out in force. When they were done, young John had a virtual wonderland to call his own, complete with carousel, playground, treehouse, hopscotch field, giant aquarium, menageries, gardens, pirate bed, winter wonderland and even a rollercoaster -- all donated and built, painstakingly, by a small army of decorators. The screenshots posted above are just a small selection of what can be seen in the gallery EQ2 Zam put together to showcase the event.
Eric Cleaver, Community Manager for EverQuest II, said in a phone call that it was very safe to say that over 100 players participated, and that "literally thousands of man-hours were put into the event over the course of a few days." He added:
Obviously this was a very moving event, a horrible tragedy for the family, and it's very inspiring that the community came together in such a way to do what they could to give the child a very bright day. And that is one of the truly amazing things about these sorts of online communities, that there is such a feeling of love and connection between them.
After the event had concluded, Hoover returned to the thread where it all began to offer her thanks, beginning, "I have probably deleted thousand of insignificant words while tyring to find a way to thank everyone." She continued, "The response from the community was so magnificently overwhelming and uplifting that any sadness that triggered our request was completely overshadowed with the amazement of the generosity of everyone who contributed."
And then she told more of the story of how big a role the EverQuest II community had played in her family's lives since the game first launched in late 2004, writing:
What many of you don't realise is just how long some of you have actually been on this journey with us starting with my son's premature birth. He was born at 24.5 weeks gestation and weighed only 1 lb 5 oz. He stayed 5 months in the NICU but the friends I made in the community were always willing to lend an ear and a virtual shoulder. Some came to visit once we were able to bring him home. During a semi-calm "normal" period, many of the friends I made here helped me with basic parenting tips to get me through teething and burping and then, when he got diagnosed with cancer at the age of three, again, the friends made here would listen, cry with me and sent him books and toys to help get through the many hospital stays that would follow.
For a brief period, when he seemed to be "cured", our friends here organised a Vegas trip for us knowing that we hadn't taken any vacations since he was born. When the cancer came back, our friends here, continued to help organise trips to Fan Faire so that at least once a year we could have some time to recharge and help rejuvenate us for the ongoing fight with cancer. All of these things played a large part in keeping us strong and therefore better able for us to be there mentally and emotionally for him.
And now, with all the love given this weekend, you have all shined such a beautiful light on our family that we are able to carry it with us during the darkness and I can assure you, it will not be forgotten even when we aren't running around Norrath. This is an event that will provide smiles that last a lifetime for Ribbitribbitt and mum and Dad.
Thank you everyone. Players, guides, devs.... literally everyone!!!
Hoover and her husband shared videos on YouTube chronicling their son's reactions to his new island paradise and the massive community effort that got it made. Don't watch them anywhere you can't sniffle at least a little. When gamers give back, they go big.