SKSP 2011 – Done.

I thought I would have written more about this, actually.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was due to take part in a 24 hour gaming marathon to help raise funds for the Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital. It took place last Friday (7th October) and I still can’t believe I managed to make it through the full 24 hours no problem. I still can’t believe that I bore no ill effects from sitting playing games for longer than I ever have and I still can’t believe I took part in something that raised over £20,000 for the hospital.

I found out about SKSP not long after Conor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in June. To be honest, I think it’s been the organising and fund raising that’s helped keep me going through the first few months. I’ve had something to focus on and work towards that I knew would benefit not just him, but hundreds of other children too.

It’s done now and I get the feeling that I’ve been running on adrenalin these past few weeks (a possibility of why I got through the 24 hours ok) because, now that it’s over, I’m knackered! It’s fine though, it means I go straight to sleep at night rather than my mind buzzing about absolutely nothing particular and it means I can have a conversation with my wife where I don’t just say, out of nowhere “Oh, [insert kind person’s name here] sponsored me today!” before trying to regain interest in what we were talking about.

Of the event itself, apart from playing the rubbish games that been suggested for me, I really had no plan going into it. I knew I’d start with Desert Bus (which turned out to be a very wise choice) and I knew I’d be playing Halo: Reach straight after but, that was it. What followed was just me basically going “Erm…” a lot and trying to judge how capable I was of playing some of the more harsh titles.

I’ll go through each game that I played and give a brief summary of my time with them. While some of the other participants had opted to use live streaming to record their efforts, I was relying on Twitter for my outlet. I’ve added some of my posts beside the relevant photos below. I’ve also linked to reviews or relevant material for each game to give you more of an idea of what I’m talking about.

Desert Bus

This game is notorious in that it really must be one of the most boring games ever created. It was made as a joke but has since gone on to be played at annual charity events in America where people set up relays to ensure the bus is driven for as long as possible (I think that 5 days is the highest score). I played it for an hour and I really must applaud anyone that’s played it for any longer. I found myself going into a sort of trance while playing. The constant hum of the engine combined with focus required to keep the bus on the road (it always veers slightly in one direction so you can’t just keep your finger on the ‘forward’ button) meant that the hour flew by. So much so that I ended up playing it for about 10 minutes longer than I’d intended. I really don’t want to think about what might have happened if I’d played it any later.

“Yeah, trying to type and play that wasn’t a good idea. Crashed already, back to the start I go! Focus man, focus! #SKSP”

Halo: Reach

I’ve had this game since it came out and struggled through the single player campaign for a bit before giving up when something even more shiny turned up. My interested in it was piqued recently when some of the members of GRcade started up the snazzily named Sundaylo session (mult-player Halo on a Sunday night, you see?). I was even shitter than I ever thought I’d be so it didn’t last long but it did make me realise that playing the main campaign with two or more people would be pretty damn special.

I recruited GR stalwarts suzzopher and Something Fishy to join me for some Covenant busting action and they happily agreed to come on board. It was a great couple of hours spent with the guys and we made some good progress on the game. That was despite my method of landing a helicopter being to fall towards the ground very fast and Suzz missing out on half an hour of the game due to dodgy Xbox connections and my complete failure to notice that he wasn’t actually playing (I still feel really bad for that). Still, it took me past midnight and I had well and truly started my gameathon.

