CHATSPLOSION: Quinns and Paul (Shut Up and Sit Down)
Shut Up and Sit Down is the entire reason that Exploding Robot exists.
Straight up. Quinns and Paul’s enthusiasm and passion for boardgaming is infectious, and those two lovely men are the reason that there’s a huge pile of expensive cardboard boxes in the corner of Exploding Robot towers.
As such, we’re very excited to say that our second CHATSPLOSION guests are the effervescent, erudite and handsome hosts of Shut Up and Sit Down, Paul Dean and Quintin Smith.
P: Hello, I’m Paul Dean. I’m thirty-two years old and I was born on the edge of Surrey and Hampshire and Berkshire. I like dogs and books and old films where James Mason’s voice is warm and cuddly, like a teddy bear. To avoid being unemployed, I write about video games, but I also adore board games and that’s why I want to write about them too-
Q: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. I’m Quinns. I have climbed mountains. Metaphorically, I am a horse.
Q: Haha. I actually lucked into it by myself, which is a kind of miserable indictment on the state of the hobby. As a kid I kept going to this one shop for roleplaying supplies, and they had all these board games there. I was curious, and I was lucky, and I took one of the good ones home.
Everyone should know a guy, who knows a guy, who wants to introduce you to board games. SU&SD is both trying to be that guy and produce more of those guys, like some kind of guy factory.
P: Like an aging veteran, I have but one story I tell here: HeroQuest. MB games brought it out around 1989 or somesuch, and some of my friends and I really got into it. I totally understood it right away, the concept that a board game could be about heroes fighting monsters, just as it could be about making money (Monopoly) or going to a disastrous house party (Cluedo). A board game could be as clever and exciting and original as you wanted it to be, it didn’t have to be a plodding affair. HeroQuest had a gargoyle and trapped treasure chests and a deck of spells. In Monopoly, one of you can be a boot. I mean, come on.
P: As I see it, the tale stretches back quite far…
Both Quinns and I had played board games (and tabletop roleplaying) when we were young, though we actually met because we were both into videogames. A little while back Quinns started buying more and more (and more!) board games, I’d started playing a few more with friends, and we both fell back into it mostly accidentally, like two men simultaneously falling up the stairs.
/Then/ we saw that board game journalism failed to match the intelligence and the enthusiasm that the hobby deserved, and I think it was Quinns who came to me to suggest we follow Consolevania’s attitude: We might not have a budget, but we would have the knowledge and the excitement. I think he said something flattering about my VERY limited screenwriting experience and I said that, sure, we should absolutely do this, and make a damn good go of it.
I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how serious he was at the time, but I definitely believed we could create something good if we both dived in. We did. Headlong. Is that about right?
Q: Yeah. RPS’s linking us was (and still is) nice, but I think having our combined experience in journalism helped us more. Simply creating good content saw us getting linked of BoardGameGeek and Reddit, and our work in the Twittersphere and Facebook Realm helped too.
Q: In the last year I have essentially bankrupted myself buying games. Which really bugs us, actually. In our day jobs, publishers are desperate for outlets to cover their video game. And here we are with the most popular board gaming site in the UK (I believe), and I’m having to fund us myself. The culture of interaction with the press doesn’t exist.
This is where I have to give a shout-out to the guys that have supported us. Esdevium Games here in the UK, Czech Games, Plaid Hat Games and NSKN Games have all been wonderful.
P: It’s lovely when we’re sent games, because it tends to be more timely: We’re asked to review something because it’s current or recent.
Finding time (or making time) for the episodes is always a challenge, but one way or another we find a way to get things done. When we started our timetable was we’d give ourselves a week to write an episode, a week to film it and a week to edit it, which, over four months, broke us utterly.
Q: Time is elastic, so finding the hours to create our episodes isn’t difficult, but what we were noticing was a slight drop in… not quality, but passion. By the end of season 1 the groove of writing and filming reviews had become a rut wherein we didn’t analyze what we were doing, we just went tumbling through the motions. Hence our Christmas Special where we end up reviewing solo games alone. We were trying to mix things up.
P: Is it videogaming or video gaming? I can’t really claim to understand morphology and what does or doesn’t make a compound word official. Given that the Germans absolutely love welding words together to make larger ones, and they also love board gaming, I think calling it boardgaming would be appropriate. Though I haven’t been doing that-
Q: It’s video gaming and it’s board gaming. SORRY.
P: For me, it’s very much the ability to do things you just can’t do in a video game. The kinds of games we play often feature rules or concepts that an computer would collapse trying to model. AI is bad at bluffing, it’s bad at understanding context, it’s bad at extrapolating. We do all these things all the time, often without even realising, which is why so many of us settle into games of lying and cheating one another so easily. So many of the best board games make us, as people, do our people things at each other.
Q: “People things?”
P: And then this just reinforces the social aspect of our situation. We’re sat down together anyway, but now we’re engaging even more, through systems in a game that deliberately encourage us to do so, in a way that’d never happen across the internet.
