Since 2007, Desert Bus for Hope has raised money for the charity Child's Play by playing one of the worst games ever created: Desert Bus. This unreleased game from 1995 is a real time drive from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas, NV and back, with no obstacles and a maximum speed of 45 mph.
A team rotates and drives for as long as they can to raise money using schadenfreude. As of November of 2015 they’ve raised well over $3 million, and continue to raise money with their annual marathons and other events throughout the year.
Smashing clay pots for rupees and real money
Likewise, Zeldathon has different gaming marathons for different charities. The latest was Zeldathon Recovery in June 2016, which raised $229,175 for Direct Relief. Not only does this team play all of the different games from The Legend of Zelda franchise, they also challenge themselves and the audience to hit different donation goals by providing wacky antics on camera.
Since 2009 they have raised $1,097,101.39 for different charities.
Speedrun viewers also contribute a ton of money to charity!
One of the latest charity runs comes from Games Done Quick, which does speed runs of games (with and without glitches) for Doctors Without Borders and other charitable organizations including the Prevent Cancer Foundation, CARE, and the Organization for Autism Research. In April 2011, Japan Relief Done Quick was an impromptu marathon in response to the 2011 Tohuko Earthquake and Tsunami, and raised $25,000 for relief efforts.
Before their last marathon in July 2016, they had a donation total of just over $2.2 million. Summer Games Done Quick raised that total by adding almost $1.3 million into the donation pot.
There are plenty of other great gaming organizations as well, including (but not limited to):
And they all benefit different types of charities supporting medical needs, water, food, children, veterans, and more. These organizations are raising huge amounts of cash, like the large single donation of almost $60,000 from Summer Games Done Quick. But how are some people playing a game raising literal millions of dollars?
Nostalgia is a funny thing
Retro gaming has become its own important genre in the gaming community, much like classic rock has in music. For some, it’s a look back into the history of the industry, when gaming was still coming into its own.
Retro gaming celebrates the time when games had a lack of memory, graphics, and programming to support them, and instead had to rely on interesting game mechanics and storyline in order to succeed. For many, it’s a window into our collective childhoods.
Why do we keep replaying these old games?
The '90s were somewhat of a gaming renaissance. With newer consoles and state-of-the-art graphics (for the time), gamers were blown away with what was being done with games. The console wars were the most prominent as the '90s began, and gaming companies were all competing for the best games on each console, and not as much in the arcades.
Some were great, while others are all but forgotten. As playing games started becoming more accessible to the masses, more families were exposed to these games. In the '90s, classic games became 'classic' as they were ingrained into the memories of kids all over the world.
Enter gaming charity livestreams!
Some people take this nostalgia to an awesome extreme, challenging themselves to finish the game as fast as they can, completing 100% of the game to include gathering all items and side quests, or finishing the game with just one life.
Not everyone can tackle these speedruns and challenges but the love of the games has turned this into a super popular form of entertainment. Millions tune in to watch others playing their favorite games. So, it’s only natural that some forward-thinking people would use this as an advantage to benefit charities.
We love these games and we hold onto those great memories, reliving them in our minds. It makes us smile. We remember that one time when so-and-so couldn’t get over the lava pit in that one level of Super Mario Bros. Or that other time when what’s-her-face found the first Breath of Fire characters on an island in Breath of Fire II. And nobody could forget sitting on the couch and experiencing the first time you saw THAT moment in Final Fantasy VII.
You get entertainment, charities get donations. It's a win-win.
Watching these marathons take place is somewhat of a throwback to when kids used to go to each other’s houses to play games together, and had limited controllers. Sometimes we didn’t even want to play, sometimes just wanted to watch everyone else.
I remember kids taking bets on who would win a four person match in Goldeneye 64, which already was difficult, but was even more difficult on a 13” screen.
Now, as adults, we can partake in that same feeling of watching other people try to tackle insane game mechanics, ludicrous platforming, and difficult puzzles through nothing more than a live stream. We can then let those gamers know we think they’re doing a great job of entertaining us by donating to their charity.
Our inner children love us for it, and people supported by these charities get to see the benefit from that. Who says gaming isn’t good?