Thomas Buxton

“Thank goodness that gaming is in my life.” I’m sure I have felt that way in some capacity for the 20+ years that games have been in my life, though this is probably the first time trying to explain it in a professional manner. Their role also continues to change and evolve in a way that I never expected. It’s the universal positivity and versatility that has kept gaming a passion of mine, but it’s only been in the last 5-10 years that it aligned so well with what brought me to Fringe.

I was always a member of sports teams growing up. That continued through graduate school where I was involved with Track & Cross Country in a coaching capacity. These were some of the best years of my life and the inherent social circle that came along with it was, whether I knew it or not, one of my favorite parts. This also meant that I never learned how to create or seek out a community; it was always handed to me. No one tells you that adulting and making genuine friends is a bit of a crapshoot. Stack on top of that a career path that over time I fell out of love with, and gaming became a social circle combined with what I’ve referred to as “sudoku on steroids.” It’s something to keep my brain busy and challenge me mentally. In case that wasn’t complex enough, stir in challenges with stress and anxiety that have grown progressively worse since my early twenties. I get things I want from my gaming experiences and, at times, it feels like I am getting things I need from them as well.

So how does this relate to Fringe? It just so happened that a day of stress and anxiety matched with a day of catching up with my old friend Anthony. I went into detail about the mental distraction gaming can play but then went on a tangent (as I do) about the social support I gained from it. I imagine this has been heightened as I sit here typing this 15 months into social distancing. Being single and living alone, I am really socially distancing. The friendships and shared passion that I get from these gaming Facebook and Discord groups are most of where I get my joy, outside of gaming itself. Anthony is who suggested it, but I think we both were feeling the synergy in linking the support I was speaking about with Fringe’s passion for community. For so many, gaming is the thing you happen to be doing while you’re engaging with a community. And, for those, that’s where the real value lies.

I went to work trying to validate the positive impact of gaming. Every time I go down the google rabbit hole, I find myriads of supporting stories and articles – everything from eyesight and reaction time to community engagement and meaningful relationships. Many online communities (gaming or otherwise) allow people to share and support common interests. Some of the best communities go one step further to root themselves in those shared interests but expand their positive impact deeper into a person’s life. I love that I get social engagement and problem-solving out of my gaming….I would also love to address my social anxiety and be encouraged to participate more in the physical world. I firmly believe that the right online community can be a resource to help someone gain healthy practices while also improving their life outside of gaming. Fringe will be this kind of community but also find and champion the countless people already operating in this way.

What happens now? Fringe will launch and exist very much the way it was always planned to. My involvement means that, in addition to that, we will be seeking out content creators who share our same values and have created communities that might benefit from the Fringe factors. My goal is to create genuine partnerships with these people and support the things they do while also plugging them into the Fringe community to help support each other. I have a sufficient amount of imposter syndrome about how to make this a reality. BUT… I have never stood before such an overlap of something I enjoy and something I am passionate about. That seems like a fantastic north star while we figure this thing out together!