Mario Marathon 3 is here!

The past year has flown by, and the time for that beloved summer tradition is here:  Mario Marathon 3 begins at 11:00AM EDT (1500 UTC) today.  In case you don’t know what Mario Marathon is, or if you have forgotten, allow me to explain.  Three guys sit around playing video games for days on end.  Thousands of people around the world watch, laugh at the players’ failures, and donate money to Child’s Play Charity.  100% of the donations go directly to Child’s Play, which uses it to purchase video game systems, toys, and books for seriously ill children.  The players take no cut, and actually lose several hundred dollars in food, donations, and lost productivity, but since it’s for the children, it works out.

Last year’s event was a resounding success, raising nearly $30,000 over the course of about four days.  This puts Mario Marathon in Child’s Play’s “Platinum Sponsors” list, alongside organizations like Mircrosoft,, and MTV.  You might have heard of them.  This year, over $5000 has been raised before the event even starts, and a much larger audience and donation tally are expected.  As a result, the organizers have put a lot more effort into publicity, in-event contests and prizes, and organizing the support staff who help set Mario Marathon apart by interacting with the fans.

There are some great surprises in store that I’m not allowed to mention, but you’ll love it.  Please take some time and watch.  If you can, please donate, it would be greatly appreciated.  If you can’t make a donation, that’s okay too.  You can do your part by helping to spread the word to your friends.  Thanks to all of the fans for your continued support!

Playing Sopwith on the N900

Despite my involvement with Mario Marathon, I’m not much of a gamer.  I have more toes than I do games for my Wii, and only a few more (purchased) titles for my computers.  However, I’ve found that my phone gets the most gaming time simply because it is portable and I can play while I’m on the bus, waiting in line, etc.  The game that has been receiving the bulk of my attention these days is Sopwith.

Sopwith is a simple 2-D game where you must fly your biplane and destroy enemy buildings.  It has been ported to the Maemo platform by Mikko Vartiainen and can be installed from the Maemo Extras repository.  I had never played Sopwith before discovering this version, but my understanding is that it is very true to the original (it helps that the code was re-licensed under the GPL a few years ago) with the exception of a lack of sound.  The presence of missiles seems to be a relatively new and anachronistic feature that I can’t help but use. I never claimed to be good at the game.

Gameplay itself is quite addictive, and fortunately very simple — there are a total of 10 keys you might need to use, and I find myself only using six with any regularity.  The one disadvantage is that all of the keys are on the bottom row of the N900 keyboard, and I’ve found myself hitting the wrong key in the heat of battle. That usually ends up with a dead me.

Since Sopwith was originally written as a showcase for the “imaginet” network system, it makes sense that the Maemo version of Sopwith also has support for network games.  Unfortunately, since I’m the only person I know with an N900, I can’t test that aspect of it.  I imagine it would be fun, especially if you’re in the same room and and trade sharply-pointed barbs.

For those worried about it growing stale, there are several levels.  In the novice mode, there are at least three levels that get progressively more difficult.  I’ve nearly made it past the third level, but not quite.  In expert mode there’s at least one level, and you don’t get unlimited ammunition or automatic throttling.  There’s also an option for playing against a computer opponent, which appears to play in expert mode as well.

Sopwith clearly isn’t a sufficient reason to buy a Maemo device (if it is, then please send me some of your vast amounts of disposable income), but it is a great game to have installed for times when you need to kill a few minutes (and enemies).

More video game marathons?

I’m not a gamer.  I don’t particularly care about video games or the news about them.  It’s not that I’m a jerk (well I am, but that’s a different story), it’s just that my fancy is not struck.  Still, because of my participation in the Mario Marathon, people tell me about other marathons that are going on.

To my knowledge, last year’s Mario Marathon was one of the first marathon designed from the beginning to be a fundraiser for charity.  In the weeks since Mario Marathon 2, several more game marathons have occurred.  Some of these were certainly planned well in advance, and they all enjoyed a certain amount of success.

The most successful marathon was done by the folks at TheSpeedGamers.  These guys did their first marathon in March 2008 and have been marathoning various games every few months since. Their Final Fantasy Marathon raised over $50,000 in 168 hours.  In another two weeks, they will be doing a 72-hour Megaman marathon.  They are less than 20k away from raising $100,000 total for various charities in the past year and a half.

A group of high school students recently completed what appears to be their first marathon: a Sonic the Hedgehog marathon that raised over a thousand dollars for the World Food Programme.  From their website, it looks like they intend to do a marathon of a different game series each month.  It’s worth noting that they also credit their inspiration to Cameron Banga’s Zelda Marathon, the same event that inspired Shirt Guy to do the Mario Marathon.

I’ve also been told about a Crash Bandicoot Marathon that was apparently held last weekend (or the week before, it’s not entirely clear).  This event raised several hundred dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network, another worthy charity.  A World of Warcraft Marathon is currently running and so far has raised over five thousand dollars for Child’s Play.  It seems that the video game marathon is becoming a popular way of raising money for charity, and why not?  The players enjoy playing, and the game enthusiasts enjoy watching.  Not only is it cheap entertainment, but it is a great way to get donations from a demographic that is often overlooked by traditional charity drives.  And the best part is that many people in need have received significant assistance.

The simple games

Last weekend, I let myself get talked into buying Guitar Hero.  Granted, it didn’t take a lot of convincing.  My wife and I spent about 10 hours playing that first day and a half.  While it was fun, it was also really frustrating.  You see, I have no musical talent.  At all.  I have no concept of rhythm and I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.  So the whole time I’m playing, I’m getting a constant reminder of how awful I am.

It doesn’t help that the “Easy” mode on the drums is total crap.  With the guitars on Easy, you only have three of five notes that you have to play.  On the drums, even with Easy, all six notes are presented.  Granted, the speed is generally slower, but it is still a lot less Easy than it would have you believe.  After a bit of trial and error, we determined that playing the bass on Easy is within the range of my abilities.  When I know the words, I can do okay on the singing parts though, as long as you don’t listen to me.

When we weren’t rocking out with the Guitar Heroes, I got out my old Sega Genesis.  In the past week, I’ve played about 10 games of World Series Baseball.  Man oh man, do I love that game.  Really, its the simple games that I enjoy the most.  The games I play the most often on the computer I have to play via DOSBoxCommand HQ and Sub Battle Simulator are games that I’ve played since before the Windows 3.1 days.  My Sim Citying hasn’t gone past Sim City 2000 (okay, I did play Sim City 3000 for a while, but it got complicated.  I hear Sim City 4 is the best of all worlds, but I’ve never tried it).

Sub Battle Simulator was probably the first computer game I got into.  It cost $5 at Target and came on a 3.5″ floppy.   I spent hours playing it when I got home from school.  When I went off to college many years later, I found a newer submarine game:  Tom Clancy’s SSN.  It was a fun game, but it was a lot more realistic than Sub Battle Simulator.  Too realistic, in fact.  I couldn’t do everything fast enough to keep up with the game.

Kids these days with their crazy, complicated games.