On October 25th I took the plunge and participated in my first-ever Extra Life gaming marathon. Extra Life is a charity for children’s hospitals. Every year they hold a 24-hour gaming marathon—gamers sign on to play games for 24 hours straight to raise awareness and funding for sick kids.
Gaming for 24 hours? Heck yeah, I thought. I’m down.
Well, shockingly, 24 hours is a lot longer than I thought it would be. Because of technical difficulties and natural disasters, my first Extra Life didn’t go quite like I thought it would.
Here are six things I learned doing Extra Life 2014.
1) 24 Hours Is a Long Time
Extra Life is very flexible; though the marathon officially takes place over the course of one day, you’re allowed to time it with your schedule. For me, this meant starting at a leisurely 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Now, imagine the clock striking midnight and realizing that you need to be awake for 10 more hours to fulfill your promise.
Certain celestial disasters kept me from getting that far—more on that later—but I recommend starting earlier rather than later. Your natural sleep schedule will ideally keep you up and alert through the bulk of the day.
That being said, get some rest before you do Extra Life. If you’re streaming games for other people to watch, you won’t be a very entertaining host if you’re grumpy and half asleep. You can make this easier on yourself by setting up a game schedule as well. Part of my roster was a Nancy Drew game, one of the most intellectually exhausting choices I could have made. I got into it around dinner time—at which point I had been playing for about seven hours straight.
As I struggled to solve a very basic sliding puzzle I realized with horror that I was boring. No one would want to watch this, much less give money to charity because of it! I was alone, and tired, and boring—all of my worst fears combined.
Which leads me to point number 2!
2) It’s Better to Have a Friend
I was the only person in our office doing Extra Life, and most of my friends had other commitments as well. Fortunately, I joined a team with the folks at Engaged Family Gaming. This was great; it meant we were all working together and it would be easier to hit, and then raise, our funding goals.
Unfortunately, they’re three hours ahead of my time zone, and since we were all busy gaming we couldn’t exactly hang out and chat all day. This left me alone for the bulk of the day, sitting flat on my butt and playing Skylanders: Trap Team.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun. But it wasn’t until my roommate came home and played with me that I really got into the spirit of things. We streamed games, bantered, kept each other fed and hydrated, and traded off who was playing.
At that point, it was even more fun. This was because one of us could play and the other could focus on getting the word out on Twitter and searching for new donors for the fundraiser—after all, that’s what Extra Life is all about! Not you in your pajamas playing Skylanders alone, but gaming for a cause.
3) Choose Your Games Beforehand
This is one thing I did right! It’s good to look through the games you have before the marathon and strategize a bit. I picked certain games because I knew they wouldn’t be intellectually draining. Others I chose because I wanted to stream them for people to watch. I thought about the times of day that I would be playing those games and who might be online and interested in watching my stream.
Thanks to my planning, I was never at a loss for what to play. I did, however, throw my schedule out the window when I got sucked into playing Skylanders. This was definitely fun—it’s a good game for long sessions because there’s lots to do and it’s not exhausting—but I couldn’t stream it because I didn’t have those capabilities set up on our Xbox 360.
This meant that for the bulk of my time zone’s day, I was flying under the radar. Next year, I’ll choose an exciting game to stream first and save the Skylanders marathon for when I’m exhausted at the end of the day.
4) Figure Out the Technology Before You Start
Extra Life 2014 marked the first time I tried to stream a game with audio commentary. This came with all the technical snafus you can imagine. I spent at least an hour wrestling with my internet connection, my microphone, and some new streaming software in an attempt to get everything perfect.
I should have just started with my PS4. After wrestling with Open Broadcasting Software for so long, it was a breath of fresh air to just press the Share button on the PS4 controller, connect my account to Twitch.tv, and immediately start broadcasting.
You can set it up so that you can see how many people are watching you and even read comments on your TV as they appear. It was incredibly easy. Though streaming on my PC worked fine after I worked on it for awhile, that’s still time that I could have spent playing games and raising money. So even though being able to play the games you want to play is important, I think whatever is easiest is often the best choice.
5) Check Out the Festivities
Take a bit of time to watch others play! Engaged Family Gaming did some giveaways to viewers during their stream—a great way to get people interested and raise awareness. Popular YouTubers like Rooster Teeth had a team, as well as the staff of Giant Bomb. These people are professionals who have been gaming and talking about games for a long time.
Taking the time to see what others are streaming gives you a chance to breathe and get rejuvenated. It can also give you ideas for how to engage with your streaming audience and how to get more attention for your stream. You’ll also notice that these people have figured out that if you have a big group of funny people, you can have a really successful stream.
6) You Can’t Predict the Weather
At around 8 p.m. on Saturday, our stream was going strong. My roommate and I were playing Road Not Taken, gently berating each other, and drinking tea.
Then the power flickered.
Figuring it was a fluke, we booted everything up again and kept playing.
Another flicker, and then our entire apartment went dark. What followed was a—no joke—15-hour power outage.
Needless to say, this put a damper on our gaming. We played games on our laptops until each died and managed to tweet a bit on our phones. At around 1 a.m., realizing the darkness was possibly eternal, we went to bed—leaving piles of snacks untouched and many games unplayed.
On the bright side? I did hit my funding goal. I learned how to stream games, and I learned what I need to do to have a more successful Extra Life when 2015 rolls around.
Did you do Extra Life this year? Give us your advice in the comments below.