NOTE: Fundraising for this year’s campaign is still open and I’m just a little bit short of eclipsing last year’s total and hitting my second stretch goal! If you or someone you know has even $5 to pitch in, please consider doing so. It would mean a lot to me to hit that second goal. My Outlast live stream will be Saturday, November 1st, 2014 starting at noon Eastern Time over on Twitch and I will also be recording it for my YouTube channel. It’s going to be worth it, trust me!
When I first did Extra Life back in 2011, I had no idea what to expect from it. Since then, it’s grown to a worldwide phenomena, experiencing epic levels of growth every year. This year was no different and I’m beaming with pride. The big day was this past Saturday and I already can’t wait to do it again. Every year, I like to do a little post-mortem, talking about the day itself, what went right and some things that can be improved. The news is largely good this year, though something has also left me feeling slightly disillusioned. First, the good stuff!
I wasn’t sure how the fundraising would go this year but it ended up doing very well thanks to some very special people. Donations are open until the end of the year so you can check the current total here. However, at time of writing, the campaign is past $1,300 which soundly trumps my first stretch goal of playing Outlast live in one sitting (gaming gods help me.) I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the total this year, either for myself or for Extra Life as a whole. It’s been a rough year on Planet Earth as we know and my girlfriend who works for a charity said that there was a chance the fundraising would decline this year because when there’s big pressing events in the world, people tend to donate to charities that will do the most immediate good. You can’t blame anyone for that, I certainly don’t. However, I’m happy to say that both my total and Extra Life’s are very healthy this year. So far, mine’s a little under last year but that could change and Extra Life knocked it out of the park. Following a record year with $4,000,000 raised, they have announced that just so far, over $5,100,000 has been raised for sick kids. That makes me so damn happy and you know what? This thing is mainstream now! It’s only going to get better from here and I can’t wait to do it again.
Before I talk about the day itself, I want to thank a great number of people. If you’re mentioned here but not in the video, I apologise but those are unscripted and I was still tired when I made it. Firstly, my wonderful girlfriend Sarah kept me fed throughout the day and looked after our dog so I could focus 100% on my efforts. You are amazing as always and I love you so much! Secondly, I want to give a huge shout out to my friend Andrew, also known as KeyMastar. I met this guy for the first time when I did 24 hours of Dark Souls back in 2012 and he happened to find my stream. Since then, we’ve become Internet friends and if you follow my YouTube stuff, you’ve heard him in some All Together Now content. He hopped into the stream when I started and just casually told me that he intended to hang out for the entire 24 hours! He wasn’t doing Extra Life, he just offered to hang out for a whole bloody day just to offer moral support. During one of the later periods, we hung out on Skype while I played and he actually nodded off for about 20 minutes. You could hear the snoring through Skype and myself and the Twitch chat had a great laugh. He woke up later and was embarrassed for it but seriously man, you needn’t be. I’m certain watching someone play games for 24 hours is even harder than playing them yourself for that long. That you hung around for so long means a great deal to me. You are an awesome madman and I’ll never forget this.
I’d of course like to thank everyone who donated. You’re the reason we all do this and if you contributed to me, you’re a great person doing good for sick kids. In particular, I’d like to thank my work colleagues who pitched in and especially, I want to thank my clients and retail partners who agreed to help me fundraise this year. Ivan’s European Deli & Carp Road Physiotherapy where I live in Stittsville and The Cake Shop in Westboro all agreed to put out coin jars and we raised a nice chunk of change from those. Ivan’s in particular brought in over $100. In addition, Wiches Cauldron and Big D’s Dog House, also both from Stittsville, agreed to donate their tips from Saturday and a portion of their sales from a big local event respectively. Wiches raised more than $100 as a result of their efforts and Big D’s has committed to donating $300 to the campaign. I was speechless when they told me that and I can’t thank them enough. We love living in Stittsville and the “support local” attitude that people have here and that was shown with this. You are all amazing people and from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for what you’ve done. I appreciate it, CHEO appreciates it and the kids appreciate it.
The day itself went pretty well overall. It’s weird, in past years, the hard hours for me when I start to feel like I’m crashing are usually between 1am and 6am. After that, I usually get a second wind that carries me to the end. This year was basically the opposite. I was fine throughout the night but fell down hard at 6am. I was playing Forza Horizon 2 then and I’m sure I drove like a mad drunk for a while. I endured though and after switching to Resogun for the last half hour, I perked up and had no problem getting to the end.
This year, I said I wasn’t theming the event on anything, I decided to just take it casual and play what I wanted. I purposefully hooked up every previous and current generation console at my desk, plus my PC so I had pick of what I wanted to play. I had intended to play XCOM: Enemy Unknown which I didn’t and sadly, I ended up excluded from the Gamers With Jobs Destiny raid because the past week didn’t leave me with enough time to do the immense grinding needed to prep for it. I am planning to write a review of Destiny in the near future for the blog but yeah, I think I’m done with that game now. I also played some League of Legends with Gamers With Jobs people, a game I’d never touched before. It was only against AI bots and while I don’t see myself starting into that game with humans, it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed learning some about it. I talk in more detail about the other games I played in the video above so check that out if you want to know more. I played a lot of stuff and really enjoyed it. This is absolutely what I plan to do going forward.
