In all seriousness, it's a livestream marathon with a cause. Our team of Long Island (pronounced "lawn-GUY-lund") gamers will complete a nonstop playthrough of Pokémon Ruby for Child's Play. Child's Play is a charity that donates toys and games to kids in hospitals; I can tell you, from harsh personal experience, that the worst thing to be in a hospital is bored.
At this point, you're well aware why I'm writing this. Don't think I'm some scummy, spammy ad dog, though. I am convinced that our Magmathon is essential for your holiday amusement. Here's why:
1. Game marathons are literally the best thing. Know why Mario Marathon is so popular? Because the only thing more fun than playing a game is watching four dudes laugh and joke and hold existential discourse while failing miserably at it. Have friends? Watch with them. No friends? No problem. We're you're friends now, and we'll chat with you and treat you right and hang out for hours.
2. Donating will make you feel good about yourself. Ever dug a well in Africa? Distributed food in the slums of L.A.? No? A donation to Child's Play through Magmathon may relieve that twinge of guilt you feel for depleting your first-world income surplus on Steam keys and PS Plus subscriptions. Already a veteran philanthropist? Keep your streak alive. Non-donors are more than welcome, too, but wouldn't you like to be a real-world hero? Can you spare a dime, Brother(or Sister)?
3. It's Pokémon. I don't think I even have to explain this. Mario Marathon's great, sure, but it's sure as hell lacking your required dose of cute yellow mouse. Where else can you get that kind of entertainment for three straight days? Other marathons have done Pokémon, you say? Well, have they done it between July 5th and 7th, 2013? Didn't think so. We've got a monopoly on that.
If you were paying attention, you should have already—instinctively—typed in the URL from the above image that offers you so much good goodness for a good cause. If you didn't notice, it's magmathon.com. Here it is again. One more time. What are you still doing here.
At 11 AM, we started a game. 33 hours later, we finished it. People watched, and we made a good deal of money – not for ourselves, but for hospitals.
There’s a succinct summary for one of the most unique weekends of my life. If you’re willing to click at this point, though, you’re probably expecting more.
It started out as a joke. One day, as a friend and I sat around, one of us turned to the other and thought aloud, “Hey. What if someone took a full-size RPG, and played it all in one sitting? All those hours, without stopping. Just a straight playthrough."
An outlandish idea, sure, but certainly not the most ridiculous, or even very original. When we use the term “gaming community”, we’re often not referring to people who have a normal affinity for the hobby. And the community had done it, multiple times. Countless marathoners have ripped through whole game series like butter. Loading Ready Run tortures themselves each year playing Desert Bus for days. And somehow, as we became aware of these feats, that little offhand thought morphed into, “We have to do this.”
Now, I don’t know if this kind of reading’s your cup of tea, but I think we have an interesting perspective. Most of you know pretty well how the Mario Marathon guys run things – super professional, with a dozen-man team, heavy promotion and exposure, and an annual donation total that helps make Child’s Play’s yearly earnings exceed Robert Kotick’s. Those individuals, and what they do, is tremendous. But how could three teenagers ever hope to follow their lead?
As it turned out, we had a lot of things going for us. My friend happened to have a full rig of A/V equipment for Let’s Plays that transitioned fine to livestreaming. I happened to dabble in both web and graphic design; add in a fifteen dollar domain from GoDaddy, and we had the semblance of a professional web presence.
From the outset, we decided our stream would join the ranks of those raising money for Child’s Play, Penny Arcade’s fantastic charity that sends toys and games to kids in hospitals. In part, I must admit, this was done in the spirit of increasing exposure. Mostly, however, we really did want to give back. We raised two hundred dollars for Child’s Play before we’d even started streaming, built largely on the backs of supportive friends and relatives – a small figure for Mario Marathon, but an inspiring one for us.
I’d like to make special mention that the woman in charge of the Child’s Play organization is nothing short of a fantastic human. The first year we tried planning an event, we were completely unprepared for the undertaking, and the whole thing fell apart the week before. I felt awful – not for myself, but on the thought I’d embarrassed a major charity that was counting on us to make good on our promise. She cordially waved my concerns aside, and I was quite relieved – it was rather arrogant, in retrospect, to think our little production had any major effect on their operations.
A year passed, and, thoroughly confident we’d gotten our shit together, we tried again. The event was set for the last weekend in July. Selecting an RPG was tough, but Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door ultimately best met our requirements: fun, colorful, joke-filled, and beatable in two days without difficulty. Thirty hours of gaming loomed on the horizon – and so the date of our first “AllDayPlay” approached.
A strange thing happened, the closer we got to our stream: all the enthusiasm and excitement that had cultivated our event slowly dried up, and was replaced with dread. We realized what we were getting ourselves into – and why? Why were torturing ourselves with this awful thing, and when did we think we’d enjoy it? We were going to sit in a basement for two days and play a video game; on top of that, we expected people to watch. The day of the stream, I woke up and met my friend at his house. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the look we gave each other, as he went to set the cameras rolling. The look said, “This is gonna suuuuuuuuuuuck.”
Now, obviously, if it had sucked, or if it was a miserable failure, I wouldn’t have taken the time to write all this up. Ironically, where many of our other summer plans ended in disappointment, the first AllDayPlay for Child’s Play was a blast. We raised over six hundred dollars for the organization, and had a better time in thirty-three hours than we did in the next three months. I guess the best way to describe what happened during the event itself, and to offer tips on running such a thing, would be to tell you what we did wrong.
