cullen plays live for gamesaid: the last of us remastered – “it can’t be for nothing”

Turns out it wasn’t.

tlou 2

Well, that happened.

I’ve said enough – and at this point, done enough – on The Last of Us that conveys how much I love it so. Naughty Dog went and made a game that not only met my expectations, but exceeded them in perhaps the biggest way possible that describing how it was done is impossible (it sounds a lot like hyperbole admittedly, but it’s true).

It, along with the Eurogamer thing afterwards, made me rediscover my love for games after a year-and-a-bit where I was fighting some really bad crap in my life (I’m not going to publically disclose the full story, but if you know me, come find me – I might tell you the story privately) and which saw me start to lose my love for games previously.

Since either the end of last year or the start of this current one (I can’t remember exactly when), I wanted to do something to celebrate the anniversary of the game really badly. So around April time, I pitched a thing to numerous outlets in the hope of writing an article about it and then hopefully going to Sony to ask for a interview with Neil Druckmann and Bruce Straley.

Unfortunately, the outlets I pitched it to turned it away because they already had a semblance of what they had planned for Remastered or they had just written too much on TLOU at the time. I think I can get away with saying one of those outlets was Official PlayStation Magazine UK. I think I can say that because, as it turned out, it all ended well. But I’ll come back to that.

Needless to say I was disappointed, as it was something I was chomping on the bit to do for the anniversary. So I decided to think up a second way to try and celebrate the game, how I felt about it. And then, it dawned on me: a 24-hour livestream, for charity. And who better to do it for then GamesAid, a charity I’d been thinking of doing something for for a long while. So originally, I was going to go for it in June on the anniversary. But E3 was the week of the anniversary and, to be honest, I was worried it wouldn’t nearly get as much attention as it would if it weren’t E3. So I brought it forward to May.

But what would be the point? It’d just be less of an anniversary and more a random date of a 24-hour livestream. I thought it’d be best to hold off until Remastered came out and wait until there was a date confirmed before I announced it. Date was announced at E3 and a few weeks later, I was finally able to announce the stream for the game’s release.

However, a few days earlier, I got an email from Matthew Pellet of Official PlayStation Magazine UK on the email thread we’d sent one another a few months earlier. He was coming back to me from my earlier pitch back in April, asking me if I was interested in doing something for a thing he was working on. There was no specifics at the time, just something was happening. It could have been a piece describing how much I loved the game, it could have been a contribution on a wider piece.

Days after I announced the livestream, I got the news on what I’d be doing for Matt.

“Sony has agreed to let us do a phone interview with Neil D[ruckmann]…”

Cue an almighty reaction not too dissimilar to the one I had when Martin Robinson of Eurogamer ok’ed my Jennifer Hale pitch of stomping my feet, shouting yes over and over again in quick succession over the house whilst my dog started going nuts at me thinking something bad was happening (after calming down, I remember sending Matt this video that expressed my reaction).

A few weeks later, I spoke to Neil on the phone on the game for the magazine. The remit was looking back at the game’s legacy as part of a feature the magazine was doing: The Last of Us was voted by OPM readers as the greatest PlayStation game of all time. And while I was somewhat annoyed I didn’t get more than enough time – understandable, but at the same time, there was so much to ask that the 30 minutes I was given was a bit frustrating too – putting the piece together was a labour of love because it’s a game I care about a lot.

This weekend’s livestream was also a labour of love, but towards the end, it almost felt like hard labour.

“I struggled for a long time with streaming. And… no matter what, you keep finding something to stream for”

I was nervous and jittery as I went on air. At least from the outset, you wouldn’t be able to tell it mostly from my voice, but if you were in the room, you definitely would have noticed how nervous I was. I was nervous on whether I could go the full distance. I could have easily chucked it in at any point I wanted to – and trust me, there were times where I was tempted to – were it not for the fact I was doing it for a great cause and a great charity in GamesAid.

By the time the stream was a few hours in, about six or seven hours in at the start of Autumn, I was starting to find my groove – so to speak – and by the end of the main story, I was starting to find my second wind as it seemed like I was start to flag a little in the hospital in the game’s finishing area.

It was multiplayer, though, that did the real number on me. For the first four or five hours, I was still flagging, but had enough in me to keep going. But towards 9 or 10am, I could really feel it starting to come on to the point around that period, for about 20-30 minutes, I felt like I had passed out.

