This is part 3 of a lil blog series I'm writing about my 2020. Here are the previous posts:
- 2020: COVID drain, my NG life after Grounds Patrol
- 2020: The Newgrounds Podcast was born (and looked nothing like it does now)
The 2020 Summer Block Party changes everything
The Block Party started as me basically saying this: “Hey, we should do an event type thing. I did an event type thing last year and got some art and music made for it and it was fun. We should do something like that.”
The thing I’d done last year was called “Operation 2009”, and it was kind of a proto-NGP episode of Grounds Patrol where I roped @GoodL, @littlbox and @PsychoGoldfish into exploring a WaybackMachine archive of Newgrounds from ten years earlier. Just for fun, I put some extra time into the “fiction” of the episode, trying to sell the radio-drama aspect of the four of us meeting each other and going back in time, and I also drafted @Snackers and @dogl to do custom art and music. The experiment was a success; the extra level of production enabled us to present the episode as a Big Deal when it otherwise would’ve been just “I record myself looking at a website archive with some guests”.
So when I said we should do an event, that’s what I meant at first. Just a special episode we could do to have some fun and get some attention. When I started the conversation with the crew, though, they started talking about the “event” as an actual live thing we could do with the community. (A much better idea.)
I do know that I eventually threw out the concept of the “summer block party”, which I imagined as kind of an online representation of a little parking lot carnival. You know, a party your town or church throws where there’s a giant slide, and a DJ, and artists setting up stands to make balloon animals and draw your picture and all that. I pictured setting up a bunch of voice channels in our server at once, each one basically having a remote streaming version of one of those stands. There’s an art channel, a live DJ music channel, a Jackbox games channel, a raffle. Oh, and of course a live recording of NGP, because if we don’t get a solid episode out of the whole thing, what was it all for? People’s enjoyment? Please.
Once we decided on that idea, the next thing I wanted to do was make sure the whole thing wouldn’t fall solely on GoodL/PsychoGoldfish/myself to organize solo. So I started an effort to find someone, preferably in the NGP crew, to oversee each category. GoodL took the live recording, PsychoGoldfish took the game streaming, I took the raffle.
All fairness, others on the NGP crew didn’t really bite on this. Some couldn’t commit, some didn’t feel up to the task of organizing, some preferred to enjoy the event rather than work it, some didn’t really understand what the event was, some I just didn’t hear from. (Props, though, to @Staggernight who at one point offered to take the live recording responsibilities when GoodL had a scare with his work schedule.) I ended up pulling double-duty on raffle and music, which left only the art streams to cover, and for that we decided to reach outside our circle.
I didn’t know too much about @Xinxinix at that point, except that he ran a show of his own called @GRNDSbreaking and that he loved art. I also knew from that show that I liked his voice and personality, and I believe GoodL and I did talk at one early point about inviting him on the show as a co-host, but we felt like that would undermine the show he already had.
We reached out to Xin to help run our art streams, and suddenly it was like we’d lit a firecracker. Not only did he love the idea and agree immediately to help, he quickly put together an art streaming event on such a huge scale that the rest of our event was dwarfed hilariously in comparison. We soon had three DJs lined up, two or three game streams, and (I always forget this number exactly) like 24 artist streams. Lesson learned: Xin doesn’t do small.
Here’s a fun detail in all of this: as all of this is going on, my partner/best friend/roomie/NGP announceress Courtney and I were working on moving out of town. I’ll talk more about why later, but it matters here because our moving date was slated for two days after the Block Party, which meant I was preparing my end of the event while packing up our apartment and figuring out logistics for a whole cross-country road trip we were about to do. Fun!
LOL, so I have to talk about the raffle. So it started with us wanting to give away one big showstopper item, something fun and big enough to draw people’s attention. We decided on a Nintendo Switch because it was the proper price, could be delivered straight from Amazon, and was something we figured mostly everybody on NG would be interested in. We threw some Steam keys in there too since you don’t have to ship those. As we organized, people started volunteering their own items to throw into the pot, and pretty soon we were listing a whole suite of cool stuff from @AntonioMabs, @wavetro, @BrandyBuizel, @Luis, @WonderSchwifty, @ninjamuffin99, @TheDyingSun…
Of course, we needed to cover the cost of the Switch and all the shipping, so we needed to sell raffle tickets. PsychoGoldfish stepped up to the plate and programmed an entire Paypal-based point of sale system for us to run. It was my job to field ticket purchases, log people’s info, note any exceptional shipping details, etc. That became a lot of work! I can’t complain too much though, because GoodL was largely stuck with shipping the large amounts of items. I was a bit of an idiot in how blindsided I was by the amount of work the raffle became. On top of that, we realized late in the game that a ticket-sale raffle like this isn’t really technically legal without some kind of permit. Hey, don’t be a narc, alright?
When the day came, surprisingly enough, we were just about ready to go. We’d built the channel structure into our own server, so at the flick of a switch the generic text-and-voice-chat setup we had would transform into colorful Block Party land. I was still a little worried nobody would show up, but thanks to a big push from word-of-mouth and the NG front page banner (amazing), they did. We did the opening show. It was exciting. I flipped the switch for the channels. Nothing really worked. I scrambled to fix everything as the now-huge crowd struggled to find channels that wouldn’t appear. But it was okay -- within a few minutes everything was fine and the party started proper.
Guess what? IT WENT GREAT. Everything was so enjoyable. Huge crowd, lots to do. Xin’s art section was the showstopper event of the whole thing, as he led like five straight hours of dialogue between dozens of artists all streaming together. Real talk, though, for me the Block Party was like six straight hours of steady panic. I was fielding last-minute ticket sales all day as we painfully inched our way to covering all the costs. Between all that, I was darting between channels, making sure everything was working, and handling communication with DJs. Hey, look, the host of the party is never gonna relax. It’s alright, that’s part of the fun.
Are we gonna do a Block Party this year? Maybe. If we do, it’ll be a bit different. One thing I wasn’t happy with, which ironically is something I was really excited about in the beginning, was the concept of all these artists doing their things simultaneously. Like I said, I pictured it as the parking-lot carnival where everything happens at once and you can go do whatever strikes your fancy, but in our case that format meant the channels were always stealing each other’s audiences. I felt particularly bad for the DJs that had to compete with the art streams; nobody likes performing for an empty room. We did our best to cooperate and push people to channels in equal measure, but next time I think everything would be better as a single lane, everything happening one at a time. Also, no friggin ticket sales. Maybe we just get one thing to give away through Patreon funds(!!!) and help artists raffle their own goods on the side. We’ll see!
Lastly, and we’ve covered this extensively over the last few months, but I have to say one more time how timely and wonderful the Block Party ended up being during a very depressing COVID summer. I am so endlessly glad we were able to give people a kickass party like that when we were all feeling so disconnected. We watched The Room together that night, laughed a ton, and that was it. I ate dinner, went to sleep, woke up and packed for a day straight.