A lot of people love video games; the Entertainment Software Associations reports that 150 million Americans play, with 60% of those players playing daily. That collective passion has resulted in a plethora of podcasts about video games. Most of these are straightforward in their approach. Where a group of self described or otherwise accredited video game experts gather every week to discuss the new releases, industry news, and speculate about the future of their beloved medium. Over the years, these types of video game podcasts have gotten really good at what they do. So if you are also interested in video games, and podcasting, you might be dismayed at trying to stand out in the herd.
That’s where the podcast Playable Characters comes in…. comedians Brian McGuinness, Aalap Patel, and Calvin Cato wanted to start a video game podcast but, “not a typical one”. I interviewed Brian about how the origins of the show; he said that is all began simply, “when Aalap said, ‘what if we interviewed video game characters, like Bullet Bill?’”
Now Bullet Bill is merely another mute obstacle for Mario to jump around or on top of – so to accomplish their goal the hosts had to get creative. To bring Aalap’s idea to life, the hosts invite members of their local New York City comedy scene to their studio. According to Brian, that’s the extent of their planning, as the resulting interview is purely improvisational.
The trio interview a variety of characters, ranging from the dog from Duck Hunt to Lara Croft’s fictional ex boyfriend. But no matter who they’re talking to, Playable Characters is more interested in the comedy than the game.
At the show’s best, that comedic angle gives you a radically new perspective to a character you’re familiar with. You can play Frogger a thousand times and only see it at face value. It’s fun to avoid cards and jump from lily pads, but you’ve probably never asked yourself, where’s Frogger going? What’s his life like? Thanks to episode 72, you can now answer those questions and more thanks to their interview with none other than Frogger’s Wife.
With out of the box ideas like these, I asked Brian how they choose who to “interview” each week. He said, “We originally made a big list of characters we thought would be fun to interview.” Over the course of over a hundred episodes, this process has had a slight refinement. The hosts have always pitched ideas to their colleagues, but now their colleagues “sometimes come to us with ideas too.”
To come up with these ideas, the hosts pull from their lifetime of video game experience. “Brian and Calvin have been playing video games literally since they could hold a controller and still do to this day.”
Despite their vast knowledge, the show can still be difficult to record. Brian says that the improvisational nature of the interviews means that he can occasionally be racked with worry about what’s going to happen. Over time, this worry has become part of the fun, where the hosts. “basically just go wherever the guests take us.”
That spirit of going with the flow is also what excites Brian the most about the future of the show. He loves being surprised about “what other ridiculous, fun and creative ideas the comedians come with.“ Brian wants to see how far he can take the show, hoping to eventually book more high profile comedians.
So if you’re looking for a different kind of video game podcast, or want to hear some nerdy improv. Give Playable Characters a try and rate it on Podchaser.
Chasing Pods is a Podchaser blog series dedicated to letting our readers know about podcasts they may not have heard of or provide a sneak peek into the making of their favorite podcast. We talk to podcast creators about their journey into podcasting, the creation of their shows, the ups and downs of the work, and what they’re looking forward to for their podcast
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