Bonus Episode 8 – 2016 New Year’s Resolutions


Download this episode (right click and save)

Grant and Peter are back with a STG New Year’s tradition: A review of their resolutions for the upcoming year, broken down into “personal”, “gaming”, and “faith”. Plus, Grant drops some information about a Patreon campaign we’re working on, and we discuss the most interesting (and STG-relevant) Christmas gifts we received this year.

Mentioned in this episode: The Blue Devils in Italy: A History of the 88th Infantry DivisionA Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels; Habitica; Electric City Comic Con; Clearing the Backlog

Scripture: James 2:14-17, Revelation 3:15-18


Starting a Podcast, Part 3: Production

Welcome to the third and – at least for now – final part of the Starting a Podcast series. In the first and second posts, I covered mostly behind-the-scenes processes – decisions that you had to make to get some idea of what your podcast was even going to be, how you were going to record it, sand so forth. In this final one, we’ll actually get to producing some content! For the chart I refer to in the bullet points below, see the first post.

Production Phase:

This is where you’ll finish making your behind-the-scenes decisions, record an episode, and get it out there for the world to enjoy.

  • Determine Editing Standards [R]: This is more of a decision than you might initially think. Some podcasts go for an ultra-produced, slick presentation where every long pause, “um” or “uh” and every digression or verbal flub is edited away, leaving nothing but a silky-smooth stream of highly-refined content. This certainly has its advantages, but it can also lead to content that sounds inauthentic, and it increases editing time by a substantial degree. Still, some editing is good. You’ll want to take the edges off of certain things like Blarey the Podcast Train or other, less in-jokey background noise, and when you have one of those moments where you completely trip over your own tongue, it’s useful to be able to say it over again and edit in the usable version for clarity, if not for pride.
  • Determine Editing Staff [S] and Determine Editing Schedule [T]: This also varies. Some podcasts have one of their hosts edit (like Grant does with ours or Dan does with Fear the Boot) and some use an outside producer (like Gamers With Jobs and The Command Zone). In any case, you’ll want to determine who is doing the editing, and how much time they’ll have to do it before the episode drops. It bears mentioning that audio editing is a non-trivial task. To be even more explicit, it will take you between four and eight times as long to edit something as it did to record it. This is why Saving the Game is on a two-week release schedule, by the way. I suspect it’s also a major source of “podfade.” Getting together and recording a conversation is easy. Doing post-production work is substantially less so and is also a lot less fun. However, it’s manageable – that there are plenty of podcasts that have been around for years should be all the indication you need that editing is manageable, it’s just something you have to account for properly.
  • Set up Recording Environment [U]: As I alluded to earlier, this doesn’t need to be anything fancy. You just want a place that’s as quiet and free of interruptions as you can make it and you want to be able to sit comfortably and still talk into your microphone properly at the same time. In addition:
    • You really want to wear headphones if you’re podcasting with somebody who isn’t in the same room, and you want to make sure they don’t “leak” much sound. The “echo” effect is nigh unto impossible to get rid of in editing and is really distracting to listen to.
    • Consider plugging your headphones into your mic if you can. Apparently this helps get rid of certain verbal tics and makes for a more comfortable recording experience. You probably won’t even notice the difference, but it will help your audio quality.
    • Some kind of articulating mic stand will come in handier than you think.
    • Buy windscreens and pop filters for your mics and use them. They don’t cost much, but they help a lot.
  • Set up Home Page [V]: Get your web presence set up and ready to go. Specific technical advice for this is beyond the scope of this blog post, but if your web hosting provider is worth their salt, they should have some good documentation for you to use.
  • Determine Release Schedule [W]: Figure out how often you’re going to release your podcast. As a guide, record an “episode zero” (you are going to be horribly nervous and awkward, and that’s completely fine) and edit it. Then Extrapolate from there how long it’ll take you to record and release a typical episode and then take a very clear-eyed look at the rest of your life. From there you should be able to get some idea of how often you can release.
  • Record Episode [X]: This is it! Your first episode! Pick an interesting topic and get to it!
  • Edit Episode [Y]: Specific editing advice is beyond the scope of this blog post (though I’m hoping to talk Grant into writing a post or two about editing at some point) but the podcasting community is generally pretty friendly. IF you really get stuck, send a polite email to a veteran podcaster and they can probably get you un-stuck.
  • Release Episode [Z] and Post to Social Media [AA]: Put that edited episode out there for people to enjoy, and don’t forget to promote it on social media!