In the first place, promotion of the event suffered from our own lack of experience. Marathon aggregate sites like Genstream and Game-Streams.com gladly listed us, but otherwise, we were on our own website, and no one else’s. Foolishly, I focused on trying to get us on giant gaming sites: Kotaku, Destructoid, Joystiq, etc. When your name is Mario Marathon and your viewership is in the thousands, this approach works fine; but what reputable game news outlet was going to take up its page space with a tiny fleck like us?
Smaller livestreams are infinitely more successful when they take smaller steps. We had around a dozen viewers for our entire broadcast. Not bad for a first try – but most of them were complete strangers! What percent would our viewership have increased, if we’d convinced just one of our friends to watch? Two? Three? This was a fundamental oversight of ours, and it’s worth reiterating – instead of trying to cast a large net from a small boat, we ought to have worked with the decent-sized base we already had. Needless to say, our attempts at social networking followed a similar route, and failed.
The stream itself went perfectly fine, but we committed a cardinal sin of marathons: full-on sleep deprivation. We had a three-man team, and controller swaps built into our schedule to allow each of us to sleep to a full eight hours – stupidly, however, we decided caffeine would be our sleep. In one forty-eight hour period, I slept a single hour by accident. By seven A.M., we were utterly delirious; for the first time in my life, I was tired when the sun was up. While this part of the stream was probably the most entertaining for our viewers, the decision was reckless, and certainly dangerous to our health. One must, must get decent sleep when running a marathon like this. The feeling you get when you don’t sleep for two days? I’ve felt it. It really isn’t fun.
From our first blurry, silly vision, we managed to craft a livestream event that fulfilled all our expectations and more. Problems aside, we succeeded, and in the following days, we couldn’t help but feel a little proud. We really did it! We really played The Thousand Year Door at all once, live; in doing so, we also raised money for Child’s Play, joked around with a wonderful audience in the chat, and met some persons that I can only call Gods of Philanthropy (you have my eternal graditude, Pongo Sapiens). Overall, it was a fantastic experience that we still look back on warmly.
Hello, everyone. I just finished a game called Journey, and I need to tell you about it.
I was awed from the very start. Flower, sure, was nice and peaceful, but this was a different kind of ambiance. Not many games have this kind of gusto. Two different control prompts (circle does this, x does that), and that was it - not a single further menu or user interface for the rest of the game. Just environment. There was a pause button, but I played this all in one sitting.
In the beginning, I actually got a little frustrated. The goal of Journey is to reach a mountain in the distance. It's pretty obvious you have to go the mountain; there's nothing else on the horizon, at all. Yet when I ran straight for the mountain, a windstorm kept pushing me back, into a pit I couldn't figure out. Despite not being told what to do, I was being told what to do, and it annoyed me; I guess I'd been expecting a sandbox game.
I found out eventually that I had missed one of the only two control prompts in the game. I do things like this a lot; though I love them, I'm bad at games, I guess. I don't mind it, though; in fact, this fault of mine was instrumental in what happened next.
Around the time I learned that magic floating carpet-pieces could form bridges, another person showed up. Now, Journey's "online multiplayer" system is really interesting. You don't get to pick who comes into your game, nor learn their name until the very end. Communication is limited to the same bursts of light you use to play the game anyway. From what I've read, different players can pop in and out of your game, though only two can be together at once. You don't even need to help or acknowledge the other player. That, however, is not what happened here.
A figure appeared in front of me. Their robe had a gold trim, and mine did not. I started going off one way, but this fellow veered right. After a minute, I understood. In my stupidity (again), I had been trying to walk down a bridge that was not yet finished. Bad at games as I am, I decided at that point to follow this person like a sheep.
And that was that.
The whole rest of the game, it went like this. My partner, for their part, was awfully patient. We hit most of the collectible symbols, and they kept coming back for me each time I had to fall and fly back towards a ledge more than once. One time, I thought he/she was lost; in reality, they were leading me to some obscure trophy.
For the next two hours, a benevolent stranger held my hand. And I loved it. I was having fun. The experience had stopped being a game, and started being a journey. [Look at me. Jim Sterling already used that cliché. There really isn't a better word.]
The foot of the mountain was swept in blizzard, and patrolled by these batshit scary flying leviathans. Like some Metal Gear guards, these beasts have a clear line of sight, and we had to duck and run between a series of overhang-like hiding places. For most people, it probably wasn't that tense; but I scare very easily, so this ploy got me into it. Once I messed up. Then my partner left too early. It grabbed us twice, and I swore far more than that.
We got through it, eventually. The wind picked up, and the blizzard froze our scarves. In turns, we let out our own balls of light, warming the other character's garments - a symbol of our comradeship.
Finally, we came to a cliff of sand between two rocks, with a light not far in the distance. It became obvious that this was the end. Curiously, my partner started running around behind me in an odd pattern. The same repetitive motion, multiple times. I didn't get it. Then I kept being signaled. I moved, and they moved in front of me. Then I watched them do it: my traveling companion drew a heart in the sand.
Obviously, it wasn't meant as affectionate, or any weird shit like that. But it was beautiful. I was absolutely and unequivocally struck with awe. This wordless connection that I had made with some random person from God-knows-where in a two-hour session of a video game was remarkable. It filled me with a sense of bewilderment I had not experienced before or since. Hastily I tried to sketch out "thank you" in cursive, but it didn't work. It didn't matter, anyway - the fellow I played with turned out to be Japanese.
As we walked into the whiteness and the game faded out, I was still awe-struck. You'll notice I'm using "awe" a lot. It's the best I can articulate this. Journey is a game that deserves your money.