A few months back, it was suggested that Gamer Limit host a video game marathon for charity. And why not? It’d give us an excuse to hang out with other writers, stay up all night playing video games, and – best of all – raise money for a worthwhile cause.
Thus, Piece of Heart was concocted by the twisted minds behind the scenes of your favorite gaming website. Other marathons had been attempted before (the Mario Marathon springs to mind), but this one was unique. Two teams, one American and one Australian, race to complete the five main Ratchet & Clank games within a grueling 48-hour period. The winner gets bragging rights and the ability to make the fallacious claim that we helped the children more by being better at video games.
Long story short, we made our goal and raised $1,005 dollars for Child’s Play. But the actual marathon… now that was something else. Follow me on a magical journey as I take you on one gamer’s Piece of Heart adventure.
It started like any other day. Wake up, go to work, go home, pack, drive six hours to Iowa. Of course, fifty miles-per-hour winds and the first blizzard of the season made the trip even more exciting. The American half of the event would be taking place at Josh “I do the podcast” Quinnett’s house (which is beautiful and MASSIVE, by the way). Josh, Chase Cook, and I would be the American team, while James Pinnell and Simon Jones would be rockin’ out down under.
Oh, and of course, every Asian person James knows would be invited to his house as well, for poor-Aussie-gaming insurance. They needed it.
Got there at about 10:00 p.m. Chase arrived a few hours later. Ate some pizza, had some awkward introductions, fell asleep.
The next morning, I was awakened far too early (at the crack of 11 a.m.) by Chase Cook’s incredibly loud tooth-brushing. Jerk. This is going to be a long marathon.
Luckily, we had some guaranteed viewers to keep things interesting. Insomniac (the Ratchet & Clank developers) tweeted the event to their 10,000+ followers before Piece of Heart started, and an Insomniac guy even sat in the chat with us for a few hours on the first night.
Showtime. A quick realization: nobody had ever played these games before. Good game choice, team.
We do fairly well for a few hours, trading off the controls every sixty minutes to give everyone a turn. The rest of us watch the action onscreen or chat to our 17-40 viewers, depending on the time of day. We discover that people that watch gaming marathons have no social life, as our busiest times were Friday and Saturday evening. Shouldn’t you guys be out at the bars or something? (Still, it’s much appreciated!)
James ate consistently for the first few hours, at one point bringing out a plate of five hamburgers for breakfast. It’s okay, one of the burgers was for his girlfriend. Simon was too scared of James’s ravenous appetite to try to pinch a burger, too, however.
The characteristically fat American team balked incredulously at the gluttonous Australian. Insults were hurled. Feelings were hurt. Jameses were saddened. Don’t worry, he dried his tears with an entire bag of Doritos after the burgers were annihilated.
After a few hours, it was time to break up the monotony a bit. Why are we here? To raise money for charity, of course! Let’s have a game giveaway!
First to donate $10 gets to see James eat a habanero pepper! First to donate $15 gets Machinarium! First to donate $20 gets a free Pandemic game!
“How about $50 for a two-song, man-on-man lapdance?” The perverted audience that can only be found on the internet strikes again.
We reply, after some awkward sideways glances, “Two songs is too long and… creepy. How about $25 for one song?”
“Here’s $100. Dance to ‘Never Gonna Give You Up.’”
… okay. Thanks for the donation, Anim8ed_Fan.
So this is released upon the world, and it’s (of course) recorded. It’s not gay if it’s for charity, right? Right? Still, it’s widely regarded as the high point of both Piece of Heart and the entire history of the Internet.
Back to work. We got games to beat, son!
Going without a break from one game to the next to the next through an entire series is a very interesting way to play games, we discover. We also find every problem with new IPs. Weird camera, poor balancing, too-expensive items, near-impossible final levels that require taking advantage of the game’s limitations to survive.
Luckily, we had some help. Insomniac’s tweets lured a few die-hard R&C fans to the event, and they were more than eager to spill the games’ secrets for us. MitchEvious, SwordsVsDaggers, and a few other knowledgeable lads stayed up almost as long as we did to make sure we beat every boss, found every secret, and conquered survived every game.
At a few points in the original Ratchet & Clank and the first sequel, Going Commando, we even had to pause for a second and ask the audience, “What do we do here?! We’ve been stuck on this same part for twenty minutes, and I’m sure it’s just as fun to watch as it is to play. Help!”
And BAM! Audience to the rescue. “Oh, you have to hide on the next screen and snipe the targets you can’t even see to open the door, then just sprint past all the enemies and do it again at the next place.”
No kidding – it worked. Thanks guys!