At that point, I was almost tempted to call a halt to proceedings for my well-being. I was feeling unwell both physically and mentally, I was starting to lose a grip of time and my sanity was slipping. As well as that, I had reached my target just after I started, I had achieved that, so what was the point in going on? Plus, I didn’t have much of a support circle on Twitch chat at the time.

Then I go on Twitter and see this tweet.

All of a sudden, and this feels very stupid to say, I feel a spark, telling me to snap the fuck out of it and keep pushing on. I’m four hours from the end, but I still need a good set of folks on me to help get me through to the end. This is when the tweets and RTs start pouring in.

It was three tweets (plus RTs), but those three tweets were enough to give me a kick in the backside to get me going again. They kept me going for a good while and it was when I saw my former boss, Pat Garratt, in the chat, I knew I now had enough of a third wind in me to keep going up until Left Behind, at which point, I knew I would make it to the end.

And lo, I did. I was bitterly close to calling it quits. But lo and behold, I went and did it. I not only went 24-hours in playing my favorite game of all time, I surpassed my fundraising target in doing so by the end substantially.

So what is the point of all this rambling nonsense? There is none, I just wanted to jot down my thoughts on what happened over the weekend. But I also want to express so much how proud I am for being able to see it through, having been so close to pulling the plug, and how grateful I am for all your support, all your donations, spreading the word and watching the stream and rooting me on.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this UK games industry. You have no idea how much I love the people in it, what we can do when we put our minds to it and how we can excel at it. I will never, ever be able to express how grateful and thankful I am to be part of this lovely family.

I am so proud to have raised, as of writing this, £644.65 for GamesAid. I expected £500, but I didn’t expect to exceed it in such a big way. Donations are still open between now and sometime at the start of September, so if you feel like I did enough to warrant one, you can head to the JustGiving page here. Not to say £600-odd isn’t great, it is bloody great. But I know there’s still more we can do to donate to GamesAid. So please, even if all you can chuck in is a fiver, please do so.


(I apologise if this last bit is very ‘mememe’, but I want to write this)

Just before I interviewed Neil Druckmann for Official PlayStation Magazine UK, I discovered the issue of the mag that would contain the interview would come out on the Friday of the stream. That was a bit of an awesome moment for me, to be honest.

As much as I love streaming games, I am a writer of games first and foremost and it’s something I love doing more than anything else in my life that I want to do it for the rest of my life, if possible. It’s not the first time my writing and streaming has kind of come together – I did a MGS: Ground Zeroes walkthrough for VG247 published the day it came out in the US and did a livestream later that evening – but I would say this is the first time that the two have meshed in such a big way.

Buying the digital edition of the mag on the morning of the stream and then seeing that piece – my first real substantial article in print – was a brilliant feeling for me.

And then with the stream itself, I had a lot of support from all corners on Facebook and Twitter. Way way too many to name (but I will specifically give a shout-out to Team GamesAid – and in particular John Houlihan, Jack Masterson and Andy Payne – for getting the word out), but you have my undying gratitude and thanks for now until the end of time.

Hours after the stream ended, I got a tweet. It was someone telling the OPM Twitter (and eventually me) she had read my Last of Us feature, saying how deeply she enjoyed the article. You have no idea how much I appreciated that sentiment.

Again, what’s the point to this? After everything I’d been through, writing the feature on The Last of Us for Official PlayStation Magazine UK and then going on to stream it for 24 hours and managing to finish it with the amount of support I had, it can’t be for nothing.

As it turned out, considering that £644 was raised for GamesAid and that I had done justice writing for a videogame I clearly care about so, so, so much – even if it’s just one person – it wasn’t for nothing.

(That last bit was a play on a piece of dialogue in the game, it wasn’t actually that arduous – well, maybe except the final few hours of the stream)

Thank you so much for watching, donating and spreading the word of the stream over the weekend. And thank you so much for reading my words on The Last of Us. I can only hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together and writing it. For both, you have no idea how eternally grateful I am.

PS: I grabbed the final fifteen minutes of the live-stream which consisted of the longest list of thank yous in all of mankind. I put it up on YouTube and have put it in below. You’ll forgive me if I sound out of it, exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed (and surprised) that I managed to do it.

I’ll let the video do most of the talking, but I want to say again – even though the video will do it for me a lot anyways – from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much.

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