Games, and the communities that form around them, are frequently wonderful. They enhance our enjoyment of our hobby in so many ways, from creating free content (where developers have the foresight to allow it) to filtering memes for dankness.
In an especially heart-warming story to start your new year right, however, it seems one community may have saved a child’s life - or at the very least, spared him from the long-term harms of lead poisoning, and kept his family from having to move house.
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Team Fortress 2 map maker What Is Schwa? Had a hard 2016, with his son testing for high lead levels thanks to an abundance of the stuff in his house. “Between medical bills and the cost of lead remediation, my wife and I were looking at some very difficult and heartbreaking decisions,” he writes on Reddit.
Salvation came from an unlikely place: What Is Schwa?’s talent for TF2 map design. One of his maps, Swiftwater, was recognised for its quality and made an official TF2 map in the July 7, 2016 patch, also known as the Meet Your Match update.
This made it eligible for the game’s Map Stamp system, in which players who wish to reward the work of content creators can donate real money to the author of a particular map. In exchange, they receive a special hat that emits a fun particle effect whenever they play on the corresponding map.
What Is Schwa? says that “between Valve and the community stamp contributions, I was able to comply with all the health department criteria to make my house safe. Since, my son's lead levels have been steadily going down. I can keep my family in my house, and my son isn't likely to suffer long term effects from the lead. I can sleep at night knowing I didn't mess up the life of my son. You guys helped that.”
Lead poisoning is no joke. It can cause sterility, memory problems, long-term mental disability and, in extreme cases, seizures, coma or death. This last year, a gaming community helped prevent that.
If you'd like to buy a stamp for Swiftwater - or indeed any of the other works by Team Fortress 2's talented community - check out TF2's Mann Co Store either in-game or online here. Click here for more on Swiftwater, and if you've yet to get in on the fun, TF2 is free-to-play on Steam. It was a big influence on Overwatch, one of 2016's most popular games.