Superman 64

After almost 3 hours of enjoying myself, I thought I should probably get stuck into the less bad stuff to get it of the way. First to be got through was Superman 64. I’d heard a lot about the game, it’s popped up on numerous ‘Worst Games Ever’ lists before mine, but I’d never had the experience of playing it. With my N64 set up and plugged in, it was time to change that. Now, I knew it wouldn’t look the best as older generation consoles don’t produce that good a picture on an HDTV but, this was beyond bad. Fogging was being used to full effect; in the storyline it’s Kryptonite gas. In reality, it’s a poor attempt at hiding one of the N64’s technical short falls, and Superman seemed to be made up of about 6 polygons (one each for head, body, arms and legs). But, you know, I’m not normally a graphics snob so I tried to see through that. That stopped working as soon as I tried to get Supes to fly. He’s almost uncontrollable as he swoops about in seemingly random directions with even the slightest twitch of the controller sending him crashing to the ground. Navigating Luthor’s maze is made nearly impossible because of this. Still, I stuck with it for the hour and did actually make some progress, but I didn’t have a memory pack so, if I was ever feeling masochistic again, I’d have to go right back to the start. Like that’ll ever happen.

“SOLVE YOUR OWN F*CKING MAZE!”

Barbie’s Horse Adventures

It was 1.30 in the morning at this point and, having been up since about 5am, I was starting to feel a bit tetchy. Superman really was as crap as everyone said and I was already wondering if I;d seen this through. I still had a bundle of crap games to get through but there was no way I was giving up. Barbie seemed liked the ideal choice to put things at ease and calm me down a bit. I skipped past the cut scenes that set up the premise of (oh no!) all of Barbie’s horses escaping, then tried to not feel like a perv for being asked to dress up Barbie in various horse riding gear. A quick tutorial on how to ride the horse and I was off. It was actually fairly pleasant just trotting though the forest, picking up gems and rescuing the escaped foles and horses. It was fairly basic and I could see that any little girl would love it. An hour passed quite quickly and felt a sense of melancholy at having branded it as crap. If anything, it gave me a bit of a second wind to start on the next game.

Coronation Street: The Mystery of the Missing Hotpot Recipe

I’d seen this described as a ‘hidden object game’ in a way that would suggest that there are lots more of this genre out there. If that’s the case then, wow, someone’s making an easy buck or two of them. The production values are pretty much non-existent with most of the budget going on the use of the Coronation Street license I’d imagine. The premise is thus: a child belonging to one of the many barmaids at the Rover’s Return has turned up with nothing to do (em…homework? Playing in the park? *tsk*) so she is left in the care of Corry veteran Betty ‘Hotpot’ Turpin. Betty decides to amuse the child with a tale of how her the isnpirationfor her nickname almost never came to be as the recipe for it was once lost and strewn to the far corners of Weatherfield.

What follows is a series of puzzles set in various Coronation Street locations (The Kabin, The Rover’s Return and the Garage) where the main objective is to find a selection of items hidden amongst a mess of other items. You have a list to complete in each area and finding an item on the list crosses it off. That’s it. Occasionally, there would be a different puzzle (a sliding block one for example) but there wasn;t much else to it. Each ‘level’ would be set up with some static cut-scenes starring some of the regular characters in an attempt to tie it all together. All it did, for me, was give it a bit of a twee quality that I’m sure would have some fans rushing out to buy this in bulk.

However, much like Barbie, I found myself not really minding this. It was dull, yes, but it was never frustrating and managed to completely rid me of any Superman frustrations that were still hanging around.

It also got me thinking about the different type of crap games that are out there. Both this and Barbie would never win any prizes but were at least playable. Other games like Superman and (as I was to discover later) ET were just broken messes. What sort of things are overlooked and purposefully ignored to get titles like that released?

“This is amazing. #CoronationStreet”

Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part 1 /Fruit Ninja

Having clocked up about 7 hours of my marathon so far, I felt it would be a good idea doing a bit of moving about so set up the Kinect for some arm swinging action. Fort up was Harry Potter. I’d already been warned of the shitness of this by Chris Schilling (who very kindly donated this and some of the other games I was to play) but I was willing to give it a go. I think this sat in between the types of crap games in that it wasn’t broken but it was a lot more basic and dull than Barbie etc. Playing it Kinect more turns into an on-rails shooter (like a light gun game, really) where you take control of Harry’s wand arm and use various waving techniques to cast an array  of spells at the two enemy character models that get in your way. There’s really nothing more to it than that and 30 minutes was enough to satisfy me that I’d seen enough.

