Fear The Change at Fear The Boot?
Now Playing: Erasure's "Always"
I started this blog entry back in June. With the move and other obligations, it's taken some time to get back to it. Please accept my apologies for the delay. In researching this entry, I sought input from a number of parties. Luke Meyer declined comment and Dan Repperger was non-responsive to my inquiry. All other sources are quoted below.
Brace yourselves... This is a long one.
It is no secret that I'm a fan of Fear The Boot. I've blogged about it here a number of times. FtB is the podcast that got me hooked on RPG podcasting. The casual conversation between the hosts, their irreverent humor, and keen insight into what makes gaming fun brought me into the medium. Beyond the excellent content, FtB delivers topnotch sound quality. In a realm where so many podcasts sound like they were recorded on my old Sanyo pocket cassette recorder, FtB rules the sound engineering awards here. Others may sound as good, but nobody sounds better.
In the time that Fear the Boot has been around, the show has enjoyed unparallelled success. The hosts have nurtured a large and involved community on their forum. They were nominated for an Ennie and despite the controversy that followed, turned that "scandal" into a win capped with a highly regarded speech by FtB founder and senior host, Dan Repperger. Just this year, FtB coordinated Fear the Con - which by all accounts (mine included) was a HUGE success. And they were presented with the Robin D. Laws Award for Excellence in Gaming.
To paraphrase Geto Boys, Damn! It feels good to be a podcaster.
Almost a year ago, I chastised FtB about some offensive language. I was pleasantly surprised at Dan's gentlemanly response. I have to tell you, the level of sensitivity that he brought to the subject cemented my opinion of what a class act FtB is.
Since its earliest days, Fear The Boot has been well acquainted with change. With the exception of Dan, the host line-up has changed a number of times. 2008, though, appears to be the year of big changes at FtB.
On January 14, I reported that long-time FtB host Adam Pinilla had left the show. All parties have been silent on the subject stating simply that personal issues had arisen and left it at that. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Adam on the subject.
[Blogger's Note: For context sake, please note that my interview with Adam occurred mid-June of this year]
"My introduction to Fear the Boot was a coincidental accident," Adam told me. "To put some history to the entire endeavor, Chad, John and I had been friends for some number of years... Chad and Dan started doing the podcast. They cut one episode with Kevin, another of Dan's friends, and then attempted to do a second. Actually, the night after they recorded their first episode, there was a party at my place where they both showed up.
"After telling me about it, I was like 'That's a cool idea, but man... I couldn't listen to you two wax nostalgic about games...' The next week, we were drinking over at Chad's, when he brought up that the recording hadn't gone so well. It was too dry, too boring. feeling frisky, John and I volunteered to go out and do it.
"I can still remember when I got home that night at like one in the morning. Melina (Adam's wife) was asleep when I got home and she's like 'It's one in the morning, where have you been?' 'I just recorded a podcast. I think I'm going to do this every week.'
"So, that was that," Adam said, "A podcast is born!"
ARON: In the beginning, what was your role in the podcast?
ADAM: In the beginning, Dan did everything. All the marketing, the web stuff, all the community relations (though, once the forums were up, we did that, too), editing, posting, new ideas. The rest of us were truly just hosts at that point, and didn't pitch in off the mics.
ARON: How did it change?
ADAM: In mid-January of 2007, Dan and I had a falling out. It was an argument that we had that spiraled out of control and got so bad that I ended up leaving the show. Mike joined the cast. 2 days later, Dan and I worked out our differences. At that point, I made him two agreements:
- We would not fight about stupid stuff anymore, and
- I wanted a vested amount of work in the podcast.
So, from that point on, I gradually took on more and more responsibility. By the time December of 2007 rolled around, I was doing the editing, almost all of the community relations, I was the con chair for Fear the Con, and I was the one that organized the writing of the rules for Skies of Glass.
Luke and I finished that in a week, it then sat on Dan's desk for 4 months until the con.
ARON: At the end, how had your relationships with the other hosts changed?
ADAM: The drama that ensued between the hosts was all-inclusive... if you're counting Chad as a host. In June of 07, he left over his own set of drama - he and I no longer speak. As of the time I left, neither John nor Dan were speaking to me. Though, in the months that followed that would
change. Luke and I actually grew closer after I left the show. As far as I'm concerned, those are the only hosts that really matter, so they're the only ones I'll comment on.
ARON: What do you see as Fear The Boot's strengths?
ADAM: The strengths of the show were always its isolation from the gaming community. Most of the other gaming shows, with their resepective merits, of course, have strong ties to the industry and were heavily laden with product reviews and things like that. The advice from Fear the Boot was always advice that flowed that wasn't necessarily tied to a single game (and was delivered in an irreverant fashion).
I always felt that the show was by the gamer, for the gamer. We didn't follow the big 5.
Hand in hand with that is the fanatical fanbase of the show. There isn't another single podcast out there that has the level of support that Fear the Boot does.
