It would be difficult to be involved in the Australian game industry and not know the name Guy Blomberg. Co-creator of Australian Gamer and The Mana Bar, Blomberg, or “Yug” as he’s more affectionally known, is a figure synonymous with gaming in this country.
I first met Yug by complete accident back in 2012. I’d flown to Seattle to cover PAX Prime and was wondering the show floor with other media people just before it was opened to the public. There, beneath the towering statue of a Caterpillar P–5000 Work Loader, I caught a glimpse of what can only be described as a somewhat distinguishable hairstyle approaching.
“Excuse me.” I said as I walked towards the figure, “Are you Yug by any chance?” Not a particularly difficult question to ask but an embarrassing one should it have turned out not to be.
Smiling broadly and confirming my suspicions he gave me his card, chatted with me briefly and then continued on his way. Not thinking anything of the chance encounter it wasn’t until a few hours later when the news broke that PAX would be expanding to its first non North American location in Australia that it all started to make sense.
Today Guy is the Content & Community Manager at ReedPOP a subsidiary of Reed Exhibitions, one of the world’s largest exhibition organisers. His role there, primarily, putting on Australia’s largest gaming party: PAX Australia.
It’s a role that many would say he was born to play. Forever wanting to be the life of the party, Guy has a long history of party planning and fun. Whilst living in Brisbane’s nightclub district, Fortitude Valley, he told me of the lavish parties he’d hold. Over 200 people regularly attending to hang out on his balcony, be entertained by random international DJs, and play video games like Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) or Singstar — projected for all to enjoy.
“I just really enjoyed bucking the stereotype that people who played games were anti-social weirdos,” says Blomberg, ”and I did it by throwing parties that everyone wished they could be at.”
From video game-accented house parties to bars built around playing them, Blomberg’s Mana Bar was a logical next step for him and his friends Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, Pras Moorthy and Shay Leighton.
Opening in March 2010 after a series of lengthy delays – including a requirement by the Queensland government to prove that video games were art – the bar was a huge success. So much so a second site was opened in Melbourne in late 2013 with plans for a third in Sydney that would unfortunately never eventuate.
”I actually moved to Sydney with the intention of opening a third venue.” Blomberg told me reflecting on the bars’ eventual downturns and closures. ”The Mana Bar was my baby, my idea that had come to life, and for it to reach a level and not work out was heartbreaking.”
On the topic of where it all went wrong Blomberg had this to say: ”…it came down to the pressure of the Melbourne venue not working out, and a breakdown in communication and relationships between the original Mana Bar owners. That’s all I’ll say about that.”
Guy wasn’t always the centre of the party however, his upbringing definitely not what you’d expect. Raised a Pentecostal Christian by his parents he was a leader in the local Youth Group and church while also involved in prayer groups at his school.
“The only thing that predicted any of my later life was perhaps an addiction to crazy over the top schemes, and a desire to always be the life of the party… even if the parties back then were pretty tame.” he remarks.
It was also during his early school years where the infamous nickname “Yug” first originated. A pen-pal, Anna, with whom Guy joked about being able to pronounce her name backwards started addressing her replies to “Yug” in protest. It wasn’t until years later, while working at a web development agency, that the name truly stuck.
“One of the higher ups was Guy as well.” he tells me, “The second day after I’d started working there he was fired in such an overly dramatic way that the owner of the company went around saying ‘I never want to hear the fucking name Guy ever again’, so I figured it was best if everyone called me Yug from that point on. People who started after me didn’t know my real name was Guy.”
Web developer is just one of the many roles Guy has played over the years leading up to this point. A skilled graphics designer working in both print and digital mediums he also ran his own design company, DesignbyCode, for over eight years.
It was during this same period that Guy along with good friend Matt Burgess started the widely popular “Australian Gamer” website and podcast. He also began a new role with video games industry trade paper MCV as Marketing & Advertising Manager for their new MCV Pacific expansion. ”I think at the peak I was running 5 different companies,” he tells me, ”[it’s] as exhausting as it sounds.”
Everything changed in early 2012, the same year I would randomly meet Guy for the first time. Australian Gamer was acquired by Gameplanet and he had left his marketing role at MCV, having decided ad sales were not his thing. ”I went out and started a game specific PR agency called PUG Consultancy with some good friends.” he recalls.
This was to be a short lived venture however. A few months after its inception Guy received a call from Penny Arcade president Robert Khoo to discuss the possibility of developing a PAX in Australia, which up until now was only a rumour. ”I remember meeting people at a gaming conference in Sydney, and they talked about the possibility of PAX in Australia. I was sceptical, until I got a call from [him].”
Now, about to open for its third time in Melbourne, PAX Australia is a very real, very big part of Guy Blomberg’s life. ”I started working on PAX Aus 2015 pretty much a week after PAX Aus 2014 had wrapped up. Hell, right now I’m working on plans up until 2019. It never, ever, stops.”
PAX Australia isn’t his only responsibility at ReedPOP however. While it does account for around 80% of his time he also contributes to the community aspects of other shows both in Australia, such as Oz Comic-Con, and in the US like New York Comic-Con and PAX Prime, East & South much to his delight: ”It’s great fun, I pretty much get to spend every day planning the biggest parties of the year!”
If you’re attending PAX Australia this coming week and happen to encounter one of the most genuinely happy and excited people there it may very well be Guy Blomberg. If that person has a hairstyle akin to what Guy himself describes as “homeless chic” then that’s definitely him. Be sure to say hi.
You can follow Guy (Yug) via his Twitter, Instagram or often infrequently updated blog.