by Liam Edwards
I posted a news article yesterday, on the 4-day Pokemon marathon being completed by the guys over at www.pokemon4life.co.uk. They are streaming live the 96-hour marathon in an effort to raise money towards the relief work in Japan. Luckily, to my surprise i found out they were based in my local town. Being the fantastic journalist i am, (wink, wink) i headed up to find and interview them...
But did i also mention, i had to go at 2am? What was meant to be just an interview then turned into six hours of interactive Pokemon nostalgia, spamming celebrities, singing for donations and dealing with an Eevee called Steevee that just would not evolve!
Pokemon4Japan is a charity group created by 4 friends at the Aberystwyth University, Wales. The group consists of Benjamin Stevens, Alice Rourke, Kelly Jones and Josh Jordan.
HG: How many people are actually involved in the project?
P4J: There is 5 of us involved in the project, the four of us here now (Ben, Josh, Alice and Kelly). But there is also our friend Phil who helped us, unfortunately he couldn't be here for the marathon. But he does come on the chat stream to talk to us and help out.
HG: I am guessing he is rather disappointed he couldn't be here, considering how much this has blown up?
P4J: (Laughter) Yeah were sure. We never expected such a massive response! I mean after 4 hours, we already had Edgar Wright Re-tweet our message! It has been fantastic watching the project spread across internet sites and be Re-Tweeted everywhere.
HG: Talking about celebrities, you have had quite a few respond haven't you?
P4J: Yeah! We've had Edgar Wright, Ray Peacock, Amanda Palmer and the one and only Justin Bieber send a message to us! We have also been featured on The Escapist and on Bulbapedia's front page.
HG: So who was the brain-child then? And how did you come up with the idea?
P4J: It was Ben's idea originally to do something for Japan. Our original idea was to create a fan video of some sort associated around, Final Fantasy. Kelly also had an idea of streaming a live video of a camera being sent out to sea. We are all Film and TV students, except for Josh, so doing something like a video seemed appropriate. After thinking about plenty of video ideas, the idea sort of snowballed into doing a live stream. We came up with the idea after being inspired by the guys over a Loading Ready Run, who each year do a marathon for the Penny-Arcade charity, Child's Play. We really took a lot of inspiration from those guys.
HG: How long did you actually have to prepare for the project?
P4J: We had two weeks from when we thought of the initial idea to the date we had in mind. We arranged it so that the first week would be planning, thinking of what equipment to use, what accounts to use and how we could generate interest. Then the second would be complete testing and handing out leaflets and generating that interest we needed. We had so many technical failures in the week leading up, that we are surprised our equipment has lasted this long into the stream. Our microphone literally only started working a day before we went live (laughter). We only decided two days before to definitely go with the Pokemon idea.
HG: So how is your stream different from other? I mean there are plenty of Let's Plays and U-stream gaming channels, but what makes yours that little bit better?
P4J: Our main focus was to be heavily interactive. We wanted to make sure that the users and people in our chat-stream were heavily involved on what was going on in game. What was vitally important was making sure that viewers donations weren't just nice gestures while watching us play, we wanted to give something back to the viewer for donating. So viewers can donate to have there favourite Pokemon in the team, or they can donate for us to catch a certain Pokemon and name it too their choosing.
HG: After viewing the stream since the start and being in the chat. I have witnessed how interactive the stream is, what i can say is that in my opinion the stream wouldn't be as good if chat was not featured.
P4J: Oh we agree. Chat has been a key element as to why the stream can be considered a success. We are able to make the stream interactive with the chat, viewers can talk to us and we can answer back. There is a loving bond between us and the chat-stream (Laughter). Our loyal viewers have also been able to spread the word and give us feedback on any technical problems that might occur. They also give us updates as to which sites on the internet have written about us, so in essence chat is priceless to the stream.
HG: You're kind of like a middle man between the viewers actually playing then?
P4J: (Laughter) You could say that. Although it can be hard to keep up with all the requests when chat is going a million-miles an hour. We haven't really seen a stream like ours before, and we believe that because of the way our stream is setup with so much interactivity is the key to why so many people have joined and stayed.
HG: With there being four of you, how many hours do you each play before swapping?
P4J: Originally the plan was for each of us to just do 10 hour shifts. But that really has changed now to us doing about 13 hour shifts, and then when we finish we stay for extra hours to do administrative stuff and keep up with all the videos we have been filming and posting. It is one of those things where, you wish for sleep but when it comes round to actually sleeping you don't want to leave for fear of missing something on the stream. We all plan on long sleeps over the weekend (Laughter).
HG: Are you all big Pokemon fans anyway?
P4J: Yeah definitely. Although Ben and Alice are purists, as they haven't played passed Generation I, until now. We like the retro old Pokemon games a lot, but we looked very much forward to being able to play games we actually hadn't played before live. We have the best help in the world with our experienced Pokemon players in the chat-stream. We don't know whether we will like Pokemon after the marathon though (Laughter).
HG: Have any of you been involved in charity events before?
P4J: (Ben) I use to do a radio show in my local town every year to raise money for charity. The radio show was called Cracker FM, it was good fun. Then when i met Kelly and Alice, we started a radio show on the student radio here in Aber(ystwyth), Bay Radio.
HG: What time is the marathon due to finish?
P4J: We are finishing Friday at 7pm (BST). We smashed our original goal of £2,000 odd, we said if we reached this total we would stay on for the whole 96-hours. Considering we reached the goal after the first two days, the next two we don't have to worry about generating enough interest to stay on the stream for the whole 4 days. So yeah Friday at 7 and it will all be over.
HG: Do you have plans to do this type of event again in the future?
P4J: Absolutely. We personally believe the stream and event has been a massive success, more than any of us actually had hoped for. We have had consistently about 150-200 viewers who have all been consistently active, we have created a community. We don't want the community to just end after 7pm Friday, we want it to continue. Plus we have had a lot of fun over the past few days and it would be great to be able to do this again.
HG: Have you though about other charities you could donate to next time?
P4J: No we haven't though about that yet, we will discuss possible charities in the future. We want to keep it game orientated, so we might aim to raise money for Child's Play next time.
HG: Will you play different games or is it going to be Pokemon again?
P4J: We discussed this earlier in chat. The general consensus was that Pokemon is the right game for this type of stream. We couldn't think of any other game that is as interactive as Pokemon has been, and if we lost that interactivity the stream would lose its appeal. Pokemon is our forte (Laughter).
HG: Thank you very much for your time guys.
P4J: Thank you.
If is fantastic to see gamers getting up and thinking of ways to raise money for Japan. Japan is a country that really hits home for many gamers, with a lot of lives being tied to Japan and its culture. At times like this, we really need people like Pokemon4Japan to be doing what they can to raise money.
I would like to thank the group for the hospitality i was given in my five-hour stint behind the scenes.
The stream finishes on Friday 7pm (BST) if you are interested head over to www.pokemon4life.co.uk to watch the stream and donate!