Through the COVID-19 pandemic, many have had to find ways to keep themselves entertained at home, with hobbies like baking, exercising, learning musical instruments or, in Cumming Police Chief David Marsh’s case, playing video games.
Over the last few months, Marsh has been live-streaming himself playing videogames online on his Facebook page, Gaming with the Chief, which he says is not only a way to blow off steam but also a way to interact with members of the community or maybe those who just have questions about what it’s like to work in law enforcement.
“That’s why I named it ‘Gaming with the Chief,’” Marsh said. “I wanted to create a place where people could hop in, and if they like playing video games, that’s great, and if they wanted to chat about stuff, I wanted to create an environment where people felt comfortable asking questions about law enforcement that they might not have any place else to go with.”
Marsh said he grew up playing videogames, both on gaming systems, he said his first console was the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and ‘90s computer classics like Quake, Doom and Wolfenstein.
He described his gaming skill level as “not a bad gamer, but certainly not a professional” and said his online gamertag, CplKrispyKreme or Krispy to those he is playing with, is from his time at the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, where he reached the rank of corporal, and the rest was “my online tag in college long before I became a police officer simply because I like doughnuts.”
When he became chief, he considered changing the name to reflect the new position, but the name wasn’t available, “and after I thought about it a bit, I didn’t feel like changing over all my logins to a new gamertag anyway.”
Still, Marsh said there are many his age and older who wonder why anyone would want to watch someone else play videogames.
“That’s the question I get more often than not from people who are my peers or people who are a little bit older, they just don’t understand,” he said. “So oftentimes, I spend time just educating folks that, ‘Hey, you probably watch people play sports – football, baseball, soccer – and that’s about the same thing people do with video games. They like playing videogames and they like watching people who are really good at videogames play... Maybe it makes them better, maybe it makes them just enjoy the content.”
While he said he enjoys a variety of games, most of his streams involve online, multiplayer games.
“As far as, if you’re looking at it for content, what people want to watch and what you just enjoy playing personally, sometimes those aren’t the same thing,” Marsh said, “and so for me right now Call of Duty and the battle royale style of games seem to get the most popularity, and to me, I personally enjoy playing those kind of games like [PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds] and Fortnite and Call of Duty now is really popular.”
Like any competition, things don’t always go Marsh’s way during games, and he said he does sometimes have to be mindful not to just shut games down, known to gamers as rage-quitting, and that sometimes his bad luck can be entertaining for viewers.
“I’m not a person who likes to lose my temper very often, but certainly, videogames can bring out the worst in people,” he said. “It does get frustrating sometimes, and I have to be mindful that … if other people are watching, I need to set a good example.”
As law enforcement has been a big topic in recent years, Marsh said the interactions, most of which he said were positive, gave viewers or other players a chance to talk with a police chief in a way they wouldn’t typically be able to.
“I know the last couple of years we have been under scrutiny for just a lot of stuff in the media with the riots and the way law enforcement handled that around the country and the use of force issues and the Black Lives Matter movement and the defund the police movement,” Marsh said. “I felt like there was a lot of information out there, and the more I did it, the more I felt it was an opportunity to kind of bridge the gap with some of our younger people in our community to give them an opportunity to ask questions.”
Marsh said the idea to stream games instead of just playing was from his 12-year-old son when they were playing together and morphed along the way, and now, his son and wife even help with the streams.
“My son would sit down with me and he would help me moderate the chat and read me what people are writing and give me an opportunity to sort of interact with the folks that were watching it on the channel, and that was a lot of fun and I enjoyed doing it with him,” he said.
Along with serving as police chief, Marsh is a father of three – his children are 12, 8 and 8 months – and said he does have to plan streams around his family and job but says, whether or not others are watching, gaming is one of his favorite ways to destress.
“I know for a lot of people who have stressful jobs, not just mine, video games are a way of escaping from all the stresses and setting that stuff aside,” Marsh said, “and me, if I can spend a couple of hours just chatting about stuff that I enjoy or interacting or playing videogames, even if I’m not streaming, that’s kind of a cool way just to relax and not worry about all the stresses that are happening.”