MitchEvious, in particular, only got three hours of sleep before he had to work in the morning after the first night of gaming. Then, at work, he snuck onto the chat to help from there! What a trooper.
Having three hardcore gamers, all playing your game for the first time, in the same room, after having no sleep is a good way to get every little flaw in your game completely ripped apart. The first game in a series is always a hard sell. Developers aren’t really sure what works yet, so they just do the best that they can.
Still, the first game was borderline unbeatable. Sure, if we had time to grind for bolts (the currency in the game) and could scrounge up the 150,000 needed for the ultra-mega-bestest gun that makes the last boss a breeze, we would have. But time was a factor. After over twelve hours of a 48-hour marathon, we were still on the first game. We needed to move the show along.
Our solution: make Chase Cook battle the last boss with an incredibly lacking arsenal over, and over, and over again. Watch his degradation with each unfair death. Laugh silently at his self-inflicted rage: each death lead to a harder punch to his own knee. I’m sure he had some bruises by the end, but better his knee than my face. (Thus, the silent laughter!)
We asked the audience for advice: “Get the RYNO!” is all they had for us. We don’t have time to run around to make 150,000 bolts! Chase! Fight him again! Stop dying!
Finally, redemption! Chase emerges victorious after roughly 1-2 hours of grueling, tiring, repeated fights with the same end boss. We all cheer then are promptly cut short by Josh’s “Shhhh!” His girlfriend is asleep in the next room. It’s 6:00 a.m.
How do we celebrate? Stick in the next game, and get Chase another Diet Cherry Pepsi. We went through a case of that stuff within the first two games. We all have cavities now, I’m sure.
Luckily, we picked the Ratchet & Clank games for our marathon, because the games just kept getting better as the series went on. About 90% of the complaints we had with the first game were resolved in the second, and, by the time we got to the PS3 iterations, the games were terrific and actually fun. True, we were dead tired by that time, but imagine if we had picked a series like Silent Hill. First game: good. Second game: awesome. Third game and later: painful to even play.
But still. Game balancing got better. Graphics sparkled more. We got into the swing of things.
Finally, at about 6:00 a.m. on Sunday, the last day of the marathon, Chase said, “If I don’t play, I’m going to fall asleep.” I knew the feeling, but I was the one playing. I handed it over, and I was done. Delirious with sleeplessness, it was nap time for me. Without the games keeping you going by sucking in all your attention, there’s no way to stay awake after that long… especially when seated in the warm embrace of Josh’s soft pleather couch.
Besides a few hours that Josh had managed to steal and a too-short nap by Chase – ruined by hot sauce being dripped into his mouth on video – all three of us had been going, awake and full throttle, the whole time. The children won’t be helped by sleep!
Our dedication to the event and the cause was palpable. Other writers cheered for us. Fans were proud that we just kept going, and going, and going. Even Paul, famous for his hatred of me, had his rage softened when he saw how hard I tried to keep making the money. I volunteered for this; I wasn’t going to give up yet.
After a much-needed-yet-still-insufficient nap, I was back in action. Shower? Nah. I changed my shirt; that’s good enough.
The last few hours were just Simon and I, lone soldiers fighting the good fight for their country long after the rest had fallen in battle. It was… I don’t know… Symbolic? Powerful? Heart-warming? Magically romantic? One of those.
We had already reached our donation goal, but the final game was far from over (even though we skipped Quest for Booty, the downloadable episode). Only an hour left! Thirty minutes! Ten! WAHHH we made it!
Good job, team. Five o’clock rolled around, and the Aussies were out of there, to sleep for Simon, and back to sleep (again) for James.
I, on the other hand, hadn’t had this much uninterrupted Ratchet & Clank playtime since the event started, and the games had gotten really fun. I ended up playing even more afterwards, stopping only long enough to record our first ever live LimitCast. Then, back to the PS3. Josh and Chase called me crazy, and maybe I was.
That’s the cool thing about video games, though. We played them for charity, and we forced ourselves to complete games, not for enjoyment, but for a purpose. When the goal has been fulfilled, the games are still fun. They can still be enjoyed as a pixelated escape from our daily lives.
Sportscasters go home from work and still talk about sports. Chefs get off work and still go home and make dinner. Game journalists finish writing a review about one game, then they go out and play another one for fun.
Playing through all the Ratchet & Clank games in a row didn’t make me hate them (or gaming in general). Rather, it made me appreciate all the hard work that went into advancing the series to the level it’s at today. It also made me wish that I had the time to explore and enjoy them.
Maybe in two years when I feel ready to delve back into that universe, I’ll fire up the ol’ PS2 for another rousing game of Up Your Arsenal. And this time, it’ll be for me.
What a concept.