Feature

Professor Broman Interview – How GuardianCon Is Gathering Gamers To Help Save The World

by Jon Bowman on Apr 18, 2018 at 05:00 PM

Ben Bowman has made a name for himself as Professor Broman in the Twitch community. He started streaming while working as an in-home care provider. Now, Professor Broman streams full-time and has amassed over 650,000 followers. Bowman has used his platform as a means to help others and has given him an opportunity to co-create an annual charity event called GuardianCon that brings gamers together and helps raise funds for St Jude Children’s hospital.

Originally started as a Destiny-centered convention, GuardianCon has expanded its scope to include content creators and fans from a variety of different games like Fortnite and Dauntless, all brought together with the goal of making the world a little better. I got the opportunity to talk to Professor Broman about his career as a streamer and how GuardianCon showcases the ways that gaming can and has done good in the world.

How did you get started in the world of streaming?
I got started streaming in the speedrunning community. What attracted me to Twitch was the power that it had to raise money for charity. The first thing I ever saw on Twitch was a marathon stream to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. It was called the Hurricane Sandy-thon. I think they raised $20,000 in three days and that blew my mind. Here were a bunch of gamers raising money for a good cause, and I thought that was awesome.

So you’ve always been drawn to the idea of a giving gaming community.
That’s correct.

How did GuardianCon get its start after you were streaming full-time?
GuardianCon got its namesake since it originally started as an event inside of the Destiny community. Myself and some other content creators in the Destiny community, like King Gothalion, Mynameisbyf, Lea Loves Chief, who’s just Lea now on Twitch, and around 42 other people had a random meetup in Tampa at a bar. We had 1,000 people show up for that. It was insane and so we thought about making another fan event, but more along the lines of a convention. In the process of planning that and seeing all of the names on the board for who was coming, I thought “holy s—-, we have all these people with all this influence. We could absolutely organize a weeklong charity marathon to couple with this.” 

So I started to plan out the charity stream as a seven-day, 24-hour a day event. I sat down and storyboarded everyone out for that. The first year, we raised half a million dollars for St. Jude. That’s sort of where it came from. As we expanded scope on both the charity side and the convention side, we realized that there’s a lot of ad-hoc events, like the GDQ events for the speedrunning community or the Zelda-thon for fans of Zelda games. We wanted to create an event that celebrates everything that everybody in the gaming community does for good. That’s why we transitioned to include other games in the event. If you look at the charity event, we had Overwatch and a whole lot of other people and communities involved.

This year, we’re transitioning even more because in order for me, as a charity director, and us as an event to reach our goal of raising as much money possible in the gaming space, we need to embrace everybody. That’s been our goal for the last couple years and moving forward. GuardianCon is a place where everyone in the gaming community can point and say “look.” No matter what’s going on in the world or whoever is blaming video games for awful things, you can point at GuardianCon and say “this is an event created by people in our community for people in our community that is solely focused on the good that we do in the world.”

In this climate where gaming can be misconstrued as the cause behind some heinous things, do you feel it’s necessary to see the good that games can do in a grander sense?
Absolutely. The power of connection is really what drove the first few GuardianCon events. We create all of these friendships in the digital space and people tend to think that those connections stay digital. But for me, for all this work we put in, the payoff is sitting behind stage and looking at people shaking hands, introducing each other and exchanging gamertags, then seeing faces light up as they realize they’ve been playing together for 10 years. It’s incredible to see those kind of connections happen. It’s such a great chance to bring people together in the real world and strengthen that connection that was formed through video games.

Because guardian is in the name, I am curious about what you think of the state of Destiny and what can be done to reinvigorate that community.  It’s a great community, but we’ve seen that Destiny 2 hasn’t exactly met expectations.
Sure. As of right now, we have no main stage Destiny content planned for the event. That could change in the future. But our focus for the event is bringing everybody from every community together.

As far as Destiny specifically, they’re bringing a lot of creators out for a summit to give feedback on the game. This is a move that The Division did after that game ran into a rough patch and it allowed it to recover and come back as a stronger game by addressing a lot of the issues that community had. I think [Destiny] is doing the right things to address its issues.

