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Opposable thumbs have served the human race well throughout history, providing important advances such as fine motor skills, the development of tools, becoming the most dominant species on the planet… and the ability to text. Opposable thumbs are also useful for playing video games and for raising over $145,000 for cancer prevention and early detection.

Gaming to "Stop Cancer Before It Starts!" SDA member at work

That’s right! Members of Speed Demos Archive (SDA) just ran a six-day nonstop video gaming marathon called Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) 2012, with 100% of donations benefitting the Prevent Cancer Foundation. The group focuses on “speedrunning”, or completing video games in the shortest amount of time possible. I was able to visit the event on both the kickoff and wrap up days, and I was pleasantly surprised and awestruck at the world of gaming that was opened up to me.

Last year’s event, AGDQ 2011, more than doubled the group’s initial goal and brought in $53,000 for the Foundation. On Wednesday, January 4 of this year, the attendees of AGDQ were geared up for an even bigger, better and more successful marathon than last year’s event. Dozens of guys and girls from around the country and even around the world gathered in Chevy Chase, MD, to set up and run the multiple TVs, gaming consoles and computer screens necessary to stream the event live. Some came from as far as Australia, Germany and France to participate. One attendee even took the train from Chicago while seven months pregnant to be there!

Speed Demos Archive members with Prevent Cancer Foundation's Liona Chan and Cheryssa Jensen during Day 1 of Awesome Games Done Quick 2012

Over 5,800 donors from around the world contributed over $145,000, with an average gift of about $25. One donor, Marshall, contributed $90 because “this is a cause near to my heart since my grandfather lost his second battle with cancer” while another donor, Gabriel, gave $555, saying “with this my total donations are now $2,500 and every dollar is well worth it going to such a cause as this.”

The funds were partially raised through raffle prizes, event t-shirt sales, and engaging game challenges. As if playing Monkey Ball isn’t challenging enough, try racing through it while eating a piece of pizza at the same time. Or playing anything with a giant sombrero completely covering your eyes and facing the opposite direction. Other challenges included playing shirtless and two people simultaneously using one controller. An average of 3,500 to 8,000 viewers per hour tuned in to watch the video stream that was broadcast live on the SDA website, with a peak viewing count of over 12,000 people at one time.

SDA members gaming to "Stop Cancer Before It Starts!"

The Foundation will be naming a two-year cancer research grant after SDA, with the rest of the funds going toward continuing the Foundation’s research, education, advocacy and community outreach work. Even though the marathon is officially over, you can still watch live feed now and donate through the SDA website until January 15. For more information, visit the SDA site.