I’d already played Fruit Ninja before and knew it would be the perfect game to get me going again. The object is very simple, chop away at the fruit that comes flying across the screen but, if you’re so inclined, you can add various ninja like flourishes and whooping noises to accompany your session. It’s just a shame it doesn’t count towards your 5 a day.

Saw 2: Flesh and Blood

This was donated to me by Ashton Raze (who also kindly covered SKSP on the Telegraph website) and a quick read of his review let me know what I was in for. In fact, like him, I had a strange fondness for the films, having sat through them all on Halloween (or thereabouts) over the past few years in what kind of became a little tradition for me. It was being played from the crap games list but an hour spent in its company made me think it was probably more suited to a mediocre one. It had the same look and feel to the films (which, for my stomach at 5 in the morning was rather unfortunate) but it seemed to played as  a series of quick-time events (always a low point if not implemented well). I was glad to finish it as it made me feel a bit queasy more than anything else – the first task had me pushing buttons in the correct order to allow me to apply scalpel to eye socket in an effort to remove a key that had been implanted there – but playing it wasn’t too bad really. Maybe this was the madness setting in.

Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time

After a night of playing that lot, I felt like treating myself for a bit so broke out Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time. I’ve played the majority of the previous R&C games and this is the only one that I’d started but never finished. I’m not sure if it was down to the fact that it was still very similar to most of the other games or if something else had distracted me at the time but I was glad to be playing it again. Before the Games From Hell became the main focus of my marathon, this was one that I’d planned on completing. It didn’t happen this time but it got me back enjoying it again. I’ll see those final credits one day, I’m sure.

Flower

The rest of the house were up and about now which left me at a bit of a loss with what I could play next. I didn’t want to put on anything gory or that would have me cursing under my breath but I noticed the icon for Flower on my PSN games list. Another title that has suffered the fate of being put to one side to play later, Flower was perfect for this time of the morning. Incredibly easy to control, lovely to look at and, best of all, it kept my daughter quiet while she sat and watched it, transfixed by the beauty presented on screen. It got even better as when she asked if she could play and, sitting her on my knee, I let her hold the controller at the same time as me to allow us to guide the petals across the winds and, after assuring her that the pylons wouldn’t really cause us to burst into flames, sat back and enjoyed the lovely ending sequence. Yes, my first completed game of SKSP and I got to see it through with my daughter. Bless.

“Most gorgeous level select screen ever?”

ET – The Extra Terrestrial

I got into a bit of a panic at this point. Since about 5.30, I’d been playing two excellent games and had been really enjoying myself. This wasn’t what my SKSP marathon was supposed to be about! People had paid to see me experience shit games and I’d been ripping them off by flitting about a couple of PS3 classics for 2 or 3 hours. A punishment was due. A punishment that came in the form of a some pixels shaped vaguely like a loveable little alien named ET.

I was more than aware of the noteriety that surrounded this game. It was released on the Atari 2600 to tie in with the film’s success. Unfortunately, it perfectly sums up the term ‘rush release’ and, like Superman, is completely unplayable. To be fair to it, I hadn’t looked into the aim of the game or what I was supposed to be doing but the whole thing just seemed completely random. Arrows would pop up on the top of the screen for a couple of seconds before being replaced with another arrow pointing a different way. Normally, these would be indicators of which way to go but trying to follow them just resulted in skipping from one identical screen to another. The screens themselves also seemed random, flicking between two would place you on a different part of the map altogether. A counter decreased every time you moved and, once it got to zero, you’d keel over and then get visited by a group of pixels that I’m assuming were supposed to resemble Elliot. He’d revive you (again, no explanation) and the torture would continue. Oh, and you were also chased about by a group of pixels resembling a man in a coat and hat and another bunch resembling a nurse. If they caught you, you were put in prison.

