Extra Life gaming marathon to benefit B.C. Children’s Hospital
Video-game fans love having marathon play sessions. Extra Life gives them a good reason to play for 25 straight hours. The fundraising effort started in Texas in 2008 and has since raised more than US$4 million. All proceeds benefit Children’s Miracle Network hospitals—there are 12 in Canada and 158 in the U.S.—with funds going to the facility nearest the donor.
Gamers, it seems, have hearts of gold. In addition to Extra Life, there’s the annual Child’s Play charitable effort that also benefits hospitals for kids. And earlier this year, MechWarrior Online players from around the world raised more than US$120,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society in memory of a five-year-old Vancouver girl. (Piranha Games founder Bryan Ekman told the Georgia Straight that this initiative came at the request of players who wanted a way to honour Sarah Parries, who, afflicted with an inoperable brain tumour, would sit on her father’s lap while he played the game.)
Ashleigh Gulkiewich, a philanthropy coordinator with the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, said Extra Life brings in donations from people who haven’t necessarily thought about supporting the hospital before. She told the Straight that money raised through Extra Life is channelled to the hospital’s most urgent needs, such as equipment upgrades.
Vancouver-area participants in Extra Life include a group of game developers from the Electronic Arts Canada studio in Burnaby. Employees at Capcom Vancouver have also assembled a team for the marathon.
Mike Rousseau, entertainment coordinator at EXP (309 West Pender Street), will be playing games at the restaurant and bar from 8 a.m. on November 2 until 9 a.m. on November 3. (They’ve cordoned off a section to avoid violating B.C.’s ban on video games in liquor-licensed restaurants.) He hasn’t quite worked out what he’s going to play—some participants agree to play games suggested by donors, others attempt speed runs, and still others try to complete entire series in the allotted time—but he does admit it’ll be a challenge to stay awake for 25 hours. “It’s something I haven’t done since I was 16,” Rousseau told the Straight. That was 16 years ago, when he played Final Fantasy Tactics with a one-handed controller so he could eat with the other hand without having to stop playing.
Rousseau, like many Extra Life participants, will be streaming his exploits on Twitch, the online video service that caters to gamers and is an official sponsor of the campaign. In a sense, Twitch will turn them into the hosts of their own telethons. That’s appropriate, given that the Children’s Miracle Network’s primary event is a 24-hour television broadcast that’s happened every year since 1983.
Perry Esler, who manages programs and events for the Children’s Miracle Network in Canada, said the support of companies like Twitch, as well as Sony and Xbox, helps “spread the word” about the event. “Usually, people don’t get involved because they don’t know about it, not because they’re not interested,” he said by phone from Toronto.
Getting involved with Extra Life is as simple as registering on the website (www.extra-life.org) and asking people for tax-deductible donations.
And it’s not all about video games. Extra Life encompasses gaming in the broader sense, with many participants playing board and card games. According to Esler, “Gaming is the largest leisure activity in the world.”
Esler stressed that participants don’t have to play continuously for 25 hours. Breaking the time into multiple play sessions is allowed. “We let people make their own rules based on what they can manage,” he said.