Extra Life gaming marathon worth losing sleep over

Grand Theft Auto V. (Supplied)

Grand Theft Auto V. (Supplied)

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

At last count, I've killed roughly 400 people in Grand Theft Auto V. My death toll in the various online incarnations of Halo is several hundred more. And I don't even want to know how many digital humans I've offed in the Uncharted video game series over the years. Literally thousands, if I had to guess.

Not all video games are violent. But it would be naïve not to admit that the most popular games we play are, in some way or another, about pointing weapons at other living things and making them cease to exist.

This is why video games sometimes get a bad reputation, particularly from certain mainstream media outlets that look for lazy, causation-free links between video games and real-world crime.

And this is also why a campaign like Extra Life is so important. Primarily for the good it does for sick children, but also, in its own way, for the good it does for gamers.

Extra Life is an annual charity drive in support of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, an international non-profit group that raises funds for pediatric care and medical research. The event was founded in 2008 by U.S. gaming website SarcasticGamer.com, and has grown into something of a phenomenon. Last year, it raised $2.3 million for children's hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

The idea is simple: participants sign up at www.extra-life.org, agree to play video games around the clock on Nov. 2, and then seek out donations from people who want to support children's hospitals in their own region. And perhaps also watch a friend or loved one go slightly bonkers from gaming for 24 hours straight.

I know this might sound more like a video game fan's dream than an actual challenge, but whether your passion is reading comics, watching Doctor Who or painting Warhammer miniatures, doing anything for 24 hours straight isn't easy. Although given the choice, I'd definitely rather be in a charity gameathon than a charity danceathon.

(Unabashed, self-serving blurb alert: I'll be taking part in Extra Life once again this year, this time with some help from the folks at Sony Computer Entertainment Canada, who will be setting me up with a yet-to-be-released PlayStation 4 console to game on. All the details, including how you can watch a livestream of me losing my mind from gaming fatigue, can be found at bit.ly/tilley2013)

It bothers me that video games and their players are still sometimes demonized or looked down upon, and that games are still held to a different set of standards than other forms of entertainment. As if watching a Grey's Anatomy marathon is somehow more intellectually stimulating than playing BioShock Infinite.

And sure, there are plenty of popualr games that revolve around doing virtual bad things to virtual people. But here in the flesh-and-blood real world, a lot of video game fans are as compassionate as they are passionate.

Extra Life is proof of that. And sleep? Sleep is overrated.


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