And that’s it for part 3: Production. I hope this series has been useful to you. As usual, feel free to ping us with questions or comments.


Starting a Podcast, Part 2: Preparation 1

Welcome to part 2 of the Starting a Podcast series. In the last post, I laid out the process we went through in the Conception phase of the podcast. This post assumes you’ve got your concept and that you’re ready to start getting down to the technical aspects of your podcast. These are the steps to get ready for the production aspect of the show. For where these steps fit in the overall scheme of setting up a podcast, refer back to the chart from part 1 of this series.

Preparation Phase:
This is where you’ll set up the necessary hardware and software for your podcast. It’s also where you’ll make some decisions about procedures and logistics.

  • Select Recording Software [H] and Acquire  Recording Software [O]: Over the years we and our guest hosts have used a number of different programs to get audio files for episodes, including the WIndows Sound Recorder app. You can use basically any program that allows you to record sound files, but that’s not to say they’re all equal. The RPG segment of the podcasting community, at least, has more or less standardized on Audacity. There are several reasons for this: it handles both recording and editing, it’s relatively easy to use, it has a decent number of features, and (perhaps most importantly) it’s free. If you are going to use Audacity (and after almost four years of using it, I’m pretty confident saying you should) you’ll want to get the LAME codec (it’s actual name, not a quality judgment) so you can encode your audio files in MP3 format. The reason it’s a separate codec and not part of audacity has to do with open-source licensing and file formats. It’s a legal issue, not a technical one, but you’ll only need to take care of it once when you install
  • Set up File Hosting [I]: You’ll need a place to host the audio you’re going to be producing. We actually found out the hard way early on in our podcasting career that you definitely want to use a hosting provider that specializes in podcasts. (If you don’t you may find that the first time one of your episodes takes off, there’s a very real possibility that you’ll be scrambling to get your feed back instead of celebrating.) The two big names in the business right now are Podbean and Libsyn. Either one of these services will work fine, but Libsyn is generally regarded as being a bit better; they tend to be slightly more reliable and have been talking about Spotify integration, though that seems to still be “early days” as of this writing.
  • Set up Social Media Presence [J]: As notoriously lousy as I am at social media, even I can acknowledge that these days, your podcast needs a social media presence. At a bare minimum, set up a twitter account, but also think about Facebook, Google+, etc. In addition, if you’re part of the community of another podcast (and if you’re thinking about starting one, you probably are) it’s worth putting the word out to that community about your venture.
  • Select Editing Software [K] and Acquire Editing Software [N]: As previously mentioned, the ideal is to have your recording and editing software be the same program. If they’re not, you may want to reconsider Audacity unless you have a compelling reason not to.
  • Select Recording Hardware [H] and Acquire  Recording Hardware [O]: This is one of the places where aspiring podcasters tend to get stuck, which is a shame, because this really isn’t that big of a deal. Let me set the record straight: you don’t need a mixer, you don’t need a mic that costs hundreds of dollars, and you don’t  need a recording studio. A decent-quality USB mic is just fine; Grant uses a podcasting standard, the Blue Snowball and I use an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB. It IS worth getting a windscreen and a pop filter for your mic, and you will find it a lot more comfortable to record if you mount it on something that doesn’t require you to loom/hunch over your desk like a podcasting vulture.
  • Establish Recording Procedures [M]: For Saving the Game, we set up our outline’s “bones” ahead of time, and then finish it off either right before or in the first few minutes after we get on a VOIP call and open up Audacity. We typically both record 10 seconds or so of random chatter just to make sure we’re getting good waveforms, then delete that from the project. When it comes time to record the episode proper, we do a countdown from 3 and hit “record” more or less  at the same time, then acknowledge verbally that we’re recording. After that, we sit quietly for 30 seconds for “room tone” and then typically launch into the episode. You may want to do something similar or different, but work it out ahead of time.
  • Set up File Sharing Resources [Q]: If you’re able to record in the same physical space with the other folks on your podcast, this isn’t all that important. If you’re remote like we are on Saving the Game, however, it is absolutely critical (audio files are typically way too big to be emailed, and you need to get everyone’s track to the editor). Once again, this needn’t be something expensive or time consuming; Grant and I use Google Drive and have been very happy with it. I know of several other podcasts that use DropBox. Once again, there’s no one “right” solution, just find something that works for everybody involved and use it consistently.

