31 October 2015

November is shaping up to be an exciting month for Tomb Raider fans; not only will we see the launch of Rise of the Tomb Raider for XBOX One and XBOX 360, but the first Saturday (7th) marks the official date for Extra Life, a charity gaming marathon which supports Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

For the past four years, a dedicated group of Tomb Raider fans have arranged their own livestream to raise funds for the charity. While many of the members play on the main channel, others run their separate livestreams or on play different days, but collects all donations under their group name, Team Tomb Raider Community. The team is captained by long-time fan Stella Lune of Stella's Tomb Raider Walkthroughs and to date has raised over $7,000 for charity.

 [ Link to the main Team Tomb Raider Community's Channel.]
Recently I had a the pleasure of talking to three members of Team Tomb Raider Community to talk about the preparation that goes on for the livestream, their motivation and plans for this year. A huge thank you to  Stella, Kelly M (Archaeology of Tomb Raider) and Nathan (NathPlays YouTube Channel) for speaking to me about their plans!

The Charity

First, a little something about the event itself...

Extra Life began in 2008, as a way of honouring a young lady named Victoria Enmon who battled acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. After her passing in January of that year, the event was set up to raise money for the hospital (Texas Children’s Hospital) which had cared for her so that it can help other children facing similar situations.  In 2009, Extra Life expanded. In just its second year, more than a hundred websites and 12,000 donors supported the campaign and in response to worldwide attention, the campaign focused on raising money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

By donating in this year's Extra Life your money will go towards caring for children in hospitals across the United States and Canada. Every minute, 62 children enter the hospitals and the donations received throughout the livestreams provide help for children regardless of whether or not they have health insurance. The money also helps the hospitals improve and maintain the level of care by paying for training, research and equipment.

The Motivations

Planning, preparing and executing a successful livestream session can bring its challenges, and several members spend months getting ready for their playthrough. With an charity event, everyone is driven by different experiences and aspects of the fundraiser.
Stella Lune is not only the owner of one of the community's well loved sites, but also the captain of Team Tomb Raider Community. She set up the group back in 2011. In her interview she spoke about her motivations behind the creation and her continual support for the past four years:  "My number one motivation is the kids. My son has always been healthy--practically indestructible, in fact!--but my heart goes out to the families of sick and injured children. It's a stressful situation, and the last thing they should have to worry about is money. Our efforts help provide treatment for kids without health insurance or whose insurance doesn't cover all the care they need. It also helps hospitals acquire much-needed equipment to make kids' hospital stays easier and help them get better faster."

Many of the other members of the team echo Stella's motivations. "Taking part in Extra Life, I can't think of something greater" describes Nathan, the owner and host of NathPlays. "Doing what you love for a great cause to benefit children's medical network hospitals, it really is a wonderful event to take part of. It's also lovely to see everyone streaming and donating for children in need of our help."

The 2015 Schedule

In our discussions, the team teased about what you could see on the livestreams this year, and from the sounds of it there's plenty of treats in store for viewers.

Last year Kelly, the owner of The Archaeology of Tomb Raider, played Tomb Raider (2013) for Extra Life, this time around she's taking her livestream on a quick vacation away from the series. "Instead, expect to see some Uncharted, perhaps a little GTA Online, and some Far Cry 4. The latter should be pretty amusing as I've never played a Far Cry game and have practically no experience with first-person shooters. God help me when the honey badgers start coming after me..." Yay, honey badgers! Like a few of the members in the group, Kelly will be playing the titles on her own Twitch channel, and breaking down her marathon over a number of days.

There's also big plans for the official Extra Life marathon date on 7th November, packed with Tomb Raider goodness. There's even an opportunity to join Lara on some new adventures, in what Nathan has planned: "Previous Extra Life events I've streamed Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask and Tomb Raider: Chronicles, games that are well known in the Tomb Raider Community. I kinda want to spice things up this year and play any level made by the wonderful community itself."

Screenshot by Katie's Tomb Raider Screenshots.

