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Playing WoW for charity: Interview with the WoWathon team


The gamers who are playing WoW, marathon-style, for charity are still streaming their mega-leveling session over on Ustream. Thanks to fellow gamers and readers like you, they are getting close to have surpassed their goal of $5000 in order to stay playing until they get level 80. Every penny of the donations goes to Child's Play, the Penny-Arcade charity for helping sick kids in children's hospitals.

The WoWathon team are leveling, chatting, eating, singing -- living their lives on the internet for your viewing pleasure and hopefully your donations. They are also, unbelievably, being griefed while questing and trolled in chat. Unflappable, these Gamers for Good continue their quest to help raise money for an excellent cause -- sometimes with Blizzard GMs as guardian angels.

They took time out after reaching level 40 and even woke up one of their team (Thank you, Alex!) to answer my interview questions:

Who are the members of your team and what are their roles?
The members of the WoWathon team have expanded past the marathoners themselves. These marathoners consist of three college students from southern California who were inspired by Mario Marathon to use the gamers and fans themselves and mobilize them towards a good cause. We are Alex Guerrera, Kelly Mayfield, and Jacob Reynolds and we represent the core team who are leveling these toons. Our team has also expanded into supporting roles, with our friends EB, Elyse, and Janet helping us function in the physical world by cleaning and feeding us. In the game world, Nicolleta, Hike, Livetogame, and Mrs Snarky have helped us moderate our chat channels and prevent things from getting too out of hand.

No login information is changing hands, but are you jumping on each other's characters to stagger sleep breaks?
We are tag team leveling because we believe that it would be physically damaging (and maybe even impossible) to level from 1 to 80. We're taking 16-hour leveling shifts and 8-hour sleeping shifts in order to spread the load out and keep ourselves functioning. We do have things that come up (like work and school) and we have friends that we're prepared to call if we can't handle the load. But we've been able to handle it so far.

What characters are you playing?
We're playing an Enhancement Draenei Shaman named Childs and a Frost Draenei Mage named Playe. Both of these are on the PVE server Bronzebread.

Are you grouping with your fans or mostly playing by yourselves?
We've been grouping with fans since the beginning starting with a mage, Bumbledore, running up to us next to the Exodar. People have been nice enough to run us through instances and harder quests so that leveling isn't impossible when we're being griefed. They've been very kind and we wouldn't have been able to ding as far as we have without them. A few people we'd like to personally thank are Bumbledore, Laughtrez, Nicolleta, Hike, and Fornicster. Their continued support has made it possible to get to the level we have achieved.

What about your marathon has been unexpected?
We were actually surprised that we have had so many harassers and even a few hackers. The most surprising thing was most likely the overwhelming support we have gotten from so many people from servers other than our own. We never expected to have raised $3000+ by 60 hours and gotten so much publicity, like being featured on Ustream and even!

Have you set a deadline for getting $5000? Or is it just that you have to reach that goal before getting to 70?
$5000 is actually the deadline we have to get to level 80. We set up certain goals that corresponded to different amounts of money donated to the charity. If we made $1000, we were going to continue to level 60. If we had made $2000 before we hit level 60, we were going to continue to level 70. Our final goal is $5000, which if met before we hit 70 will ensure that we continue on to level 80.

Are there minimum or maximum donations?
There is no set amount to what people must donate. We have gotten donations as low as $1 and one donation that was $500.

How are people griefing you? I didn't think that was possible on a PvE server before now.
We were actually very surprised with how creative they were being in order to harass us on a PVE server. People would roll Death Knights and get them high enough to get them out of the starting area. They would then add us to their friends list to constantly see where we were. Once there, they would follow us on mounts and kill everything in the area, making sure we didn't get anything that we needed to kill. It has resulted in us only being able to do instances for experience with the assistance of higher-level toons running us. But we've reported them to the GMs and hopefully the matter will be taken care of.

What will you be doing during the server downtime?
During downtime we will be doing dramatic readings. Kelly will be reading some passages from her accounting book in order to do some homework, Jacob will be reading the entirety of Call of Cthulhu, and Alex will be reading various works of (bad) fanfiction. Hopefully this will be able to keep people entertained long enough to stay with us through downtime (and maybe patch 3.2?).

Kelly, the fanboys are smitten with you. How do you like the attention?
I don't know about smitten. I think the three of us have gotten our share of good and bad attention. My favorite way of dealing with it is to retort with "No u r hawt" repeatedly as a citing of my alliance when I played Guild Wars way back when. Admittedly, it's a bit unnerving, but if people have nice things to say and aren't vulgar, it's not really a problem. I at least hope that the three of us are breaking stereotypes by proving that gamers are social, functioning, and normal people (outside of marathons of course).

Are you doing this again next year?
During the marathon there have been many requests to do this again next year. We are seriously considering it, seeing as how Mario Marathon was able to make $30,000 their second year around. If we were to do it again, we would most likely do PvP, just to see the hilarity that ensues if we have a walking battleground following the characters. We'll be rolling Horde, of course, to give our opposing faction some love.

Are there any other things you would like to say to our readers?
We would like to thank everyone for their continued support throughout the good and the bad. We couldn't have done it without all of you and it is the people that truly make this marathon as awesome as it has been. Any further support, such as donations, publicity, or even telling your friends would be much appreciated.

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