Nite to Unite

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I want to post something enlightening and insightful here today, but instead I’ll just write up a quick report of Tuesday night’s “Nite to Unite” event. The Nite to Unite is a black-tie-optional charity event which has been thrown by the Entertainment Software Association every year for the past seven years or so. I’ve gone to the past four, and although I always love the idea of going, usually they’re not really all that fun. This year, however, was different! It was held at the Westin St. Francis, just off of Union Square in San Francisco.
Basically the Nite to Unite is an event to get together a lot of publisher and retailer bigwigs (and a few developer bigwigs) for a huge party and charity auction, and all the proceeds go toward children’s groups such as the Starbright Foundation. Why do only a few developers go? Well, it’s pretty frickin’ expensive: Tables for ten for dinner come in three price brackets: $5000, $10000, and $15000. The more you spend, the closer to the stage you get. Usually these tables are purchased by folks who have generous amounts of cash, and these usually aren’t developers. However, the past few years have seen increasing numbers of developers in attendance, which makes me very happy. Seems that some of the publishers are using the event as a reward for their developers: a practice that I’d like to thoroughly endorse. This year I saw Lorne Lanning, Chris Charla, Mike Mika, Andrew Ayre, Phil Shenk, Tim Schafer, Chris Scholz (okay, Shaba is owned by Activision), um, um, and a lot of other people I don’t remember because the wine was pretty tasty. πŸ™‚
The honoree for the evening was Bing Gordon, who apparently is a really nice and great guy. I’ve never actually talked to the man, but from the speeches of his that I’ve read, and the crazy videos they showed last night, I have to admit he doesn’t seem like a man that is full of himself because he helped create a videogame colossus. Rather, he seems like a kid who has refused to grow up, who is an absolute silly, geeky, gamer dork that loves his life and loves playing with his kids and wife. I respect that. πŸ™‚
Anyway, the MC for the evening was Dana Carvey, who was hilarious. He did the standard sorts of introductions etc, but also did some long stand-up bits that had me rolling on the floor. He does very excellent impressions of Bush and Kerry – and to get a liberal San Francisco audience laughing about Kerry takes some work, so you know he must have been good. πŸ™‚ But the capper of the evening was Robin Williams, who is apparently a friend of Bing’s. Robin lives here in San Francisco, so it was easy for him to come to the event (he’s a huge game fan apparently.) Robin introduced Bing with – perhaps ten minutes of absolute off-the-cuff improv about Bing Gordon the superhero, Cling Gordon the porn star, some jokes about Kim Jung Il, and so on and so on. And he did it all in that I’m-not-going-to-stop-for-a-breath whoosh of hilarity that he’s known for. He was an absolute whirlwind, and I was just dying. I hope someone recorded that! If they did I’ll put up a link when it pops up.
Anyway. After dinner lots of folks went out to the Clift for drinks, but Laura Ford (my good friend and one of our excellent SCEA account managers/coordinators) and I decided to call it a day so that we wouldn’t be too abused for work in the morning. I ran into a zillion other folks I knew on my way out, unlike previous years when the crowd was mostly folks I didn’t recognize. So I think the industry must be doing pretty well. Lots of money to spend apparently, and hey, it’s all tax-deductible!
Thanks, ESA!
Apologies for the lack of pictures… as I said, um, the wine was pretty good! (See? I don’t work ALL the time. πŸ™‚ )