Annual Zelda Marathon Returns, Hoping to Raise $10K for Charity

Amid medical school applications, on-campus jobs, internships and the general academic rigor of Georgia Tech, four students for the fourth straight year have created a way to put their leisure time and gaming chops to good use.

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, all fourth-year students, will embark on a multi-day virtual journey on Saturday, playing video games from the Zelda series to raise money for charity through their 4/48 Zelda Marathon.

The marathon began in 2008 with a simple idea: play four Zelda games in 48 hours, stream it online and ask people to watch and give donations for charity. The marathon finished in just over 44 hours, raised $400 and a tradition was born. 

This year, the manpower grows from four to six players. They’ve doubled the number of games that will be played, bringing it to eight and including this year’s new addition to the Zelda suite, “Skyward Sword.” Donation rewards have been added to incentivize giving even more than in the past — but some things haven’t changed.

“We still love Zelda,” said Adams, a biology major who redesigned the marathon’s website, zelda448.com, for the second year in a row. During last year’s marathon, which raised $2,500, the site received 1,000 unique hits per day and about 3,000 views on its live stream; the total number of hours visitors spent logged on amounted to about half a year, or more than 4,000 hours. Like last year, proceeds will benefit Child’s Play, an organization that distributes toys, games and other donations to children in hospitals worldwide. Sohl’s basement in Acworth remains the venue; spending a week in this underground locale is part of what Adams looks forward to most about the marathon each year.

“I’m not sure we’re wrapping our minds around how long it could really take,” said Sohl, a business administration and science, technology, and culture major. Last year’s marathon lasted 64 hours, with six games being played, but raising as much money as last year could take up to twice as long because of new donation incentives. Many require the 4/48 players to complete additional aspects of games, extending the time of the marathon and delirium of its participants.

“The fun for the viewers is watching us become more and more sleep-deprived,” Sohl said. Adams recalled the end of last year’s marathon when, after 64 hours of play, the group circled up and sang “Lean on Me” to its online fans. This year’s fundraising goal is $10,000, and crossing each gift level along the way unlocks donor giveaways.

“It’s a really cool community dynamic. People want to involve themselves in the marathon any way they can,” Adams said, speaking of both online and local support. About two-dozen friends visit Sohl’s basement over the course of the marathon’s duration, and some online viewers play along from home by starting games simultaneously with the marathoners.

The 4/48 Zelda Marathon begins Saturday, Dec. 17, at 10 a.m. Watch or make donations at zelda448.com.