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Happy National Video Game Day!

July 8 is National Video Game Day. We here at Extra Life love video games. Playing games is fun! Not only that, we have spent the last twelve years experiencing the magic that video games can offer while seeing all of you putting in the effort to raise millions of dollars for local children’s hospitals across the US and Canada. So to all of you we say, “Happy National Video Game Day!”

Video games are a great way to relieve stress while promoting empathy and creative thinking. Evidence indicates that playing games encourages a number of cognitive benefits like improved hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, concentration, cognition, and social skills. Studies have even indicated that gaming improves the ability to multitask and recall information. Also, gaming has a strong relationship with helping players to learn about diverse groups of people, moments throughout history, and social/ethical problems. Due to the increasingly online nature of games, gaming has also become a great way to improve social skills.

That being the case, it makes sense that video games would have a holiday in the United States, right? It turns out that the existence of the holiday seems to be less clear cut and a bit weirder than one might expect.

A Surprising History

The origins of National Video Game Day date back to the early 90s. Confusingly, there are currently two holidays, National Video Game Day on July 8 and National Video Games Day on September 12. Neither of the dates seem related to any significant development of the medium, a proclamation from a major gaming company, or a prominent gaming organization.

Instead, video game historian Frank Cifaldi traced both dates to Chase Bank’s Calendar of Events publication. In 1991, the day appeared on the calendar as National Video Game Day on July 8th under the sponsorship of David Earle, the president of an organization called Kid Vid Warriors. Exactly who the Kid Vid Warriors were or what David Earle was trying to promote with his sponsored holiday seems to have been lost to time. The holiday persisted on July 8th via Chase Bank’s Calendar of Events until 1997 when the event switched to September 12th and became National Video Games Day.

Ultimately, the fact that there’s no official underlying significance to the holiday doesn’t matter all that much to people who love gaming. The existence of the days simply provides a great excuse to play games and experience what the medium can offer. Take the day to branch out and explore something new and challenging. Tackle a visual novel, a piece of interactive fiction, or dive into the world of indie games that never became mainstream. Alternatively, you could deviate slightly from the holiday and experience a tabletop adventure from a marginalized creator.

Just get out there, celebrate games, and consider raising money for your local children’s hospital while you play.

One more time: Happy National Video Game Day!

Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!