And that’s it for Part 2: Preparation. Look for Part 3 on Saturday.


Starting a Podcast, Part 1: Conception 2

 

I listen to a lot of podcasts in addition to being on one, and one of the most common questions that every podcast gets asked is “how do you start a podcast?” While I can’t speak for everybody else out there, this is the process Grant and I went through. The chart at the top is a piece of recycled homework from my intro to business class last semester – it shows, from left to right, the rough order things need to be done in and which things need to be done more or less together. In addition, it’s color-coded; after determining what the podcast is (light gray) you’re going to have staff (blue), podcasting hardware and software (yellow) and your internet presence (pink). (Click on the graphic to blow it up to a size you can actually read.) Processes that use more than one of these are in colors formed by mixing two of the colors (green or purple) or all three (brown). The diagram flows from left to right. Hopefully it’s not too hard to follow. In addition to the chart above, I’m going to break the steps down into three phases: Conception, Preparation, and Production. Each one of those phases will form a separate blog post.Podcast CPM

Conception Phase:

This is where you’ll need to figure out what your podcast is going to be about, who your hosts are going to be, and what you’ll call yourselves.

  • Determine Podcast Niche [A]: Spend some time figuring out exactly what you want your show to be about and what kind of topics you’ll discuss. This doesn’t have to be completely etched in stone, but the more specific you can be, the better. For Saving the Game, we decided that we wanted to do an explicitly-Christian tabletop RPG podcast and talk about ways that gaming and faith intersect and interact. Over the years, we’ve also added some focus on storytelling technique and using games as a means by which to do good works.
  • Recruit Hosting Staff [B]: This may take place at the same time as determining the podcast niche, or somebody may get an idea and then recruit co-hosts later. Figure out who you’re going to be recording with and whether you’ll have a more-or-less fixed group of hosts like us, KARTAS, and the Gameable Podcasts, or a rotating pool of hosts like Fear the Boot and Gamers With Jobs. You’ll want to select people that it’s easy for you to have a conversation with, that you’ll actually want to talk to for a few hours on a regular basis, and that can be trusted to show up. How many people you have is going to vary from podcast to podcast, but you should have at least two. Monologue podcasts are notoriously very hard to keep going, and having at least one other brain to pick generally tends to make the process easier, richer, and more fun.
  • Select Podcast Name [C]: This is a surprisingly brain-bendy activity, or at least it was for us. You want something that conveys what you do and/or who you are, is memorable, and that has an indicative URL available for registration. We picked Saving the Game because it had the dual connotations of fixing a game that’s going awry and the obvious Christian connotations that go with the word “save” and its variants.
  • Register Domain Name [D]: Take the name you just picked and figure out a URL that’s memorable that goes with it. Then register that domain name before somebody else does.
  • Establish a Recording Schedule [E]: Pick a time when you and the other host(s) can reliably sit down and record. For Saving the Game, we typically record on Thursday evenings, but I think over the years we’ve been doing the podcast, we’ve recorded at least once on every day of the week for one reason or another. As you can tell from that last sentence, some flexibility is good, because something is going to happen that messes with one of your voices, computers, or schedules at some point.
  • Select Communication Tools [F]: If you’re fortunate enough to be able to sit down in the same physical location with the other folks on your podcast, this will be less of an issue for you than it is for us, but you should be able to reach your fellow podcasters in at least three different ways and at least two of those should be in real time. It’s also useful to have a set place to communicate various official business about the podcast, and if you’re recording remotely, you need a good, solid VOIP connection. Grant and I used Skype for a while, but it hated one of his prior computers, so we switched to Google Hangouts a while back and have stayed there.
  • Establish Show Format [G]: Figure out what kind of structure you want your show to have. We have always had a pretty tightly-structured show – we do our announcements and a quick greeting and check-in, and then move on to scripture and then to our topic. We also make extensive use of outlines, something that other podcasts don’t always do and that we get a bit of ribbing for on Game Store Prophets. In any case, figure out what kind of format you want to do and how much – or how little – structure works for you.