Shifting the focus back to this year’s GuardianCon, can you tell us more about the Charity Blitz?
One of the big features this year is that we’re taking different creators from different communities to do one-off events to raise money for charity. The first Charity Blitz we announced was Fortnite, so we have DrLupo and Ninja, as well as a couple of other folks that we’re currently working on confirming. They’re going to be on stage and the idea is to make it as difficult as possible for them to do some cool stuff. So, once we hit $10,000 in donations, we might take away their ability to use auto rifles, at $20,000, they can’t snipe for 20 minutes, at $30,000, they can’t build. Something along those lines to put pressure on them.

The goal is to make this a lot of fun and showcase the skill of the player. Everyone who’s up there is a titan in their own right in terms of skill, but putting them in unique situations and having those situations being generated by the community. That combined with the charity focus, since all of those donations go directly to St. Jude, is a winning combination. 

So we have Charity Blitz events for those Fortnite streamers. We’ve also got Dauntless confirmed and we’re talking to three other developers, but I can’t tell you they are.

What drew you to raise money for St. Jude for GuardianCon?
When we were arranging the first year, I had people suggest charities that we could fundraise for. I had my own criteria, since Twitch has an international audience. I wanted to pick something of the highest caliber that had international reach. That sort of distilled things everything down when St. Jude came across my desk.

Their goal is to eradicate childhood cancer and disease. They’re dedicated to it and they’re not going to stop until no child dies from cancer. Reading their statistics and seeing how they’ve improved survival rates for one of the most aggressive childhood cancers from 6% to 94% over the last 60 years. Also, the fact that they will arrange travel for you and your support system from anywhere in the world and bring you to Memphis, house you for as long as your treatment takes for free, and they’ll help you continue to your education. 

They’re a charity with that incredibly giving nature, wide-sweeping focus, and generosity with their research. If they discover a cure for a certain childhood cancer, all of the research and pharmaceutical information would be published for free.

I’ve been up to St. Jude twice and every time I’ve got to tour their facilities, hope just hangs in the air. There are families going through the hardest times in their lives and are still walking around with the ability to laugh, watch a movie together, have a home-cooked meal. These are some of the things that I didn’t get to experience as someone who grew up with a lot of sickness in my family. They provide so much beyond medical care. 

You mentioned that DrLupo and Ninja were going to making appearances. Do you have anyone else confirmed?
Other than the full list that we have on our website, something I want to highlight that’s unique to our event is that if you’re a Twitch partner, a Mixer partner, or a Youtuber with over 75,000 subscribers, all you have to do is fill out a form and you have a free pass to the event. We really want to make this event about the creators, so we felt like this was the least we could do. We felt like it was incredibly important that we show our appreciation for those who are working as content creators, so giving that free pass is sort of like a big thank you. 

One of the people I want to highlight that’s going to be in attendance is NapentheZ. He’s a Fifa YouTuber. He’s been in contact with us for a while. One of the things we’re trying to arrange for the main stage since he’s attending and he’s working with other Fifa creators is some sort of Fifa event. The form that will take will depend on how many creators we have from that space. It could just be exhibition matches for people who want a donation raffle to a fully-bracketed tournament with some of the biggest Fifa streamers on the planet. 

What are you most excited about for this year’s con?
Man, that’s tough. I’m excited to hear the stories that come out of the event, if I had to pick one thing. That’s what I always enjoy most. The event itself is always incredible, but since I’m in there managing everything, I’m focused on making sure the gears are moving behind the scenes. So after the event is over, I get to hear all the stories of fans meeting creators and reminiscing about the crazy plays that happened. That’s always something I look forward to the most.

How do people get involved with GuardianCon?
If you want to start a fundraiser, the fundraising platform is designed so that anybody can raise money anywhere, no matter how large your streaming audience is. You can go to our support site if you want to register a campaign to raise money for St. Jude. If you want to get involved in volunteering, you can go to the contact us portion of the site and fill out the form. We are always taking volunteer applications. Those are the two best ways to get involved. You can also follow us @GuardianCon and sharing that whenever is the best thing that anyone can do to help.

GuardianCon takes place July 13-14 at the Tampa Bay Convention Center in Tampa, Florida. You can find more information about the event and how to get tickets through their website. If you want to see more of gaming doing good things for good causes, check out the Game Informer musical that we put on for our Extra Life stream.