First, what is Extra Life? Simply put, an annual worldwide 24-hour gaming marathon that raises money for the Children's Miracle Network hospitals. Easy.
So, here's my experience from Extra Life 2012.
The genesis of the weekend was in August 2011. Doing my 365 project (one photo every day for a calendar year), I reflected on a LAN party I had been to the previous year and another LAN party that was possibly coming up. I had gamed for basically 24 hours straight (though I had slept enough to be able to drive back home), just playing WarCraft III. (Loved that damned Felhound game!) The idea was to play 24 different games in 24 hours. I drafted the first rules I had for the marathon, and remarkably, it has changed very little. The idea lay reasonably dormant until April 2012, when I combined the idea with Extra Life – a friend of mine, Sam, had done “a game marathon for charity” in October 2011 and I was suddenly inspired.
So, in May 2012, I drafted the first set of games I would complete, the achievements to go with those games, and so on. I thought I'd do it after leaving college, but then I thought of Extra Life and decided to make it a bit more fun. Donations started up, and slowly but surely trickled in. I set the bar at $200, which was all I needed for a free T-shirt from the Extra Life people. That incentive was enough for me, and within four donations I had the $200. But I knew I could do better. I had done fundraising in March 2012 – dyed my brown hair (which I would NEVER EVER DYE SO HELP ME BECAUSE I LOVE THE COLOUR) into a very attractive shade of green, to raise money for the Leukæmia Foundation of Australia. The decision was a hasty one, and for that reason I raised roughly $285 (the exact figure escapes me, but I know the total in the “cents” column was 66, as someone donated $6.66).
I set the bar higher. I wanted to see exactly how much I could raise – double my hair-dying efforts would be ideal, but given most of my friends are college and uni students (or college/uni age), I didn't see much happening. Of course, I forgot about the one thing that always fascinated me in all my mathematics studies: how so many small numbers can combine to make a huge number. I set people the challenge of extending my $200 to as high as possible, with $1,000 being a very ambitious upper limit. I added incentives along the way: at $400 I would stand on my feet for most of the games, at $500 I would play Slender deep at night and with minimal lighting, at $600 I would wear clothing inappropriate for the weather, at $800 I would not drink any energy drinks, at $1,000 I would take challenges from the audience in between games. I also set myself the target of achieving 16 out of the 24 achievements I'd set myself (because some of them were just too lofty, or I was just playing the game(s) for fun – namely Bubsy).
Within the coming weeks and months, I prepared myself. I knew that I needed three key things: a venue, people, and health-and-safety considerations. The most annoying thing to get was the venue – there are plenty of places around the university, but all of them either booked or not appropriate (or not bookable, for that matter). I had to settle for a venue that was not ideal, and which required more equipment than I originally thought. People was no issue – I billed it as “a LAN party with a sideshow”. Besides, I live at college – plenty of people would rock up, even just passing through. Health-and-safety was the one that gave me the biggest headache – have I got enough stuff to keep me sane and healthy? Water, vitamins, carbs, sports drinks, caffeine? In the end, I settled for what I had and asked a couple of people to stick around as long as they could, to administer first aid if needed.
Remarkably, people were responding to the fundraising challenge. I hit $400 in mid-September, $500 a week later, then $600 within a week of the event. What I certainly did not expect was that the $624 I had raised by midday on October 12 grew to $1,050 by midday on October 13 – the day of the challenge. I had set that exact time as the cutoff for all challenges – if it wasn't in by midday, I wouldn't do it. The final $150 that pushed me up to (and over) the thousand-dollar mark came at 11:59am on the day, so I accepted the challenge.
Game on. The day finally came, and with the last-minute donations I had to offload my energy drinks to those who needed them. I took my equipment to the venue (which is at my college), met my friend, and moved furniture and such around in preparation for a LAN party (which never happened - it turned very quickly into a spectator sport rather than a LAN gaming event, though other gaming did take place). We set up a live stream, a projector and a stage. Before noon, I had everything ready to go, and then I heard the news that my oldest friend's brother had pushed me over the $1,000 mark. I gritted my teeth, said to myself “one foot goes down” (my ethos) and went for it.
