Kevin Hovdestad joins the pod to educate me about his years of work in the realm of Esports. He talks about his years of experience as a freelance journalist writing about Esports and how that led to career opportunities as a Director of Market for Catalyst Esports Solutions and most recently an Associate Editor with Blizzard Entertainment. He discusses the rise of Esports in recent years, and the potential bubble in the industry. He offers solutions for some of what ails Esports such as the need for a "Netflix for Esports" and finding ways for more people to easily consume and pay for Esports content. We discuss how games are now designed to be an ongoing service rather than a stable experience in addition to the ever-shifting landscape of Esports, and how the relationships between developers, players, sponsors and promoters is complex.
I'm joined this week by Kyle Newman, one of the authors of Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History. You may also know Kyle as the Director of Fanboys (2009) and Barely Lethal (2015). Kyle talked with me about the genesis of Art & Arcana and how the four authors came together on the project. He discusses how the book was originally organized and plotted out by the creative team, and how they navigated the balance between dissecting and celebrating the nostalgia of Dungeons & Dragons. I asked Kyle how mining nostalgia has been different in the Star Wars and D&D fandoms over the years. We focus on the segment of D&D history that covered 3.5, 4th and 5th Editions, and emphasis that we both enjoyed what 4th Edition had to offer. He clarified that he wrote most of the chapter on 4th Edition, and we discuss the community's relationship with that era of D&D and how it led to the current 5th Edition. I asked him about the past two years of his archaeological delve into D&D's history to learn where he thinks D&D will go next. Tune in for the full context of his comment, "There will be a 6th Edition."
I am joined this week by Elizabeth Roithmayr-Clemens, the New Jersey Area Director for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). She shares her experience organizing community activities and advocating for greater suicide awareness and education. She speaks about losing a family member to suicide when she was 14 years-old and losing a friend to suicide more recently in 2013. Elizabeth describes her work for AFSP, and highlights how donations to the non-profit organization are used to educate the public, advocate for better policy, support survivors, and fund additional research on suicide. We discuss our ideas for reducing the stigma about mental health services, and increasing the likelihood that people will be willing to talk openly about mental health symptoms.
I'm joined this week by Steve Lubitz, host of the Off Curve podcast, a show about Hearthstone that Steve records while driving home from his job. He talked about the creation of Off Curve and how he has been a fan of Blizzard games since the original Diablo. He shares his thoughts on the differences between Hearthstone and other card games such as Magic: The Gathering.
We talk about the shifting Hearthstone meta, and how resources like Vicious Syndicate and Hearthstone Replay have changed the game for both the players and developers. Steve highlights some of the current challenges in Hearthstone including the lack of tournament mode and engaging end-game content for veteran players. We explore some ideas for how to keep the meta fresh, and answer a listener question about the possible mechanics that could be added to improve the game.
I'm joined by Danny Rupp, co-founder of Critical Hits.
I'm joined this week by Danny Rupp, co-founder of Critical Hits and a very active participant on social media discussing Dungeons & Dragons and other roleplaying games. Danny talks about the origin of Critical Hits and how it gained increased prominence in the early days of 4th Edition. We spend a good deal of time on his approach to worldbuilding and how his background in architecture helps him design dungeon and story elements for his gaming sessions.
We discuss player management at the table, such as how to ensure that efforts spent by the DM to create an interesting world and plot connect with the motivations of the players and their characters in the game. We answer a listener question about worldbuilding and offer strategies to help DMs efficiently build his or her world while pulling the players into the setting.
Since we recorded on World Mental Health Day, Danny and I also talk about mental health issues and how they might affect gameplay at the table. We provide examples of how players bring everything to the table each game, including possible stress, anxiety, depression and suffering. We offer advice on how to be patient with players and cultivate an environment of trust for players to support each other.
This week I'm joined by Aaron Retka, Managing Editor for Geeks Who Drink. For the uninitiated, Geeks Who Drink is "a homegrown Pub Trivia Quiz modeled after those in Ireland and the UK" that covers "everything from celebrities in trouble to wordplay to bad television." The quizzes are held in bars and breweries across the country, and Aaron spoke with me about how much effort goes into crafting each and every question.
Aaron speaks about how he got started with Geeks Who Drink in 2006 as a freelancer, and how that evolved into his current role as Managing Editor. He discussed the elements that make a pub quiz good and relayed that the primary purpose of the quiz is to keep people entertained, "We want people to get the question right." He shares some tales about his years of being a Quizmaster, including some stories about dealing with unruly patrons and dressing up as Dolores Umbridge for a Harry Potter Theme Quiz.
I inquired about the growing popularity of pub quizzes, and how it might intersect with the toxic side of fandoms. Aaron provides some frank commentary on gatekeeping in any given fandom, and how the motivation of Geeks Who Drink is to be inclusive to a wide variety of players and fans.
I should also note that Aaron is family; I married his cousin in 2004! He's a wonderfully smart guy that is gainfully employed creating pub quizzes. I mean, how cool is that?
I'm joined by Eric Roth, a veteran of tabletop games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. Eric talks about growing up with a physical disablity that limits his mobility and kept him from traditional activitives such as sports growing up. Eric talks about being introduced to tabletop games approximately 18 years ago, and how those games have improved his social skills and given him confidence. He talks about the close relationship with his father and how the gaming community has welcomed him and provided "a healthy escape" for him over the years. He provides suggestions for other players when interacting with an individual with disabilities at a table - such as providing additional space and being welcoming and patient with those players. Eric closes the episode by talking about the upcoming Ravnica setting for D&D, and his eagerness to combine Magic: The Gathering with Dungeons & Dragons.
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.