Do Some Good - Child's Play Charity Auction 2013 Mostly Fizzles (But It's Not Too Late to Help!)

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Child's Play Charity Auction 2013 You would think that a 10th anniversary would be cause to blow out an event that up until now has been as amazing as the Child's Play Charity auction dinner. We've attended every single one since the start (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012 - we didn't write up 2011), and this was our least favorite by far.

Now it would be hard to top last year for us, which included that impromptu Valve tour (photo gallery) thanks to an overachieving Valve employee who saw our prototype inflatable Wheatley win and offered to take us through the offices. We even met Jeri Ellsworth, now the mastermind behind the CastAR augmented reality glasses, who generously gave us her lemon grenade for our Portal-obsessed son. An official Valve tour this year went for $3,500 in the live auction!

But all that aside - we really didn't expect lightning of that sort to strike twice - this year's event was a bit of a snooze and seemed to vastly underperform in its intended task of raising mad money for Children's Hospitals around the world and - starting this year - domestic violence shelters as well.

Inflatable Companion Cube prototypeThe silent auction appeared to have retracted a little, though there were still lots of goodies to be had. There wasn't much that we were specifically interested in but we did manage to snag another Portal-themed inflatable prototype, the Companion Cube.

The main auction was the bigger disappointment. First, there was the change in hosts. Founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins didn't even make an appearance on stage to introduce the event, and their auctioneering skills were greatly missed. Scott Kurtz and Kris Straub were trying so hard up there, but just couldn't fill their shoes (or, on occasion, even remember the active bid amount).

The bigger tactical error was the lack of wine on the tables. Alcohol helps fuel the crazy bidding wars - if you can't get wine donated, it would be well worth the expense to boost the event's drama and resulting take. Long lines at the bar meant you had to choose between the auction or booze, and most seemed to stick to more sobering refreshments: water and coffee.

We also still believe that smaller token items that everyone can afford - like the music sampler offered for a $10 donation several years back - would also boost the numbers and provide everyone with a chance to contribute, even if the bigger items they wanted were bid outside of their budget. In the these days of digital game fulfillment, companies could donate codes for a minimum bid that equals or exceeds the cost of the title itself, particularly for prereleases. We'd have paid $20-30 for an advance code for Peggle 2, which launches next week on Xbox One and we've noticed is already getting passed around for free to personal friends and colleagues of PopCap employees. Missed opportunity.

Here are the highlights from the main auction:

  • Booker and Elizabeth statueOne of the nicer auction lots went for a song, at least by Child's Play standards. The life-sized Booker and Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite was won by PopCap Games for $5,800. In past years, we'd have seen such a prize go for $10,000 or higher.
  • A gold and diamond Pokeball pendant brought in $1,250.
  • Mike Krahulik's personal sketchbook landed $6,400. (Though, as we've learned, it was bought by his partner Jerry - so this was apparently just a bit of theater with the journal never actually in play.)
  • An personalized voicemail message by Nathan Fillion (aka Mal from Firefly) went for $6,000 to the top two bidders, becoming the biggest single fundraiser of the night with $12,000 total.
  • A Bungie studio tour that includes early access to the Destiny beta and other goodies landed $5,000.
  • How much would you pay for a complete set of Pinny Arcade pins? The winner took them for $6,000.
  • Being a character in a Patrick Rothfuss fantasy novel cost someone $8,000.
  • An employee-only white Xbox One that came with several bonuses including a character in the next Halo game based on the winner enticed a $7,900 winning bid.
  • The rare moment of drama played out when Mike Krahulik, sitting far back in the audience, bid $3,000 on the appearance in his own Penny Arcade strip - but it eventually closed out at $7,000 and brought an early end to the event. We were done before 9 p.m.

We didn't get a total at the end of the evening (they usually provide this!) but overall, going into the live auction, we learned that Child's Play has raised more than $20 million over the past decade and $2.5 million already this year, fueled largely by outside efforts including Humble Indie Bundles and Desert Bus. Here's hoping the next decade can maintain this momentum and continue to make a difference to children all over the world.

It's not too late to donate - check out the big map and see what your favorite Children's Hospital needs.

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This page contains a single entry by Gamewatcher published on December 6, 2013 12:54 PM.

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