So we had our big fundraiser for the Videogame Archive last night and I figured I should post something about it while the memories were fresh in my mind.
I can’t speak to the event’s success at actually raising money for the archive (not being privy to that sort of information, at least not yet). However, if you were one of the attendees, you already know — as entertaining evenings go, the event rocked.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous as the evening began. It poured buckets in Austin in the hours before the event was scheduled to start, and continued to rain off and on throughout the night… at our outdoor event… on Richard Garriott’s unpaved property. Let’s just say it was muddy. The amazing thing? No one seemed to care.
That was partly because The Center for American History and University of Texas folks who did all the heavy lifting to make the event happen were organized, prepared and had backup plans for backup plans, so people weren’t inconvenienced TOO much by the weather. But more than that, I think everyone was excited at the legitimacy the event brought to gaming. I mean, this is a major university saying “Videogames are important.” And on top of that, the event brought an incredibly diverse group of people together, which is always entertaining. And there were some crazy “Zero G Mojitos,” whatever those are — I can’t really say, other than to point out that they’re highly intoxicating, which probably helped keep everyone’s spirits up as they got soaked!
Anyway, hundreds of people showed up to hang out, hear what was going on with the archive, play arcade games, eat terrific food, listen to terrific music from a band made up of game developers (and they were really good, despite that). There were a bunch of press folks with video crews talking to folks. The speeches were short (always a good thing!). And, oh man, was the auctioneer a pro — he had folks bidding on stuff like nobody’s business, so I know we raised SOME money for the archive. There were arcade games (including a VERY original old pong game, sent by Ralph Baer himself — Google him if you don’t recognize the name — that was as much fun as any game on the market today).
The high points for me were the sight of university types mingling with gamers… local philanthropists side by side with playtesters… movie people talking to game designers… Personally, I had a fine old time talking to Joe Garrity, the Origin Museum guy (he’s the Good Kind of Fan), along with a fellow I hadn’t met before, Stephen Emond, who’s written a book called “Ultima: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide” that has to be the most comprehensive history of the Ultima series I can imagine. I have to get a copy!
Really, though, I have to say the Auction was the biggest blast of all. There were so many great items available, and people really got into the spirit of the thing and bid way higher than I expected, being the cynic I am… Richard Garriott auctioned off a complete set of Ultima games from his personal stash, including (one of only 20 copies of) Akalabeth, the one Ultima-ish game I don’t own, darn it! THAT went for a ton of money, let me tell you, to one of the guys who made Red Vs. Blue, I think. Oh, and of course there was the little bidding war I got into with Lord British himself (whose bank account is just a WEE bit bigger than mine…) for possession of a collage of Denis Loubet artwork from Ultima Underworld. I HAD to own it and did, in fact, win — but only because Richard was being nice to me… It was that kind of evening.
Anyway, I realize this doesn’t really tell you much about the event, but I’m not a reporter. With luck one of the journalists who was there will post something more informative. I just figured I should post my impressions and have now done so.