It’s about 10:30am this morning and I’m driving back from my office, having just completed playing Dark Souls live on the Internet for 24 hours straight to support an awesome children’s charity. I had to do it at work because my Internet at home can’t upload fast enough to do a live stream. I quickly realise that it’s reckless for me to be driving myself home as exhaustion is producing symptoms very similar to slight drunkenness, which is probably coming across in how I’m driving as well. But there isn’t much traffic on a Sunday morning and my bed is calling. As I fight to keep my eyes open and can think of little more than sleep, I still feel this incredible sense of euphoria that keeps a grin on my face the entire way.
I took part in Extra Life last year and enjoyed it but decided to amp up the challenge for myself a lot this time around. It was a challenge I looked forward to but also dreaded somewhat. There were a million things that could go wrong and I’d taken on a lot to maintain when enduring increasing fatigue. I really had no idea what to expect from the day and fear of the unknown is always a big problem for me. What ended up happening was more than I could have ever hoped for, both for Extra Life and for me personally.
I set my rig up in the office board room the night before so it would be all good to go Saturday morning. A trip to the Carp Farmer’s Market for a Bacon On A Bun on my way in and I was rarin’ to start. Last year, my amazing supporters raised $728 for my Extra Life run and I was already over $1,300 for this year. I’d passed my first stretch goal to do a second live stream of Duke Nukem Forever but it looked like my second goal to do one of Amnesia: The Dark Descent was not going to happen. No big deal, a ton of money had still been raised for sick kids and I made that Amnesia goal very lofty on purpose because well, I don’t really want to have to do that.
I get the stream rolling and all seems to start well. I have zero experience doing any kind of commentary and one of my biggest worries in doing this little show is that I’ll come across as stiff and boring, a problem not uncommon among amateur Twitch and YouTube types. This will drive away viewers and with the way my brain works, knowing that I endured a complicated streaming setup for nothing will drag my morale down and make the day even tougher. I get a few co-workers and Gamers With Jobs folks watching and my viewer count goes up to about 10. In the grand scheme of Twitch, that’s nothing but for a largely unpromoted first attempt, I think it’s decent so I’m feeling good. I start to plug away at Dark Souls and as one would expect, progress is slow and frustration filled. I die, a lot.
Then something incredible happens.
A friend suggests I specify in my Twitch profile that I’m playing Dark Souls which makes the channel easier to find. Once I do, random people start joining the stream. The viewer count starts going up and a real fun dialogue begins in the chat. Everyone’s really into this, offering advice, helping to guide me through the game’s massive and very confusing world and figure out how best to level my character and choose equipment. Occasionally I get trolled into hitting an area I’m not ready for but hey, it’s a charity event so it’s all good. People start asking me questions about why I’m doing this and hours go by with a bunch of us–both people I know and never have before–just shooting the breeze as I Prepare To Die.
A few people who own Dark Souls suggest having me summon them into my game to help me on the journey. Dark Souls’ matchmaking system is all but broken and summoning fails most of the time and leads to some slow periods but we all stick with it and soon, I’m barrelling through tough areas with amazing expediency thanks to the help of these great people. We play and chat together for hours and hours, some only leaving the stream because they simply can’t stay awake anymore. Many hilarious moments involving a hacker, facepalmingly dumb deaths and my reactions to meeting some freakish creatures for the first time are had. The number of viewers continues to go up (peaking around 40 which still isn’t much but is way more than I expected) and surprisingly, I start to get e-mails saying a lot of them are following my Twitch channel, which otherwise has nothing on it. Most of these people I had never met before today and most of them didn’t even know this stream was happening until they tripped over it, yet here many of them are as much as 12 hours later.
Many of my viewers are saying they love the job I’m doing commentating the stream. They say I’m funny, engaging, interacting with people (which I guess a lot of Twitch personalities don’t) and they’re sticking around because they really enjoy what they see. I get asked if this is something I’m going to do more and when the next stream is going to be. I didn’t know how to process this and still kind of don’t. I’ve had some ideas for a while about doing some Twitch or YouTube content as a creative side endeavour but after hearing the kind of work the big guys like TotalBiscuit do, I made myself laugh thinking I could ever pull that off. But these folks were saying I could and that they would tune in if I did more. There’s a lot of potential hurdles standing in the way of such a thing becoming a reality between copyright issues, my home Internet speed and of course, time and money or lack thereof but I’ve suddenly been given a sense that maybe there’s something to this. The gears in my head are turning faster now.
I went into the day thinking that if I could raise a bit more money and double last year’s takings, that would be a major victory and could leave satisfied. My Amnesia stretch goal was almost $700 away and I figured most people who were going to donate probably already did. Boy was I wrong. As word started to get out and the viewer count went up, the donations started coming in and not in small amounts. Multiple rounds of $50 and $100 started showing up and the total began to skyrocket. Within a few hours, my day’s goal was smashed and $2,000 actually seemed within reach again. As we reached the final $100, one of the founders of Gamers With Jobs piped up in the chat after putting $50 in and said if we didn’t reach $2,000 by 1:00am my time, he would make up the difference. My brain kind of stalled at trying to realise that I went from the second stretch goal having no chance to being guaranteed. I can’t even remember what I said at the time, only that it probably wasn’t very coherent. What I thought was a wildly ambitious goal had been achieved and people rallied to make it happen. $2,000 is a ton of money for a charity and none of that was me, that was all of you! You are all superheroes!
The experience of doing this live stream was tough but it was also some of the most fun I’ve had in years. I’m both elated and terrified at the thought of now having to do one of Amnesia. It’s going to quite possibly be the greatest challenge I’ve faced in almost 30 years of playing video games. But with a bunch of people in the Twitch chat, it will also be a ton of fun and I think the anticipation outweighs the fear, for now at least. I decided to do this because though playing video games for 24 hours isn’t easy, it’s also a leisure activity and I felt the spirit of Extra Life was best served by making things challenging. But it also ended up becoming something much more and led to me thinking of a lot of things I never expected and hitting a goal I purposefully setup to be very unlikely. This was a day I’ll remember for a very long time and in what was a pretty good year so far, this stands out as one of the biggest highlights. I can’t wait to do the upcoming two bonus streams and who knows, maybe more stuff later on. I still need more sleep but even as I groggily type this, I’m still smiling.
Thank you to everyone who made this day so special. The army of Gamers With Jobs and WESA/BluMetric Environmental folks who donated and helped spread the word, my best friend Dan (also known as StylezXP) who came to visit at night with Tim Horton’s and got me some Reddit coverage and in particular, the army of amazing random people I met on Twitch who helped guide me through Dark Souls and provided many hours of co-op fun. KeyMastar, Aikao (Supagroop amirite?!), Dhaz15, PrimeDragoon, Blackdrop and many others I know I’m forgetting, the whole day was exponentially better because of you and you also helped raise a ton more money than I ever thought for sick kids. Regardless of how much fun this was for us all, helping a deserving charity out so much is something truly respectable. Thank you so much!