So you know that we here at Otaku Ohana love our video games. And gamers don’t often have the greatest reputation — you know the stereotypes, which I won’t deign to repeat here. You also know we love our charity gaming events — see our past coverage of Child’s Play Charity, which helps children’s hospitals worldwide.
But the idea of using video games as a fundraiser has been around for years, and lately it’s been getting more mainstream recognition. A subgenre of this is the speedrunning category, in which gamers finish games as fast as they can — exploiting things like glitches and technical aspects of games to complete them in mere minutes to several hours instead of the, say, 80 hours we mere mortals probably spent. (Yeah, that was me with Final Fantasy III/VI. But only because I was trying my darnedest to get Economizers for everyone so they could all cast spells for a measly 1 magic point! Anyway, I digress.)
Admittedly, I’d never heard of speedrunning until just a few years ago when I stumbled across a particular video game marathon for charity. Seeing the insane skills and the vast knowledge that the gamers had to employ to effortlessly whip through these games like Simon Belmont through Dracula, the same games that I loved and sweated and cursed over and spent wayyyyy too much of my life — that got me COMPLETELY hooked. And the fact that this was being done to benefit a worthy cause was a big, big bonus.
It’s only in the past few months that I became aware of various other video game marathon charity events, both speedrunning and otherwise, and I’d like to spread the word about them by sharing them here. These broadcast live online, usually via Twitch, and they’re listed here in generally chronological order. (Please note that the months listed are only an estimate based on when they occurred last year and that they may change.) Check them out and, if you can, please donate to their cause! Remember, even a dollar is a big help. Even if you’re not able to donate, you can help by talking about them on social media and raising awareness about them and the causes they support.
With most of these events, your money goes directly to the chosen charity and is tax-deductible. But be sure to check with the charity for information for tax purposes.
Awesome Games Done Quick / Summer Games Done Quick
Held in January and summertime
>> Website: gamesdonequick.com
>> Facebook: facebook.com/GamesDoneQuick
>> Twitter: twitter.com/gamesdonequick
>> Hashtags: #AGDQYYYY, #SGDQYYYY (replace “YYYY” with the appropriate year that the event is taking place)
Possibly the grandaddy of all speedrunning charity marathons and the one that introduced me to speedrunning, Games Done Quick holds two weeklong events yearly: Awesome Games Done Quick sometime in January, which benefits the Prevent Cancer Foundation; and Summer Games Done Quick, held, well, sometime during the summer (this year it’s going to be from July 3 to 10) to benefit Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres). The games played range from platformers to action-adventure to role-playing, from classic games to new releases, so there will probably be something that will catch your attention.
At the time of donation, donors have the option of putting their money toward various incentives. Many of them are options to name characters or game files (the one with the most money at the cutoff time wins) or to do even MORE crazy things in the games, like show off glitches or finish the game using a particular character or move, or even to put certain limits on the gamer. Bonus incentives are also often added throughout the marathon, so check the schedule once in a while to see if there’s anything new. The mother of all incentives is a bid war related to Super Metroid — there’s a path near the end where animals can be rescued or ignored, depending on the whim of donors — and it’s become so popular that it causes some fierce competition and usually raises the most amount of money. The most recent AGDQ raised $1.2 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation, with the Super Metroid incentive raising $313,000 alone.
Donors are also eligible to win any number of cool prizes, which you can check out on the site. In addition to smaller items donated by the community — including beadsprite game characters, handmade apparel, video games, game accessories, artwork, and lots more — there’s usually a grand prize (or several) that you can be eligible for if you donate a minimum amount.
This event has been going since 2009 and has raised a collective total of more than $5 million for its charities.
The mad skillz these gamers show will utterly blow your mind. As an example, here’s a video from AGDQ 2015 of a 4-player Tetris: The Grandmaster exhibition. If you thought you were good at Tetris, this will show that YOU KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW — Sorry, wrong “Game.”
Not convinced? How about some Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out? Finished in less than 30 minutes? While BLINDFOLDED? (The actual run starts at around 29 minutes into the video, but the interview with the runners beforehand gives a lot of information about all the strategy that you never realized was involved in speedrunning. Start watching around 22 minutes for a little bit of pre-game humor.)
If you want to see more, check out the Games Done Quick channel on YouTube. I absolutely love watching that Punch-Out video over and over even though I have a ton of other videos from previous GDQ events in the archive to go through. The event itself has a lot of energy and humor and nostalgia, and the runners are both awesome as gamers and as commentators, so you’ll be laughing and shaking your head at just how quickly they get through areas that probably stymied you when you were playing that game. All of this makes Games Done Quick the king of gaming charity events, and I highly suggest you catch at least part of it when you can.
RPG Limit Break
Held in May
This weeklong event is streaming right now — it ends on Sunday (or rather Saturday, Hawaii time) — to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness, so head on over to their website for a peek! A similar format to Games Done Quick, this one, as its name says, focuses on speedrunning role-playing games. (Yes, of COURSE Final Fantasy games are part of the schedule, what are you thinking?) As such, not as many games are played during the week that it broadcasts (those of you who’ve played RPGs know the many HOURS it takes to beat just ONE game the normal way). Like GDQ, there are lots of donation incentives and prizes available.
