WASECA — It's dangerous to play "Mario Kart" early in a long video game session. The zany racing game has been known to cause fights and ruin friendships.
Yet a group of almost 20 teens weren't fazed by the challenge at Waseca Public Library Saturday morning. Nor did they shy away from "Overwatch," "Minecraft," "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess," "Xenogears," "Pokemon," and all the other options they had to play.
This was all part of the library's fourth time participating in Extra Life, an annual 24-hour gameathon in which participants across the United States raise money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. This year, teens will play video and board games from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday — about 25 hours in all, counting Daylight Savings Time.
"We get teens in the library, they're showing some positive activism and outreach outside of our community, and they're getting to do something they enjoy," said Matthew White, lead librarian at Waseca Public Library.
This is White's fourth year putting on an Extra Life event in Waseca, but he's done gameathons at libraries for the past eight years. A teen advisory board came up with the idea of participating in Extra Life at a library in Park Falls, Wisconsin, and White has brought the event with him every year since.
Waseca's Extra Life event raised almost $1,300 as of 1 p.m. Saturday, close to its goal of $1,500. A majority of that money will go to Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul.
"Chidren's hospitals are dear to me, because I spent almost a week at a hospital (at 5 years old), and I can't imagine anyone spending more than that," said Bella Overholt, a sophomore at Waseca High School.
Overholt has participated in all four years of Extra Life at Waseca Public Library. This year, she raised $325 for Extra Life.
"I'm very good at guilt-tripping my relatives," she said with a laugh. "I'm not ashamed of it, because it's for a good cause."
Michael Aragon, a junior at Waseca High School, has been part of three Extra Life events at the library. He said he comes back with his friends each year because of how fun it is to play games for 24 hours straight for charity.
That's an important aspect for library staff, even though people wouldn't normally associate video games with libraries. Yet Waseca, like many libraries around the country, is embracing technology as a way to get the community connected. Case in point: Waseca Public Library bought a Nintendo Switch to use for this year's event.
"This is part of the mission of libraries," White said. "This is community outreach, this is engaging teens with the libraries, and some of these teens have been repeat attenders at some of the other events at the library because of this."