Featuring a powerful cast of hosts, Tabletop News is aiming to bring a consolidated weekly news show to the tabletop gaming space. Though not a wholly original concept–websites like Dicebreakers and podcasts like The Dice Tower cover press releases and announcements within the tabletop gaming space–Tabletop News is looking to differentiate itself by solely focusing on news stories and delivering them in concise 12-minute long episodes.
To get a better understanding of what Two Kings Entertainment is hoping to accomplish with Tabletop News and what the team behind the show wants to achieve within the industry, I sat down to talk with Two Kings Entertainment executive producer Adam Rady and Tabletop News producer and host Michelle Nguyen Bradley. The two answered my questions about why the tabletop community needs a show like this, why they’re opting to launch through a Kickstarter campaign, and how Tabletop News is designed to be approachable for–as Rady puts it–the “curious gamer.”
I don’t know how much of this you can speak to, but why did y’all feel like now is the time? What about the past few years have made y’all go, “The tabletop community needs a consolidated weekly news show?”
Rady: In terms of why I came to the understanding–I was just looking around at what the tabletop space was, and I felt like it needed it. I was looking at what we already have, and what we have is a lot of actual plays. We have a lot of content and a lot of reviews and gameplay. And so I thought, “Okay, well there’s an obvious desire for content, an obvious consumption of content and of games.” So I thought, “Well, what is something that is a service that this industry doesn’t have yet?” And it was fairly quickly obvious when we looked at it since movies have this, television has this, video games have this in spades, sports have this.
I just thought, “Wow, there really isn’t a dedicated centralized news source.” There are a lot of independent different news sources, some of which cover written articles, some of which cover podcasts or long form or specifically do reviews or play games, but nothing that was just a short form, “Hey, hit me with the super quick facts so I can move about my day and find me on social media.” And so it was something we felt like the industry needed and we feel like if we’re not the ones to do it, somebody’s going to do it.
Bradley: I was working with Esports Engine–our client was Twitch, and I worked at Twitch for the Twitch Gaming channel. So I was producing shows like the now defunct The Weekly, which was a show about video games with two hosts talking about news, doing interviews, and doing fun gameplay. That was the format of this two-hour show.
I also produced ID@Xbox, a few of those sorts of showcase shows for video game publishers. I was there for a while and I learned so much, and I’m really grateful for the teams that I met there. But I’ve been working in tabletop for the past six years, so I’ve been doing that longer. The more I thought about it, the more I realized my passion isn’t really [games]. I like video games just fine–I know a lot about them before I was producing those shows–but my passion really lies in tabletop.
So the more I thought about it, and I was making new shows every week, grinding them out, it was exhausting. I was just like, “Man, I wish I could do this for tabletop because there’s just so much going on. This is a great format for a show about just tabletop things.” And my brain was more TTRPG-focused back in those early days when I was thinking about this, and I remember after I stopped doing that job at Esports Engine because it was a contract thing–I just finished my contract, and I was like, “I’m good.”–and people kept asking me, “What’s your dream project, Michelle? If this is not making you happy, why?”
And I thought about it and I was like, “You know what? I like doing that work. I enjoyed having a slick, well-edited production, but I wish there was something like that for what I love.” So the more I thought about it in my brain, I started to maybe soft talk about it to some people, but it just seemed like, “Oh, I don’t have a team, I’m just one person.” So it was in my brain for kind of a while then, actually a little bit before then too. But anyway, the point is that at some point [Adam and I] were hanging out and we were having dinner with our mutual [friends] and we were just talking about things we want to do in the future. And I mentioned it to Adam, he’s like, “We’ve already been working on something like that.”
And of course, this isn’t a unique idea. There are lots of people in the tabletop space and everyone has been doing a variation of this idea in different ways. But what Adam brought to the picture was the idea of a short format, which I hadn’t really thought of before. And his experience in production is a lot different and a lot more exhaustive than mine, so it made sense to sort of team up. I had a lot of heartfelt connections in the tabletop community already, and I had worked a lot on camera in tabletop already.
You mention this idea about producing a show that uses shorter segments and is altogether a brief shot at what’s happening in the space week-to-week. Adam, how did you come to this idea to produce a weekly show where every episode is quick and short?
Rady: I have been very fortunate to produce a lot of live plays and actual plays. I was really excited and fortunate to be the producer for G4’s Invitation to Party, where we got to take D&D to television. That was really cool…and then they promptly went out of business. But the point is we got to do that and that was cool! But what I was thinking about when I was looking at that was, “Man, that particular show was already two hours long.” And that is considered relatively short for an actual play. It also had commercials in it too.
But I was looking at it, and I was like, “If you are a fan of literally any actual play–whether it’s Critical Role, Dimension 20, or just any number of the awesome multitude of other ones–you have to take three to four hours out of your week to watch it whether you’re going to do it live or any other time.” And then you probably want to watch the new Game of Thrones. You probably want to watch the new Marvel, the new Star Wars. You probably got to take the kids to soccer practice and do laundry and make dinner, things like that. So to me–as a consumer, as someone who’s consuming content–I’m like, “I would just really like a short form show to tell me what’s up.” Because I see these other ones, these podcasts that are an hour long or a two-hour-long Twitch live stream, and I’m like, “Boy, I just don’t have time for that.” And I don’t think that most other people have time for that either.
In terms of talking about news, is the goal to more-so report the news like “these are the facts,” or will it be more editorialized?
