10:18 PM

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Dice Tower, Boardgamegeekspeak get pimpslapped

Mister Nizz

bullet rocket


Gathering of Engineers

A very interesting blog posting by "Dug" on A GATHERING OF ENGINEERS recently. The topic was "Podcasting" and specifically, podcasting about boardgames.

Dug isn't impressed. He lets us know this in spades. He lauds the podcasting media channel, trumpeting it as another victory for free speech, but cautions us that we're getting content through a fire hose now and much of it isn't all that well done. Well, he might have a point there. Of course, it's hardly a novel one, considering the information-saturated world we were living in before podcasting.

Dug and I certainly see eye to eye over the Geekspeak/Boardgamespeek podcasts done by Derk and Aldie over at Boardgamegeek:

I've only listened to a few 'casts so far, but I'm having trouble finding one I like. The first one I heard was on the 'Geek, and I can't remember who did it. I distinctly remember them interviewing Jay Tummelson, who almost singlehandedly brought eurogaming to the US, and giving him a lot of crap for Fossil. To make things worse, they interrupted Jay repeatedly, who was giving his time freely (and did, to be fair, get to advertise his upcoming games, but most internet savvy gamers would be aware of what those are). While they weren't as bad as Rush (Limbaugh), they were working on it.

Amen to that. I remember that show, and I remember thinking "why are these guys so mad at Jay Tummelson?". I listened to the Reiner Knizia podcast and was appalled. I'll be the first to admit that game designers aren't rock stars, and I'm not advocating they should be treated like royalty, yet the interplay between Derk and Dr. Knizia was puzzling to the extreme-- and painful to listen to. To his credit, Knizia was a good sport, but he was treated rather rudely for no reason I could see, other than to cause controversy.

Dug has even less to say (good) about the Dice Tower:

The list of things I dislike about this particular podcast is pretty amazing. First, the humor is sophmoric, especially from Joe and whoever they let in the studio that day. It's like being trapped in a high school D&D session. Tom, to his credit, attempts to rise above the childishness, but it's a losing battle when you go up against the screamers. I'd listen to drive-time radio if I wanted this brand of humor. When you get people who do understand how to speak information clearly, like the guys who do the German and Boardgame news, their professionalism only demonstrates my point.

Dug really doesn't seem to dig Joe very much, saying

My favorite (review) so far was Joe saying he didn't like Evo, and not just because of the theme. The politics of evolution aside (he must really hate anything to do with cavemen, as Evo doesn't even posit that people are the result of evolution), that was literally his only comment on the game. No "it's too slow," or "too chaotic" or "I don't like the neon colors", just "Ick". I know you guys are LDS, you certainly hit us over the head with it in pretty much every episode, but to dislike a game's theme simply because it doens't reinforce your worldview speaks volumes about one's insecurities.

Well, assuming that LDS means Latter-Day Saints, nope, you got it wrong. Joe's a form of Baptist, and he's fairly open about his fundamentalist leanings. I don't share in his beliefs on a wide spectrum of things, but I respect his desire to speak his mind.

My take on this: Dug writes a great post here and I really valued it. I personally like podcasts quite a bit-- podcasting may have the potential to do more for free speech than the printing press, but the fact is in regard to boardgames, we're not really talking about politics, or social issues, or economic theory, or religious controversy or (name your polarizing issue). We're talking about podcasts about a niche hobby shared by a very insular community of like-minded people. Edward R. Murrow isn't spinning in his grave over fan podcasts. They are very personal statements broadcast over a very personalized media channel. The resulting media is bound to be very personal. Take it with a grain of salt. They are crude, yes. And the level of "journalism" being displayed is negligible, even by the guys who are trying to make a living at it, like Boardgamegeek and BoardgameNews.com. Gaming podcasts are a fan pastime, and will likely never grow out of fannish levels of quality assurance. Why? That should be obvious.. there's no money in it. If Dug is grasping for the "professional model" to compare podcasting to, I suspect he'll be looking for a long time. Perhaps the best example I can drudge up is Michael Geohagen's outstanding REEL REVIEWS RADIO which he labored on for 2 years before it got "picked up" as part of AOL's featured content package. I have a feeling that Michael is not quitting his day job now that he's getting the big AOL money-- and that's for a very well done podcast with a subject matter with far greater market appeal than boardgaming. So I don't think there's much of a competitive market to stir podcasters to "go professional".

You have to take the bad with the good in any fan endeavor, and appreciate the effort. In my early years, I worked in radio and televsion production. I am very generous about the notion of "good days and bad days". It happens. Celebrate the effort that guys like Dirk and Aldie and Tom and Joe put into these things, and if a specific show gets your knickers in a twist, there will certainly be more of them made eventually. The old TV analogy of "turn the channel if you don't like what's on right now" certainly applies to podcasts.

Some of the ones I've been enjoying lately:
  • Point2Point: Courteous and Professional, I like these guys. They focus on wargames and they have an opinion that is backed up with some fact. Enjoyable stuff.
  • The Vintage Gamer: Sporadic, but very informative. I wish this guy would make them more often. The focus is on a wide range of older, nostalgic titles that I (for one) still enjoy. Very much recommended.
  • Boardgames to Go: not that exciting but thoughtful and reliable. I used to get Mark's old AvantGo channel broadcasts and I still like what he does. Unfortunately, we have different tastes.
  • All Games Considered: chatty, informative, with a RPG flair. Not bad at all. He visits the oldies but goodies quite a bit. A bit outside my range of interest.
  • Boardgame Babylon is also quite new to me, and I'm liking it so far. I suspect Dug won't like it.. it is fairly breezy..

    (there's a few more non-gaming ones in my Bloglines feed in the sidebar to the left.. I have eclectic tastes you might say)

    If I have a point, it's that there's a ton of voices out there waiting to find an audience. We won't always agree on what's good or bad in podcasting. Obviously the answer is to keep trying until you find the model you personally enjoy. I'm contemplating on podcasting at some point, myself, and I value a critical ear.