Starting with the Gameboy, Matthew Lane has been playing games since before he could read; playing until his hands would literally sweat and he would have to wear socks on his hands.
Known for his ability to emulate 'turbo' button pressing without a turbo controller and that one time he won a Mortal Kombat tournament at that one sleepover when he was 11. His gameplay ability has also been recognized by independent game developer, Team Meat.
His other hobbies include acoustic guitar and tabletop gaming -- just not 4th Edition. Ugh.
The Speed Gamers are a group of gamers who are basically giving all of us a good name by doing what we all love most: Gaming. You see, The Speed Gamers deprive themselves of sleep and endures marathon runs in order to raise money for charity. Most of us do it just because its in our nature.
Somewhere in Arlington, Texas, The Speed Gamers came together for the first time on March 14th with a marathon of Zelda games. Since then, Britt Lariviere has been gathering his friends together in for three years, turning their hobby into something more. Just last December, the group raised over $10,000 for the Best Friends Animal Society in a Kingdom Hearts marathon that spanned the entire series and lasted only 72 hours. Even more impressive is that they've raised more than a quarter of a million in the time that they've been active. That's a lot of charity, especially for playing video games.
To celebrate the new Pokemon games, the group decided on playing the first two generations of Pokemon to benefit the ALSA. I was lucky enough to catch Britt, the founding member, for an interview regarding The Speed Gamers and the upcoming Marathon:
Matthew Lane: I'm interested in how you advertised for your first marathon. I can't imagine that you guys had much of a following then (no offense.) How did you manage it and how many viewers did you have, if you can remember?
Britt Lariviere: Yeah, it was hard. We targeted different boards and forums that involved the series we were playing, so for our first two events it was Zelda. After that we had a tiny following that would also help us promote through various things like Facebook or blogs and it has just snow balled. Two years ago we were posted on the front page of MMO Champion and that really helped us gain a lot of followers. We've been on Destructoid before and other similar blogs and it has helped us immensely.
ML: So you would say that the following grew primarily by word of mouth?
BL: Yes, definitely. During our summer events we do get some local news coverage, we were even on the CNN news ticker at one time which blew us away. We've been really fortunate.
ML: Yeah, I noticed that you guys got some attention with the news media, which I'm incredibly thankful for, considering the normal stuff they cover when it comes to video games.
BL: Yeah, so true. Gamers always get a bad rap.
ML: Regarding your charities, I was wondering how you pick them. Is it usually related to the marathon some way, or is it just picked based on what you feel needs it the most? Also, I'm wondering if a charity has ever approached you.
BL: Our very first marathon was for Susan G Komen and it came close to home when one of my best friend's grandfather had died of cancer. A lot of the marathons in the begining were chosen by me and the causes that I wanted us to game for. Now its mostly community driven. We have the community choose a cause and then we research different charities that align with what they want us to game for. Also, some charities reached out to us early on, like ACT Today and we do an event for them each year. So I'd say in the begining a lot of my choices for charities revolved around causes that affected me the most.
ML: If anything, I think that's a good thing. It's an example that shows a humanitarian side of gamers. Though the expansion in the three years you guys have been active is astonishing.
BL: Yeah, it really gets us excited each marathon.
ML: So! Let's talk Pokemon.
BL: Haha! Coincidently on the day Black and White comes out.
ML: It's almost like you planned it!
BL: Haha. Yeah, we figured this would be perfect timing for the event. We had to guess when we though Black and White would come out and I'd say we nailed it. Hopefully the same will happen for our Zelda marathon in late September. I'm hoping Skyward Sword will be out then!
ML: Oh, you know, that reminds me: Why not play through those for this Marathon, too? Why go with the first two generations for this marathon? I know you're planning to go through the Pokemon games again in December, but isn't that a 72-hour marathon, too?
BL: Yeah, we were afraid we wouldn't know the games well enough to pull it off. We are basically just wanting to use the hype around the series right now. It's still going to be very tough though to catch them all, because we are literally catching them all. For example, if we evolve a Charmander all the way to Charizard, we then have to breed it to get a Charmander again and evolve it Charmelion and then also have another Charmander set aside. Evolving a Charmander all the way to Charizard will not count as catching all three. We want to literally have all the Pokemon traded to one cart to auction off at the end of our marathon. As far as planning goes, we like to make notes for our routes and have our game time estimated within 10-15 minutes so that we can plan properly.
ML: That's pretty insane. I suppose it's part of the territory when it comes to Pokemon games, though. At least when you're trying to literally catch them all.
BL: Yeah, it's a real pain. Haha.
ML: Are you going to save the masterball for Mewtwo?
BL: Hmmm, that's actually on Jame's -- one of our staff member's -- list. I think so though! We each have our own checklists and so during the marathons we know who needs to catch what.
ML: So you'll be playing simultaneously?
BL: For Pokemon marathons, usually all the games are being played simultaneously, but we made a rule in for this marathon to make it more challenging for us: Only one game from each generation can be played at a time. We scheduled out blocks for each player. I think we kick the marathon off with Blue and silver being played. During our other marathons we just play one game at a time.
ML: The other question I had was whether or not Yellow and Crystal are going to come into play for this marathon?
BL: We threw Yellow in just so we could split the checklist load a bit, but Crystal isnt being played. We will probably throw crystal on though if we have some extra time.
ML: Fair enough! I think that covers Pokemon nicely. One more thing I want to mention that deserves mentioning, though, is your fund for the new HQ. Could you tell me a bit about that?
BL: Yeah! We really want to have a place where our viewers can come watch us play and also interact with us during the marathons. Having a HQ would enable us to that. During non-marathon times it would double as sort of a LAN center -- except I really don't like describing it as a LAN center, haha. People could come and play competitively and the HQ could be livestreamed at all times. We would be able to stream tournaments and speed run attempts and also host daily gaming shows. We are kind of doing a v.1 run through of all that right now; if you go to live.TheSpeedGamers.com you can see a live view of us right now! We have weekly schedules and playthroughs of games!
ML: It sounds like you guys have a lot of exciting things in the works. I really hope it works out, because if anyone deserves it, it's you guys.
BL: Thank you, I appreciate that.
Like Destructoid, The Speed Gamers are an integral and important part of the gaming community as a whole; they represent us. Because of this, we need to support them for the good that they do. Even if you can't donate money, you can check out their website, make the effort to spread the word, and tune in March 11th through the 14th (this Friday through Monday) to watch their Pokemon Classics marathon.