October 15, 2012

I got an Extra Life!

I am CJ Curry. This is the Experience. And you are just about to be 1-Up'd.


Alternate title: "What the Slender?!"

Those who say that “video games are useless, time-wasting pieces of garbage” can definitely put those words to rest right now. Those who find video games entertaining can put that skill to good use in a number of different ways.

I am a versatile gamer, a jack-of-all-trades. I do not excel at any one genre – rather, I lack some skill in most areas. I do not have the time, the patience, the raw skill. But one thing I am very good at is endurance. I have a never-say-die attitude, and only quit when the situation is mathematically stacked against me. I also know that I can always challenge myself to go higher, stronger, faster – better, and that I never back down on promises if I can help it. So, I decided to put those traits to good use and challenge myself to the 24-hour gaming marathon known as Extra Life.

The genesis of the weekend was in August 2011. Doing my 365 project (one photo every day for a calendar year), I reflected on a LAN party I had been to the previous year and another LAN party that was possibly coming up. I had gamed for basically 24 hours straight (though I had slept enough to be able to drive back home), just playing WarCraft III. (Loved that damned Felhound game!) The idea was to play 24 different games in 24 hours. I drafted the first rules I had for the marathon, and remarkably, it has changed very little. The idea lay reasonably dormant until April 2012, when I combined the idea with Extra Life – a friend of mine, Sam, had done “a game marathon for charity” in October 2011 and I was suddenly inspired.

So, in May 2012, I drafted the first set of games I would complete, the achievements to go with those games, and so on. I thought I'd do it after leaving college, but then I thought of Extra Life and decided to make it a bit more fun. Donations started up, and slowly but surely trickled in. I set the bar at $200, which was all I needed for a free T-shirt from the Extra Life people. That incentive was enough for me, and within four donations I had the $200. But I knew I could do better. I had done fundraising in March 2012 – dyed my brown hair (which I would NEVER EVER DYE SO HELP ME BECAUSE I LOVE THE COLOUR) into a very attractive shade of green, to raise money for the Leukæmia Foundation of Australia. The decision was a hasty one, made with no regard to my dating life1 (which was far too existent at the time), and for both those reasons I raised roughly $285 (the exact figure escapes me, but I know the total in the “cents” column was 66, as someone donated $6.66).

I set the bar higher. I wanted to see exactly how much I could raise – double my hair-dying efforts would be ideal, but given most of my friends are college and uni students (or college/uni age), I didn't see much happening. Of course, I forgot about the one thing that always fascinated me in all my mathematics studies: how so many small numbers can combine to make a huge number. I set people the challenge of extending my $200 to as high as possible, with $1,000 being a very ambitious upper limit. I added incentives along the way: at $400 I would stand on my feet for most of the games, at $500 I would play Slender deep at night and with minimal lighting, at $600 I would wear clothing inappropriate for the weather, at $800 I would not drink any energy drinks, at $1,000 I would take challenges from the audience in between games. I also set myself the target of achieving 16 out of the 24 achievements I'd set myself (because some of them were just too lofty, or I was just playing the game(s) for fun – namely Bubsy).

Within the coming weeks and months, I prepared myself. I knew that I needed three key things: a venue, people, and health-and-safety considerations. The most annoying thing to get was the venue – there are plenty of places around the university, but all of them either booked or not appropriate (or not bookable, for that matter). I had to settle for a venue that was not ideal, and which required more equipment than I originally thought. People was no issue – I billed it as “a LAN party with a sideshow”. Besides, I live at college – plenty of people would rock up, even just passing through. Health-and-safety was the one that gave me the biggest headache – have I got enough stuff to keep me sane and healthy? Water, vitamins, carbs, sports drinks, caffeine? In the end, I settled for what I had and asked a couple of people to stick around as long as they could, to administer first aid if needed.

Remarkably, people were responding to the fundraising challenge. I hit $400 in mid-September, $500 a week later, then $600 within a week of the event. What I certainly did not expect was that the $624 I had raised by midday on October 12 grew to $1,050 by midday on October 13 – the day of the challenge. I had set that exact time as the cutoff for all challenges – if it wasn't in by midday, I wouldn't do it. The final $150 that pushed me up to (and over) the thousand-dollar mark came at 11:59am on the day, so I accepted the challenge.

