One of the missions for us here at ABG is to build a good image for the game industry in general and spread the world about those who make a positive change. It is always easy to see games simply as light-hearted entertainment. But for so many people an ability to escape into alternative universes and lose themselves in the story could be life saving.
Ultimate Pro Gaming (UPG) – a gaming YouTube channel and non-profit events organiser, seems to be sharing this vision. We have met up with their founder David Ravenhill to talk about the team, what they are all about and what the future holds for them.
How Did It All Start?
ABG: Hi, David. Thank you for meeting with us. How are you doing today?
David: Hi Hannah, I’m fine thank you, how are you?
ABG: So, David, how did it all begin? Why did you decide to create UPG in the first place?
D: UPG Started as a live events company. Our aim was to bring back the competitiveness and fun of playing in the same room as your friends. We wanted to be able to recreate all that banter and endless late nights battling on Goldeneye, Mario Kart and Halo. Unfortunately, with the way the industry has moved, much of this has been lost. We all just play online now and talk into our headsets.
D: As a non-profit this was hard to sustain going out and putting on live shows. So we started to look at other ways we could create that kind of atmosphere for gamers to sexperience. We then decided that content creation was a great way of being able to do this and that’s when we decided to bring in the right team members to make it happen.
Who Is UPG?
ABG: Tell us about your team? Who else is in UPG at this point?
D: So we have a team of 10 here at Ultimate Pro Gaming. We have myself, who founded UPG, Curtis who is our operations manager, Hannah who is the face of UPG and co-host with myself on the UPG Show. Also we have Matt, who is our lead editor and head of content. He also oversees all the vision mixing for our live streams. There is Kayleigh – our set/costume designer, who makes everything look amazing before we film. We have Dan who is our comedy genius and show host. I can’t say too much but he has two shows coming this year to the UPG YouTube channel. There is Adam who is a tech genius. He also works alongside Matt on the editing to get all our shows out on time. There is Richard who does all our main artwork design for our logos or posters/promo.
D: We also have Ben who is UPGs Green Ranger and business adviser. The only way to contact Ben is by playing the special Green Ranger legacy dagger flute! Then he will turn up if we need him! Then we have Ryan. He deals with UPGs fundraising ideas and also backs us up with content for our social media.
Assembling the Team
ABG: How did you find each other?
D: Okay, let me see if I can do this in order!
D: Me and Curt have been best friends for over 30 years so he was naturally going to be my go to when needing someone to help me start UPG.
D: Richard is my brother. We used to do game development and were working on our own point and click game together before I founded UPG. Rich is an amazing artist and also specialises in event management so it was an easy choice when looking to fill that role here.
D: Ben is an old friend from school, who I reached out to when designing the game to help with the music. Ben has his own music company and then he transitioned into UPG after helping with our game.
D: We then needed a face for the company. I found Hannah working in a local Game store, when I went to a Halo midnight launch. She was so lovely and knew the industry so well that I asked her to come and be a part of the team. She’s been here ever since.
D: Ryan was next I think. Me and Curt met Ryan while doing the One Special Day event in aid of Special Effect. Ryan was really curious about UPG and that we support a charity close to his heart. He asked if he could work with us to help raise more awareness for Special Effect.
D: Matt was then introduced to us by a member of Curt’s family when we decided to start doing digital content creation rather than live events, since that day Matt has been here bossing me and Hannah around, but in a nice way!
D: Kayleigh is the girlfriend of Matt and joined a year later. She came into a meeting with a book of ideas that she did off her own back about how to make UPG Show better for Season 2 and going forward. The designs were so good that we all said we wanted her to be a part of the team
D: Then together came Dan and Adam. Dan found me at the UPG booth at an event and asked me to help him with an event of his own. Adam was introduced to me by a mutual friend and our love for gaming made it easy to form a friendship. Both Dan and Adam are such genuinely nice people that we asked them to help us out at fundraising events for Special Effect. After getting to know them better, we asked them both to join at the beginning of 2019.
“I think what makes us all unique individually and as a team is our drive to make other people’s lives better and that gaming is a great way of making that happen, it helps to form great relationships and memories with friends, family and even people you meet online across the world.”
What Is UPG All About?
ABG: How would you describe your approach? How do you decide what kind of content fits your channel?
D: When it comes to our approach we don’t really have one. All we try to remember before filming is that we are here to have fun and create things that we enjoy. In regards to what content best fits our channel, well this again comes down to if we like it then we think it fits. Not all our content will be liked by everyone and by no means are we the best out there. But we enjoy making it together and creating memories within our team. At the end of the day, we are all friends and it’s something to look back on later and laugh at.
“All the laughing and banter you see on The UPG Show is real and trust me this even carries on when the cameras are off!”
ABG: What are your favourite games to play?
D: Wow this could take a while now you have asked the big question! Let me see if I can remember everyone’s favourite games on the team. I’m sorry if I get any wrong, if I get them all right, though, the team should buy me donuts next time we film!
