The funny thing about annual events is that when you aren’t paying attention, they creep up on you, and you think that they weren’t even that long ago.
Mario Marathon is an annual event benefiting Child’s Play Charity, the foundation started by Penny-Arcade in 2003 as a way of gamers “giving back” to the community by donating money and gifts to area hospitals via Amazon Wishlist. Over the course of the next decade, the organization would expand to nearly 70 hospitals worldwide, raising money from website donations, CPC events, direct donations to hospitals, Amazon, and most importantly, community-driven events such as Mario Marathon. Over five million dollars was raised for charity in 2012 alone, and that number continues to rise.
Mario Marathon itself is beginning its sixth year doing what it does best, playing Mario games for charity. Each year, a group of dedicated men and women from Indiana take on all of the major Mario games from twenty-five years of Mario history, from Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo, to the addition this year of The New Super Mario Bros. U for the Wii U. With all of the games levels divided into goals and assigned a cost that increases by 1.25% with each level. The important thing to note, is that as long as fans keep donating, they keep playing, twenty-four hours a day for as many as five to six days, until all of the unlocked levels are complete. So when they finish all of the goals in a game, they will go back and do extra levels for the “100% Beaten” of some of the newer titles, such as Super Mario Galaxy and Galaxy 2, so long as donations keep coming in to unlock those goals.
During all of this, a bright and colorful cast of people interact with the fans watching and contributing by giving out raffles and prizes, interacting with the community via TwitchTV, IRC, Twitter, and Facebook., and generally making fools of themselves on internet webcast for the donation dollars. Internet memes are spouted, spontaneous dances are had, and real-life interruptions in the form of dogs, children, fast-food or store runs outside, or (hopefully not) tornadoes.
So why do I care? Well, besides being an avid gamer and fan of the Mario franchise since I was six (I’m twenty-nine, for reference), I feel very strongly about the negative rap that video games get in today’s always-on, always-connected, nerd-friendly society. Growing up, being a nerd wasn’t “hip” as it is today, I was picked on, bullied, and shamed. I played a lot of video games either alone or with a few good friends, and spent a lot of time in arcades. My mother was an RN at a local hospital in Ohio, and whenever I was sick and could not go to school, she brought me with her there to stay in their children’s pediatric wing, which allowed this sort of thing for employees. There, I was given the ability to watch VHS movies, play with an NES and video games, or whatever else I could manage while being awake. It was an awesome thing to have as a child, but I was only sick for a couple days. There are children in hospitals all over the world who are sick all of the time, having to stay in hospitals for weeks, months, or even years. Many more have diseases or conditions forcing them to be there long-term. I simply cannot imagine what it’s like to be what these kids have to go through, not being able to be outside or with their families.
Child’s Play Charity helps augment these children’s lives inside a hospital by helping to fund local hospitals to be able to have toys, books, videos, and games, to keep them distracted during procedures, or allow them to have fun despite being inside constantly. It enables these children to have something to look forward to each day, and that is something important, something worth donating to. There are lots of charities doing lots of important work for society, but so few focus on our sick children in hospitals. The great thing is, gamers are not basement-dwelling monsters, they aren’t reclusive shut-ins who only care about senseless violence. Five million dollars in 2012 proves that gamers can and are willing to give back to the community that enables them the freedom to play video games and enjoy what they love, and folks like the people who run Mario Marathon and their support staff, as well as other marathon teams and events nationwide, deserve all the support they can get for taking time out of their lives to give back to the community and support a cause greater than themselves.
But probably the most fun in this annual marathon is the community and the hosts, they both make Average Joe #829311345 feel at home among everyone else during the marathon. They call out donators by name, read off tweets and chats, make jokes and laugh at what’s going on, and put on an entertaining show that is always a good time even if you aren’t paying attention to the game going on. It’s very much a social event more than it is a technical experience, you come to watch them play, but you stay to watch them entertain. You stay for Couch Pig, Couch Dog, OrangeShirtGuy puns, TELL JED, anything involving JohnJanitor, and much, much more. Hell, I’d get in my car and drive sixteen hours west just to sit in the same room and play if I could, though I admit I’m only reliable at Super Mario 3 or Super Mario World thanks to my missing most of the N64-onward era. It’s such an awesome experience, and maybe it’s because I don’t have many real-life friends, I’ve always been very reserved about people, where I don’t do much with people around me, save for me wife, I interact heavily with people on the internet, because I dunno, how to I shot web? I’m weird.
TL;DR, in three weeks, these dudes will be playing Mario for charity, and I’ll be trying to watch as much as the wife will let me during normal operating hours, while donating a nominal amount of money to one of my favorite charities. I’d really appreciate if anyone else who has a few bucks to contribute towards a good cause, use my donation widget on the right-sidebar of any one of my three blogs (blog.zerosubspace.com, tldranimu.net, or tldrvidya.zerosubspace.com) and donate to the marathon between now and the end of the marathon, whenever that may be (likely June 25th if the past has been any indication). Donating from my sites puts me in the ranking board of top domains donating, but most importantly, any donation from my three domains will go to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, one of CPC’s registered hospitals, and my home state. Do not feel obligated to donate a bunch of money, even $5 or $10 would add to their total donated and help immensely. More importantly, your donations go straight to Child’s Play Charity themselves, save for Paypal. If you do not have PayPal, unfortunately I don’t believe there is another way to donate through MarioMarathon, but you can still donate to CT Children’s Medical Center by visiting their Amazon Wishlist and purchase an item from it using any major payment method Amazon accepts. If you are a non-CT resident or you prefer to chose a different hospital, check out the CPC website and look on the map for a participating hospital near you, clicking will link you to their Amazon wishlist so that you may buy something from their list. Child’s Play is a year-round event, those lists are always updated and never go away, so if you cannot donate now but wish to later in the year, visit the CPC website at any time and click on the links.
Thanks for reading and your support, and look forward to another five days of EPIC FAIL.