By the way, NAMI has a great post from last year talking about gamers, speedrunning, and the charity events in general. It focuses on RPGLB, but the things it discusses, such as donation incentives, also hold true for Games Done Quick.
Held in summer and fall/winter
I was informed of this non-speedrun event just last year, although it’s been happening since 2009 (with some interruptions). As its name suggests, it focuses on various games from the Legend of Zelda series (and there are a lot of them). It’s held twice a year and each event partners with a different charity — last year’s winter marathon raised money for HelpHOPELive, which helps patients with medical costs that are not covered by insurance. (I donated during that one and they read my donation on the stream! *fangirl squee*) Like other gaming marathons, Zeldathon has donation incentives allowing viewers to “unlock” more games to be played.
Even though I wasn’t able to watch as much of this marathon as I would have liked, I got a kick out of what I did manage to see because they played the less-popular games in the Zelda series, games that I myself played and loved, such as Oracle of Seasons, which they played on AN ACTUAL GAME BOY. I probably got more of a kick out of seeing that Game Boy than I did the actual game, haha! The 2015 winter marathon even had the rare and much-maligned Philips CD-i games Wand of Gamelon, Faces of Evil and Zelda’s Adventure — I sorely wished I could have watched those because I’ve heard so much about how BAD those games are.
The website is a bit sparse, and they seem to delete their schedule at the end of each event, so it’s hard to gauge past marathons. The next Zeldathon is slated to begin June 17 in support of Direct Relief, a humanitarian health organization. The event’s Twitter profile says it’s raised more than $875,000 over the years, so mark your calendars and let’s help bring them closer to that magic $1 million!
Desert Bus for Hope
Held in November
This is an interesting event I came across a year or so ago that benefits the previously mentioned Child’s Play Charity. There’s a game you’ve probably never heard of called Desert Bus, and… Well, you know, the fine people over at event organizers LoadingReadyRun made this video that perfectly explains things better and more humorously than I would be able to:
The team basically plays the game for as long as people keep donating. However, the money needed to make the team play for another hour rises by 7 percent. The first hour costs $1, so the second hour costs $1.07, and so on. They’ve put together a handy chart at the bottom of the page here so you can see how that works out.
This one isn’t as exciting as the speedrunning marathons, as it can be a long time between episodes of crazy hijinks depending on how donations flow. But they do occasionally have special guests visit or call in, and auctions are held throughout the event. And come on, they’re sacrificing themselves to play a really horrible game for DAYS on end, all for charity, so go on and give ’em a few bucks to ease their pain!
LoadingReadyRun has also started a Kickstarter project to fund a documentary of their 10 years in operation. Check it out and give to the project on the Kickstarter site. At the point it’s been fully funded but it ends May 20, so there’s still time for you to pledge.
Held in November
This event is in honor of an avid gamer named Nicholas Capobianco who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3. The cancer went into remission but returned more than 20 years later; Nicholas died in 2008.
Every year, a group of Nicholas’s friends do a live stream on Ustream in which they marathon video games for 48 hours, and donors can give to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. The roster of games changes each year.
Although Nick’s Marathon has been going since 2008, I heard of it only in 2014 and unfortunately have not been able to catch any of their broadcasts, but it doesn’t seem to be a speedrunning marathon.
As I write this part, the Nick’s Marathon website seems to be down so I don’t have any more details on their format or other information, but they are also on Facebook and Twitter, so you can head over there for the latest news. As far as I can tell, the 2016 event is planned but no dates have been set.
Tag-team partner in fandom Jason Y. discovered this just in December while Zeldathon was going on. Organized by Respawn Point, this time gamers play through various games from the Sonic the Hedgehog series in a weeklong marathon. I caught only a few minutes of last year’s event, which benefited Special Effect, a UK organization that creates special tools and devices to help the disabled play games. Unfortunately, their website is coming up as blank right now so I have no other information, nor am I certain if it’s speedrunning or not (though I’m leaning more toward “not”). This event has been going for three years but nothing has been said about whether there will be one this year. Still, it’s worth it to keep an ear out for any upcoming news, especially if you’re a Sonic fan. Check out their Facebook or Twitter.
Child’s Play Charity
Held in December
I’d be remiss not to mention the organization that first made me aware of game-related charities. Active year-round but really in gear during the holiday season, Child’s Play helps children’s hospitals around the world — including the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children here in Hawaii — set up wish lists of games, toys and other items that their young patients could use. Donors visit a hospital’s wish list on Amazon.com and buy items that are then sent directly to the hospital. Child’s Play also receives cash donations that are used to buy games, consoles, and toys for medical facilities. As you can see from their events calendar, there are tons of gaming events that help out this very worthy charity.
Of course, there are very likely other online events out there that haven’t been covered here, so if you know of one, please comment below with a link! There are also lots of mini events through the year done by individual Twitch streamers, far too many to mention, but kudos to each and every one of you — organizers, gamers, and donors alike — for helping some great causes and having a lot of fun while doing so.