Well-known left-wing YouTuber hbomberguy was in the middle of streaming a multi-day Donkey Kong marathon on Twitch when the whole thing went down.
Benjamin West | January 29, 2019
Twitch.tv: Where (mostly) young white men go to watch other (mostly) young white men play video games. Home to Ninja, Shroud, and other millionaire online stars just a half-skip away from childhood. And of course, Twitch chat: A hivemind sidebar spouting a whirlwind of memes, degrading humor, and general lawlessness.
But on the afternoon of January 18, all of this was about to change. A British YouTuber booted up Nintendo’s 1999 release, Donkey Kong 64, intending to play through the entire game nonstop, taking donations all the while, and give all funds raised to a charity offering aid and resources to young people with gender dysphoria.
What was intended to be somewhat jokey weekend raising an estimated $5,000 ended up a massively successful 58 hour marathon — two nearly-sleepless nights, nearly $350,000 raised, and a visit from New York Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Harry Brewis, or Hbomberguy, is part of Youtube’s “Left Tube” community. On his Twitch bio, he describes himself as “a YouTuber who pretends to know media theory and how to debunk pseudoscience,” (his Youtube bio simply reads: “Internet?”). He’s tackled flat earthers, queerness in the context of a bad H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, and even a long-winded analysis of CTRL + ALT + DEL, the online comic that gave us the “Loss” meme.
In his analysis of video game speedrunning in August, Brewis announced he would complete Donkey Kong 64, a game notoriously difficult and taking some serious players upwards of 15 hours to complete, in one sitting. He also announced that all donations would go towards charity, though he didn’t immediately specify which.
“So finally some good can come out of Donkey Kong 64 — because certainly no fun has come out of it,” he said.
Cut to the event’s formal announcement on January 14. The date was set for January 18, 8:30 p.m. UK time, 3:30 p.m. our time. Brewis knew he would fall asleep. He knew he would have to eat. But by no means would the clock stop until the credits rolled. This is also when the selected charity was announced: Mermaids, a UK charity group dedicated to bringing resources and community to children and young adults with gender dysphoria.
“Transgender and gender variant children and young people need support and understanding, and freedom to explore their gender identity whatever the outcome,” reads a statement on the Mermaids website. ”Mermaids is committed to helping them and their families to navigate the challenges that they may face, and to provide a sense of community.”
Brewis reportedly chose Mermaids because, after they were designated funding by Britain’s national lottery, UK comedian Graham Linehan encouraged his supporters to mass-email the lottery in protest, leading the funding to be placed under review.
“You have a massive audience, and the power to choose to fight for progress in all the many forms we need in the world right now, and you used it to make sure some children won’t have access to helpful resources,” Brewis said to Linehan in a video.
For longer than two straight days and nights, Brewis collected bananas, boss keys, and battle crowns. All the while he entertained a number of guests, many of them transgender, including YouTuber Natalie Wynn (Contrapoints), activist Chelsea Manning, and musician Nat Puff, who records under the name Left at London.
The ups and downs of the “nightmare stream” are too extensive to list here, but a redditor called /u/Desdam0na lays out the entire event beautifully in this post. Some highlights include voice of Donkey Kong Grant Kirkhope saying “trans rights” in the Donkey Kong voice, and viewers keeping the stream from being shut down after Brewis fell asleep by donating money with text-to-speech voiceover enabled. This resulted in the majority of the content while Brewis was asleep being “socialism quotes and anime memes.”
After 27 hours, Brewis noticed more than $75,000 had been raised. He briefly stopped playing and began to cry.
But what had to be the greatest moment of the entire stream came 50 hours in, with a call from freshman New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Brewis was visibly tired, but sprang to life with a fanboy sort of kick.
“I committed so much voter fraud for you,” Brewis joked with a huge smile on his face. Over 11 minutes, Ocasio-Cortez answered a few questions and voiced her support for the trans community.
“It’s a no brainer, trans rights are civil rights, are human rights,” she said. “Really what I think we have to reassert is that when we say that equal rights for all, we mean equal rights for all, no asterisks, exceptions, fine print, nothing.”
Ocasio-Cortez said that trans-positive policy is much bigger than a single issue, like her recent suggestion of a 70 percent top marginal tax rate, and that it needs to be the result of a larger shift in the public mindset, something that has her energy and full support.
She also reminisced about playing video games as a child, and, to the excitement of the bubbling twitch chat, called the Nintendo 64 “probably the best system out of all of them.”
About seven hours later, Brewis knocked out the final boss and completed what might be the slowest run in Donkey Kong 64 speedrunning history. But the donations weren’t slowing down, and he fell asleep once again with the stream still running.
When the channel finally clicked offline, donations totaled somewhere north of $340,000, an excellent end to a heartfelt, emotional extended weekend. But stay tuned — the event was so successful, it’s happening again next year.
Watch Ocasio-Cortez’s appearance on the Twitch stream in full below:
Top Photo via Facebook