While many events went virtual for the first time in 2020, Extra Life, a 24-hour gaming marathon, has proven its success in the virtual space for over a decade. Extra Lifers commit to playing any video, desktop or tabletop game (or combination of games) of their choice for 24 hours to be scheduled to raise funds for local children’s hospitals through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, of which Johns Hopkins Children’s Center is a member hospital. Gamers can play from anywhere, connecting with other Extra Lifers through livestreams and virtual meetups — forming a unique community with the mantra, “Play Games, Heal Kid.”
Since 2010, more than 5,000 gamers have raised over $900,000 for the Children’s Center through Extra Life, with an impressive $181,314 raised in 2020 alone. This year, Australian YouTube streamer and influencer Legend of Total War joined in supporting the Children’s Center, livestreaming for 24 hours to raise funds for pediatric food allergy research — he even dueled a Children’s Center patient during his stream, raising more than $32,000.
“We wanted to celebrate the milestone of reaching 300,000 subscribers on YouTube, and chose to do that by hosting a 24-hour livestream for charity. Because our audience is spread across the world, it was important to us to choose an organization that helps people worldwide,” says Legend of Total War. “Johns Hopkins Children’s Center is doing some amazing research into childhood allergies, which could be life-changing for kids everywhere.”
And it’s not only game day — gamers raise funds and collaborate year-round as part of the Extra Life Baltimore Guild, meeting throughout the year to plan recruitment events, attend conventions, hear from patients to stay connected to the cause, and meet up for fun activities like laser tag and escape rooms. Guild President Drew Nicolo has raised funds for the Children’s Center through Extra Life since 2012. Each year, he sets higher goals and keeps things fun by adding different incentive levels for his fundraising goals — like letting his donors pick his new hair color.
“Extra Life is not just a fundraiser, it’s a whole community. It’s an event, but it’s also a yearlong journey to meet new people, spreading the word and championing for kids and families who might be at the lowest points of their lives and need people like us out there fighting for them,” Nicolo says. “There’s really no downside to signing up or coming to a meeting; it’s laid back, all about playing games, having a great time a and raising money for a great cause.”