I was fortunate to moderate a panel with licensed mental health providers about the World Health Organization's (WHO) decision to classify Gaming Disorder as a mental health diagnosis. I'm joined by Adam Johns, LMFT, Megan Connell, PsyD, Ryan Kelly, PhD, and Anthony Bean, PhD. We start the conversation by discussing possible benefits of the WHO's decision to list Gaming Disorder as a diagnosis. The panel shifts to talking about elements of videogames that could be problematic or foster addictive behaviors, and then discusses the various functions that videogames serve including entertainment, stress relief, and social connection. The conversation concludes with an exploration of how we should all monitor and manage our time with videogames including possible warning signs that too much time and energy is being devoted to videogames.
A special episode this week as I welcome Andy Hand from Limitless Adventures, which offers quality gaming products for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Andy talks about the history of Limitless Adventures, and we discuss how we collaborated to create a new book, No Assembly Required. The book is available for purchase now, and the full cost of $5 will go directly to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We discuss the motivations for donating the sales of the book to charity, and I share my story about my brother's suicide last year. We explore the challenges of converting 4th Edition monsters to 5th Edition and highlight some of our favorite monsters from No Assembly Required including the Dragonborn Pirate, Sliver, a multi-stage Construct, Wobet, and a legendary Ghost Dragon with multiple tricks to unleash on an adventuring party. Andy ends the show by talking about the final days of Limitless Adventures' latest Kickstarter campaign, which is titled 5th Evolution and features content to support 5th Edition game in three modern settings - World War II, 80's Horror, and Superhero adventures.
Mike Shea joins the show once again to talk about the changing dynamics of tabletop roleplaying games. He explores how technology like streaming has advanced the hobby and spread its growth. We discuss the possible differences between what makes an excellent game to watch through streaming, and what makes an excellent game to play in with friends. He details his reasoning for launching his latest Kickstarter for Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, and explains the purpose of its content. He emphasizes the importance of game masters focusing on the player characters in the game, and how that is now his first step during preparation for any gaming session. He offers advice for how to maintain a consistent, weekly gaming session while managing a rotating cast of players at the table.
Tom Eastman, President of Trinket Studios, joins me to talk about their new release, Battle Chef Brigade, which is now available on Steam and Nintendo Switch. Tom talks about the four-year development process for Battle Chef Brigade, and the challenges his team faced as an small independent company. He discusses the perils of marketing the game while fighting obscurity, and how Trinket Studios partnered with Adult Swim Games. Tom details how Battle Chef Brigade went through a rollercoaster in terms of scope and gameplay variations, and how they arrived at the current combination of mechanics and features. He answers my numerous questions about the design of the game, including how players are rewarded - rather than punished - for playing the game. We also get into the logistics of art design and voice acting. Tom concludes by talking about the mental toll of working on such a project and releasing it into the wild. If you have played Battle Chef Brigade or are simply interested in how games are developed, then this podcast is a must listen! And if you have yet to experience Battle Chef Brigade, go buy the game! It is an amazing experience that I am loving.
Cedric (@cedflanders) joins me from the Hearthstone Championship Tour in Amsterdam to offer a live report on the tournament. He details his experience at the event, and how he collected autographs from professional players and members of the Hearthstone team on his iPad throughout the weekend. We delve into competitive play and his thoughts on how tournaments could be improved to allow a wider variety of player skill to shine. We discuss his expertise in Arena as he speaks about his efforts to appear in the list of top Arena players in the world for the month. He offers advice on how to string together successful Arena runs from understanding the current meta, drafting cards, and playing aggressively.
Deven joins me to discuss her art, approach to cartography, and her interactions with the roleplaying game community. She talks about being introduced to Dungeons & Dragons at the age of 14 and the importance of finding a hobby and community that felt comfortable. She details her visual impairment, and how that has influenced her personal and professional life. She discusses how she transitioned from painting to woodburning to illustration in recent years, and how she drew the attention of the larger roleplaying game community. Deven talks about the initial pressures of interacting with fans, and how that has subsided over time. She closes by talking about her efforts to monetize her talents including how recent proposed changes to Patreon caused her to adjust her process. Enjoy the last episode of 2017!
Greg joins me this week to discuss his career path before joining Wizards of the Coast in 2015, and details his roles and responsibilities as Senior Communications Manager for Dungeons & Dragons. He talks about his love of tabletop roleplaying games, and provides a compelling answer to the question, "What is D&D?" Greg discusses how D&D is built by a lean staff of approximately 25 individuals, and how many of those individuals have long tenures on the product and with each other. He speaks about the growth of streaming and video delivery services, which has allowed the tabletop hobby to expand into newer audiences in recent years. He briefly reviews some internal data that shows the average fan of D&D is skewing younger and more diverse, and he explores how Wizards of the Coast can continue to increase outreach and representation to broaden the fanbase.
I'm joined this week by Dr. Megan Connell, a licensed psychologist who is currently using Dungeons & Dragons in two therapy groups to teach children social skills and empowerment. She speaks about motivations for pursuing a career in psychology, including her decision to join the military after the events of 9/11. Dr. Connell provides her insights into how dungeon mastering is essentially "people management," and how DMs can use specific skills to improve gameplay for all involved. She covers how important it is to talk with your players to establish ground rules and resolve potential conflicts. She details her use of a Session 0 for all new campaigns to accomplish these goals. We review how mental health symptoms can manifest for players at the table, and present some strategies on how to address these situations. She talks about her Psychology and D&D video series featured on YouTube and her stream, Clinical Roll, which features numerous mental health professionals playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Jerry, known as The Dread Gazebo, talks about his views on the changing climate around tabletop and vidoegaming this decade. He speaks the lifespan of gaming blogs and the rise of streaming. He details his enjoyment of Shadow of the Demon Lord, and answers questions regarding gameplay. Jerry presents his thoughts on streaming culture, and how it often turns into a toxic environment. We explore the social contract of playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, and long for briefer gameplay experiences. We close the show by discussing the unique aspects of forming close bonds with others online because of gaming, and how those bonds can shift when we actually meet each other in person.
Duane has been cultivating Hammer Gaming, a community for like-minded players who wish to avoid the toxicity that is often found in online games. He speaks about consulting with other gamemasters like myself, and we talk through an example of how we collaborated to flesh out various characters in my Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Duane delves into his experiences as a person of color playing video- and tabletop games, and the obstacles he has encountered over the years while trying to engage with the hobby. He offers advice for other players and content creators to make gaming a safer space for a wider audience. He details how Hammer Gaming came to be created, and how it has evolved from a World of Warcraft guild to a vibrant community of 40-50 friendly gamers. We close the show by talking about Destiny 2, and he tries to convince me to dive in when it releases for PC.