Game on. The day finally came, and with the last-minute donations I had to offload my energy drinks to those who needed them. I took my equipment to the venue (which is at my college), met my friend, and moved furniture and such around in preparation for a LAN party (which never happened). We set up a live stream, a projector and a stage. Before noon, I had everything ready to go, and then I heard the news that my oldest friend's brother had pushed me over the $1,000 mark. I gritted my teeth, said to myself “one foot goes down” (my ethos) and went for it.

I started out with The Neverhood, a 1995 claymation game that still seems to have a cult following. The challenge was to beat the game within the hour – unfortunately, I made several crucial mistakes during gameplay and only picked up 13 of the 20 required disks.

Following that, the games (and challenges) happened fairly quickly: I passed the Wii Sports challenge of obtaining five medals, then had two disappointments in a row with New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Portal (only the second of which was known to be almost impossible). I capped off the first quarter with two easy victories, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Tetris 3D. I was now on three out of six. At that stage, I still felt on top of the world. My feet were starting to feel a little strained from all that standing, but my lower back was feeling it worst of all. Not thinking about how I would be standing, and not taking my 6'3” stature into account, I had picked a table that meant for all the PC games except for Slender, I would be in a very awkward position.

For the next six hours, I (mostly) could not repeat my success. The InstaGib Capture The Flag against the CPU in Unreal Tournament 2004 was a tie game, and not the victory I needed. The 30-turn Battle Royale in Mario Party 8 turned out to be too long, and though I was in a good position, only 13 turns were played before time expired. I made a crucial mistake during Pokémon Black (technically my final DS game) and ended up not getting anywhere near the Super Single stage. A misbehaving StarCraft II was changed last minute to BIT.TRIP BEAT, but even that proved too difficult. I had a last second reprieve during Mario Kart Wii – my intense concentration and hours and hours of gameplay gave me the three flawless victories I needed – with almost literally seconds to spare.

Perhaps the biggest source of annoyance among the crowd was when I played Bubsy: Claws Encounter Of The Furred Kind. I never grew up with a SNES and so was deprived of this cartoonishly fun game, but I intended to attempt a (very ambitious!) speedrun, and if I didn't get anywhere I'd still have a bit of fun. The jazzy in-game music was a tension-alleviator, particularly since I was now twelve hours in, and feeling a little more tense than I perhaps should have. At the time, though, I was feeling mentally and physically OK, with the exception of my feet and back. Starting to feel a bit worn at the time, but otherwise fine. The pizza I had during Mario Party and the jelly after BIT.TRIP BEAT probably helped. Post-midnight, I kicked off with a massive standard deathmatch win in Age Of Empires 2, and followed it up with a fail-and-a-half during Super Paper Mario. Then came the moment a lot of people had been waiting for: Slender: The Eight Pages.

Unfortunately for those watching the livestream during Slender, there really wasn't much to be seen because the lights were turned off and the sound was increased. Two of the audience members (both very silly) decided also to poke fun: one by fake-screaming, the other by putting on a fake falsetto Southern accent and generally bringing the mood to annoyance rather than scaredness. I most likely would have been very stoic if not for them, though I did jump when Slender Man teleported a couple of times. Mostly I swore not out of shock, but out of “god DAMN you video game, I was so close”. I ended up scoring four pages out of eight in the best case.

To get me through the hardest part of the night – physically and mentally – I opted for Fruit Ninja, Borderlands 2 and WarioWare, Inc. with goals I thought were easy enough. However, I was very tired by this point and Fruit Ninja failed miserably. Significant speedrun progress through Borderlands 2 meant I succeeded in my achievement, and the simple goal in WarioWare meant I was able to achieve that one. I was now at 6am, and light was creeping up on the horizon. I pushed on.