Beyond that, the Extra Life event as a whole just felt smoother and more organised this year. It began back in 2008 with just a few people and has experienced more than it’s fair share of growing pains but they’ve really come together and made it a well-oiled machine. Communication was much better, processing of rewards and events was much better and unlike last year when some scumbags DDoS’d their site, it managed to stay up the whole time. As I said, this event is mainstream now and they absolutely appear to be taking the responsibilities that come with that seriously and good on them for it.
Now we get to the problems. Happily, the number of issues were few this year but one in particular was a huge disappointment for me and is causing me to rethink some of the places I spend my time online. To be clear, these problems are mostly roadbumps to what is otherwise an awesome thing and none of these are deterring me in the slightest from doing Extra Life going forward. However, things can always be better and if no one says so, what changes?
The first once again is Twitch. I was kind of hostile towards Twitch last year for how lousy a job they did at promoting Extra Life, especially since they were and still are an “official partner” of the event. Not much changed this year. I use Twitch because it’s where all the people are but I’m on record as saying I think it’s a lousy service for many reasons, something that hasn’t changed yet since Amazon bought them. Combine that with how badly they promoted the event and yeah, I wish they had more serious competition. That said, my stream was largely reliable and never went down in the entire 24 hours. Credit where credit’s due, that’s impressive.
I have a pro-tip if you’re doing Extra Life on Twitch. When you set your channel title and game you’re playing, it’s suggested that you use Extra Life as your game name to make it easy to find people doing event streams. Don’t do that. Put Extra Life in your stream title but keep the game title updated to whatever you’re actually playing. My viewer count is always low but it was substantially better this year by doing that, especially when I started playing newer games like Bayonetta 2 and Forza Horizon 2. I saw spikes in the viewer count almost immediately after changing the title to those newer games. People usually come to Twitch to watch certain games being played and by going with that strategy, I personally think it leads to more viewers. Just make sure you have a text element in your stream that tells them where they can donate.
My biggest issue is more of a disappointment with certain places. Were it not for the awesome retail partners I mentioned above, my fundraising would have come in way under last year’s total. Were it not for those people, I wouldn’t be playing Outlast, not even close. I also said above that a lot of charitable giving is down this year and that I understand. I also had some amazing colleagues who donated but where I work now has a lot less people than where I was before. My old boss kindly sent an e-mail around that office but I don’t work there any more and I get why people might not want to donate to someone they don’t know any more, plus times are tough there.
However, some places like Gamers With Jobs that I have frequented for years and which were often instrumental to my previous efforts really fell short. A few Goodjers stepped up the day of and I thank them all for that. However, the event and the team were mentioned multiple times on the front page of the site leading up to the day and not only did we get basically no donations at all from the community until the end, no one even commented on the first story for over a week and those threads have been very slow. I get that times are hard and maybe even $5 is too much. Far be it for me to tell anyone how to spend their money. However, if you can’t step up financially, signal boosting via social media costs literally nothing. We asked people to do that and few did but a whole pile of people who said nothing about Extra Life still found time to snark and whine on Twitter about bloody GamerGate on Saturday. For that matter, I checked and only a small handful of major gaming news sites even mentioned Extra Life this year, unless they had staff members participating.
I’m not here to comment on GamerGate, I’ve done that in another post. However, Extra Life is a crystal clear example of gamers doing nothing but immense good. We put all the political fights aside and raised millions for sick kids, using the hobby we all love. Yet, many press outlets and individuals who can find plenty of time to complain about how evil gamers are because of the actions of a vast minority within a largely misrepresented movement, couldn’t find time to post a single tweet or story in support of us? That’s beyond disappointing, it makes me bloody angry. If you’re only interested in talking about what your audience and fellow gamers are being evil (even when it’s just because they disagree with you) and ignore when they do good, I think you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what good you’re actually doing for this medium and this community. Frankly, a lot of sites and a lot of people’s actions (or lack thereof) spoke volumes to me this weekend and I didn’t at all care for what I heard. I’m largely staying away from Gamers With Jobs this week to think about whether it’s the right place for me and I may not be back there in the same way after this. A bunch of us did good, all we asked for was a little support and a lot of places we counted on for it let us down, nearly completely.
As a whole though, I think this was one of the best years for Extra Life and for me doing it. They hit a new fundraising record and while I didn’t, I’m still very pleased with the result. Even if I only raised $1, that’s $1 more than would have been raised if I did nothing and I take real pride in that. The event’s barely over and I can’t wait to do it again next year! I hope you’ll all be back and that you continue to enjoy it. I’m off work this week and have plans for both blog entries and a lot of video content to get my channel back on track.
Extra Life is important and it’s a big deal that’s only getting bigger. I consider it a great honour to have been part of it and here’s to many years to come!