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Gaming Marathon at CHHS Raises Money for Duke Children's Hospital

A 24-hour marathon of gaming with more than three dozen teenagers is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for dedicated students at Chapel Hill High School (CHHS), it’s a time of tech-fellowship, pizza and very little, if any, sleep. The 2020 Extra Life marathon took place from 9:00 a.m. January 11 until 9:00 a.m. January 12, with more than $1,500 raised so far for Duke Children’s of the Children’s Miracle Hospital Neworks. The tagline of Extra Life is “Play Games. Heal Kids.” Donations can still be made online to help the CHHS group meet their goal.

“We survived it again!” Garrison Reid, Director of CHHS Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) said. “All in all, it was a fantastic event that has raised a ton of money. Video gaming, tabletop gaming, RPG gaming galore! This year's Extra Life gaming marathon was chock-full of great experiences and the playing of many, many new games. Thirty-eight students gave up their weekend to play games together to raise funds for Duke Children’s, our Children’s Miracle Network partner.”

Reid has organized and supervised the marathon for six years, but it began at CHHS several years before his arrival at the school. His fellow teachers, Parker Whitehouse and William Richards, joined him this year to help chaperone the group of students for those 24 hours.

In a 2017 article in the CHHS newspaper, “Proconian,” Reid noted that some students who are major gaming fans shy away from socialization and need to think about the broader impact of their immersion. Of the value of a gaming marathon, he said, “It’s not just them in a room playing games, but it tethers to everyone else. There’s a wide world of people, and we need to make sure that we’re considering that as we play our games.”

Game designer at marathon One of the only technology requirements of the marathon is a mandatory offline hour, which students and chaperones observed from 6:30-7:30 p.m. “Clarence Simpson and Omari Akil (local game designers) brought some of their awesome new games to share with students in the required offline hour,” Reid said. “Some students were resistant to playing tabletop games, because of that interpersonal interaction and comfort zone. However, when that defined window of time ended, they were still enjoying themselves, laughing, and playing the prototype games Clarence and Omari generously shared. We had a couple students who played tabletop games nearly all of the 24 hours.”

“At this year’s event, we were lucky enough to have some excellent local guest speakers join us and share their experiences in designing games,” Reid said. “Lucas Rowe of Durham’s Red Blue Games spoke of the process in developing Sparklite, their newly-released, indie, 2D pixel art adventure game. I’m so appreciative of the generosity of these professional designers sharing their time and knowledge with these students.”

After Rowe spoke to students, he tweeted, “This was really fun! Wish my high school did stuff like this. Kids were having a blast and learned a bit too I hope.”

Student Stella Hileman was one of three young women among the 38 participants. “I think Extra Life gives a chance for a bunch of kids to learn more about different games and meet new people that have similar interests. Usually these kinds of events are sports related and this gives us a chance to both support a charity and have fun with friends.”

 One of the AOIT courses taught by Reid is Game Art and Design. He said, “I want Extra Life participants and all students to grasp the idea that designing and creating games is accessible to everyone. From developing video games on free game engines like Unity to prototyping, printing on-demand, and playtesting tabletop games, creating games isn't limited to corporations. The guest speakers at Extra Life were local, indie designers that do much of their designs as hobbies. They all work closely with local game guilds and Meetup groups to collaborate on their in-development projects.”

 Extra Life brings thousands of gamers together worldwide to support the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, raising more than fifty million dollars since 2008.