HOUR 1 (NOON - 1PM, on feet): clock The Neverhood from scratch. I faced early problems with this game as I made several crucial mistakes. I only managed to secure 13 out of 20 disks, so I decidedly failed this one. Some day I might speedrun it within an hour - I still firmly believe it to be possible. (Edit August 4 2015: I now no longer believe this. A flawless run takes over an hour thanks in part to the rather long cutscenes in the last one-third to one-quarter of the game.)
HOUR 2 (1PM - 2PM, on feet): earn five medals in Wii Sports. Surprisingly, this turned out to be very tricky. I did earn two medals in one shot, mind - going from a bronze to a gold medal counted as two. I managed to secure five medals with ten minutes to spare, and finished up by just dicking around.
HOUR 3 (2PM - 3PM): score 10,000 coins in one New Super Mario Bros. 2 Coin Rush game. I had done it before, but not on randomly-generated levels, and as such I failed miserably. However, I picked up many thousand coins overall and I added to my coin total, pushing me beyond 250,000. I'll get to the million... one day.
HOUR 4 (3PM - 4PM, on feet): complete six advanced chambers in Portal. This one was failed so badly - I only managed one. Still, I'm aware it is possible to do six within an hour. This was an ambitious challenge as I had already cleared some of the chambers, so I took the loss and moved on.
HOUR 5 (4PM - 5PM, on feet): defeat CPUs on every AI level in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Bizarrely, this was very easy. I only lost once - at Lv 7. After beating the Lv 9 CPUs, I accepted a 1v1 challenge (I had only brought two controllers), and won by one KO. I couldn't believe my luck... though said challenger has asked for a rematch!
HOUR 6 (5PM - 6PM): score three million aggregate points in Tetris 3D, including one Endless-Off Marathon. This was also easy, after I scored over a million points in a minute (during Fever mode). At that point, I was just over half way in (time-wise) and was over two million aggregate points. The Endless-Off marathon I did at the start did put me in a good position, mind.
HOUR 7 (6PM - 7PM, on feet): win an hour-long InstaGib CTF in Unreal Tournament 2004. This was impossible. Although I made several successful flag assaults, I never made a capture. The game was tied 0-0 at the end of the hour, and I declined to move in to overtime as I had other games to tackle. I counted it as a loss.
HOUR 8 (7PM - 8PM, on feet): win a 30-turn Mario Party 8 against toughest AIs. This was also impossible, for different reasons. By the end of the hour, only 13 turns had been played out. Having said that, by the end of the 13th turn (and the end of the hour) I was in a commanding position. Not winning, but commanding. I am proud of this. Pizza was consumed around this time.
HOUR 9 (8PM - 9PM): attempt Super Single streaks in Pokémon Black. I never got close. First I had to win my way through the regular Single train, which I failed miserably at with my Eeveelutions. Small shame. By now, I was getting a bit wiped, so I let it go.
HOUR 10 (9PM - 10PM, on feet):
obtain four StarCraft II achievements. beat Descent mode in BIT.TRIP BEAT. Unfortunately, StarCraft was not feasible due to my account not being recognised (an issue I am still yet to resolve). Just as unfortunately, BIT.TRIP BEAT proved very difficult, particularly with bouncing pixels. This capped off four hours of failed achievements - the longest streak in the marathon. I rewarded myself at this point with some rainbow jelly.
HOUR 11 (10PM - 11PM, on feet): score three flawless Mario Kart Wii victories against the toughest CPUs. People who watched me must have thought I was doing it tough, but right on the stroke of 11PM, I achieved the final flawless victory. I had gone into every race with Yoshi on the Mach Bike and done remarkably well, though not winning every race I was consistently performing.
