It’s no secret that the lot of us here at Comic Booked are giant nerds. As such, we subscribe to a firm “Like everything Felicia Day” policy. Following the announcement at WonderCon 2012 and a 12 hour Google Hangout session, Geek & Sundry (made for nerds, by considerably more famous nerds) officially launched their YouTube channel today, and chucked it full of geek flavored goodies. Amongst the grab-bag of awesomeness rests Wil Wheaton’s (obligatory fan-girl squeal from the resident platypus) Table Top; a self described “Celebrity Poker meets Dinner for Five” where Wheaton and company play a different game each week, allowing us to see the epic battles (which sometimes actually take place on the table) and crushing defeat that is tabletop gaming.
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Comic Booked got together with executive producer Sheri Bryant to talk about what exactly goes into an episode of Table Top. This is what she had to say.
Can you detail the process that went into coming up with Table Top as a segment? Was it one person’s idea or the result of a group brainstorming session? I read on Wil Wheaton’s blog that he was approached by Felicia Day to run the segment; did they plan Table Top together?
Sheri Bryant: Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day co-created Table Top together. Felicia originally approached Wil about doing a gaming series for our new channel Geek & Sundry, and he suggested tabletop gaming because he loves it so much. In terms of bringing the show to reality, we all worked together on it and came up with a format we liked. Emmy-nominated director Jennifer Arnold took the helm and directed 20 episodes, and here we are.
Most people wouldn’t normally associate watching others play board games with entertainment; that said, what do you think will make Table Top fun to watch? What will keep fans coming back for more?
SB: Table Top is entertaining in so many ways. The main reason being that those watching the show get true insight into the geek celebrities playing the games. There’s a lot of fun banter between guests, and for fans looking to see their favorite celebrities outside of the roles they are usually playing, it’s a lot of fun. In addition, one learns a lot about the strategies of the game and how the guests approach the game differently. For hard-core gamers and novices alike, this can be fascinating. I believe fans will come back for more based on the wide variety of games that we offer – from fun party games like “Say Anything” to amusing card games like “Chez Geek” to more sophisticated role playing games like “Dragon Age RPG”.
How do you decide on which games will be played? Is a vote cast? Do the fans get any say?
SB: For the first season, we picked which games were played. In future seasons, we’d love the input of fans! We’d also like to give an opportunity for fan-created games to get on the show.
SB: Most of our games are started and finished in one session. One of the goals of Wil Wheaton in creating the series was to show that tabletop gaming is fun, and social, and can be played by a wide variety of people – not just anti-social folks who can’t look you in the eye when speaking! He wanted to show that fun, quick games are great for the family or fantastic at parties. We also have a few more in-depth games that carry on for more than one episode, but the show most definitely covers the gamut.
What were some of the challenges you faced filming Table Top? Will we be seeing any fights break out off of the gaming board? (People often try to slaughter their DMs violently…we understand)
SB: The biggest challenge of Table Top was the tight time frame in which it was filmed. We had to shoot two games per day, which included booking a lot of guests and not only getting game play through completion, but also interviews with each guest throughout the day, and winners and losers activities shot (to find out what I’m talking about, you’ll have to watch the show!).
One of our goals here at Comic Booked is to get new players interested in crossing the threshold into table-top gaming (By starting events such as Skirmish In Public Day). Is that a goal you share, and if so, how do you hope to achieve it?
SB: That is absolutely the goal of this show. Share the love! Wil’s enthusiasm for tabletop gaming just bleeds throughout the show and is incredibly infectious. We want people to watch the show then go out and buy the game to play with their friends that night! We hope to start tabletop gaming sessions nationwide! A few months from launch, Geek & Sundry will have some announcements for the tabletop community at large!
What’s a ‘day in the life’ of filming a segment of Table Top like? What we see is a group of gamers having fun, but we’re sure a ton of work goes into it as well. Fun and games is not always all fun and games, right?
SB: Actually, it pretty much was fun and games! The hardest part of producing any show is the months beforehand leading up to the actual shooting. In Hollywood-speak, this is called “pre-production” and it consists of booking locations, hiring crew, getting permits, insurance, etc. Once you actually get to the day of shooting, you hope that the machine you’ve created runs smoothly with the help of many people. A typical day would start out with arriving to a breakfast burrito and a large cup of coffee, checking in with a crew of 25, putting actors through hair and make-up, prepping the game table area, then letting Wil Wheaton do his thing! We’d shoot him introducing the game, sitting down with the guest celebrities, playing through the game, announcing the winner… then break for lunch and do it all over again!
How did you assemble the group of gamers featured on Table Top? We saw Colin Ferguson in the preview. Can you give us a sneak peek at who else you have lined up?
In an age where online gaming is so popular, what do you think the appeal of table-top gaming is?
SB: It’s social. It’s fun. It’s immediate and visceral. Interacting with friends face to face is a feeling that cannot be replaced by any computer. The memories, more so than the game play, are what will be remembered for years to come.
Because we all want to know: What is Wil’s favorite table-top game.
SB: He won’t even tell us! And honestly, he might not have one… he’s so incredibly passionate about each and every tabletop game on this show, you’d never be able to guess. Or will you…?
Table Top airs every other Friday starting today (April 2nd..yes, today is Monday) on Geek & Sundry’s Youtube Channel. Be sure to tune in. I really wouldn’t put it past Wil Wheaton to actually set Sasha the intern on fire if you don’t.