Form(at) Over Function

Hey There! As listeners are starting to discover our fledgling podcast I thought it would be fun to write up some details about how our current format for our podcast came to be. I want to do this both as a reference for interested listeners into why we’ve made some of the choices we have but also to save it for posterity sake because I’m having so much fun creating our little slice of the board game content pie that I hope to be doing it for a long time to come and would like to be able to look back and remember how it all started. I say ‘current format’ because I have no doubt that we’ll continue to evolve it.

When Adam, one of our foursome that has consistently been getting together with me for a weekly virtual game night since late March when we stopped holding in-person game nights due to Covid, texted me about 8 weeks ago and asked if I was interested in starting a podcast I responded immediately and emphatically “Yes”. Within a couple of days of brainstorming via email about our goals and ideas for the format, we decided to jump right in and test our initial format out and the end of our next Wednesday night game night.

Goals:

  1. Minimal planning and editing – We’re lazy and want to spend our leisure time gaming or other activities that don’t feel like work. To that end we wanted a format that we could present mostly unedited and so by just focusing our discussion on the game we just played we wouldn’t have to come prepared for specific topics or do any homework each week. This was also a conversation that was already happening, just a little less structured, and I thought others might enjoy it as much as I was.
  2. Fit with our schedule – We’re all professionals with families and jobs so we didn’t want to set aside a separate dedicated time for recording a podcast as I knew that it would be less likely to consistently happen, but since we were all successful at getting together every Wednesday night we needed to keep the format short enough that we could fit it in after game night wrapped up so our plan was to keep the conversation to about 30 minutes.
  3. Unique niche – I get it, we’re a podcast talking about games. There are hundreds (thousands?) at this point and we’re probably very similar to others but there were a couple things that I was really looking for in a podcast that I hadn’t found in a single package and that I think we’re learning to do fairly well: an in-depth conversation about a specific game (and not just the latest hotness) right after finishing a play so the feelings/thoughts were fresh with little or no non-game related discussion and which included opinions from a group of gamers that have relatively different tastes in the types of games they like to play.
  4. Flexible hosts – when Adam and I told our fellow game night participants about our idea for hosting a podcast on our first night of recording we didn’t have any idea if either of them would want to get involved. Ultimately, Chris was game and has joined us for every episode while Steve has decided not to so far, but said he will be happy to fill in in the future. So we wanted to make sure that the format would allow us to include any or all game night participants that had interest without making them feel obligated or forcing us to interrupt our weekly scheduled recording. But there’s actually a more important reason we wanted the hosting to be flexible and that’s because we believe it’s important for there to be diverse and representative points of view in the board gaming world and we’d like to be a part of the solution, if possible. We had more diversity in our in- person game group in the past but it so happens that the group that wanted to continue our weekly game nights online since Covid were all white males. I’ve been working to change that and continue to encourage our other gaming friends to give virtual board gaming a try and join us and I hope that they do soon. But, even if we can’t convince them to join us when we’re online, if geography permits, we hope to include more diversity in our conversation when we do return to in person gaming and we include women and persons of color back into our game night. Lastly, as we have interactions with our listeners and other content creators in the future, we would love to invite guest hosts on to join us for our game session and if you’re reading this you can consider it an open invitation to let us know you’re interested and we’d love to have you join us at the (virtual) table when we have an opening.

So these goals led us to our initial format, which was just a structured conversation between more than one contributor about a specific game right after playing it. As it turns out, we enjoyed our test conversation so much that we have published it as episode 0 and you can listen to it here. The only thing that we ended up changing through editing with that first episode is that we didn’t originally plan to include a ‘short description’ about the games discussed, but after the conversation we felt it was important and edited it in for that episode and have been including it ever since.

Now we’re 6 episodes (5 published) in and there are 2 more format changes that we’ve made so far, we believe for the better. 1) We changed a few questions around but most specifically I removed the question ‘How did the game make you feel?’ as I didn’t feel like contributors had really thought about their experience in that way and I thought we were getting a general sense of that in responses to the question ‘Would you request to play this game again?’ and we started off with a question on mechanisms rather than production first because I think that gives you a better teaser for our feelings on the game earlier in the episode without burying the lead. 2) We added in a segment on ‘What has us excited in the world of gaming this week?’ at the end of the podcast. I think it gives listeners something interesting to hear about even if they aren’t particularly interested the specific game we’re reviewing and it’s just fun for us as hosts to talk about. Most shows tend to put this type of segment at the beginning of the show instead of at the end, and we may end up trying that in the future, but for now I wanted to keep the focus on the game review itself and have that happen literally minutes after we finished playing.

One last thing that I want to touch on but plan to write a separate post about is the usefulness of conversations (or reviews, if you’d like to call it that) about a game after a single game play. That’s not always the case with our format but certainly will be often for one or more of our hosts. In short, I do think it’s still valuable and fills a role but I’ll go into more detail on that in the future.

Thanks for listening. Until next time – take care!

Tim

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