This past weekend the Mass Effect Marathon wrapped up its inaugural year with having raised over $13,500 for the Child’s Play Charity. A few months ago when I came up with this idea, the ability to entertain people for three days straight and to become a Platinum sponsor of Child’s Play didn’t seem possible. It was an ethereal idea, one that I could sit there and imagine, but one that I didn’t think was entirely possible.
I guess a smart thing to do is to talk openly about why I wanted to even do this in the first place. Every year I donate a tiny bit to Child’s Play. Pretty much whatever I have in my pocket at around the middle of December I will saunter over to the website, donate via PayPal and that is the end of that. I feel good about myself for a few moments, and then I’m back off to my daily routine.
This past year though a lot of charity related stuff hit me on an emotional level. Going to PAX East and seeing just how many people had gone up to Gabe and Tycho talking about their experiences in the hospital as a child, and how Child’s Play has helped them and helped other loved ones, is a very powerful scene to behold. Something that I get choked up just thinking about now. In addition to that though, I started to tune in and watch some of the fan run gaming marathons that were going on, specifically Mario Marathon and Haloathon. I had heard news of other events, like Desert Bus, but for some reason I had never really gotten into it until this past summer.
The exact reasoning for why I thought myself and my group of friends Should / Could do a gaming marathon? I figured that I was going to donate to Child’s Play anyway, so I might as well try this out and get some more money going towards the charity. If I had tons of disposable income lying around, I would have probably just donated a huge sum and been done with it. Since I didn’t though, and since my wife Katie and I are pretty good planners of events, I figured it was worth spending some of my free time towards this cause.
On September 10, I sent out an e-mail to my friends saying that I wanted to work on the Mass Effect Marathon idea. I had spent that afternoon making a quick website for it, but I needed to see which of my friends would be willing to help out, since I couldn’t do it all myself. Within a day of that e-mail, everyone I e-mailed was on board to help in any way they could.
No matter how much work we did for those next two months though, and despite all the great friends I had around me, I had no idea what to expect from any of this. We thought $2,000 would be a stretch to ultimately achieve. Not only did we get $2,000 more than a week before the event, we hit $3,000 before Mass Effect 1 was even played. By many accounts, we were already successful before the event even started. We had a huge room of chatters ready to watch, hours before our 12:01 AM ET start, and so many great companies and individuals promoting the heck out of us.
Still though, I was nervous and not fully sold on the fact that we would be able to entertain people for upwards of three days. I mean I think my friends are funny, but will that translate online? Not to mention that a lot of people just finished watching Desert Bus, we can’t live up to that!
Well, by now you know that the rest is history. We sung, dance, punched, and flat out embarrassed ourselves in the name of charity. We received awful waffles, ate disgusting jelly beans, and shaved our heads. We did this in the hopes that those who watched would laugh first, and then donate second. Obviously, we found some sort of winning formula.
Our expanded goal was $10,000 after everyone crushed the original $2,000 goal. I got an e-mail at 3:44 PM ET on Saturday, right after I had gotten my N7 Armor tattoo, saying that we had reached our goal and I simply lost my shit! I got really choked up emotionally because everything had gone so much better than I could have ever possibly hoped. When I got back into the house and back on camera, after getting cheered on by my friends and by the chat, it took a lot for me not to cry tears of happiness of what we all had accomplished.
Yet despite all of that happiness, that was not the best part of the weekend. The best part of the weekend happened off screen without the audience seeing it. On our note board I wrote “MEM2?” and then had one section for Yes and one for No. I asked everyone in the room to vote on it and they did. The result? All Yes’s. The best memory I will take away from this is putting on that ME2 logo T-Shirt and announcing to everyone that we had been so successful at entertaining the crowd and raising money for Child’s Play that we would answer the demands and come back for Mass Effect Marathon 2.
When you watch a marathon a lot of the time they will say that the players aren’t doing anything spectacular, they are just playing a video game. That is really true, because the true heroes during all of this is the crowd that watches, cheers on, and donates because of the player efforts. Without people watching, chatting and donating, none of that event takes place. Everyone at home who watched and who is reading this post, give yourself a pat on the back because you really deserve it.
Mass Effect Marathon was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done as a person, and I look forward to taking some time to decompress, plan our awesome trip and panels for PAX East, and then start working on MEM2 for next year. We hope you’ll be joining us.
– Joe Valenti aka Charismatic Guy
P.S. – My hair and beard grow back fast!
P.S.S. – Quote from Katie: “Dude. You look like a creeper in that picture on the site” tis true!