Here in the faculty lounge I get together and talk to other board game interested podcasters and bloggers to learn a little bit more about what they do.
I first stumbled upon Today in Board Games when I noticed an uptick in readers being directed to the Dr. Wictz blog from its website. Out of curiosity I went to the web site and pleasantly discovered that someone was organizing daily board game blog posts links into an easy to skim format. Since that day I have been a regular reader of Today in Board Games, but I have always remained curious about the motivation and the folks behind the site. Luckily, I convinced Roger Hicks, founder of Today in Board Games to stop by the faculty lounge and talk about his site.
Dr. Wictz: Roger, can you give a quick overview of Today in Board Games for someone for familiar with it?
Roger Hicks: Sure. Today in Board Games offers a thrice weekly curated newsletter featuring links to the latest news, Kickstarter projects, articles, and giveaways. We also have a regular podcast featuring interviews with influential members of the gaming community. To round out our offerings we have a team of reviewers and article writers that provide regular original content on the Today in Board Games blog
Today in Board Games strives to be an organized source for gaming information. The goal is to immediately connect gamers with the latest items that are most relevant and interesting to them - from publisher announcements, to game reviews, from deals and giveaways to behind the scenes interviews and previews.
Dr. Wictz: how did you come up with the name Today in Board Games?
Roger Hicks: I honestly think it was the first name that popped into my head. Today in Board Games started with the idea for the newsletter (which was originally published 5 days a week instead of 3), so when the name "Today in Board Games" came to mind and I saw the .com domain was free I jumped on it.
Dr. Wictz: What inspired you to create the format for your newsletter series?
Roger Hicks: I've long participated in the tabletop gaming world. From 2001 to 2006 I operated BobsQualityCards.com and CardMarket.net (both now defunct) a store and online trading platform for CCGs and TCGs. In 2006 I opened RoleplayMarket.com which is still in operation and provides a place to play pen & paper RPGs via forum posting. In the past few years my interests have shifted more toward hobby board gaming so I knew I wanted to start a new project that more closely related to my current focus.
I started getting more involved by subscribing to several dozen board gaming blogs and podcasts. Last summer (2013) I started GameDesignerChronicles.com which I intended to be a daily blog about game design. In an effort to come up with enough content to fill each week I decided to do a weekly "top posts" column where I linked to the best game design articles from the previous week. The idea of posting daily content soon fell by the wayside but the idea of assembling a regular curated set of links stuck. I opened Today in Board Games and shifted gears to focus on collecting and sorting through all the gaming information I could find to publish on a regular basis.
The first issue of the Today in Board Games newsletter went out on July 15, 2013 to just 15 subscribers. Today (165 issues later) each issue reaches about 2,500 gamers.
Dr. Wictz: How do you keep track of all the blogs/podcasts you cover in your newsletter?
Roger Hicks: The secret is Feedly.com. I'm subscribed to over 600 RSS feeds of various gaming blogs, publisher websites, youtube channels, etc. Each day I sort through several hundred new posts - categorizing them and picking out the best for inclusion in the next newsletter. I set up some automation with Google Spreadsheets and If This Then That (ifttt.com) so it's not quite as daunting as it sounds. I used to read every article but unfortunately due to volume I have to skim through most and be more selective in what I read now.
Dr. Wictz: The newsletter comes out 3 times a week, where do you find the time to reliably put it together and get it out the door?
Roger Hicks: Time travel. No, seriously - it only takes me an hour or two a day to put everything together thanks to the automation. I used to do everything manually and that took quite a bit more time! Since the newsletter issues are only one piece of TiBG, I did hire a Virtual Assistant to give me a hand getting everything done - so many thanks to Diana who republishes each newsletter to the Today in Board Games blog and to Board Game Geek. I also want to thank Charlie, Michelle, and Chris who handle all the review requests we receive and publish great articles and reviews to the Today in Board Games blog.
Dr. Wictz: What do you look for in a blog/podcast to include it in the newsletter?
Roger Hicks: I'm not picky. I think everyone who takes the time to create a blog or podcast probably has some good things to contribute. The only requirements for inclusion on my list are:
1) You have to have an RSS feed that is focused primarily on tabletop game content.
2) I try to keep things PG / PG-13 rated, so I don't include sites that are designed to be offensive.
Once your site is on the list then each of your future articles will be considered for publication in the newsletter. Typically, any article that has broad appeal to readers will be included.