As for Stella's playthrough she's not revealing just yet what she has in mind for the big day, but she teased a few levels which she might try in the lead up to it, starting with one of the classic games: "My plan is to do a few test streams beforehand to troubleshoot my setup and encourage other people to get involved. If all goes well, I'll be streaming the Ireland levels from Tomb Raider Chronicles on Halloween. Then on the 7th we'll be taking turns streaming all day and through the night." The Ireland levels are certainly intriguing with some creepy... and unique characters. While Tomb Raider games up to that point had elements which were unnerving, those levels embraced the horror concept more, making it a perfect choice for a Halloween livestream.

There's also another exciting thing to look forward to, and something which has been in the works for several months....

"And of course THERE WILL BE PRIZES!" Every year, months before the livestream, Stella organises raffle prizes and giveaways on behalf of Team Tomb Raider Community, which are given out during the event. "The first two years I did giveaways during the livestream, but that turned out to be too chaotic. So now we run a raffle for a few weeks surrounding the event. Anyone can enter, but people who donate to Extra Life receive bonus entries. Thanks to Crystal Dynamics, GOG.com, and a few generous individuals, we're well stocked with prizes. Details will be announced in a few weeks." In previous years these prizes included t-shirts, games, books, trading cards.

In addition to main Team Tomb Raider Community's prizes, Kelly has her own raffle for fans who donate through her page. The prize is an interesting box filled with mysterious goodies. With the exception of Kelly herself, no one knows what's inside the prize box, although we do know that she collected them in her travels across Japan.

The Challenges

Preparing the a day of livestreaming or recording spread across numerous days can bring challenges ranging from technology problems to losing your voice. A lot of these can be prepared for before the event but many you just have to play by ear.

Screenshot by Katie's Tomb Raider Screenshots

"I'm a part of the Team Tomb Raider Community group which is hosted by the lovely Stellalune. So there really isn't a whole lot of challenges as far as I can say." Nathan describes, "setting up a live stream is a bit difficult mostly because of my internet is terrible but anyway, moving on." As Stella is is in charge of organising the main team channel on her account, arranging schedules can get... interesting, especially with dealing with timezones. Stella makes it look easy but it can be a challenge, as she mentions: " It's great being a part of a worldwide fandom, but with people in North America, Europe, Australia, and all over the place, things can get a little crazy."

Over on Kelly's livestream, the challenges are quite different. Anyone who owns a Facebook page for a fansite or YouTube channel will conclude that while it's a great way to interact with your audience, it's sometimes pretty bad with informing them. "My biggest challenge is using social media to announce my live streams or beg for donations. Facebook seems to be a particularly useless outlet for advertising live streams or sharing links to Extra Life fundraiser pages. Boosting these posts' meager reach without paying for the privilege is a challenge in itself and I'm constantly trying to find new ways to get around Facebook's unpredictable news feed algorithms. Thank God for Twitter and Twitch email notifications..."

If it sounds as though you might be up for avoiding the traps of social media and fighting with technology, there's still time to be a part of the team and raise money for charity. If not there's always plenty of other ways to take part in this year's event. For the last part I'm going to hand it over to Stella to talk about how you can be involved.

The Ways You Can Help 


You don't even have to livestream if you can't or don't want to. Many players do their Extra Life gaming offline. Some play on their own, some with friends or family, some even play mobile games, board games, or tabletop games. There are lots of options. Livestreaming is just one of them.

Same with the fund raising. Set a small goal at first, but try to remember that the donations are the reason we're here. You're not asking for yourself; you're asking for the charity, so don't be shy. Ask a lot of people to sponsor you for a small amount and the donations will add up.

I should also clarify that I'm thrilled to have guest players on the livestream who aren't raising money. Not everyone has the same connections, and people who live outside of North America, where Children's Miracle Network Hospitals are based, will probably not be able to get as many donations, but every bit helps. If you can't collect donations yourself, maybe team up with another player and encourage donors to support that person.

Finally, if you're thinking about participating in Extra Life and have any questions at all, please read our Extra Life FAQ [http://blog.tombraiders.net/2014/08/team-tomb-raider-community-extra-life.html] and feel free to contact me [http://tombraiders.net/stella/contact.html]. I'm happy to answer and I'd love to have more people on the Tomb Raider team!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for helping to spread the word about our efforts. Since this was posted, the prize raffle has gone live and will run through November 21. Anyone who'd like a chance to win some fabulous TR swag--from the classics all the way up to Rise of the Tomb Raider--should check out this page: http://tombraiders.net/extra-life-raffle.html