Generally, I try to be asleep when midnight hits. Not this time though. It was a big night, and midnight was when my day would start, not end. Psyching me up for my full 24 hours of adventure ahead, one of my guildmates surprised me with a cookie delivery (did you know some places will deliver fresh cookies until 3am? You’re welcome). I had my coffee and my friends, and I was ready to go.
Most gamers – at least those who hang around enough on the internet – have likely seen plenty of charity initiatives built around gaming. Popular streamers often do marathons or events for charities close to their hearts, while events like Summer Games Done Quick spend a week raiding funds for Doctors Without Borders. For most of us, we’ll never have thousands of people to watch us. Or maybe we don’t even stream or run other events. And as a result, it might feel like there’s not a whole lot we can do on our own.
If you’re wanting to put some good into the world through gaming – whether it’s at home, or through a streaming service online – you might be interested in checking out Extra Life.
Started in 2008, Extra Life strives to bring gamers together to support their local Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. By 2019, participants raised over $50 million for hospitals across the country. If you’re like me and like to research your charities, you can find a lot on Extra Life’s FAQ page, as well as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals publicly available financial documents, but the tl;dr is that that money goes directly to participants’ hospitals and is unrestricted – the hospital can put it toward research, training, or equipment. It can also go toward uncompensated care – the kind of miracle a family might need when healthcare costs are higher than ever. Sounds like a great cause, right?
So what does Extra Life ask you to do, exactly? The official day this year is November 2nd, and starting at midnight, the majority of participants will start a 24-hour gaming marathon, during which they’ll actively raise funds for CMN. Whether you love tabletop gaming, solo adventuring, or competitive gaming, Extra Life gives lots of space to turn your 24 hours into whatever you want it to be. You can go it alone or with a group of friends. You can play one game or many. Honestly, you can do just about anything, and that’s the beauty of it. You don’t have to stream or set up a big event, but you absolutely can. Don’t want to put yourself on Twitch? That’s fine! Get a group of friends together at home or get together with one of your communities. They make it easy to get involved and take donations, but the rest is up to you, your comfort level, and your imagination.
There’s also plenty of leniency in date and time, if you need it. Extra Life knows that not everyone is available on that day – and that not everyone is up to doing 24 hours of gaming all in one go. That’s okay! At the end of the day, it’s not about doing everything on a specific time-frame. It’s about how we can unite to do something good for others. Feel free to adjust your dates, take breaks, or break your gaming up into sessions.
If Extra Life seems daunting to you, don’t let it be! I was a little nervous, last year, before jumping into my own first experience. Luckily for me, I got to go ahead and do it with my guild so I had plenty of people to hang out with. Honestly, the most difficult part is probably if you’re streaming and it will be technology-heavy. In our case, we had numerous streamers connecting from around the country (and even from across the world), so it was a little more complicated, but nothing insurmountable with our handy tech experts on board.
Aside from that, it’s really easy to get involved and get going. When you go to sign up for Extra Life, you’ll have to fill out some basic information and choose your local hospital. It’s quick, easy, and straightforward. From there, you can customize your profile and goals, and join a team if you have one. Teams are a great way to organize if you have numerous members – your teammates can still set individual goals, but the team can set one of their own as well. Your team page also offers a handy roster of participants in order of current donation amount. You can actually take donations for a long period of time – from far in advance of the event to December, you don’t have to worry about hitting all your goals on November 2nd.
Already sold and either already signed up or ready to sign up? There are definitely some things to keep in mind! Since it’s such a common way to do Extra Life, I’ll just assume you’re streaming.
- Take breaks if you need to! You don’t have to spend 24 straight hours running yourself ragged. If it’s exciting and you can handle it, do what you can! But if you’re struggling or exhausted, it’s okay to stop for a bit. Take care of yourself.
- Have backup games on deck! If something goes wrong or you’re not having fun, it’s great to have another option.
- Stay hydrated and keep some food on hand – it’s easy to forget water and snacks when you’re in the moment having fun.
- Have a mod (or two or three depending on how busy you think it will get!) available. This isn’t just to help with trolls and a rowdy chat – it’s also really helpful to have someone to riff off of when it’s late and you’re getting tired.
- Think about your game types and what you won’t get tired of. Throat wears out fast? You probably don’t want to do 10 hours of visual novels!
- Set a goal! You can always raise this later, but it helps keep things exciting (and enticing!) when there’s an actual goal to reach.
- Try out challenges and incentives! Maybe a certain goal will get something silly – you’ll pick an offbeat hair colour or play a game people have been harassing you to try. Or you can try a giveaway if you can afford it. We even had someone do a blind playthrough of Portal, with someone guiding him via voicechat. There are all sorts of things you can do throughout the day to keep things fun.
- Make sure everyone is on the same page of how they want their shift to be.
For example, we had a few 3-person blocks that included a regular streamer. That streamer expected to have more of a central focus and felt overshadowed by others who were playing co-op. A talk beforehand could have helped us understand everyone’s expectations and set up accordingly.
- Start scheduling early. The more people you have, the more there is to take care of!
- Look into your logistics early on and make sure everything is working! Test, test, test! It’s also a good idea to figure out who will be hosting which games, for co-op runs.
I’ve written before about how gaming isn’t the isolated, lonely past-time that it gets stereotyped as so much, and Extra Life is such a wonderful example of that. I love my guildmates and my gaming friends. They’re like the family I never expected to accidentally stumble across, and pulling off something big and exciting with them felt wonderful. For 24-hours we chatted, played games, fulfilled silly challenges, and just had a fantastic time. It’s a great opportunity to raise money and to get involved in your communities – whether they’re online or off – to do some good. For me, it was an amazing bonding experience too. Together, our guild raised over $1,000, and we did it by having fun, being ourselves, and playing games we love (our game list from last year is below) – what could be better than that?