In the gaming world, Paul Scherer goes by Puzzle. And as community manager of MDA Let’s Play, our dedicated community gaming and fundraising platform, he anticipates technical issues and seeks solutions to player requests to put together an experience that, for MDA gamers, is as seamless as it is satisfying.
But who is the guy behind the puzzle?
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Paul, who currently resides in Seattle, earned a degree in wildlife biology and a minor in mathematics from Lees-McRae College in North Carolina. While there, he was also a member of Nerd Club, a group for students interested in any aspect of “geek culture,” Paul says — video games, comics, superheroes, Harry Potter, knitting. He gathered his fellow gamers for some friendly competition with other groups online, and soon, the club had a full-blown Esports (aka electronic sports) team, and Paul was helping other colleges along the East Coast establish their own teams, too.
After graduating, Paul started working toward earning a master’s degree in statistics. He began volunteering, too, for Games Done Quick, a weeklong biannual charity gaming event. He moved back to the West Coast and began managing a virtual reality arcade in Seattle. And he met Larry Lieberman, executive producer for 4Ever Wild Productions, who partnered with MDA to create Let’s Play.
In November 2019, Paul says Larry reached out. “He said, ‘MDA is working on a program called MDA Let’s Play,’ and gave me an overview on how it started, where it began,” Paul says. “I thought it was a really cool idea, so I hopped on. I was just able to, I guess you could say, walk the walk, talk the talk within gaming.”
That insider knowledge makes him a natural leader for MDA Let’s Play, where he oversees the moderator team, organizes gameplay and hosts, fields user requests, and helps with testing. He sat down with Strongly to chat more about the MDA Let’s Play community and his love of the game.
How did you get into gaming?
Gaming has always been a part of my life in some way, just kind of as a social thing. Growing up, the Gameboy was new, the GameCube, the Wii, Xbox, PlayStation … in elementary, junior high, and high school, everyone just had a game console of some sort. When we got an Xbox, the fun thing with it was it was multiplayer, so my brothers and I played together. I’m always really big into multiplayer games and playing with others. It was a very good social tool because, being a kid in high school … I mean, after school, people just went home. Some people lived farther than others, but you could just get online on the Xbox or PlayStation and put on your headset and you’d hang out with your friends.
So what exactly do you do as MDA Let’s Play’s community manager?
A great analogy I like to use is the online community is like a garden, and I am a gardener. So, the garden could grow on itself, but weeds grow. Sometimes there might not be good rainfall, so the plants struggle. So, the gardener could come by and take care of the weeds, water the plants, just take care of it. The community will grow and can grow, but having someone to help facilitate the directions it grows is always a good thing.
With MDA Let’s Play, I make sure things flow well. I ensure that the community knows what’s going on, in terms of events; act as a liaison between the community and MDA; and I interact. I’m always on Discord. I ensure the streaming is working well, ensure the tournaments are run well, ensure the moderation team works well, a lot of things like that.
What do you see happening in the MDA Let’s Play community?
Here in an online community, you can just text and type away and say, “Hi, how’s it going?” And so, a lot of people are really social. People have made friends, or said, “Hey, I’m learning coding now because my friend is coding.” We host Game Night just so people get together, hang out, play, make new friends. With everything that’s going on in the world, there’s no denying that it could be a little bit grim. And so here, it’s a very positive space. We talk about games. I mean, games are made to have fun. That’s the whole intention of making a game, right?
So, internally people have a good time, making new friends, learning new skills. And then influencers who fundraise for us learn about MDA as a whole, and MDA reaches a new audience and a new atmosphere with its mission.
What’s in store for MDA Let’s Play for the summer?
We are now hosting a cash-prize tournament the second Friday of every month, which helps draw new communities to come in and learn about MDA. In the last tournament, one of the teams playing had a member who was a nurse who was really touched by what MDA does, and that player brought the team to Let’s Play. They were just hanging out with the community and teaching some of the community members strategies, which was really cool.
Over the summer, we’re definitely trying to create more events aligned with holidays and virtual Summer Camp, like little tournaments here or there with giveaways, and maybe even sessions on coding, how to make your own game, things like that.
What are you most excited about?
I would say coming up with really cool and unique ideas and events for the community. I have a whole Excel sheet of ideas that’s just, like, 1-50 … tournament this, tournament that, challenges, different fun incentives for influencers if they reach a donation goal. Just spreading and learning and developing new ideas for the community, I think, is the best.
Has the community taught you anything about gaming that you didn’t know before joining MDA Let’s Play?
I’m really interested in mobile gaming, but I learned some people can’t hold a phone as well as others. I never really thought of that. But so many people come up with interesting techniques to do stuff. It always amazes me, especially with key bindings and working on mapping controllers to work the way you really want them to work, because I didn’t really know people could do really cool stuff with hardware. It’s unique.
Learning how to really format a Discord for such a large audience is something cool, too. And just chatting with the community and learning new stuff. There’s always really cool stuff.
What’s your favorite thing about MDA Let’s Play?
Again, I think it’d be the ideas, just getting ideas flowing, because anyone in the community could ask something and I will try to make it work.
Our Dungeons & Dragons community is pretty cool that way. We had some say, “Hey, I want to play Dungeons & Dragons online. How could we make that work?” And so I contacted some companies, and one gave us a premium sponsorship package for free, so, I was like, “Whoa, OK. That’s amazing. Thank you.” And now it’s like, “Hey, yeah, you want to play Dungeons & Dragons? I will overwhelm you with how much stuff I could give you.” I play Dungeons & Dragons myself on Saturdays with my personal friends, and when I told them about it, their jaws dropped to the ground.
Do you have a favorite game?
My favorite game of all time is an old game, Star Wars Republic Commando, something I played with my brothers. But right now, I play Dungeons & Dragons every Saturday with friends. That’s been going on for more than a year. And it’s not so much that I love Dungeons & Dragons. It’s more like I get to hang out with friends, because just going through life … people work, people go to school, people have families, stuff happens, and it’s hard to always meet up with people. So, yeah, just being around those that you like, hanging out, is always fun.