Thursday, February 11, 2010

Podcasts and Me

The sad reality is that I don't listen to as many gaming podcasts as I used to, mostly because my favorites ('Have Games, Will Travel', it's sequel 'For a Few games More', Sons of Kryos and the Durham 3) are more or less done and many of the remaining ones I enjoy are nearing completion (Ryan Macklin's Master Plan), intermittently updated (That's how We Roll) or in unknown status (Theory from the Closet).

There are still a few consistent ones. I try to stay up with Voice of the Revolution, the IPR podcast, but I admit I am not too diligent about it, partly because I track a lot of that stuff through other channels. 2d6 feet in a Random Direction is always solid, but after that I taper off. There are several good podcasts I check up on regularily, bt don't subscribe, notablye: The Ogre Cave, Independant Insurgency, The Game Master Show, Canon Puncture, Stabbing Contest and All Games Considered. They're all solid, and I keep hearing great things about Return to Northmoor, but the problem is I kind of got burned when I branched out and started looking for other gaming podcasts. I found one, which shall remain nameless, that really put me off the whole thing. Listening to it went something like this:

Host 1: So, I enjoyed the writing on this game, but I think it meandered a bit.
Host 2: I agree. The author clearly had some solid ideas, but wasn't really clear on how to express them.


H1: The good news is a lot of the confusion doesn't actually come up in play.

H2: Howso? It seems like it would really throw things off.


H1: A lot of the confusing stuff handles edge cases that really didn't come up at the table.

I'll spare you any further transcription. The bottom line is that I've ended up feeling a bit alienated from gaming podcasts, and given the sheer volume of them, I've been hesitant to dip my toes back in the water because sorting through them promises to be daunting at best and outright painful at worst. This makes me feel crappy because there are many I'm genuinely curious about (Walking Eye, Eddy Webb's White Wolf Podcast, Open Design, Dial P for Pulp, Green Ronin's Podcast, other's I'm totally forgetting).

I also have a little less time for Podcasts these days. I changed jobs a while back, and my commute is shorter now, and that throws a wrench in my listening habits. It definitely makes me much more time sensitive, and it attracts me to the 5 minute podcasts of the Grammar Girl or Get It Done Guy, which i can mainline much more easily. Anything over a half hour is a commitment I am hesitant to make. That said, if I find something good, I will commit to mainlining it, and I've been working through three seasons of Terry O'Reilly's "Age of Persuasion" podcast and enjoying the hell out of it.

And that, by the by, tangentially touches on something about podcasts. Gaming is the biggest hobby in my life, and a huge part of my life in general, and as a result, I get less out of 15 minutes of gaming talk than I do out of 15 minutes talking about something I don't already know intimately. There are lots of gaming podcasts I enjoy as I would a friendly conversation, but which I'm only going to get so much out of the time spent. This is no sleight to those podcasts; as much as it would be nice if every media was tuned to my taste and needs, that's not a reasonable expectation. But it does mean that gaming podcsts have a harder time fighting for a slice of my attention as a result.

The ones that succeed have, to get all marketing-ey, a unique selling proposition. Things like Paul Tevis's depth of boardgame knowledge, Chris Hanrahan's hands-on retail experience, or nearly anyone's genuine passion for a specific topic are what I need to elevate a podcast from "this is good" to "I need to be listening to this".

That said, I'm open minded. Suggest a podcast in the comments. Whichever one gets the most suggestsions, I will commit to giving it a serious listen.


  1. I'll go against my nature to recommend my show (The Podge Cast (especially since that excerpt may have been us)) immediately, since it sounds like you're in for a more serious show.

    The Walking Eye is more serious, though it's split between AP and analysis shows.

    Northmoor is split the same way, too, between campaign planning and heavily edited AP examples.

    Both are more serious that the median and the hosts are passionate and good at their hobby.

  2. Based on you desire for passion for a specific topic, I recommend Order 66. It's about the Star Wars Saga Edition. Even though I've never played a single session of this game, I listen because it's well produced, the hosts have a genuine passion for and thorough analysis of the game, and it's full of general Star Wars geekery.

  3. I think Podge Cast and Bear Swarm are both great shows to listen to when shopping in Wal-Mart. That's literally what I do with them. Start listening on the way out of the house, drive a block to Wal-Mart, do my shopping, check out, drive home. Normally, I get at least halfway through one of them.

