Extra Life 2015 Recap

Thank you. Wow.

I really needed to open with that, because I did not deserve the support I received over the course of the 24 hours leading up to my Extra Life marathon—or during it, for that matter—and I am so grateful.

The truth is that I procrastinated too much this year. Not just for Extra Life, but that too. A long time ago I signed up and made my own donation, and when the occasional opportunity arose I asked for donations there in lieu of people offering me beer money for something. But that was it until the day before I was scheduled to sit down for 24 hours of fun and, mostly, isolation. (A rare treat as a parent!)

On Friday evening, 24 hours before go-time, I had amassed $130 in donations. For sure, nothing to be ashamed of; but paling in comparison to my 2013 total of $1,088. The difference, obviously, was that I hadn't made much of an effort at all.

So I wrote a blog post here soliciting donations, and started hyping it on Twitter and Facebook. I figured if I was going to abandon my family for 24 hours to play games with the excuse that it was for charity, I at least had to try to raise more money. I also planned to stay in a Google Hangout for as much of the marathon as I could. Some people have fancy twitch tv streaming setups (I do not), so pointing my laptop at the tv and my tablet at myself is about the best I can do at the moment.

And to my amazement, it happened. I didn't deserve it. I hadn't earned it. But it happened anyway.

My campaign added another $350 from 8 donors over that 48 hour period, bringing my total to $480 – an amount that allowed me to continue making eye contact with Megan when I ask her to tend to every need of our children (and cook for me!) for 24 hours so that I can go play games.

It bears repeating: thank you.

Me after beating Portal (an Extra Life tradition of mine) around 2am

And play games I did.

Learn from my mistake

This year I wanted to try something different. Usually I would start around 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning, finishing at the same time the following day, and then proceed to spend half (or more) of the day after trying to repay some of my sleep debt. Instead I had the bright idea that I could start at 8pm, finish at 8pm, and head to bed right about the same time as my kids; saving Megan an extra half-day of picking up my slack.

And at least in that regard, it was successful. What I did not plan for was my inability to nap, and thus turning my 24 hour gaming marathon into 24 hours of gaming following 14 hours of being awake for a normal Friday. I was Tired with a capital T. Some time between 1:00am and 2:00am I noticed that I was doing the "long blink" thing, and that even leaning forward on my knees wasn't going to keep me awake. So I stood, playing Portal, with headphones, alone, from about 2:00am to about 4:00am. At one point I started to feel like I was getting a second wind, so I sat down, but I quickly realized I was wrong and went back to standing.

What I played

I started the evening playing Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, a game that I picked up used for a few bucks at GameStop on the recommendation of a clerk because I like Star Wars and enjoyed Dragon Age and Borderlands, but that I had yet to play. It was surprisingly fun. The cut scenes were not trying to be overly-artistic, not too long, and not too short. The game progresses from one conflict to the next very fluidly, and the mechanics are fun and, so far, not too repetitive. (I've not finished it yet.) The boss fights are hard, and occasionally fun stuff happens like you fight while falling out of the sky (can't imagine why that would interest me...). The only reason I put it down to play something else was that I was getting too worked up! My hands were cramping and my heart was racing.

To relieve some of the stress from Star Wars, I initiated my Extra Life ritual of playing through the original Portal. I'm no Portal speed-runner, but this turned out to be the longest game of Portal in history, probably. Between the long-blinks I mentioned above, and my sleep-deprived brain simply not being able to process some of the puzzles (despite having beaten them all many times), I think it took me at least 5 hours. But beat it I did!

Then, because I was in the mood, I started playing Portal 2's single player campaign. The storytelling in the second game is off the charts, and the new mechanics are just unbelievably fun. Juuuust as I was getting into the first puzzles of the new mechanics, around 11:00am, my brother and his girlfriend arrived. They had never been to my new house before (We moved over the summer), so I gave them a quick tour of the house and then we switched over to the two-player version of Portal 2. After a brief lunch break, we decided to play some board games with Megan and the kids.

We played a few hands of Exploding Kittens because it's silly and fun, and then a few games of Tsuro, because it's easy enough for even my 4 year old to play on his own while still being fun and interesting for adults. Once the kids were losing interest in board games, we switched over to some 4-way Mario Kart Wii – always a favorite.

Tsuro is a family favorite!

From there we went back to play more Portal 2 until dinner, which was breakfast: Waffles, eggs, and bacon. Yum! My brother left after dinner, and I finished out the marathon playing more of the single player campaign for Portal 2.

Why I play

I was recently reminded of a great scene from the awesome TV show "Louis":

Checking your neighbor's bowl

I have lived a very fortunate life, thanks to the efforts of my parents. We started out somewhere around "poor" and through some combination of hard work and luck manged to move a few rungs up that ladder. I'm reminded of this fact every time an Amazon Prime box containing some goody shows up on my front porch. Every time I buy skydiving equipment. Every time I click my garage door opener. Every time we buy fresh produce at the grocery store.

I don't feel overly guilty for enjoying the fruits of my labor, but I am reminded of my sense of duty to help those less fortunate than me.

When I think about whose life I most want to improve if I only have a limited amount of help to give, it's kids. Without a doubt, 100%. That's why I campaign for Extra Life, and why I give to Child's Play every year. I don't always have much to give, but I can't think of anyone more deserving of my help than children in need. After all, what did they do to deserve their current situation? They were unlucky to be born to parents without health insurance, or to have a heart condition, or cancer. And with a little helping hand, they have their whole life ahead of them.

I don't have some close personal tie to this cause or these particular charities beyond what I've already said. Neither myself nor any of my family have—to the best of my knowledge—directly benefited from any of these programs. I just believe that they are worthy causes.

It's not too late to give!

While my 24 hour gaming marathon is over, the time to donate is not! If you wanted to make a donation but never got around to it, you'll be happy to know that donations are probably still accepted... Unless you're reading this from the future.

If that "Make a donation!" button above still works, then you can still help make a difference in the life of a sick or injured child. And if it's not, there's a good chance that another year of Extra Life is going on now, or will be starting soon. Reach out to me and I'll be happy to direct you to the best place to make your donation.

Next year...

Next year I will not fail to plan.