Students Benefit Charity with Marathon Gaming

For the third consecutive year, four Georgia Tech students will punctuate the fall semester’s academic efforts with at least two straight days of Zelda, sacrificing sleep for charity as they play.

Zelda Marathon
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Georgia Tech students Ryan Adams, Ryan Hoffman, Joseph Dolensky and Peter Sohl (l to r) during their third 4/48 Zelda Marathon in 2010. They played two straight days of games from the The Legend of Zelda franchise to raise money for the charity, Child's Play. In this photo, Sohl defeats Ganon in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on their Nintendo 64, while Ryan Hoffman bests Ganon in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, from the Super Nintendo days. Photo: Rob Felt/Georgia Tech

Ryan Adams, Joey Dolensky, Ryan Hoffman and Peter Sohl, each a third-year undergraduate at Tech, started the 4/48 Zelda Marathon, named for its original concept of playing four Zelda games in 48 hours, in the fall of 2008.

“We had just played a long game and I was thinking back on it, and I’d read about gaming marathons raising amounts like $10,000 at a time,” Sohl said. “It was around October I really presented the idea to the other three.”

“Freshman year it started as just a fun idea, just friends playing games,” Adams said. The team set up what it now calls a “pathetic” website and video stream, and scheduled the marathon for the first weekend after finals in December. The fundraising strategy was to stream the marathon online and entertain viewers while playing, hopefully prompting donations to the chosen charity. Between 2008 and 2009, the marathon raised around $1,000 for Invisible Children.

In 2009, an Australian student contacted Sohl via Facebook; he had seen the team’s website, zelda448.com, and had a group of friends who wanted to race Sohl’s team. Hoffman, who manages the technical aspects of the event, set up a video feed enabling them to watch and chat with the Australians as the two teams raced. The Tech students “blew them out of the water,” said Sohl, playing all four games in around 41 hours — a three-hour improvement from 2008.

This year, Adams spent much of the summer revamping the website. He added a widget that tracks the amount of donations given through the marathon, while still allowing donors to give directly to this year’s charity, Child’s Play.

“We thought it was wise to choose a charity related to what we were doing,” said Sohl. Child’s Play distributes toys, games and other donations to children in hospitals worldwide.

The addition of donation levels requires the team to complete additional Zelda games upon reaching certain donation thresholds; the first level of raising $150 has already been met. The goal is to raise $2,000, requiring them to play all seven Zelda games in 72 hours; however, Sohl and Adams estimate it will only take the team around 60 hours. Sohl has been in contact with the Guinness Book of World Records and will submit the team’s final time, in hopes that it’s record-breaking material.

Team 4/48 will re-match the 2009 Australian team this year and add a third team, also from Australia. Sohl expects around 20 to 30 friends to gather at his parents’ home in Acworth throughout the three-day event.

The 4/48 Zelda Marathon goes live online Monday, December 20, at 8 a.m. EST, to accommodate Australian time zones. To watch or make a donation, visit zelda448.com.

 

Update: The 2010 marathon raised a total of $2,422.50 for Child's Play Charity. A full summary of the 2010 marathon is available on the team's website under "history."