    I also listen to Pulp Gamer's Out of Character, but it's a little more newsy advert than it is actual game discussion.

  4. I find that although I get a lot out of the better gaming podcasts (which for me is basically the now-intermittent ones you've listed off), my enthusiasm for listening to them is directly proportional to my enthusiasm for working on my own podcast. (Same thing with webcomics, actually.) There are some out-and-out terrible podcasts out there, and personally I don't care for podcasts where 3+ people shoot the breeze for 90+ minutes (which is a big part of why I haven't found any anime-related podcasts I like).

  5. Of the podcasts I listen to, only one did not show up on your list (though a few of yours I have not listened to recently): Atomic Array. I like the variety of games that they cover and every episode is an interview. I have been introduced to games that may not have popped up on my radar otherwise. There's often a bit of banter too, but the majority of the content is right on target.

    I had burned out on podcasts for a different reason: I was in one for so long. It was a case of not eating pizza when you work at Pizza Hut. I was out of listening for well over a year before venturing back in. I blame Ryan Macklin and 'This Just in...From GenCon!" for getting me back in and excited to listen to podcasts again.

    Since then I have gotten back into podcasting as well. I've been contributing to Games in Libraries podcast and this year I've stepped up to hosting that show (working on getting first episode out now).

    I hope you are able to find some other gems that don't burn you.

  6. I will boldly recommend my own podcast, The RPGHaven Podcast. Where I think we fill a niche is in interviews with creators and designers who are in the growing indepedendent movement who don't associate themselves with any specific ideology. We've done interviews with Simon Washbourne (of Barbarians of Lemuria), Chris Rutkowsky (of BASH), Jeff Mejia (of Legends of Steel) and Cynthia Celeste Miller (of Cartoon Action Hour and Slasher Flick). We are currently editing an interview with Neil Gow (of Honour & Duty and Beat to Quarters) which I'm really excited to get out there.

    I think these people are making up a quiet but forceful movement of interesting new games and for whatever reasons they aren't getting the air time they deserve, so we created the podcast to fill that vacuum (and because we really wanted to get a chance to talk to these designers).

    We are also working on a segment called "Friendly Neighbourhood Gamer" where we interview gamers about the makeup of their groups, their social contracts, their modes of planning and so on, trying to look at the social dynamics of various groups across the hobby. The challenge here is we are trying to find subjects who aren't hardcore gamers, connected to the online community.

    You can find us here:

  7. Atomic Array all the way. Healy and Barton do a great job, and I've purchased a good chunk of the RPGs they review/interview. Well worth an hour's time. And since they do Open Design as well with Bauer, you may find that enjoyable as well.

    Thanks for your list of podcasts, too, by the way. I have also been looking for something new to listen to, and I've found my tastes are getting more picky as time has gone on. My list of podcasts has decreased substantially over the last six months.

  8. I don't listen to any gaming podcasts.

    That said, I do listen to an awful lot of other podcasts and I have, over the years, gone through a vast amount of churn to find podcasts I find high quality. I tend to ditch new podcasts quickly because I only have about an hour to listen a day. What I like is this:

    - Extremely high signal to noise ratio.
    - Very high production values.
    - The talk must be compelling consistently.
    - The podcast may not meander off topic.

    I do not like to sort information audibly. A podcast that meanders off topic for a minute to ruminate on a boyfriend or girlfriend gets the circular file treatment unless I am extremely attached to said podcast (ie, the first 2-3 minutes of Dan Savage's Savage Love Podcast). A 5 minute podcast that is exceptionally on-target is far better than a 30 minute podcast that wanders around. But a 30 minute podcast that manages to stay on target for the full 30 minutes -- the exceptional Slate Political Gabfest on Fridays -- is a gem.

    I suspect what you ran into was not enough signal to noise. In fact, you ran into there being actual noise. Podcasts should be all signal and if you hear something that isn't you simply suddenly have no time for it. The moment someone starts talking about their personal life on the podcast, you're done. Stupid jokes, sophomoric humor, off topic rambling -- it's done.

    Go listen to Grammar Girl and tell me what you know of her personal life. I bet it's nothing.

