Although a new user to BGG, I have always appreciated the reviews, commentary, and other material the BGG provides to the hobby. Likewise, I'm very grateful to all those who have taken the effort to evangelize for the hobby with videos and podcasts. As someone who has been lacking a proper gaming group for over five years now, being able to participate vicariously through these resources has been a blessing for me.
I want to highlight one particular group who is helping to improve the hobby: Starlit Citadel reviews. Starlit Citadel has, for close to a year now, been producing well-scripted, professionally produced video reviews of games; if you haven't seen them, I encourage you to go to their youtube channel here and check them out. Right now they are running a fundraiser on Indiegogo to raise funds for a second year.
I have no connection with Starlit Citadel, nor did they ask me to pitch for them. I'm not even Canadian, so it's not like I benefit directly from their retail store. But I truly think that what they are doing is a boon for the hobby and I want them to succeed in this fundraiser. Here are just a few reasons why:
It seems like a simple thing to say, but it does make a difference when a video is professionally produced. Scripting and editing videos can be very time-intensive, but the payoff is a product which hits every element of a game without wasting the viewer's time.
Take this review of Eclipse, for example. Eclipse is one of the heavier games to come out in the last few years, but Starlit Citadel's review manages to introduce the game, offer a very thorough rules synopsis, and even toss in fairly detailed commentary from both Kaja and Joanna on their thoughts on the game, all in under nine minutes. Changes in perspective to illustrate gameplay are mixed in seamlessly with explanatory audio, and the final product runs without a single gaff, misspoken word, or other error.
I have no idea how long it takes to get a video distilled to that level of effectiveness, but I'm guessing it's not easy, or cheap.
Their game selection is diverse, and their commentary is honest and fair.
Given Starlit Citadel is an online retailer, one would naturally think that priority reviews for them would be on games that are likely to sell, or for popular games that would catch lots of views on youtube and thus attract people to their store. Starlit Citadel certainly is willing to review popular games, but the selection of games they cover is much more eclectic than I think we have a right to expect.
I can't think of a better example of this than one of their earliest reviews, on Tanto Cuore. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I discovered Starlit Citadel Reviews due to their video on Tanto Cuore; a friend of mine spoke highly of the game (while admitting the somewhat risque premise) and I found Starlit Citadel's review while checking for more information.
To say that Tanto Cuore is a niche offering is to understate matters, but Starlit reviewed it anyway, making a point to explain the drawbacks as well as some of the perks of the game. This brings me to the second half of this point: Despite being a retailer interested in selling games, Starlit Citadel Reviews don't praise a game uncritically or avoid talking about potential cons or drawbacks to a game. Kaja and Joanna understand that being open about the good and bad parts of a game is important to producing a quality review--and they are interested in making quality reviews, not just selling games.
They support the hobby for everyone, and not just for their customer base.
Let's face it: As an American, I'm not ever going to buy a game from Starlit Citadel. Likewise, the international gaming community isn't likely to turn to a Canadian retailer, either. Starlit Citadel isn't going to make up the costs of video production in game sales. They are doing it because they want to.
In fact, in the introductory video for the fundraiser, Kaja and Joanna explain how excited they are to know that--thanks to the miracle of the internet--people from around the world are watching their videos. The same has to be said of their longstanding sponsorship of the Spiel. As one of the older and more established gaming podcasts out there, the Spiel certainly reaches a wide audience, but again much of that audience, probably the vast majority, is not in Canada. And yet we've managed to enjoy the Spiel for years, thanks in part to their contributions. I don't mind giving something back as thanks.
Kaja and Joanna are great ambassadors for the hobby.
One of the perks of living in the times we do is that it's easier than ever to be open about nerdy interests. Comic book movies are big, fantasy novels top bestseller charts, and video games are a mammoth industry. But one of the last holdouts is hobby board games.
Wil Wheaton's TableTop has done a lot in the past year to bring the spotlight onto designer board and card games. I am very grateful for this fact, even if I grimace whenever there is a rules mistake in an episode (which is about half the time). Apparently, having funny, "normal" people enjoying a nerdy pasttime is good TV. Who knew?
Kaja and Joanna have a similar "normalizing" effect. Both are as far away from the stereotypical image of a geek (the one that defined my own childhood) as it is possible to get. And yet both are obvious geeks, and not just board game geeks, but full-spectrum geeks with a variety of nerdy interests. From Joanna's other job as an actress in a web-based fantasy series to Kaja's interest in historical fencing, these hosts are the real deal when it comes to being part of the community.
They are also having fun with their work, which is itself a form of advocacy. Bunny Bunny Moose Moose is a ridiculous and silly game, and the pair bring out the enjoyment of playing it wonderfully in their review. But the same could be said for all of their (positive) reviews: You know at the end of a review why a game is fun to play and who had fun playing it. What can be a better pitch for the hobby than that?
What separates an amateur from a professional is that an amateur will start or stop based on personal interest, and a professional is in it for the long haul. Starlit Citadel produced their initial videos completely on their own dime, and have committed to producing a half season next year already--fundraising will simply allow them to do more.
And I want to see them do more. I said at the start that I wasn't going to benefit at all from the money Starlit Citadel raises in their fundraiser; that's not completely true. I will benefit because the more they raise, the more of their videos I'll get to see, and show to other people, and use as a way of drawing people into the hobby. TableTop is great, but that show is never going to cover Agricola or Mage Knight. This show has, and I don't expect that they are going to stop. So, let's help them do more. It won't take too many people making contributions to make that happen.