Rady: I always like to say that first and foremost, we want our hosts to be the wonderful human beings that they are. The charismatic, amazing folks that have opinions, that have passions, that have things they don’t like and do like. They’re not just reading a teleprompter to read a teleprompter. But our goal is to give you information so that you can make the decision that you like. So for instance, if you know that you tend to really side with Michelle, you really notice that you like similar games, then her recommendation of a game might be really valuable to you. You might be like, “Oh wow, I’d really be interested in checking that out.” Whereas maybe if she says, “Oh, I’m not really as excited about that particular thing.” Maybe that might influence you to not try it.
We’re really interested in providing you with the tools to make your own decisions, but we’re also setting the rules of our own show. So if we decide that we want to delve into a topic more deeply, well maybe that’s not just a one-minute segment, that’s a multiple-minute segment that we just happen to cut up into a more convenient, palatable experience for you on social media. We certainly could do entire shows about entire subjects and topics and really delve into those things but on the surface, we have to be very clear and say that starting out, there’s a reason that we’re just quite honestly scrappy independent creators. We have to start somewhere and we don’t have a full editorial team right now, and they’re rather expensive to hire an entire team and have them on every single week for, oh, I don’t know, forever. So those types of things, we have to take baby steps to say that those are obviously aspirational for us, but starting out, our goal is to basically just start to present the information to you and let you make your own informed decisions and then grow with the show and be able to grow our coverage with the show.
Bradley: And I think in the majority of our content, we’ll be talking about things that we love or are excited about. If we really hate something, why would we bring it up? I don’t know, it just seems weird to bring it up in a show that’s fun and entertaining. The point of the show is to educate, entertain, and talk about what we love because that’s more interesting to us. And also, because there’s so many of us involved and we all love different things, we’ll bring different viewpoints to our wider audience–there’s so many different games.
There’s obviously a lot that falls under the umbrella of “tabletop.” Is there any portion of the tabletop community you all hope to focus on and explore a bit more?
Rady: The goal is to try to get the full breadth of it. But again, that’s with the caveat of acknowledging that that’s pretty much an impossible topic to fully cover. So really the pillars that we’ve sort of identified are board games, TTRPGs, card games, and then war strategy games–things like X-Wing or Warhammer. Those are sort of the silos that we’re looking to try to cover. Obviously, you could go crazy [semantically] and say, “Well, poker is a tabletop game.” And yeah it is, but I think there are other outlets where you could probably get that information from more experienced folks than us.
But our intention is to grow with it because we acknowledge that whatever show we put out first is not going to be the show that you’re seeing a year later because it’s going to evolve and grow and hopefully become not just a show, but a potential resource.
Bradley: And I think there are so many other great tabletop news sources already, like Dicebreaker or The Dice Tower but these sources are for people who are at that high-tier level in a certain kind of game in the community and want more of that. They do really, really deep dives for people who already know a lot. I feel like our content is a bit more broad–we’re aiming to make this as accessible to the average person as possible.
Rady: Yeah, I think that our show will be the most beneficial to the curious gamer, the person who’s interested and open to learning about new games and new experiences.
So why Kickstarter? I realize pointing to similarly structured news shows like SourceFed and G4 isn’t the best considering they aren’t around anymore and are evidence of something not working out but shows like yours, in the past, typically didn’t opt for community crowdfunding out the gate.
Rady: Well we don’t have that Comcast money, I’ll tell you that much. Our intention [with Kickstarter] is multifaceted. Kickstarter is a great way to engage and build community as well as resources. So obviously, financially Kickstarter makes sense in terms of wanting to generate some funding. But it also makes sense from a, “Hey, we’d like to build community and start talking in the community and start showing that we really want to involve the community in the growth and shape of this show,” way too. Because if they don’t back it, well, I guess they don’t want it or they don’t want our version of it–which is fine, that’s okay, we understand that. And if they do back it, then we know we’re doing something right. Additionally, that also helps those folks with deeper pockets, whether it be brands or individuals to look at it and say, “Oh wow, that is a worthwhile investment in terms of my hard-earned money to give to them.
So that’s really why we chose Kickstarter. In all honesty, we, like any great capitalist, would’ve loved to have just gotten money from the sky, but ultimately we have to look at it and we have to ask, “What is reasonable for a small team to try to put together?” So we’ve tried to think of this in that way. I would say our one downfall in that regard is that we produce really cool good-looking things, and so people tend to look at our product and think, “Oh, they’ve already got it all.”
Rady: And it’s like, “Well, no, we just really know how to produce a thing.” We don’t have the resources to produce the thing all the time. It’s just something we know how to shoot and put audio and lights and experts in front of. We are very blessed to have connections that we have built in our industry, in our work, and in our lives over years and years of hard work, but we don’t have the resources to do it.
Bradley: Right. Like we’ve used all our own resources, our own money, and our own time–almost a year of our time at this point–to make the teaser and the Kickstarter and we’re busting our butts off to just do that. And I think people think we already have a show, and no, there’s no show. There’s just a teaser and marketing materials.
Rady: We have carefully structured it to be these images that you are seeing. And oftentimes people are like, “Oh, well you have the set.” It’s yeah, we have the set. Do you know that we’re in Los Angeles and we have to have the lights on to do that? And a crew to shoot it, and writers to write it, and researchers to research it, and editors to edit it–it’s a whole thing. So we could do this trick but we could only do it once and that was to what we shot–the promotional footage.
Tabletop News’ Kickstarter campaign will conclude on April 20. This interview was edited for both brevity and readability.
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