Dr. Wictz: How does a blog/podcast catch your attention?
Roger Hicks: I used to go hunting for websites to include in the newsletter. I still add new sites all the time as I stumble across them. It seems there are still a lot of good sites not on my list though because I learn of new ones almost every week. If you would like to have your site included just drop me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dr. Wictz: After reading/viewing so many blogs/podcasts, which one is your favorite (beside mine of course) no seriously, which ones are your favorite, no offense is taken if it isn't Dr. Wictz.
Roger Hicks: It's tough to pick a favorite because I'm always finding new and interesting articles across a wide variety of sites. I'm fascinated with Kickstarter so I enjoy almost everything Jamey Stegmaier publishes at StonemaierGames.com. Inquisitive Meeple has become a new favorite with their regular interviews. Of course, the Dice Tower has me hooked for game reviews and their various podcasts. Other mentions also include I Slay the Dragon and League of Gamemakers - though I feel like I'm leaving quite a few out.
Yes, Dr. Wictz is one of my faves too! I've really been enjoying your Faculty Lounge series - lots of sites do interviews with game designers and publishers, but I haven't seen many interviews focused on bloggers and podcasters! I really enjoy reading interviews because I like getting to know people.
Dr. Wictz: Is there a board game designer/blogger/podcaster you want to have as a guest blogger?
Roger Hicks: Uh....Aaron and Austin from Dr. Wictz Board Games? I know that's a cop-out answer, but really I'd be glad to have you.
One of the things I love about the board gaming hobby is how down to earth everyone is. Even the "mega-stars" (haha) are friendly folks that are happy to sit down and play a game with just about anyone. There's a lot of diversity in board gaming - gamers come from all walks of life. So I'm honestly quite fascinated to hear most everyone's stories and opinions on games. I don't know if I'd feature everyone as a guest-blogger (as good writing isn't everyone's specialty) but I do think everyone has something good to contribute to the hobby.
Dr. Wictz: What do you foresee as the future of board game media?
Roger Hicks: Specialization. Right now the major media platforms for board games are fairly broad-based - miniature games, abstracts, wargames, euros, a huge variety of themes, mechanics, publishers, and weights all jumbled into one. I foresee a future where gamers can get just the info that's most relevant to them and the types and styles of games they play.
That's where we are trying to go with Today in Board Games next. Instead of getting a newsletter with links to 100 items that you have to sort through to find what interest you we are hoping to deliver a tailor-made experience providing each reader customized list of the top items that will interest them each day.
Dr. Wictz: Do you feel like board game media is becoming more competitive? Is there someone out there who you feel is a competitor to "Today in Board Games?"
Roger Hicks: There are a number of great news sites out there. I don't tend to think of others as competition, since everyone offers something different. I like the term "coop-etition", because I like working with others in gaming media rather than against each other. Lots of sites offer gaming journalism in various forms that I would recommend as highly as Today in Board Games: The Dice Tower News podcast gives you small audio bits 3 times a week. I contribute a segment, but real props go to Joseph Fisher, Paul Owen and Elliott Miller who put the time and effort in to make it all happen. The Dice Tower and Cool Stuff also have a news website coming soon coordinated by Rob Searing. Other great media outlets include Cardboard Edison (for designers), Game Bugle, Purple Pawn, and of course the BGG News. That's not counting the many smaller blogs that do regular news updates as well!
The nice thing about so many options is the variety it offers. Not everyone will like the format of the Today in Board Game newsletter - which is OK! Find what you do like because there are so many great ways to keep up with this hobby.
Dr. Wictz: Before we go I want to know if you were to introduce someone to your blog and you could only have them read a single entry, which entry would you have them read?
Roger Hicks: Well, as I mentioned - Michelle, Charlie, and Chris post a great articles and reviews, any of which I would be happy to recommend. However, if folks were limited to one page I'd suggest they visit our contest page - because we are usually giving away some great games. I think we run more giveaways than any other board game site (with the possible exception of BGG). Many thanks to the awesome publishers who have partnered with us to make that happen!
Dr. Wictz: Thank you Roger for hanging out in the faculty lounge with me today. If you want to learn more about Today in Board Games you can visit TodayInBoardGames.com where you can subscribe to its newsletter either by RSS or E-Mail.
Roger Hicks: And don’t forget that if audio is your thing check out the Today in Board Game Week in Review podcast on either ITunes or Stitcher Radio.