Bungie's Big Gphoria Adventure
A few weeks ago, delegates from Bungie Studios embarked on a journey to the City of Angels to partake in the latest of videogame award shows, G4's Gphoria. Marty O'Donnell, Jay Weinland, Frankie and myself all got gussied up to attend this high profile celebrity laden event to represent Halo 2, which was nominated for seven awards (a coincidence?) If you get the G4 network, you can watch the awards show tonight at 8pm ET/PT (the pre-show starts at 7:30). However, if you want the inside scoop on Gphoria from Bungie's perspective, read on for my recap and reflections as well as a slew of photos I managed to sneak in when the security guards weren't looking. Frankie also shares his thoughts about celebs, hoopla and reality stars.
The Bungie "fab foursome" left SEA-TAC airport on Wednesday morning – Marty, Jay and I got last minute seats on United (coach) while Frankie sipped cocktails in his first class accommodations on an Alaska flight (jerk.) We all met up at the Standard hotel in downtown LA – a very chic and pretentious NY style hotel that tries really hard to impress with its minimalist modern designs and odd accents (see for yourself at their site.) It was actually pretty cool, not exactly a place I'd call "cozy", but it felt very glam and the rooftop bar is like no other. Admittedly it was a bit much for poor Marty who felt uncomfortable in this young hip environment. Though, I agree that a vertical scrolling marquee that displays information about embolisms and death statistics is kind of… weird.
Later that day we were greeted by an army of PR personnel – one from Microsoft and several from a local agency. Their mission – keep us out of trouble, make sure we're in the right places at the right time and above all, prevent Marty from spilling internal secrets. It was star treatment from the very beginning as we were greeted by a limo after a nice dinner on the terrace. As we pulled up to the VIP entrance at the show, we mocked the common folk through dark tinted windows as we finished off our complimentary beverages. For the record, a limo is a requirement for arriving at any awards show.
The "show" itself was held outside and was much more of a huge block party than any type of conventional presentation. Several streets were blocked off behind the G4 studios and a mob of people crowded around the "black carpet" entry way (apparently the hipper, edgier equivalent of the red carpet.) Upon arriving we were greeted by our official G4 "wranglers" – interns who were assigned to shadow our every movement and ensure that we were present and on time for our commitments (special shout out to "Jess", best wrangler evar!) It was kind of weird having a handler but it proved to be a fun mini game as we continuously tried to shake them throughout the night. They were good though, real good. Except for a small stretch when Marty was MIA, we could never escape their watchful eye.
You have to imagine that this entire process is very surreal – I mean, we're basically nerds who work in a small crappy office in Redmond, WA and make games. Now here we are riding in limos, fighting back paparazzi and rubbing elbows with celebrities. Personally, it was very exciting to see just how mainstream videogames have become and how much the hard work of the entire team has made an impact on the industry as well as the lives of so many people.
The walk down the carpet was insane. Our PR chaperones led us through the mob of photographers and reporters, jumping from one "op" to the next. It was crazy watching various agents fight for their "talent" to get face time with various media people…mostly people who nobody really recognized or knew. Along the way we stopped to talk with a bunch of people – more than I can even remember – though the biggest of the bunch was our brief appearance on Access Hollywood. At one point we all got verbally abused by an angry mob of paparazzi for failing to realize we were walking through the background of a photo shoot with an unknown very attractive female. These guys really are as scary and intense as they are made out to be – I don't know how Marty deals with that on a regular basis. Admittedly, we would spend the majority of the night asking each other "who is that?" as we weren't all that familiar with many of the celebrity attendees.
For the next few hours we mingled amongst a huge crowd of game industry personnel (almost all of which seem to know Frankie and/or have worked with him at a prior job.) There were stations set up with demos of various games, including some hands-on with new Xbox 360 titles. Retro-pop-punk band The Bravery performed and several open bars dispensed free libations. We were having a good time, but it was hardly the "awards show" we had envisioned. Where was the actual show? When were the actual awards being handed out?
It turns out the "show" really was just a party…Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, considering how uncomfortable it was to sit on wooden bleachers through 2 hours of hip hop performances at the Spike Game Awards earlier this year. Later in the night we all had to meet backstage for a series of interviews to accept our awards. Oh yeah, we actually won all seven awards… a fact that everyone at the show seemed to know but us. Things were behind schedule so we hung out in the "VIP" area and got a chance to chat with several celebs (see photos.)
