Edge of the Nest

I took the bus to Gen Con this year. That choice was motivated largely by a lack of funds, but also by a desire to have a bit of isolation. My trip was three days there and three-and-a-half days back, which gave me plenty of time for reading and reflection. Okay, and a not insignificant amount of napping. But I don’t think I have to tell you how awesome napping can be, so I’ll focus on the first two things.

During my trip back I read two books in particular that fed into my reflection: Just a Geek, by Wil Wheaton, and The Nerdist Way, by Chris Hardwick. I can’t recommend these books enough. Both are inspiring enough on their own; together, they’re like a motivational haiduken. If you read them back-to-back like I did, expect a tectonic shift in your brainhole.

Taking what I’ve grokked from these two books, plus some strategies offered by Johnn Four’s Gamer Lifestyle, I’m entering the world of content production. While I am largely still in the pupal stage of game writing, you can expect to see content available for download here in the next 3-4 weeks. The first taste will be free, as they say; I’ll offer up some useful samples of the kind of products I’ll be writing that you can snag on this site (or another site, we’ll talk about that next). If you like what you read I hope you’ll then check out the content up for sale on my site and Drive Thru RPG.

As part of that, this site might be going away, at least in name. I’ll shift the content over to the new site at the very least, so everything I’ve posted here on RG will still exist in the aether. But if my content production approaches the levels I’d like, I’ll really only have time for one blog, and so I’ll have to go with the one promoting my product. But don’t worry, the new site won’t be pimping my material constantly. In fact you’ll see a lot of what I wrote on RG, with, yes, the occasional mention when I publish something new.

I honestly have no idea how far I’ll take this, but I’m going to push myself out of the nest and see if I fly. I hope you’ll stick around and watch me flap my wings. Sink or soar, it should be fun to watch.

Geek & Sundry

As a geek in the Age of Geeks, every day there is some new nerdy thing offered up for my amusement.  Links, images, movies, tv shows; the dork train is pulling out of the station and everyone is trying to get on board.  A lot of it is bad, no denying.  A small portion is good, and an even smaller portion of that is excellent, obviously created by one of us, a nerd with talent.

My fellow dorks, I predict Geek & Sundry will be excellent with a bullet!

Announced officially at this past weekend’s Wondercon, Geek & Sundry is a premium YouTube channel founded and Executive Produced by Felicia Day (yes, she of The Guild and Dragon Age: Redemption).  When it launches on April 2, it will feature a variety of weekly and bi-weekly programming aimed at just about every facet of geekdom: motion comics presented by Dark Horse; Tabletop (“Think “Celebrity Poker” meets “Dinner for Five”…“*) hosted by Wil Wheaton; Written by a Kid, with sf&f/horror stories by real kids brought to the screen as shorts by talented directors and artists;  and Sword & Laser, a look at the world of sci-fi/fantasy literature and hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt.  The channel will also feature season five of The Guild, as well as The Flog (“Join Geek Goddess Felicia Day in a whimsical vlog show, as she explores quirky new hobbies and shares experiences that connect her with her favorite people – her fans – in person as well as across the web.“*)  And then later in the fall will see the launch of Learning Town, a show starring the nerd-music duo of Paul & Storm.

I’m not sure I can tell you how excited I am about this.  It would be enough for me that Geek & Sundry packs a lot of what I want to watch in one neat little bundle.  As geeks, we have lived in a sort of “hunter/gatherer” phase when it comes to our internet viewing; the geek shows are definitely out there, but you had to forage for them.  I think Geek & Sundry represents the next stage, the “agricultural” stage of our geekdom.  We are cultivating our nerdiness, and we won’t have to travel as far afield to find it any more.

I also find the creation of this channel a bit of a validation for my long-held belief that the internet is the future of television viewing.  The nature of television, how it is viewed and how it is packaged and presented to us, is changing.  The portal by which many people experience small screen viewing is no longer the television receiver, but the computer.  I know people who don’t have, in the strictest sense, a television in their home; what they have is a 52″ monitor for their computer/game console.  And why not?  The computer is (legally or illegally) often the fastest way to access television content, and ease of use has played a big role in the changes to this medium.  And the major networks are slowly acknowledging this fact, if the number of television programs that can be viewed on websites is any indication.

But I never believed that the big push towards on-line programming was going to come from the networks.  I always new it was going to come from an Alpha Nerd among us.  Because on-line programming is inherently creator-friendly, in a way that the current network system can never be.  Simply put, it cuts out the middleman, allowing the creator to bring his/her creation directly to the viewers.  Thanks to the internet, if you have a camera, a website and an idea, you can put a show out.  Sometimes, as noted earlier, this results in bad (in all the many facets of that word) stuff getting in front of our eyes.  But the trade off is a wider range of shows to look at, and a greater chance that you’ll find the shows you want.

This puts some responsibility back on us, because we can’t afford to be as passive about what we support.  We have no networks to blame if a show doesn’t do well, because on-line our support (or lack of it) is direct.  If you love something on-line and want it to succeed, you need to get the word out.  You really have no excuse not to; if you dwell in the internet sea enough to watch programming here, I’d find it hard to believe you didn’t also have some form of Twitter, G+, Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook et al at your disposal.

Geek & Sundry launches its programming on April 2, 2012.  Mark that date, folks.  That date is when television changes forever.

(It should be noted that Chris Hardwick also announced the launch of his geek-centric YouTube channel, The Nerdist Channel, also launching on April 2nd.  I’ll write about them next week, but since I heard about Geek & Sundry first they got first billing.)

Opinions?  Thoughts?  Amusing tribble anecdotes?  Comments are just below…

*From the official press release on the Geek & Sundry site.

Aural Pleasure: Podcasts

My holiday weekend has drawn to a close, and I am back in the blog-mines blasting for the highest quality blog-ore to process for your reading pleasure.  It was Thanksgiving here in Canada, and so I took the time to hang out with friends and reflect on things I am thankful for: friends, family and the varied world of geekdom.

I also spent a great deal of my four-day weekend catching up on a backlog of podcasts.  While the number of podcasts I follow certainly don’t number anywhere near the number of blogs or webcomics I have in queue, I still have quite a few that I enjoy; leave them for a while and they start to pile up.  So I listened to much web-talk goodness and managed to whittle my unheard podcast stack down into low double digits.

Hours and hours of uninterrupted podcast listening is a treat I don’t often get these days.  Back in the Old Days(TM), before this magical series of tubes connecting everyone through their computers, I listened to radio a lot.  Some of my favourite memories growing up are just the time I spent in my room, the radio on in the background as I plotted and planned my next D&D (or Gamma World or Star Frontiers or…) game.  Living in Fort McMurray there were only two reliable radio stations: the CBC, and the local FM station, which played pretty much everything because it was the only station in town.  That local radio station was directly responsible for my varied musical tastes; when the soundtrack of my day could include a Hank Williams Sr. tune followed by Def Leppard followed by The Carpenters, one learns to be accepting and patient.

But the CBC was responsible for my love of spoken word shows (and classical music, probably the one thing the FM station didn’t play).  The music was just a pleasant addition to my game planning, but it was the documentaries, docu-dramas and interviews that made me stop and really listen.  And to be honest, given how much I was smitten with the imaginary worlds I was futzing around in, provided a necessary reminder that a) a real world waited outside my bedroom door, and b) that world was just as interesting, most days, as Greyhawk or post-apocalyptic earth.

Flash forward to today, and I listen to podcasts for very similar reasons.  It can be very easy to allow oneself to develop a very narrow focus, to wallow in one’s own opinions and ideas.  For me, podcasts are a way to broaden that focus and not only hear about things I may not have otherwise, but also to remind myself that I am connected to a larger community of geeks.

Because yes, as you would expect the majority of my listening is geek and gaming podcasts.  There are exceptions; I have listened to The Unknown Studio, a podcast recorded by my friends Scott and Adam right here in Edmonton, since the first episode.  And while they are both geeks the podcast itself is not geek-themed.  Instead, it focuses on topics and goings-on in my home-city of Edmonton, and does it in a smart and entertaining manner.

But the majority of my aural pleasure comes from nerdy podcasts, I won’t lie.  For your edification, here are some of my favourites:

The Nerdist – I’m sure most of you will be most familiar with this one. And if you are one of the Under-Rock dwellers that has never heard of The Nerdist, I suggest you crawl out and get familiar.  Chris Hardwick (arguably the busiest nerd in media), along with his cohorts Matt and Jonah, bring a great mix of interviews, live-shows (either his stage shows or panels from cons) and just them talking for an hour.  I’m actually torn between which episodes I enjoy more, but the banter episodes make me feel like I’m listening to a conversation with friends so they probably squeak out ahead.  And if you want a broad exposure to nerd culture, this is probably the best podcast out there.

Fear the Boot – Fear the Boot has the distinction of being the podcast I have listened to the longest.  And though the name wouldn’t give it away, it is a really fine tabletop gaming podcast.  Hosted variably by Dan, John, Pat and Wayne, this is another podcast with the format I love: guys just sitting around talking about gaming.  Imagine sitting around with your buddies and shooting the shit about gaming, that is this podcast.  The topics covered are interesting to both players and GMs, and they also feature great interviews with game industry insiders.  The thing I love most about Fear the Boot (and what I look for in other podcasts) is these guys really love what they talk about.  They are up to episode 246 (not including special episodes), and every show still contains a contagious level of enthusiasm.  If you game, this is your show; clap it to your breast with hoops of steel!

Crazy Sexy Geeks – Lest you begin to think I’ll only listen to the fellas, may I present Crazy Sexy Geeks.  I listened to one episode because of a recommendation on Twitter, and then spent a goodly chunk of that day catching up on the back-eps.  Smart and friendly, CSG features Jill Pantozzi and Alan Kistler catching us up on the latest news in nerd culture.  With episodes coming in between 30-40 minutes, CSG is one of the few podcasts that I would like to see run a little longer; for the geek dating advice I would love another 20 minutes alone.  I love the podcast so much, I am willing to ignore the sometimes tinny sound quality. (To understand how big a concession that is, you need to know that I used to be theatre sound tech; bad sound quality is like ground glass in my brain)  Worth every second, definitely a must-listen!

Ed and Red’s As-Yet-Unnamed Podcast– Another of my podcasts that is not specifically geek-themed, though you will be hard-pressed to keep Liana (the aforementioned Red) from talking nerdy for long.  Similar to The Unknown Studio, Ed and Red’s focuses attention on topics of interest to Torontonians, also covers general social issues that catch their eye, as well as the occasional bit of nerdery.  They are only up to episode six, and part of the…er, charm of these early episodes is listening to the format growing pains of Ed the Sock.  But these two are always entertaining together, and if you are a fan of smart, funny conversation you will enjoy what you hear.  If you aren’t a fan of that…what are you doing here?

Scotch & Comics – Maybe it’s premature to put this on my favourites list, since the first episode only dropped yesterday.  But I enjoy talking with my buddy Devon and we don’t get to do it as often as I’d like, so his podcast is going to keep the Devon-monkey off my back.  But besides my personal issues, you should listen to Scotch & Comics because it is genuine and entertaining, and Devon is really smart about comics.  More than that, he can communicate that smart in a way that makes his comic reading (and yes, scotch drinking) interesting and accessible.  If you love comics and/or scotch, do yourself a favour and get in on the ground floor of this podcast.

That’s all from me.  So what podcasts do you listen to?  Got anything to recommend to me and my tens of readers?  The comments are just a few keystrokes away…