When I was posting about it on twitter, I got a reply from fellow SKSP participant Wibbleflop which summed up ET perfectly:

“At least it follows the plot of the film, like that bit in the film where ET falls in a hole and flies out by extending his neck…….that bit always made me cry.”

“And stay there.”

Street Cleaning Simulator

I had originally been asked to play Garbage Truck Simulator but, having been given this by Ashton Raze, I thought it would make a suitable replacement. There seems to be a number of games out there that are of a similar vein; Garden Simulator, UK Truck Simulator, Bus & Cable Car Simulator – San Francisco, and I have to wonder if there is actually a target market for them or if they’re being made as a knowing joke. Based on my time spent with Street Cleaning Sim, I’d have to go with the former. There’s no way that someone would put this amount of effort and detail into a game for it to be just laughed off. I knew I was in trouble when I checked the controls. The list in front of me seemed to cover everything, right down to the left and right indicators. The tutorial was over 30 minutes in length and taught you such valuable skills as lowering your brush at teh right speed and budgeting for petrol.  Driving required gear changes and the engine had to be switched off before you could get out of the vehicle. Motorstorm this was not.

I did get one bit of enjoyment as, upon starting my first mission (cleaning the road, surprisingly enough) I took a corner too quickly and watched as my cart slowly tipped over and ended up in a local pond. The driver also ended up in the pond and, with no swimming controls, was left looking wistfully up at the surface, incapable of moving or dying. He’s probably still there actually.

“Go towards the light! I’m underwater at the moment. Yes, I’m still playing Street Cleaning Simulator”

Crackdown

Things went a bit wrong here as I attempted to play a co-op game of the excellent Crackdown over Xbox Live. Apparently, my friend and I had ‘incompatible versions of Crackdown’ and refused to let us join each other. After a few goes, we decided to call it a day and I went on with gaming flagging slightly but pushing on.

Kengo Zero

Despite having kept myself hydrated and fed so far, I was really starting to feel the effects of sleep deprivation. My head was sore and I was starting to get that drunk feeling that kicks in if you stay up to long. I’m blaming that for making me decide to play Kengo Zero. It was a bad choice but, in hindsight, it was a brick wall that needed to broken through. Kengo Zero is a 3rd person viewed hack and slash ’em up set in feudal Japan. You pick a samurai warrior to control and set upon your way. Before long, you’re attacked by various other sword wielding thugs (similar to Harry Potter, only two models seemed to be used) and it’s up to you to get them out of your way. Hack, slash, repeat. Until you get to the boss. Then it goes block, block, repeat. Until you die and get sent back to the start. I did this a few times before beating him (more luck than good judgement) and I got to the next level. Much the same here except I got to take on ninjas. Ooooh! Only one character model required here then. Again, took them out easily enough only to be beaten by the boss. More than I can remember.

I was really starting to feel it by this point and thoughts of “I jus’ cannae dae it, Captain!” were floating round my head. With a feeble cry of “tea!” to my lovely wife, a steaming mug of refreshing goodness appeared, along with a very welcome chocolate biscuit, my first caffeine and (proper) sugar of the 24 hours.

It was what I’d been needing, I perked up almost immediately, destroyed the second level boss and put Kengo Zero away, never to be played again.

Dark Souls

Filled with fresh bravery, I decided to give the newly arrived (less than an hour before) Dark Souls a play. Despite being near impossible (for me, anyway), I loved its predecessor, Demon’s Souls, so I was looking forward to this. It didn’t disappoint. The opening hour claimed my life one at least 3 separate occasions that I can remember and after a further half an hour of slowly walking about, jumping at the slightest suggestion of a footstep nearby, I ended my game.

You’ll be glad to know that, one week on, I’m still as rubbish at it but I’m also still loving it. Killing the Taurus Demon gave me sense of satisfaction that I feel all to rarely from games these days. It’s a slow burner and once it gets it’s claws in you, you’ll want to see it through to the end. You might not be able to, but you’ll keep trying anyway.

