I first discovered Rodney Smith and Watch It Played while researching The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game ahead of purchasing the game. He ran several videos showing viewers how to play the game and I found his style informative, clear and entertaining. Since then, I’ve been a big fan of his YouTube channel and though he isn’t a frequent Netrunner player, I knew his insight and experience with table-top gaming in general would make for a great interview here at The Helpful AI. And being the friendly chap that he is, he agreed to take time out to answer my questions.
1. Hi Rodney, thanks for joining us. For any readers not familiar with Watch it Played, can you tell us a little bit about it and the content you put out on your YouTube channel?
I started Watch It Played so people could fully learn a card or board game by watching one of our videos and then also see the game being played, so they could decide for themselves, whether or not it would be a good fit for them. I avoid providing a review or opinion of the games, it is not my interest to convince viewers to purchase a game. I’m just as happy if they watch a video and can determine that the game is not a good fit for them. We’ve been running the series for 4 years now and have been fortunate to find an enthusiastic and committed following.
2. Aside from a brief introductory play test with your son, Luke, Android: Netrunner is not a game you have covered on your channel, but I understand you have played it with a friend via Skype. What are your thoughts on remote-play? Is Netrunner well-suited to it? Do you have any advice for players looking to use video calls for gaming?
Keep in mind, these early remote plays were with webcams, not a software driven program managing the game. I like when I can play a game remotely, and retain the feeling of physically playing the cards, laying them out, seeing my opponent and so on. It keeps the experience truer to what it would be like to play in person, which I enjoy. So we would typically each point our webcams to the table, showing our cards in front of ourselves and then play/talk through what we were doing, so our opponent could follow along, and possibly mirror the cards on their end.
I’ll admit it was easier when the game first came out, because there was a smaller pool of cards, so I found after a few games, I had a pretty good grasp of the majority of the cards, so when playing remotely, if an opponent played a card, I could remember the effect without having to see the card in detail. That would be impossible for me now, but I’m sure some of your more invested Netrunner players would still be able to do this quite easily, especially as the Meta sometimes steers the decks in certain directions.
3. What are your thoughts on Fantasy Flight Games’ Living Card Game model?
I love it. I played Magic and other CCG models of games, and the LCG still lets me collect without the frustration of chasing certain cards I want to have with either bundles of money, or trading. My enjoyment today comes from being able to play these kinds of games, without having to turn it into a full lifestyle.
4. I recall asking you on Twitter whether you had played Infiltration (also set in the Android Universe) but you hadn’t gotten round to it. Has it made its way onto the table yet?
I have played that game, though I did ultimately trade it away. I did enjoy the concept of it, and the game or two I played, but sometimes I end up with a few more games in my collection than I feel I can reasonably expect to play with frequency. This game fell victim to that concern.
5. With the original Android, Infiltration and Netrunner, FFG have another expanding IP on their hands. Do you think games based in the same settings as previous titles add to the experience or would you rather see wholly new ideas?
I’m a bit indifferent, though I will qualify that in a moment. Primarily I just want to play games that I find engaging in “how” they play. I’m not overly concerned with the setting. As an example, Fantasy Flight Games recently announced Forbidden Stars, a new game coming from them in the Warhammer 40K universe. While some won’t play that game, because they don’t care for the universe, I try not to let that stand in the way of me trying a game. Now that said, there is another reality: so many games, so little time. So, ultimately, we do have to make choices about what we make time to play, so if a game is in a setting we are drawn to, or already have an affinity to, it makes sense that people would pay attention to that, and avoid games that don’t fit their taste in theme.
As a publisher it certainly makes sense to make games in an established universe if that universe has proven popular with gamers.
6. Netrunner has some wonderful art on its cards. How important do you think aesthetics are to a table-top game?
This may sound like a contradiction, based on my previous response that I don’t overly care about the setting of a game, but I do think aesthetics are very important. Not as important as good graphic design, but still very important, because when I play a game, I enjoy being transported to a different world. I like finding the story in the game. So regardless of the setting, I just want to be drawn into it. I still say the activity of the game is still most important, and then the ability to understand it (which is primarily in the graphic design), but immediately afterwards, the art and quality of the components plays a major role in my enjoyment of the game.
7. XCOM: The Board Game has recently released with an interactive app required to play it. I recently purchased the game (thanks to your video tutorials) and find the app fits in with the feel of the game. I can understand though how some boardgamers might have had a knee-jerk reaction against phone or tablet technology being used in table top games. What are your thoughts on this? Is it something we’re going to see more of do you think?
We’ll see more of it, I’m sure. I’m not sure how much more, or at what rate because app development takes another level of expertise, that not all game designers, or publishers have easy access to. As for the concept itself, I have no concerns. I empathize with other people’s concerns, but I don’t share them. People suggest that they won’t be able to play these games 10 years from now, if the company decides to stop supporting the game. I don’t think this is as big of a concern as people make it out to be. If a game is popular (and therefore, likely to have people still interested in playing it 10 years from now), then user created apps will spring up, if the company drops the ball. But beyond that, with all the archiving of information in our world today, it’s hard to imagine that any of these apps will ever truly disappear. Even those old VHS games are having their videos copied by users to YouTube, for gamers to continue playing, should they wish to.
Overall though, I just want a game to create a fun experience for me and my friends. If that includes an app, then so be it. Admittedly, there will be times when I just don’t want to stare at a screen during a gaming session, as my life is already so full of screens, and thankfully there are plenty of screen-less game options as well!
Thank you for your time, Rodney, it’s much appreciated. Thanks again for joining us at The Helpful AI.
Interview conducted on 27th March 2015.
Where to find Watch It Played:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/watchitplayed – @WatchItPlayed