HOUR 12 (11PM - MIDNIGHT): clock Bubsy: Claws Encounters Of The Furred Kind from scratch. I never intended to achieve this achievement - Bubsy was just going to be a bit of fun. I mostly amused people wit hthe upbeat, jazzy soundtrack and the fact that it is impossible not to die in Bubsy. By this stage, I was getting more and more wiped, but I could still put one foot down in front of the other, and I pressed on.
HOUR 13 (MIDNIGHT - 1AM, on feet): win a standard deathmatch against the CPU in Age Of Empires 2. Though many people claimed this to be impossible, I lucked out and got a map that required only a strong naval base. I set up a Wonder as soon as I could, and my opponent never seriously tried to attack. I won with a good 20 minutes to spare, and spent the rest of the time screwing around with AoE cheats.
HOUR 14 (1AM - 2AM, on feet): win a postgame challenge in Super Paper Mario. If I hadn't run out of vitality, I probably would have run out of time. I was well and truly behind, and out of practise. Having said that, I did relish the challenge and I look forward to trying it again at some stage - perhaps next year?
HOUR 15 (2AM - 3AM): collect all eight pages in a single game of Slender: The Eight Pages. This was a challenge set by one of my gamer friends, and the source of biggest amusement from my friends (in fact, I got the highest audience and best livestream attendance during this hour). Having not touched Slender much beforehand, I was naturally at a disadvantage. The whole thing turned out to be very anticlimactic when two of my friends (who were screwing around) kept making too much light of the situation, and as a result I only jumped when Slender Man teleported. My best effort was four pages.
HOUR 16 (3AM - 4AM):
obtain 200 VR in Mario Kart 7. score 500 or more in a single Classic Mode game of Fruit Ninja. Again, Mario Kart 7 was relegated for Internet reasons. However, Fruit Ninja was not so hindered, and I attempted to best my sister (who recently obtained an iPad) by beating her high score. Unfortunately, I was not especially lucky and could only manage 453 at best.
HOUR 17 (4AM - 5AM, on feet): complete five
Borderlands Borderlands 2 missions. I opted to not choose Borderlands as I had passed every mission but three, meaning it was impossible to carry out my challenge. This being the worst time of night, I opted to do some very easy missions to pass the five-mission threshold. I chose Gaige (my new character) and passed seven missions, half of them within Sanctuary. By this point, I was incredibly worn out, barely speaking and not paying attention to the livestream (largely because nobody was online).
HOUR 18 (5AM - 6AM): get a 100-win streak in WarioWare, Inc. A big tick here! I opted to play Orbulon's games, which I had previously scored 97 twice on. After four attempts, I finally made it and passed the 100 mark. This was certainly the thing to raise my spirits: two wins in a row, something I hadn't done since 6pm. This was another particularly uninteresting one, as I was sitting down and nobody was on the livestream.
HOUR 19 (6AM - 7AM, on feet): win a tech race in Rise Of Nations. I won this game as sun started creeping over the horizon, but only on a technicality - somehow, the parameters I'd set had somehow malfunctioned. I still won according to my definition, so it was chalked up as a victory.
HOUR 20 (7AM - 8AM, on feet): beat one Masters set in Pokémon Battle Revolution. Standing up for this one was no challenge - I could walk around the room and plot my next moves. The battles themselves also provided no challenge - I won all eight battles for a grand total of two Masters sets. By this stage I'd won four games in a row - more than I'd done in this marathon beforehand, and I was feeling incredibly tired.
HOUR 21 (8AM - 9AM, on feet): open a door in Spelunky. This just turned into screwing around as I killed shopkeeper after shopkeeper, and tried in vain to pass Lv 6 (though I did equal my record of rescuing four damsels). I had not lost interest in the achievements, but needed something light-hearted for a while to keep my spirits up. I was mentally and physically exhausted.