The pictures stopped for a bit as I became more engrossed in getting through things so I’ll break the text up by showing you the presentation I made for the folk at my work to help explain what I’d gone through:

KISS Pinball

I was still feeling amazingly fresh after my lunchtime slump and decided to devote another hour to a crap game, KISS Pinball this time.

Now, I got this off eBay for about £2.00 so I wasn’t overly bothered by the fact that it only had two tables to play, which meant only having two KISS songs to listen to, or the fact the response times of the flippers meant you were having to react a good second or so before the ball came your way, or that the tables were lacking in features that provided any kind of enjoyment but, see if I’d paid £35 for this when it originally came out? I’d be raging!

The hour went by quite quickly and, by this time, I was more than confident that I could finish things without any problems.

F1 2011

Another game donated by Chris Schilling, this one wasn’t considered to be crap, in fact, it was supposed to be very good. I’ve never been into Formula 1 and rarely play driving games but I decided to give this a go.

The first thing that struck me was that it was very pretty; lots of flash cars and realistic racetracks are seen in the opening few minutes. It also seemed quite accurate in terms of track, location and team names. You could pick who you wanted to race for an entered into a career mode which, I’m assuming, would see you eventually win the F1 Mega Driver Trophy (look, I told you I’ve never watched it).

Once I started driving, I was impressed by the handling of the car, it was really tight and felt like I’d imagine a proper F1 car would handle (again, totally guessing here). I drove round a few laps. Then a few more. Then, a familiar feeling came over me. One that I hadn’t experienced since Desert Bus, some 22 hours previous. The sound of the engines and the concentration required to keep the car on the track was starting to put me into that hypnotic state again. Only, this time, I had playing for the best part of a full day and didn’t have the benefit of a session on Halo to follow up with.

Sadly, I had to end my game of F1 there as, if I’d continued, I would have ended up asleep. And that normally only happens when I watch it on TV…..winking smiley.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Without the benefit of Kinect to keep me going, Harry Potter was in for some serious verbal abuse if he was going to put me though another hour of his turgid, humourless nonsense again (strange, liked the books). What I ended up with was like Gears of War but without the Gears or the War. They’d been replaced by Harry, Ron and Hermione and the same two character model enemies. Chest high walls, barrels, rocks and benches were all used to provide cover as I zapped various baddies with my wand and progressed through the levels. It wasn’t unplayable, it was just boring (no satisfaction of scoring a headshot here) and was lacking in any kind of…anything really. An hour was played with only a big dragon providing a highlight. Isn’t that always the way?

Naughty Bear

I was down to the final hours now and I wasn’t going to let a homicidal stuffed toy get in my way This was another game donated by Ashton Raze and was officially the last of my Games From Hell. They’d ended up taking up a lot more of my marathon than I’d originally intended but they’d kept the schedule fresh and unpredictable, I never knew what I’d be up against next and I think this was to my benefit.

Naughty Bear wasn’t without its charm but once you’ve stabbed/burned/hacked/car-doored/eviscerated one lot of enemy bears, you’ve seen it all. It does have a wicked sense of humour though, one that I can identify with, I can see it getting brought out again if I ever feel like doing any of the above. In the game, of course.

“That’s one f’kd up game, dude”

Dead Nation

The end was very much nigh. I met up online with David (my friend from earlier who Crackdown cruelly kept me apart from) and we decided to wage war on a few thousand zombies.

I got this a few months ago and played it for a bit. ‘Meh’ was very much my verdict. Playing it in co-op transforms it into a thing of insane brilliance.

A twin stick shooter (more or less), it sees you and a partner pitted against hordes of the walking dead in an effort to escape a city that’s been overrun with the creeping masses. Extra weapns are picked up along the way and different varieties of brain munchers get drafteed in every so often. We had an excellent time playing it, so much so that I went broke thorugh the 24 hour barrier and this had the honour of being that last game I played.

