Starting the Game Design Unboxed: Inspiration to Publication Podcast
It has been a goal of mine for years to start up a podcast. A few years back I thought I might do a superhero origins podcast talking about the creation of different DC and Marvel comic book heroes. But ultimately, I decided against it. I spent the past 4 years listening to various different podcasts, mostly geared towards tabletop games. Eventually, I came up with the idea that has now become Game Design Unboxed: Inspiration to Publication.
Where did I start, you may ask? Well, first you need a concept for the podcast. In my case, I wanted to interview designers about a single tabletop game so we could do a deep dive into every part of the game’s creation. My co-host Denice had suggested that we include the series of games such as the Trekking series as well. The concept was simple. Bring on a designer. Ask about where the idea for the game came from. How they prototyped and tested the game. How they went about publishing the game. Then finally, the unboxing and how the game is doing now.
The formula was simple for the podcast. It was going to be an interview format but I decided to have co-hosts to help round out my team. So I asked two gamer friends Ben and Denice if they’d be interested in joining the team. Ben Moy is known for his Game Crafter video series titled “Blue Prints” as well as his online presence in the Board Game Design Lab Community. He also had his first game published this year titled Break Dancing Meeples by Atlas Games. Him and I first met on a Facebook group for game designers then physically at a game design meetup a local Chicago designer Brian Cable hosted. I had been invited to the group once Brian and I met at a Protospiel a state away. Ben immediately recognized me from Facebook and came in for a hug. We’ve been friends since. Even through quarantine we continue to message weekly and support eachother’s design and life goals.
Then there is Denice. She and I met last year at the Dice Tower Con in Orlando, Florida. I had been accepted into the speed pitching competition so booked a flight and shot out to pitch my games on the 4th of July. I had been debating not sleeping that night and returning to work early in the morning to Chicago but then decided to look and see if anyone was looking for a roommate for one night on a Dice Tower Facebook group. I ended up finding Denice who funny enough knew my cousin Sean from being in the same Karaoke team in Chicago. Another small world situation. She showed me around the Con and introduced me to the game Targi before I pitched my games. After that she would occasionally join the in-person Chicago Game Design group to help playtest designer’s games as she dipped her toes into design. Now she’s working on a party game and Eurogame! This girl is an encyclopedia of games and a great addition to the team.
Once I had my co-hosts set we worked together to figure out some general questions we wanted to explore with each designer and what days of the week we would be available to record. This process has been mostly painless. With only one time zone misunderstanding which the designer just laughs about now. Having three co-hosts makes it easier for one or two of us to miss a week or two of recording because life does happen and not every day is going to be available to everyone.
We keep everything in a shared google sheet that we can all edit. Each tab has questions, intros and exits geared towards different guests. Plus, a master list of upcoming guests that include the recording date/time, which hosts are recording, who is editing, when the editing is done and when the episode will air on the Know Direction Network.
If you’re unfamiliar with Know Direction it is a media Network primarily focused on the RPG Pathfinder. My friend Ryan Costello was one of the Network founders and asked to host my podcast once I had finalized the details of the show. They were looking to expand their media to include other games besides Pathfinder. They also wanted to start having a show that aired on the weekend so our show now goes onto the site every two weeks on a Saturday.
The reasons I agreed to having Game Design Unboxed on the Know Direction Network was:
I am a huge fan of what Ryan and Perram do for their network and community.
They already had a following we could use to market the show. So it became a symbiotic relationship.
I don’t have to pay to host the show myself.
I get help with publishing the podcast. Seeing as I am new to hosting a podcast it has been great having Ryan and Perram to show me the ropes.
They wanted to add diversity to their content and team and saw the potential in the show which I am thankful for.
Ryan recorded a great intro and exit for the podcast!
I'm sure there are many other reasons as well. Basically, they're great!
So far, the process for recording, editing and publishing this podcast has been pretty smooth. Thanks to COVID I have been able to use the software Zencaster for free in order to record our podcasts with guests. All our guests need are headphones and good internet. Having a decent quality microphone is just an added bonus. When I started my design journey over 2 years ago I realized investing in a microphone is always a good idea if you ever plan to be on podcasts, video streams or recordings. So I recommend adding one to your Christmas list this year!
Editing has probably been the most difficult part of this process. You need to learn how to do it and have a program for it on your computer. In my case, I use Adobe Audition since I pay for the Adobe Suite so I can freelance as a graphic designer. Audition wasn’t too difficult to learn thanks to youtube tutorials but I am still learning new short cuts so I’m sure the editing for the show can only go up from here! Thankfully, Zencaster records every person’s audio separately which makes it easier to remove unwanted background noise, “ums”, “likes” and people talking over each other. One thing I’ve noticed is when guests get excited they forget to breath and draw out their words into “ums” and “likes” which makes it impossible for me to cut the unwanted words out. So, if you’re a guest on a podcast remember to take breaths and an awkward silence is way easier to edit. Currently, I am the editor for our podcast but I am hoping someday to find someone else to do it. Because it is tedious and time consuming. I easily spend around 3 to 4 hours on each episode editing audio to make everyone sound as good as I can.
So here’s a shortened overview of our podcast’s process:
Reach out to a designer about a specific game of interest.
If we get a yes, set a date and time to record.
Contact hosts about the recording to see who is available.
Update the master list with the guest designer’s information.
Create a questions tab for the Guest designer’s game.
Send the questions to the designer a few days before the interview so they can think about what they want to say. As a warning we don’t always ask all of the questions. This threw off one designer. We like to go with the flow of conversation.
Confirm the day before and the day of, that co-hosts and the guest(s) are still good with the day and time of the interview. Double check the timezones. They can be tricky.
Create and send out a Zencaster link to enter the episode 30 minutes before the interview is scheduled to start. I’m personally in the link early while Denice and Ben join 10 minutes before we plan to start. Guests are encouraged to come on time.
Go through the Zencaster health check and inform the guest on what we are going to do during the episode. We also mention to tell us if something needs to get edited out. Double check that the guests have headphones as well.
Start recording! Recording should take less than an hour since we aim to have the episodes around the 40 minute mark.
Save the recordings onto my computer in a folder named after the designer’s game.
Find time to edit the recording.
Export the finished recording as an mp3.
Listen to the recording and make sure there are no issues. I’ve had issues after exporting so double check!
Upload the mp3s onto the Know Direction Server.
Create a graphic for each episode that has an image of the designer and the game to send to Know Direction.
Create a paragraph write up describing the content of the episode for the Know Direction Site.
My job is done after this and I just wait for the episode to air every 2 weeks on Know Direction’s Site!
Once the episode is up I share it on DMR Creative Group’s Website, Facebook and Twitter page as well as my personal Facebook.
That’s it! That’s how the magic happens. We contact designer’s who either have good stories, interesting angles or games that people are obsessed with. So far we have had some amazing conversations talking to designers who self funded their games or pitched to publishers. Some that were super successful and some that it took a long time to go from inspiration to publication. But all and all, it’s been a great experience so far working with Ben and Denice. I think we have something special that can help any new designer, hobbyist or seasoned designer. I know I’m learning a lot and we’ve only recorded seven episodes. I look forward to seeing the evolution of this podcast and the hosts that run it.
If you have any questions on how to start your own podcast feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please let me know what you think of the podcast and if you have suggestions for future games or designers for the show!