HOUR 22 (9AM - 10AM, on feet):
clock R-Type 3 from scratch. earn five stamps in Wii Sports Resort. Since the addition of Slender, I had to reshuffle some games and R-Type 3 was the game to be culled (for a number of reasons). I replaced it initially with Kirby's Nightmare In Dreamland, but was forced to hastily change it when I realised that I would be playing two platformers in a row. In any case, I failed something shocking at these games - only achieving one stamp as I was jostled in Cycling too much, forgot the easy stamps within Skydiving, and was failing too hard at spinning a bowling ball.
HOUR 23 (10AM - 11AM): complete the Meta Knightmare mode of Kirby's Nightmare In Dream Land. Nope. Again, too many crucial mistakes kept me from getting close to winning the game, though I did make it to Lv 7-1. I know speedrunning this game is possible within an hour, since I have done it (with one crucial mistake) within 1h0'59" before. However, by this stage I was very wiped and almost fell asleep at least three times during the game.
HOUR 24 (11AM - NOON, on feet): smash 1,200 tomatoes in I Have No Tomatoes. I finished on a high note. The audience had resurfaced, having disappeared after Slender; when I smashed the 1,200th tomato, I received a round of applause. I was incredibly touched by the fact that they'd not only come at all, but come back to help me with the final stretch.
I collapsed into a sitting position on the stage. We checked the cash donations that had been given, and I ended up with an extra $31.50, bringing my total to $1,154.50 over the months I had been asking for donations. I reiterated to the audience and livestream (and later Facebook) about how proud I was of everyone, and they reiterated how proud they were of me. For the first time, while wearing my orange Extra Life T-shirt (which, by the way, has the word “HERO” emblazoned on it), I truly did feel like a hero.
It's worth noting all the one-minute challenges I did in between games as well. In order:
- 1:00pm – as many forward rolls as possible (I managed 10)
- 2:00pm – as many pushups as possible (I managed 42)
- 3:00pm – sing the entirety of Pretty Fly For A White Guy (I managed two-thirds of the song)
- 4:00pm – play CLOP (I did fairly OK)
- 5:00pm – dance the Gangnam Style dance (did as best I could)
- 6:00pm – Jen's Video Game Trivia Quiz (two questions right out of seven)
- 7:00pm – run from one end of the college to the other (passed well and truly)
- 8:00pm – scull cans of Fanta (I got through two)
- 9:00pm – call someone and ask them on a juice date (succeeded1)
- 10:00pm – another video game trivia quiz (three correct out of seven this time)
- 11:00pm – jump like Mario for a minute (well and truly passed)
- 12:00am – kiss another guy (all too easy – I am a gay chicken veteran)
- 1:00am – arm wrestle two people (failed it something shocking - I have no arm strength)
- 2:00am – crush 16 cans (did so – including one full one. Damn trolls!)
- 3:00am – complete three brainteasers (did so within 37 seconds)
- 4:00am – as many “burpees” as possible (managed 38)
- 5:00am – beat New Super Mario Bros. 2, world 1-1 (succeeded)
- 6:00am – impersonate David Attenborough (did so, with the subject being a sleepy Paolo)
- 7:00am – drink a creaming soda with a Mentos inside it (tasted awful!)
- 8:00am – tell as many puns as possible on a given topic (surprisingly, failed!)
- 9:00am – do a silly walk (passed, well and truly. I was wiped by then)
- 10:00am – guess a minute (I guessed 1'02.13”)
- 11:00am – thank everyone involved with the marathon.
Myself and six others packed all the equipment and food up, returned the hall to its original state, and left.
Got home. Got back on Facebook. Read all my fifty unread notifications (which had apparently accumulated thanks to some dogged work by my friends to get the word out about the livestream). Slept.
1. And I went on said juice date, with a good friend. Juice was had, and proof has been uploaded.
Huge thanks to Junkill for the donations!