It’s the start of a brand new year and what better way to start 2012 off than with some wonderful news? Child’s Play, the charity program run by renowned video game online comic, Penny Arcade, has raised $3,512,345 in the year 2011. In comparison, Child’s Play raised $2,294,317 the year prior for a sizable increase of over $600,000. This incredible act of charity and human decency will benefit children’s hospitals and is made possible by individuals or events like Ümloud, which brings gamers together to raise money for charity and have a little fun doing it.
Not familiar with Ümloud? Visit the official website, read my own personal retrospective on the event or check out our previous interview with co-founder John Seggerson from 2010. In short, Ümloud is an event where gamers get together to live out their Rock Band fantasies and perform onstage. There’s a lot of other things that make it wonderful, but it’s something that just has to be lived through to really get the full experience.
After the event and in the wake of the onslaught of holiday plans that plague the end of December, we reached out to John “Seg” Seggerson (co-founder for Ümloud, content programmer for Telltale Games) with a couple of questions to see what influenced some of the changes that went into the event and what the future holds for Ümloud.
Game Rant: What was the final take on donations after all was said and done?
John Seggerson: $26,523.85!
What changes were made to make the event go much more swimmingly?
After restructuring the committees this year, we were able to bring in more personnel to help with the organization.
Marcello Lagosh is our corporate relations head and brought more attention to our sponsors for the event. While it’s a team effort for our first-call for sponsors, Marcello is the one in charge of making the deals a reality. Having one person responsible for sponsor relations ensures that we’re not making conflicting promises within the organization. Marcello is also reaching out to a broader scope of sponsors to help make this organization grow.
This year I placed Sophie Hammett in charge of all things bands. Sophie was charged with giving proper customer service with each of the band members — over 120 people across 28 bands — in making sure performances went smoothly. Last year, bands who had problems didn’t know who to talk to. This year we were explicitly clear that Sophie was the proper channel to fix problems. With one event under her belt, she’s got a lot more ideas to make band packages even better next year.
The third new addition to the Ümloud! family is Charles Van Dyke, head of volunteers. His work this year turned around how we worked with our volunteer crew. He made sure we had proper coverage of all the positions, allowing people to take breaks, proper management structure, etc. My stress level for the night was significantly reduced due to well informed personnel who gave proper coverage to the event.
I’m pointing out the new people, but the continued work of the other year-long staff are all key factors to the success of Ümloud! now and for years to come.
The presence in the local community has grown exponentially from the first event. How will you be accommodating for much larger numbers? DNA Lounge is great, but it won’t be able to hold everyone.
It helps that DNA Lounge is expanding! The owner of DNA Lounge, Jamie Zawinski, got the building next door to expand the lounge into. DNA Pizza is up and running 24/7 on the ground floor and I’ve spent many Sundays working on Ümloud! there. The upstairs of that building will contain more of the venue proper, breaking part of the wall between the buildings and adding roughly 2,500 sq feet. Right now they’re going though all the permits and government fun times, so we don’t know if that will be available to us next December.
Ümloud! is still at in the < 1000 people class and we have a very good relationship with DNA Lounge. There isn’t a compelling reason to change venues.
Obviously, there’s been a lot of attention drawn to the event with the GameSpot streaming and MadCatz sponsoring. Any ideas to expand on the event or would that take too much away from the core?
The Big Show will be a once a year event. We have a long way to go as an organization if we’re to do other cities, if ever. The time of year also works for a number of people flying out to attend the show as flights between Thanksgiving and the Winter holidays are usually cheeper.
That said, we are looking to have smaller, different events under the Ümloud! banner. It’s way too early in planning stages to talk about it, but we are working on different kinds of events for Ümloud! and more ways to rock out for Child’s Play Charity.
Favorite parts of the show this year?
On the day of the show, there’s this building crescendo as I work to get everything ready. Usually I don’t reach the point of realizing the event is happening till about 30 minutes after doors open. This year with the pre-show my realization point happened much earlier. At my interview with Jon Carnage, I looked out past the camera and to everything happening at the venue, realizing that it’s all falling into place and I could let go of it for the most part. You can even see this point in the interview. That’s the point where the event volunteers run the show. I’m just there to put out fires.
What’s in store for the future of the event?
- Headliner Band Program
We’re going to change is the headliner band program. When Sophie was brought in, she offered some ideas for the program before this year’s eBay auction, but we couldn’t implement this year. I’ll share what we’re thinking, but this isn’t set in stone. We’d love to have feedback about this too!
Even before we started this year’s eBay auction for headliner, we knew it would be the last year as an eBay auction. Instead, we’ll be looking into a fundraising program. Bands interested in being a headliner will present a media package to us answering the question: “Why should your band headline?” Then between 3-5 bands get their own page on the site… with a donation button. Most money raised by a deadline wins headliner status. Bands that run for but don’t get headliner will get some form of perks, just don’t know what that is yet.
The basic packages we normally do will still happen, so don’t worry about that!
For the broadcast, it was certainly the first year and with a modest viewership. Now that we have professional recordings of bands, we can better showcase the stream for next year. The AV Society was absolutely wonderful in providing the broadcast services to us pro-bono and the help from GameSpot and USTREAM was key to getting it out the door.
Jon Carnage, Wesley Ruscher and Rob Roberts were absolutely wonderful with the pre-show! Next year we hope to expand the show further and work on more ways to engage the viewing audience.
- New Staffing
The show has grown and we need more people to help with the organization year-round. We’ll be adding more positions with the organization. We’re first going to start with upper-level management with rolls. From there we’ll be going for other positions that go beyond the on-site event. They should be posted in late January on our blog/Twitter/Facebook and other channels.
Did you ever anticipate the event growing as much as it has in a relatively short amount of time?
In regards to getting people to perform bands, after our first year it didn’t surprise me. Performing a rock show using Rock Band is an untapped nerve. I don’t think we’d have a shortage of bands performing. Still, selling out the band packages in less than four hours was a very welcomed shock!
For our attendance numbers, the growth is purely from word of mouth. I say this because press coverage was even smaller this year than previous years. This is due to a number of factors that we’ll be dealing with as an organization, but I can not stress the importance of people getting friends to come to the show. It is the primary driver for participating in this event.
Feel free to add any other information you want to share. Again, I had a blast and am looking forward to next year!
Videos and images are still being uploaded and processed, but you can nab them from the blog post showing the number and at our YouTube page.
The event has grown a considerable amount in only a year. For an example: All 15 Ultimate Band Packages sold within 3 hours of being announced in 2011, in 2010, all 15 were sold in just under a week and a half. Not just limited in popularity, Ümloud 2011 also increased the amount of donation from the $11,000+ it was in 2010 by more than double. Yes, even in troubled economic times, we all have a little more room to give.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait another 12 months before the next event, which we expect to continue growing.
Seg’s right though, anyone who’s played Rock Band had inevitably fantasized about being a rock star. Events like Ümloud make both that particular fantasy come true while being able to give something significant to those are in need of aid. However, you don’t need to have huge events like Ümloud to make a difference. Donations for Child’s Play are taken year round, whether given by the individual or raised by various online events like the Mario Marathon or Desert Bus For Hope that also take place throughout the year.
Rock Band 3 got re-released late last year for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii.