Special Episode: State of the Podcast


I’ve been thinking about the future of my podcast Designer vs. Reality. Normally I present actual play recordings of roleplaying games that are still in development. We’re getting to the end of 2011 and I’ve been thinking about where I want to direct my energy in the new year. I haven’t put out a new episode of the podcast for a while, and I’m thinking about where I want to go with Designer vs. Reality in the future. Basically, I’ve boiled it down to four options.

Option 1: Kill the podcast. – When I first started the podcast I had a few specific goals in mind. One of my hopes was to inject a new kind of conversation into the game design community, one where we’d talk about game design based on observation rather than idle speculation or second-hand recollections. That hasn’t really materialized. That’s not terribly surprising, since the online design discussion community seems to have dried up pretty badly, and an actual play podcast of games in playtesting is a niche of a niche, but even though it’s not surprising it’s still disappointing that I didn’t achieve my original goal. If I’m going to be honest with myself then I probably need to admit that my original goals for the podcast may have been unattainable, and that means I ought to consider giving it the axe.

Option 2: Keep the podcast going as-is – this is also an option I need to consider. Although I didn’t meet many of my original goals, the podcast has done some good and some listeners have enjoyed the show, which is great. The big problem with this option is that it’s hard to stay motivated to keep searching out games I’m interested in playtesting, getting sessions organized, getting the audio edited, etc. I enjoy the actual playtesting, and the audio editing isn’t too bad, but all that other stuff really drains my reserves, which means I have less energy and motivation for other things I could be doing. That means that this option isn’t looking so great.

Option 3: Roll the podcast into some sort of new ambitious goal – I have a bit of a quixotic strain in my personality. There are things I think the game design community needs, so part of me wants to try to lead the charge, even if it’s unlikely that anyone would follow where I want to lead. Maybe I could figure out some way to make an actual play playtest podcast support something new, like playtest exchanges with other designers, or maybe a design contest, or I could try being an editor for an anthology of games. There’s value in being the change you want to see, but it’s awfully tiring if you’re the only one doing it, and I’m not sure whether it makes sense to try to invest emotionally in a new grand idea if it’s probably just going to crash and burn. There’s value in idealism, but there’s also value in being realistic.

Option 4: Radically change the direction of the podcast – As a podcast listener, I wish there was more design talk out there. This is another “be the change you want to see” kind of thing: maybe I should just change the format from a playtesting-focused AP podcast to something else. The big problem with this option is that I have no idea what other kind of show to produce. I don’t think I’m humble enough to do an interview show. I don’t think I’m comfortable enough on the mic to try a solo show, and finding cohosts for a podcast seems even more daunting than finding players to join a gaming group, so I wouldn’t look forward to that. But just because I haven’t found an idea I like yet doesn’t mean there isn’t a good one out there, so I feel obligated to think about it and consider suggestions.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m not sure which of these options appeals to me the most right now, since I can see pros and cons with each one. I thought I’d put my thoughts out there, to see if anyone had anything they wanted to add to the conversation.

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