A problem with the Rise Of Nations game meant I only achieved my win on a technicality. Nevertheless, I took the win and ran with it. I also took the win during Pokémon Battle Revolution when I managed to defeat not one, but two Masters sets. Spelunky, however, proved to be insanely difficult – my best efforts were thwarted time and time again by Derek Yu's sadism. However, it was now 9am, and time for the home stretch. Mentally, and physically, I was worn out. I doubt people would have blamed me for throwing in the towel at that point, but I was refusing to surrender. Remember that never-say-die attitude?

My last Wii game was Wii Sports Resort. I was only able to achieve one stamp, possibly because I had achieved the bulk of achievements during the summer of 2011, and possibly also because I was wiped. My last handheld game was Kirby: Nightmare In Dream Land; this I attacked as best I could, but whilst I allowed myself to sit down for this one, I probably would have fared better standing up as I nearly fell asleep twice.

At 11am, I started my last game, the freeware PC game I Have No Tomatoes. By this point, I had achieved 9 out of 23, and needed to smash 1,200 tomatoes within the hour to achieve 10 out of 24 (a nice round number). I was also bizarrely energised by now, as I could feel the home stretch coming to a close. I could feel the audience who had left after Slender trickling in again as I concentrated on not screwing up, and smashing as many tomatoes as I could. After three games, I had a total of 864 tomatoes; I needed no less than 336 in the final game (which I only just had time for) to complete the achievement. By the end of level nine, I had 332. This was going to be easy. As soon as I smashed the 336th, everyone in attendance gave me a round of applause. I responded by pausing the game, turning to them, and bowing.

I managed to smash another 23 tomatoes before the game was finished, then I collapsed into a sitting position on the stage. We checked the cash donations that had been given, and I ended up with an extra $31.50, bringing my total to $1,154.50 over the months I had been asking for donations. I reiterated to the audience and livestream (and later Facebook) about how proud I was of everyone, and they reiterated how proud they were of me. For the first time, while wearing my orange Extra Life T-shirt (which, by the way, has the word “HERO” emblazoned on it), I truly did feel like a hero.

It's worth noting all the one-minute challenges I did in between games as well. In order:
  • 1:00pm – as many forward rolls as possible (I managed 10)
  • 2:00pm – as many pushups as possible (I managed 42)
  • 3:00pm – sing the entirety of Pretty Fly For A White Guy (I managed two-thirds of the song)
  • 4:00pm – play CLOP (I did fairly OK)
  • 5:00pm – dance the Gangnam Style dance (did as best I could)
  • 6:00pm – Jen's Video Game Trivia Quiz (two questions right out of seven)
  • 7:00pm – run from one end of the college to the other (passed well and truly)
  • 8:00pm – scull cans of Fanta (I got through two)
  • 9:00pm – call someone and ask them on a juice date (succeeded2)
  • 10:00pm – another video game trivia quiz (three correct out of seven this time)
  • 11:00pm – jump like Mario for a minute (well and truly passed)
  • 12:00am – kiss another guy (all too easy – I am a gay chicken veteran)
  • 1:00am – arm wrestle two people (failed it something shocking)
  • 2:00am – crush 16 cans (did so – including one full one. Damn trolls!)
  • 3:00am – complete three brainteasers (did so within 37 seconds)
  • 4:00am – as many “burpees” as possible (managed 38)
  • 5:00am – beat New Super Mario Bros. 2, world 1-1 (succeeded)
  • 6:00am – impersonate David Attenborough (did so, with the subject being a sleepy friend)
  • 7:00am – drink a creaming soda with a Mentos inside it (tasted awful!)
  • 8:00am – tell as many puns as possible on a given topic (surprisingly, failed!)
  • 9:00am – do a silly walk (passed, well and truly. I was wiped by then)
  • 10:00am – guess a minute (I guessed 1'02.13”)
  • 11:00am – thank everyone involved with the marathon.

Myself and six others packed all the equipment and food up, returned the hall to its original state, and left.

Got home. Got back on Facebook. Read all my fifty unread notifications (which had apparently accumulated thanks to some dogged work by my Facebook friends to get the word out about the livestream). Slept.

  1. Having said that, my green hair attracted me two girlfriends.
  2. And I went on said juice date, with a good friend. Juice was had, and proof has been uploaded.


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