And that’s it for Part 1: Conception. Check back on Thursday for the next part of this series.


Episode 76 – Manichaeism (Historical Heresies, Part 3)


Download this episode (right click and save)

Grant and Peter are back at it with part three of our Historical Heresies series. This time, we introduce a major competitor to Christianity in the Western Roman Empire, and a particularly interesting (read: complex and imaginative) Gnostic tradition: Manichaeism! We also provide one last plug for this year’s fundraiser for The Bodhana Group, and remind everyone to rate and review us on iTunes, Stitcher, and anywhere else you listen to our podcast on.

Scripture: Psalm 119:25-27Matthew 28:19-20


Merry Christmas!

This is going to be another short one, because it’s a very busy time of year (“hustle and bustle” translates to “chaos, pandemonium, and/or anarchy” when you work in retail) but I’d be remiss if I didn’t wish you all Merry Christmas!

Also, while I’ve got you here: Grant and I will be recording our annual New Years bonus episode the next time we sit down to record, so if you’ve got any resolutions of your own you’d like to share with us, get them to us via comments or social media in the next few days.

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, everybody!

-Peter


Episode 75 – Group Management


Download this episode (right click and save)

It’s a shorter episode this week, due to recording right after Thanksgiving and Grant (and the rest of his household) being very sick. Still, that doesn’t stop us from plugging our Bodhana Group fundraiser before getting into our main topic: Group management! We talk about the holidays—because it’s that time of year—and what they do to games. Then, we discuss a number of issues which might arise and communication and management tools to alleviate group management problems. Enjoy!

Scripture: Proverbs 13:4, Ephesians 5:15-16


Gaming and School

The semester ends this week, and as a result, I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with my keyboard. Between this blog post and the last of the stuff I need to do for school, by the end of the night, I’ll have composed something like 3,000 words. Good thing I like to write! Speaking of writing, as inadvisable as I feel like it should be, I just can’t help myself when it comes to using gaming as a topic in my academic life. I’ve written papers about society’s trouble accepting role playing games as far back as 1997, and I’m working on a product critique of Magic: The Gathering for my intro to business class. (In fact, I’m writing this blog post while taking a break from writing that product critique!)

I’m not sure why I feel like I shouldn’t do this (maybe because I worry that my teachers will think anything related to something I do for fun if too frivolous for academic discussion?), but it doesn’t stop me from doing it at least once in almost every class I have to write for. I’ve got several reasons: I would love it if a teacher asked me about some game I’d mentioned in a paper (or indicated they already played it), I’ve found other gaming students to talk with that way, and I already know a fair bit about gaming, so research tends to be easier and new information I uncover tends to stay useful after the class is over. I’ve also met a decent number of other gamers in school settings (in fact, until I discovered podcasts, that was my primary source for meeting other gamers) so my academic life and my gaming life are kind of tied in my mind that way. The biggest reason though, is that I think over 20 years of hobby gaming in various forms has kind of rewired my brain.