What a blast.

So, that was it. After months of planning and fund raising, my 24 hours of gaming had come to an end. Still buzzing, I packed up my gear and went through to join my wife. There was brief look of “Oh, it’s you!” before a congratulatory  cuddle was given.

I felt great. I’d managed to raise over £1,500 for the hospital and got to the top of the fund raisers leader board (the first time my names been at the top of anything like that). I’d stepped out of my comfort zone ( I’m not really one for putting myself out there, getting on the front page of the local paper almost had me living hermit-like for a week ) and achieved something I would have never thought possible before. It’s unfortunate that my motivation for it was Conor’s condition but it’s great knowing the difference that the money raised will make.

This may end up sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech but I hope the sentiment comes through: I never would have been able to do this if it hadn’t been for the support given to me by my family, those that sponsored me, the excellent people on GRcade and Twitter and also the like-minded souls who took part in SKSP with me. You were all there for me since the start and I sincerely  thank you for that.

I’ll end this the way I ended my gameathon. With zombies:

24 Hour Gaming Marathon: The Schedule

I used to love making up mix tapes. I’d spend hours picking the right selection of tracks and the order they’d go in: would The Pixies sit well with Stevie Wonder? Does Henry Rollins sound ok next to Bob Dylan? I’d agonise over this sort of thing for ages, which is why I can see the schedule I’m making up for the Sick Kids Save Point gaming marathon being an event in itself.

I’ve picked out a few things to do so far although I can see them changing as the date gets closer. They range from finishing games that have got put to one side and never picked back up again (sorry, Crackdown), getting to a milestone level in World of Warcraft (an everyday task for some of its players) or finding a load of collectables hidden about a huge game world (except Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, that’d just be silly).

One suggestion that was made to me was picking some games that really would be a challenge in as much as no sane person would normally go out of their way to actually play them.  So, fool that I am, I’ve enlisted the help of the lovely guys and gals over on GRcade to come up with a list of truly awful abominations of game design that will test my gaming ability and sanity over the course of the 24 hours.

So far, they’ve come up with the following:

KISS Pinball
Kengo Zero
Garbage Truck Simulator 2011
ET (Atari 2600)
Superman 64
Barbie’s Horse Adventures
Desert Bus
Garden Simulator

Spellbinding!

I’m going to set up a poll on the site in the weeks leading up to the marathon and will let them pick the three worst titles from the list. I’ll then choose three slots during the day and spend an hour each playing them. Not enough you say? Believe me, I spent five minutes playing ET and that was just about enough to put me off gaming forever.

Any more suggestions (or donations) are welcome!

Sick Kids Save Point

I mentioned below that the hospital staff had been a great help while our son stayed there and I’d been looking at a way of giving something back via some form of fund raising. Imagine my surprise, delight and “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” style comments when I happened upon this after a quick google search:

Seeking Brave Gamers!

They’ve also got a blog going which has some more info on the Sick Kids Save Point as a whole.

Talk about right up my street! This is the second year running that these guys have organised this and they’re going to try and top their already impressive total of £7,000 with a staggering £10,000. All the funds go to the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, the charity linked to the Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital, and will help fund new equipment and facilities for other children and families using the hospital.

A 24 Hour Gaming Marathon is probably more suited to my physical abilities (let’s face it, can you really see me running one?) so, of course, I was only too happy to help.

I’ve set up my own JustGiving page for anyone who would like to sponsor me.

Coupling the lack of sleep with the fact that my, once impressive gaming skills are no more, this will be a test of endurance that surely only the most hardcore of gamers has undertaken before. Plus, it’s for a really good cause.

My JustGiving page

I’ll update this with the schedule in the following weeks. You can also follow me on twitter to catch up on any training that might take place.

I believe the saying is “It’s on like Donkey Kong”. How appropriate 🙂