Eventually we all gave our acceptance speeches for various awards and then had to hang out and wait for the "parade of winners." Late into the event, an MC came over the loudspeaker and asked everyone to put their hands together for tonight's big winners. You could almost hear the unanimous reaction from the partying crowd, "huh, what? Winners? Somebody won something?" Yeah, we forgot it was an awards show too. We walked out on stage, waved to the crowd and retreated again as the final act, The Black Eyed Peas, began to deliver the grand finale.
All in all it was definitely a good time. It was weird and humbling to get the star treatment and ultimately the folks at G4 threw a great party. While the games may have been a little bit lost amongst the celebrity hype it was still a fun experience and ultimately the fans are the ones who decided the outcome. As always we are thankful to all of our fans who continue to support Bungie and our games – if it weren't for you, we would've still been sitting at our desks in Redmond. We'd like to continue riding in limos, getting star treatment and hanging with celebs so please keep sharing the lovin and in return we'll try to keep making games that you'll enjoy. Until next time…
Check out my Gphoria photo gallery on the next page.
Backstage Class – an Insider's Guide to Schmoozing with the Stars
First rule of Schmoozing: Don't schmooze. You gotta win baby. You gotta let the paparazzi and the rival stars know who the hell you are. Remember, this isn't a party, it's a competition. A grand struggle whose prize is a permanent place in the velvety firmament of legends.
Don't let Marty and Sketch fool you into thinking this is some kind of lame popularity contest. This is about the smell of fear, the cold perfume of loss, the rancid reek of victory.
As I spilled out of the limo in my monkey suit (literally, a monkey suit – the tux shop was closed but it was next to Jumbo's Clown Room, which in turn was next to Uncle Vito's Costumery and Haberdashery on Sunset.) I was impressed to see the lineup of stars, starlets, Starlas and one starfish. And then there was us - the folks from Bungie who're considered expendable enough to put in the same plane at the same time. In fact, they do it worryingly often. Have you even heard of Shenanigan Airways?
There's Jay Weinland, our audio master, Marty O'Donnell our musical maestro, Brian Jarrard, community god, and me, random baldy. All of us did or best to look rad. I decided the cool way to go would be hipster jeans, a sweet shirt and a dressy jacket, just so people would be all, "He's relaxed, but he's just dangerous enough that he might break my neck, Seagal-style if I look at him funny."
Of course when we met at the limo we were all dressed exactly the same. Idiots. Well, except Marty who was dressed like Big Pussy from the Sopranos.
Now, these awards shows are becoming more frequent and popular. This one we were sort of interested in because it was viewer's choice. The G4 audience actually picked the winners. So back when I said this wasn't a popularity contest? Dead wrong. It is exactly a popularity contest. Marty's favorite kind.
Anyway, back to the red carpet. Now, G4 isn't gonna like this, but deep breath – the red carpet was NOT for award winners. It was for TV and movie and music stars. We ended up on it by accident. In fact, even though we went on to win a gang of awards, I was nearly booted off the red carpet by Amarosa from the Apprentice. She actually yelled at me. She said, and I quote, "I only get two minutes here, could you MOVE?!" I stared at her bloated cankles for a full ten seconds before realizing that I was in the distance in some photo someone was taking of her, no doubt to come up with a snarky headline about how mean she is. Here's one: Amarosa in Rude Cankle Dancer Shock – Police Baffled. Also, I don't remember what game she worked on.
Now, the exact opposite of Dramarosa is Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. Although it was kind of embarrassing that she was all over me, she was very, very sweet and agreed to not only take a photo with us, but to try and disguise her love for me in the picture. Fergie is the hot one who shakes her moneymaker at the exact same frequency of a tuning fork.
But our greatest celebrity sighting was the Titanic of star encounters. When you think A list – you might think Cruise, Brad, Angelina. Those people, while fine practitioners of the theatrical arts, are nothing but belly button fluff in Shatner's A-list laundry.That's right. Shatner.
When you see him in real life, he has the exact same ability to blend in as an electric Ninja elephant. He glows like a supernova. You actually have to wear sunglasses to look at him. In a very real way, Shatner is our king. At one point, a bizarre alignement occurred. Marty, Shatner and Ron Jeremy appeared in the same group. I honestly thought the universe was going to crack in half.
After that, it was all a blur. We went on stage, accepted awards, did some interviews, played some 360 games and drank soda pops. Jay LOVES soda pop. He will drink any kind of soda pop you can think of.
*Note : All of the views and opinions expressed above are not necessarily indicative of the views shared by Bungie or Microsoft. Frankie can be a mean bald man and frankly we can't be held responsible for his actions.
Head to page two and check out Sketch's Gphoria photo archive!>>>>>