It is having fun for a good cause. That's it. If you were expecting something more complicated, sorry, but I like keeping things simple.
Don't get me wrong, part of the mission is, like many people think, about raising money for charity. That is after all, what I'm contracted to do for the Prevent Cancer Foundation with the next Awesome Games Done Quick, and that is definitely a large part of my job. To say otherwise would be lying.
However, there are some people who think it's solely about raising money for the charity, but I think that ignores why people attend the marathon in the first place.
There are three reasons:
1. It's fun.
No one would come to a Games Done Quick event if it isn't fun. People attend the marathons because they enjoy them. Whether it's being able to play a game on stage, commentate, help out backstage, just hang out with friends and play games together off-camera, or do teh urn dance, almost everyone finds something to do that they either enjoy or feel good contributing to the event. If people really thought the marathons were not fun, then they wouldn't attend.
I've seen a couple of people saying (or at least implying) that when it's about raising money for the charity, it somehow becomes less fun or isn't fun anymore, but I've never seen anyone go, "well shucks, we hit $100,000, better stop having fun." There's nothing that says you can't have fun while raising money for charity, and if anything, hitting goals seems to add more energy to the room. People are pumped up and motivated when goals are hit.
Sure, there are a couple of restrictions, like you can't drop f-bombs, but there's nothing saying you can't have fun while raising money for charity.
2. Community meetup.
The marathon is a great chance for speedrunning communities to meet up in person and either talk about their shared interest in speedrunning or just shoot the shit. Normally we can maybe meet 5 other people in person outside of the marathon if we're lucky, but the marathon brings everyone together.
Not everyone attends a marathon to raise money for charity, or even to play a game, but almost everyone attends to hang out and meet like-minded people or watch great speedruns. I can't think of too many other places where you can mention sequence breaks and people won't be scratching their heads.
3. The money is going to greater causes.
Since the money is going to charity, the event feels more special. It just feels good donating to a good cause such as the Prevent Cancer Foundation (PCF), especially when you get to hear personal stories from donors, and when you know the money goes towards a good charity. For example, PCF helped fund research for the HPV vaccine.
Honestly, if the money we raised was just going to Speed Demos Archive, or an individual, then it wouldn't have quite the same feeling, and it wouldn't feel like we were uniting for a greater cause.
If no one had fun and wanted to meet together to have a good time and raise money for charity, then the marathons wouldn't happen. It would just be one sad lonely dude on a couch playing a game, instead of the fun, laidback, "dudes on a couch" feel while raising money for a good cause.
P.S. Sorry for the late post, but I was attending Chicagothon last week. Now that I'm back, I should be posting more regularly.