It almost didn't happen. I had been sick and was awaiting the results of a flu test even as I was putting on my tux. Work had been particularly challenging that week. Our babysitter had been sick recently herself, and we had to negotiate a complex handoff of our son to her and then dart across a toll bridge during rush hour to reach the event. More than once, we almost called it off. But we hadn't missed an auction yet (highlights from 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - we didn't write up 2011 beyond live tweeting), and this one would prove to be the most incredible one yet.
If you haven't heard, Child's Play raises money and accepts toy, book, and video donations for children's hospitals around the world. It's not too late to hit that link and help blow out the record $3.3 million collected this year!
Back to December 6. When we arrived at Year 9 of this geek pride event, the silent auction had already begun. We navigated around the room, closing in on the prizes we'd most like to win. GrrlGotGame eventually abandoned a D20 jewelry set that she adored when a very competitive bidder and her friend camped on (and eventually won) every dice trinket on display. On the one hand, we drove up the price so the charity benefitted, but would it have killed her to let someone else win even one small set of earrings out of the 4-5 donated sets?
But don't lament for us, dear reader, as we succesfully landed a prototype inflatable Wheatley from Portal 2 (which, in its blank state, seemed to have dumbfounded most other bidders), and a set of Halo: Forward Unto Dawn memorabilia (I bid on it just before the auction close announcement, which led to all pens being quickly confiscated).
The live auction, as usual, mostly went into territory quite out of our price range - the cheapest item was a $650 volleyball from the PAX panel Acquisitions Inc. Though it was fun to enjoy a swanky dinner, surrounded by Desert Bus volunteers at our unusually front and center table, while watching:
- Penny Arcade's own Jerry Holkins pay $9100 for a "favor" from fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss
- a lifetime PAX pass (good for entry to all future PAX events) get run up from an opening bid of $2,000 all the way to $6,100
- two appearances in Penny Arcade comics land $15,000 each
- a rare Mass Effect 3 N7 Valkryie rifle replica (pictured at top) deliver $10,000
- Bungie tours that broke $10,000
- Wizards of the Coast D&D and Magic: The Gathering tours that totaled $7,200
- a rare 10th Anniversary Xbox 360, given free to select Xbox LIVE members, quickly jump to $5,100
- a Portal gun replica and Valve studio tour that we personally coveted went for nearly $6,000
After we picked up our meager but still very satisfying prizes from the silent auction, I went to collect our coats while GrrlGotGame assured our new Wheatley that he was going to a good home. A Valve employee, observing her affection for her faceless friend, wandered over and offered her an extra figurine he had made on the company's 3D model printer. When she mentioned how much she would wished she could have won the Valve tour, he perked up: "How'd you like to have a tour right now? I'm heading over; it's just across the street."
After we collected our jaws from the floor, we dropped our winnings at our car and then trekked over to Valve for an amazing hour wandering the nocturnal halls of one of our favorite gamemakers.
Here are the highlights of our tour (click on pics for larger versions):
The Valve main lobby
Gabe Newell's office (yeah, I totally touched his ball!)
Turrets that activate with movement
One of several massage rooms
The fan artwork bulletin board
The hat wall
A lemon grenade - its very generous owner gave it to us for our son (he loves it)!
Assorted objets d'art - and one very cool shop-vac!
The fan item signing table
GrrlGotGame, blissed out!
All in all, an amazing evening!