D: Mine is – Secret Of Mana on the Super Nintendo. This game is amazing and I was playing it at just the right stage in my life when I was able to finish big games like that without needing help from my brother. Hannah’s is Kingdom Hearts 2. She loves all things Disney. Curt’s is hard as I don’t think he has one all-time favourite game. I think he has three that are all equal to being his favourite – Total War, Mass Effect, and Half Life.
D: Matts is also difficult, I would like to say it’s Sonic the Hedgehog as he has a definite love for this franchise, but he also loves Desert Strike and Sunset Riders all on the Sega Mega Drive. Kayleigh’s is easy – Tomb Raider. She loves all things Lara and has finished the games more times than I can count. Adam’s favourite game is out of two: it’s either Gears of War or Assassin’s Creed. No, wait, it’s Gears, yeah, I’m going with Gears of War!
D: Dan again is easy, it’s Super Mario World on the super Nintendo. Although I don’t know why he loves this so much, maybe he likes riding on Yoshi and eating things, who knows? Ben is going to have to be a guess. As we speak a lot about the Final Fantasy franchise so I’m going to go with it and say Final Fantasy 8. This could lose me the donuts!
D: Ryan also has favourite franchises rather than one overall game. Those would be Batman Arkham Series, Pokemon and Resident Evil franchises. Rich is a strange one as he is probably the only member of our team that doesn’t really play video games as all his time goes on D&D. Growing up me and him would play lots of point and clicks but then he got into watching me play games rather than playing them himself. I would say his favourite games are Broken Sword and Bioshock.
D: Wow, that’s a lot to try and think of! I think I’ve done pretty well. I will have to let you know when I get back to UPG HQ if I get the donuts or not!
ABG: That was really impressive, David. I am sure you definitely earned those donuts, even just for the effort alone! Now, do you mind sharing your thoughts for the future? Where is your channel heading?
D: Right now we are in the middle of dropping a lot of new shows. So we will see how they go and decide whether to continue them or create something else we find fun. We are always looking to push our limits and do things that we enjoy, I can’t say too much, but we do have some new ideas in the pipeline that will see us doing more crazy things and introducing more people to the world of UPG.
UPG And Special Effect
ABG: We know that you are also supporting Special Effect charity. Tell us more. How did it all start?
D: It all started when UPG was setting up a local competitive gaming event in Brighton. Me and Curt thought it would be nice to do the event for charity. I started to look into different charities and came across Special Effect. As I was reading about what they do, I knew from that moment this was the right charity for us.
ABG: Why did you decide to support this specific charity?
D: Here at UPG we simply enjoy playing video games and have done our whole lives. We believe that all people should be able to have fun and experience the same open worlds, drive the same fast cars, beat the same bosses and, more importantly, make memories of their own with their friends and families. Special Effect really make that happen for people with physical disabilities by using games to bring them closer and feel included. In our eyes there is no better escape than gaming and it can be used to help people, which we find truly amazing.
ABG: What is your experience of working with Special Effect?
D: Since our first event, every time UPG steps out the door and hosts anything, we fly the Special Effect banner and all proceeds go directly to the charity. We have done local gaming nights, conventions, 24 hour live streams. More recently we had the amazing Becky Frost from Special Effect on The UPG Show with myself and Hannah showing off the Xbox Adaptive controller.
“Special Effect is truly an inspiration of mine. The whole team has been so lovely and awesome to work with! From the moment I first spoke with Baz Floyd on the phone, I could tell they were a special charity”
The Meaning of Games
ABG: What do games mean to you? What do you feel their role is in general?
D: Aside from my son, games are my life. They have been the one constant thing that I can turn to when I feel like I’ve had a bad day at work or something personal going on. Then I would just zone out and become Master Chief or Cloud Strife for a few hours. It’s a great equaliser for me and simply has helped me through some of the hardest times in my life. I owe a lot to gaming. I suppose that’s another reason I love Special Effect so much, because it helps me give something back to the industry that has given so much to me.
D: I think games are very important in society especially when you see the amount of joy they bring to people. How they can bond people no matter what language they speak, their background, religion or disability. I feel there will always be a stigma around gaming, but in my eyes this is simply a result of misunderstanding.
ABG: Is there anything you would like to say to the people? Any special messages?
D: Well, firstly I would like to say thank you to Darren Colley for approaching me with the interview opportunity and also to you Hannah for putting the interview together. It was a lot of fun answering these questions and I hope it gives a little more insight into UPG and the team.
D: I would like to say a big thank you to all the people who support us, watch our videos and turn up to our events. Our fans are always truly amazing and inspiring. I would like to thank the guests we have had on the UPG Show for season 2: Becky from Special Effect and Harvey and Seb from Player Research. Also a massive thank you to Special Effect for everything they do to help people enjoy video games and feel included. Lastly, my team at UPG. You are all amazing and work your asses off to get things done in time and it’s a pleasure working with all of you.
It is always great seeing different people coming together to use their talents for a good cause. UPG is a living proof that following your passion will not only attract like-minded people and lead to the creation of a wonderful community, but also make a greater difference to the society in general. And all while having fun and enjoying life!
Please check out one of their videos and enjoy the company of wonderful UPG:
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