World's First Videogame Charity Marathon Discovered?

World's First Videogame Charity Marathon Discovered?


A thirty-year-old Asteroids marathon may have paved the way for the videogame charity events of today.

With videogame marathons like Desert Bus for Hope raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities around the world today, did you ever wonder where they all got started? A new report from 1up may have uncovered the very first, which took place 30 years ago.

On January 2, 1981, six gamers played an Asteroids arcade machine for more than five straight days at the Gold Mine arcade in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The purpose of the marathon was to raise money for the family of 18-year-old Leo Wampole who died on Christmas day of pneumonia complicated by cerebral palsy.

The six gamers took four-hour shifts and placed a bucket nearby to collect donations. None of the six knew Wampole, and organized the event simply to help a family in need.

After 132 hours and an uncountable number of destroyed asteroids, the marathon collected hundreds of dollars for the Wampole family. It could have gone on for longer, but a few of the participants had to return to school. Thirty years later, the same idea is still bringing in gobs of money for important charities such as Child's Play, and it may have all started in a small arcade with a group of noble gamers.

Source: 1up


That's very cool... And much the same kind of thinking that Desert Bus had. Torture yourself into a state of boredom so intense you're almost catatonic. At least the pokemon ones and stuff do different interesting things.

That is lovely. It's always good to know, how good things started.

Nobel Peace prize, these guys shoulda got one :P

They give obama a Nobel prize for nothing. but people do stuff like this with no recognition. makes me sick

This kind of thing restores my faith in people.

Even back in the day, we gamers were a force of good in the world. Thirty years and still going strong!

An excellent idea, over two decades before its time. Good for them!

Glad they made some money too. And since each increment of $100 back then was worth about $250 today*, they did pretty good!

(*Depending on which metric you use to calculate value. Mean of those values = $289.29, median = $262. Since it's all guesswork anyway, $250 seems like a nice number.)

Ooh, Asteroids. Those guys really deserve an award.

The Gold Mine arcades-- a fixture of my youth. Wow.

Not to belittle their effort, but I don't think you really can call it the 'first' example, because people have been doing charity marathons for a long, long time. It just happens that instead of doing something like dancing, they played a video game.

Still, good on them for doing it for people they didn't even know.

Shooting rocks for the less fortunate: That's pretty cool.

Hmmm, interesting. For some reason though I'd imagine if you looked there would probably be something with pinball machines even earlier, though I guess they might not be considered real "video games" for these purposes.

That said, the details of this one seem hard to believe, because in 1981 I can't see how there would be that much interest in six guys playing a video game. With "Desert Bus For Hope" at least it makes sense, because your dealing with a group of fairly well known comedians and internet personalities donating their time to the cause. People within gaming circles know who the crew of "Loading, Ready, Run" are for example, and they do try and make things interesting. There has always been appeal in getting a comedian to do something funny in exchange for a donation, which is pretty much what it's all about, the "Desert Bus" game itself aside.

That said, this is an interesting story, however to me it seems like a less exciting (but more upbeat) urban legend about video gaming than my all time favorite:

The odd thing about the Polybius stories, is that where they would be easy to dismiss as internet creepypasta, this basic story has been around in one form or another for decades. Along with the story (mentioned in those links) about the same black-coated men taking down the names of people setting high scores in arcades, presumably for the goverment. Stories about this and things very similar to Polybius existing BEFORE the release of:

... and which arguably inspired it, as even when I was 9 I was aware of having talked about such concepts like the goverment recruiting via video game scores or whatever, and at the bowling alley and such me and some other kids would always hope we'd do well enough to get recruited to be James Bond or something. "The Last Starfighter" however took the idea and changed it from goverment experiments, to aliens, and used the logic that the control system for the fighters worked exactly like the video game so that's how they recruited their pilots.

The six guys playing Astroids sounds more believable on a lot of levels, but at the same time I can't see how playing Astroids would have influanced anything back then, I'd think you'd have better luck just setting up a collection dish and sitting at a table, or asking local businesses if they minded if you left out a jar for that cause.

Ah well, enough rambling, still I hope I entertained. I know from mentioning this before some people didn't get the Polybius referances in "Doomsday Arcade". One urban legend made me think of another. :)

Angus Young:
They give obama a Nobel prize for nothing. but people do stuff like this with no recognition. makes me sick

I understand you point of view. But do you honnestly think that comparing playing a game for 4 hours (edit- 4 hour shifts) and raising money for charity with the life achivements of barack obama is resonable? I agree that he didnt deserve the prize, but come on... its a different legue. Also how do you know theese people didnt get recognition. Infact 1up probable discovered it through a news story of some sort so they most likely did.

OT: I love the idea and its obviously taken off

Off-Topic (again): I really wish arcades were still as popular as they used to be. I was a teenager at the end of that trend. I would have loved to do something like this

I wonder how much they would've raised had there been an internet back then.

I also wonder how much money I'd raise if I tried something similar today (and tried to keep news about it off the internet until it was over).


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