  9. My current faves are Canon Puncture, WW Blogcast, RPG Countdown, 2d6 Feet, THWR, Master Plan. When these shows drop, I move them to the top of the queue immediately.

    Three of those are intermittent, so I have time to check out as well Actual People Actual Play, Fear the Boot, Podgecast, and assorted others, though this last group is always edited down based on episode content and length.

    Shows I miss are Theory from the Closet and OgreCave Audio Report.

  10. I'm a big fan of Return to Northmoor. :). We keep our shows ~40 min, so they are suited to shorter commutes...especially since they usually have a nice break in the middle...


  11. Daniel mentioned Actual People, Actual Play, which reminded me that it's my favourite new RPG podcast in ages, and the best Actual Play podcast because it's not a recording of people playing. Instead, it's a post-mortem, discussing how the system did and did not work for them as individuals and as a group. Episodes tend to clock in around half an hour so far.

    It helps that its hosts are Will Hindmarch, Laura Bishop and Jesse Bournenko.

    Every episode but one so far has been about their Burning Empires campaign, which has been especially cool because it's a game I know enough about to follow along, but not one that I've read the rules for, let alone played. That makes it extra informative, although I'm pretty sure the analysis alone makes it worthwhile.

    The only real downside is that a couple of the players (Christopher Kubasik, for one, I forget the other off the top of my head) do not participate in the podcast, so you do not get every angle on the game (at least first hand).

  12. @linnaeus

    I don't think it's THAT Will Hindmarch (@wordwill), unless he has a second Twitter account that is @Will_H_

  13. @daniel.

    Whoops, my bad. It's Will Huggins :$

  14. @linnaeus

    Thanks for the kind words. I'll take being confused with Will Hindmarch as a complement. :)

  15. If it's any consolation, I don't update as often as I'd like.

  16. Rob, I am working (very slowly) on a podcast that was designed *especially for you*, matching your criteria of length, signal-to-noise, and subject-matter interest-without-expertise. You can probably guess the subject matter.

    I'll let you know when I have something for you to sample.

  17. I am enjoying Canon Puncture because (not only do I get to be on it at times) but Rich is playing with format and content in a way that interests me.

    He is open to trying things, to making mistakes and walking away when an idea is spent. His Game Advocates pieces really put gamers at the forfront in a way that I dig.

    I'd love to see a whole library of Gamer Advocates shows.

    As a matter of fact, you and/or Fred should go on for Amber.

  18. Thanks for the interest in Dial P For Pulp!

    I would like to point out that while I do review the occasional game (be it RPG, Wargame or Boardgame), the primary focus of the podcast is Pulp, so any gaming reviews are squarely aimed at pulp based games.

    Anyway, just to say, the shows run to around an hour (I don't like to exceed that), but are broken down into separate sections so can easily be listened to across several sessions if need be!

    Once again thanks for the mention.


  19. I'm not unknown status, or missing, I'm just lazy. I'll clear that up this weekend.

    Rob, I agree with your assessment and really miss when I was the foul-mouthed podcast. I can't compare to these kids today, though. I think what you're seeing is folks stepping further and further out into potty-land, and missing why they found Fear the Boot, and later The Podgecast, funny. It's playing with constraint, the constraint of not being explicit, that makes those shows humorous. Any ass can just spout profanity. I just did. It's easy. It's much more difficult to use well, and typically that use is by pointing it at society. Take the FCC away from Howard Stern, and why listen to him?

    Anyway, I think that type of show will always be around, but it seems your complaints are hitting right around the time that someone has opened a window, so hopefully it will smell better in here soon. Hang in there.

  20. I'm pleased that you're enjoying Age of Persuasion and am conceited enough to believe that you've already adopted some of the terminology from it in your writings. If you come across any podcasts that are equally as compelling, let me know about them. Most gaming podcasts I've listened to don't even come close which means I'm only listening if they have some content that I'm especially hungry for.

  21. Thanks for the mention Rob. That was very nice of you.

    Oh, and I also propone AP-AP. They're really interesting.

    If you aren't dead set against ridiculous shennanagins, The Jank Cast is really interesting once they get going on a topic. The Part that's interesting is that they have so many hosts that they can't help but have some drastically opposing view points, but because under the goofiness and name-calling they all actually like each other, so they really chew over their subjects.


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