Skyrim mods are often labours of love, made with little to no expectation of financial gain. They’re made for the simple love of making something. Justin ‘JDAnchor’ Schroeder is a modder with exactly that ethos, and he’s currently battling an rare, complicated, and potentially fatal health condition. But in an awesome display of kindness, players of Bethesda’s RPG game are coming together the raise the funds he needs for a life-saving emergency surgery, via GoFundMe.
If you play Skyrim, there’s a good chance you’ve downloaded, or at least heard about, Justin’s work. For Skyrim alone he has almost 2,000,000 downloads on Nexus Mods, with highlights including the Forgotten Retex Project, the Cloaks of the Nords mod, and the Sigils of Skyrim. These mods are all about retexturing different objects in Skyrim, with Forgotten Retex Project adding new meshes and details to the “often-overlooked objects” in the game.
Justin is currently in hospital in Southern California due to a series of complex and rare disorders stemming from a birth disability in his ears and connected passageways. He was born deaf in one ear as a result, and though he’s struggled with other symptoms from time to time, he’s otherwise been able to live a normal life. That’s until a couple of years ago, when something changed, and his symptoms intensified: Justin has been suffering with sharp ear pain, weekly ear infections, bouts of vertigo, and has even developed asthma – and his condition continues to deteriorate.
“Doctors have not seen this specific situation in any historical record, and are baffled that Justin remains alive and has been doing well most of his life,” Justin’s roommate Christian explains. “Right now it is understood that he needs a surgery to remove part of the deformity he was born with, which has caused tearing in his inner ear, leading to [frequent] infections.”
Justin’s GoFundMe is co-sponsored by fellow Skyrim mod author ‘XilaMonstrr’, developer of the 16K dragon textures mod which we’ve previously covered on PCGamesN. Despite having “never met or exchanged dialogue,” Xila admired Justin’s work and his ethos as a creator. “Justin’s first mod was a new model and texture for the draw knife, an oft-overlooked object in the original game, which skyrocketed in popularity and made it into Hot Mods – not an easy feat for someone’s first mod,” Xila explains. “But instead of building off that popularity, he switched gears and brought us this amazing collaborative work that provides new models and textures for a huge list of ‘Forgotten Objects’. I really personally admire this approach – his focus isn’t on ‘how can I get the most downloads?’ but rather ‘how can I best serve the modding community’?”
Having heard of Justin’s condition, Xila connected with Christian and suggested starting a GoFundMe, because this isn’t the first time the Skyrim modding community has come to support one of its own. Three months ago, it raised almost $17,000 for Loki ‘LokiWasTaken’ Tunrida for another emergency life-saving surgery. In Xila’s words, the community’s reaction in both cases has been “awe-inspiringly beautiful. To see a community built around mutual creative passions be so supportive of a peer is breathtaking.”
What explains this touching compassion? Xila has a theory. “I think that gaming and modding communities often have a heightened awareness of what it’s like for folks who are disabled or live with chronic illness, because we are usually a higher percentage of those communities than we are elsewhere,” XilaMonstrr says. “Even for non-disabled folks, they are more likely to have disabled friends and thus increased compassion. People who have a hard time accessing nature or the outside world generally are able to do so through gaming, and modded Skyrim in particular allows for a highly versatile and realistic experience of a ‘natural’ world unlike anything else.”
This fundraiser also comes from a personal place for Xila, as she’s had to watch people close to her go through similar situations to Justin, waiting on the kindness of others to help fund medical needs rather than any other source.
“I am disabled and live with multiple chronic illnesses,” Xila says. “I’ve had many people I care about suffer needlessly for a very, very long time because of the failures of the American medical establishment. The amount of anger, sadness and to be honest, absolute disgust that I have over the medical system in our country is enormous. It is nothing less than systematic denial of basic rights and something I truly hope to see radically transform within my lifetime, as this is a terrible and toxic legacy to leave younger generations. Each time there’s a fundraiser like this, Skyrim players in Europe are completely shocked that it’s necessary in a country like ours that has so much wealth.”
Yet necessary it is, and according to those who know him and value his work, there’s no one more deserving. Justin is “one-of-a-kind”, says Christian. “Nobody matches his level of creativity, kindness, or his easy-going, humble nature. His energy feels God-sent. It’s difficult to explain as he just radiates a positive energy like someone sent here with big purpose. Car gets stranded? He’s on his way. Need help watching your pets while on a trip? There he is. Need advice that is without motive? Seek Justin out.”
You can help Justin to get the surgery he needs via his GoFundMe, which also lists more detail on his unique medical condition. You can check out Justin’s modding work on his user profile at Nexus Mods. PCGamesN thanks Christian and XilaMonstrr for their kind participation in this story.