Q: Yeah. Paul’s got it. If you consider yourself a gamer, you should explore all aspects of gaming. I wouldn’t recommend an evening of board gaming over an evening of videogaming, I’d recommend knowing what both offer. I’d love to see an evolution of the term “gamer” where the person in question is as comfortable rolling dice and lying to strangers as they are with a pad in their hand.
P: Yeah, somewhat. Board games aren’t cheap, but then neither are video games or consoles or PCs. 3.5m people just forked out $60 or £45 for Diablo III, many of them without blinking, so it’s not like these things are unaffordable. You can expect to get a good board game for £30-45.
What many video gamers are spoiled by, though, are tutorials and hand-holding. Opening a board game requires opening the instructions and taking some time to digest it. It might be no more complicated than looking at the manual for your boiler, but it’ll put some people off. All we need to do is show those people that, actually, it’s no big deal, and the best games don’t ask you to refer to the instructions much at all.
Q: Mm. And yeah, like you say, there’s also the awesome risk that your friends might not enjoy the game.
But videogames only solve that by putting you with like-minded strangers. I’m not sure that’s any better than potentially having a boring time with your friends.
P: It would probably depend who that was and what I knew appealed to them. I might try The Resistance for people who like to bicker or pick at each other, Dominion for the simplicity of its basic rules, or Memoir ‘44 for people who want to blow stuff up and who are looking for a game about combat.
Q: How many people am I introducing? How old are they? Are they gamers? Is there sexual tension? Are we drunk? Am /I/ drunk? I need context.
You know, a problem with board gaming is that it fails to even capitalise on the two awesome board games that everyone’s played. Twister and poker. In a sense, people have already been introduced to board gaming. We just need to tell them it’s broader than they think.
Q: MAN UP. Or LADY UP.
P: Actually, I don’t know. The space, fair enough, is an issue, but only if you have lots. You don’t need to own lots, you just need to own the ones you like most and people always, always want to buy second-hand games. Unless, I suppose you’ve lost or damaged your cards, but why would you do that? Don’t you take care of your things? Do you wake up in the night and chew all your possessions? Do you feel compelled, each week, to burn one item in your house? Do you just LOVE water-damaging things at random? Do you live with a poltergeist? I would probably continue asking a person questions like these until I was arrested.
Q: I have a rule in my house that nobody’s allowed to wear bras. I think that’s an OK rule.
P: Sometimes essential. Otherwise, often a useful thing to have.
Q: We’re talking about the same thing, right?
P: A game is like a horse.
Q: I am a horse.
P: Fundamentally, it must run well and it must be finely-honed. But horses are notoriously fair creatures and a game should reward those who play it with skill and thought, without punishing those who are too unlucky. Much like a horse, you don’t just want it to be a naked system of perfectly interconnected muscle and sinew; a glossy skin and charming theme needs to be stretched over all this.
Q: I AM A HORSE
P: I misread this as “if you get a crush on your best friend.” I like both. The thing I’ve found with board games is quite a few of them are great at modelling something that’s not just co-operative, but something where you feel your role is unique to the team, where you have your own special task to perform. They often do this better than many video games and I really love this. But I don’t mind competitive games at all.
Q: I’d say that you’ve accidentally stumbled on the reason Space Alert is so good, there. It’s a ferocious buzz while also providing a sense of accomplishment. God, I love Space Alert.
P: I think in many places it’s already a respectable hobby, but I certainly hope it continues to grow and grow. Aside from it just being a brilliant thing, there’s all kinds of arguments for board gaming being a way to make new friends, a way to excercise your brain, to be educational, to be a great family activity. And, of course, sci-fi and fantasy are no less respectable than any other genres, there’s nothing wrong with stimulating the imagination, cause that’s what it’s there for.
Q: I don’t know if I have any hopes for boardgaming as a hobby. We’re in a board gaming golden age right now, and I’m very happy watching the designers do their thing. My hopes are mostly for individuals. My hopes are that, slowly but surely, people are waking up across the world. Pauline from Newcastle is watching our show and buying Citadels to play with her family. Shams from Sweden sees our Galaxy Trucker review and plays it with his non-board gamer friends every month for years.
Board games are about spending time with people you love, as we say back in S1E5. That’s the most beautiful kind of gaming, maybe. I’d love to see a bit more of that.
P: You enter a darkened room. Immediately, one player is heard screaming in the blackness, but never again respond to your calls. You fumble for the felt die. You roll. You may move up to three spaces or collect two elements from the periodic table. Then, the kaziquizzles begin to attack.
Q: Yes. It definitely wouldn’t be about making an episode, or something. It would be an abstract interpretation of the experience of playing a game. There would definitely be a rule where somebody must go and sit in the toilet with the lights off for a while.
Q: Why do people keep asking us about this?
We think Settlers of Catan is a bizarre bit of design. Not because it’s intrinsically strange, but because a happy selection of mechanics have caused it to catapult into the public eye as if it was a rocket~
Paul and Quinns, thanks very much for your time.