If I don’t seem particularly upset about that last statement: I’m not. Gaming has given me a variety of useful tools for interacting with and describing the world around me, and I don’t even mean “gamifying” aspects of my life in the traditional “life hacking” way. D&D alignments provide useful analogies for describing personalities and behaviors of characters in fiction (and occasionally jokingly doing so with real people). Things like levels and character points provide a useful analogy for talking about things like competency or even privilege.

And then there’s all of the stuff that those of us that are apologists for the hobby always talk about: math, social skills, and especially problem solving are all part & parcel of the gaming experience. Gaming may not have taught me everything I know about working with a team, managing different personality types, and thinking on the fly, but it has supplied a lot of those lessons, and unlike the ones learned at work or in school, they have tended to be enjoyable rather than aggravating or even painful.

It’s not even just tabletop RPGs, although I do think they’re probably the single most beneficial type of gaming – I’ve learned teamwork in cooperative board games like Pandemic and especially when I was playing Left 4 Dead 2 with some friends on Steam. I’ve learned more than I’d ever have been able to tolerate learning in other ways about efficiency and system optimization (especially taking unnecessary components out) building Magic: The Gathering decks. (And while I’m talking about Magic, I’ve learned to manage disappointment and stress through it, too. Getting mana screwed in magic isn’t fun, but being able to tell your opponent they beat you fair & square after it happened to you is a valuable skill.) Play can be very beneficial when it stretches you – especially when you don’t realize it until after you’re done and decide to think about it.

School feeds back into gaming, too: the critical thinking skills you learn in particular are a handy tactical resource, and the “three ‘R’s” help a lot too. You need good reading and math skills just to play a game, and some writing practice helps keep your character’s backstory from being bland. In addition, I took a course in high school that dealt with etymology and root words. That may have been the single most valuable class of my entire primary educational career. The skills and knowledge I got in that class have been useful in every aspect of my life, but especially in gaming – science fiction and fantasy use a lot of esoteric terminology, and being able to crack it with root words rather than Google is really nice.

So maybe it’s not so odd that I keep pulling in references to gaming at school. After all, they compliment each other nicely.


Episode 74 – The Myth of Redemptive Violence (with Rev. Derek White) 2


Download this episode (right click and save)

Rev. Derek White, a.k.a. “The Geekpreacher“, joins Grant and Peter once again! Derek joined us previously on Episode 38, “Christians on the Convention Scene”, and he’s back with us to discuss another weighty topic: Walter Wink’s “myth of redemptive violence” and René Girard’s concept of the “scapegoat” and collective violence. We also take a moment to remind everyone about our ongoing fundraiser for The Bodhana Group, and hear about Derek’s growing role as a convention pastor. Lastly, David LaMotte was kind enough to give us permission to use his song “Peter” in this episode; it was particularly appropriate, especially since David’s a Walter Wink fan too. If you enjoyed it, find more music at his website, and on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.

Also referenced in this episode: The GenCon 2015 Worship Service (and specifically, Derek’s “Here There Be Dragons” sermon); The GenCon 2015 “Faith and Gaming” panel; Walter Wink’s “Facing the myth of redemptive violence“; René Girard’s The Scapegoat; Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” podcast; and Ursula K. le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas“.

Scripture: Hosea 6:6, Jonah 3:10-4:2, Luke 22:47-52


Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s going to be a short blog post this week – Thanksgiving is on Thursday, and that means a lot of traveling and feasting for a lot of us. Because my wife and I have to hit two families, I don’t get a chance to do much (usually any) gaming on Thanksgiving, but if you do, I’d love to hear about any holiday gaming traditions you all have in the comments. We’ll see you next week with a podcast episode.

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Peter