ADAM: I guess I'm going to have to cite burnout. Given the abandonment of the show by many of the hosts, I'd say the burnout that was scoffed at during the early days has finally reared its ugly head. Most of the high-energy personalities have left the show. Couple that with the format and topic changes, and I think the show is going to have to heavily rely on its existing fanbase to really stick with it.
ARON: Final words?
ADAM: I wish Dan the best of luck with the endeavor. I offered to help him out, but he won't accept my help.
ARON: I just want to clarify this last point. You offered to help Dan out with the current situation? Post Luke's departure?
ADAM: Yes. Actually, before Luke resigned but while he was on hiatus.
I was crushed when Adam left the show. Adam's the guy who got me into the forums. He's the guy who convinced me to travel to St. Louis for Fear the Con. His departure sat really uneasily with me and even had me reconsidering my trip to FtC. As it turned out, I loved every ding-dang moment of that con. Still, Fear The Boot lost a tremendous ambassador when Adam left the show.
But at least they still had Luke. Big and boisterous Luke who was the perfect counterpoint to Dan's often stuffy delivery and who had no trouble taking Dan to task on any and all issues.
I met Luke at FtC. He ably filled Adam's ambassadorial shoes making everybody feel welcome. He's a good guy that Dr. Meyer.
But then on June 12 word came that Luke was leaving the show. He had been on a hiatus, but instead of his triumphant return to the Boot we learned that he would not be coming back at all. He wrote on the FtB forum:
It is with both sadness and pride that I have to inform you that my time as a host on FTB has come to an end.
I've imparted just about every bit of wisdom and piece of advice I have regarding roleplaying games and to continue onwards would neither serve the almighty Boot well nor all the listeners.
His words suggested that podcasting - at least on the subject of RPGs - was not in his future.
Just thirteen days later an announcement was made at Podgecast.com:
Dr. Luke Meyer, Adam Pinilla, and Matt Cushman, formerly of the podcast "Fear the Boot," along with new host, Joe Selby, have launched a new endeavor, the PodgeCast! This new podcast expands classic themes and discussions into a broader frame of mind.
Movies, music, books, games, whatever is on our minds are all free game on the Podge. Discussions range from the release of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons to the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight" and the death of its star, Heath Ledger. The fellas bring their sophomoric exuberance to adult topics for the inner geek in all of us.
Please stop by every Monday and join us in our exploration of life, times, and culture. It promises to be an exciting ride.
Luke explained away his earlier comments in the first episode stating that he thought he was out of advice on the topic (of roleplaying). Turns out he only needed a change of venue.
One wonders if he will indeed be involved in FtC II.
Meanwhile, over at FtB other things were happening - a lot of which I don't understand. What I do know is that a moderator was suspended and Jake didn't take it too well. Jake was a moderator as well and cited the reasons for his resignation on June 14 over on his Live Journal blog:
First and foremost, the lack of professionalism present within the administration, particularly in the case of NHWriter's removal as moderator. He broke no rules, and enforced them when necessary. His removal was a direct result of personal issues between he and several members of the administration. He was removed unceremoniously with no PM or e-mail. This shows a lack of class within the leadership here at FtB, and one that I'm not content to handle anymore.
Second, the forum is eating up a lot of my free time, and removing myself from it is the best way for me to get back on track with my own personal projects.
Third, the show hasn't been the same since (Adam) left, and with (Luke) leaving now as well, I have no reason t listen to the show. It just doesn't hold my interest anymore.
Some might say that this post reflects badly on me as a person, blasting the leadership (only a couple of them in particular), but I feel that it's necessary.
So I'm not going to be on the forums there any longer, and I will no longer listen to the show. There's nothing there for me anymore.
Understand, that Jake was/is a big FtB supporter. He ran a game at Fear The Con that I was supposed to be in, but gave up my seat so that I could return to the hotel and surrender up the contents of my bowels in a more private setting (more information than you wanted, I'm sure). Jake was also an active moderator in the forums.
Apparently, Jake changed his mind some time after posting that. He remains a moderator at FtB. He also deleted the above entry from his LiveJournal blog though it remains in his RSS feed. I include it here to demonstrate the depth of passion felt during these changes. It's also nice to see that despite power of strong emotion and indignation, people do change their minds. Another testament to the quality of folks attracted to FtB.
Around this point, Chad and Dan announced that they would be shifting gears adding a new podcast called "Brain On" which - and I confess to not really grasping the intent of this show - will have a literary focus in which they deconstruct story. Again, I really don't get the pitch and I think that's my fault. No criticism is implied.
I spoke to a number of Fear The Boot fans while all of this was going on.
James Abendroth, who I met at FtC and is now a regular member of my local gaming group shared his thoughts.
I have to say, Luke was my favorite host, though John is a close second.
Dan has always seemed serious and self-important to the point of near pretentiousness to me and Chad is the same way, though a little more liberal. I mean, I often wonder why he even bothers with games when clearly, he prefers a pass the stick style.
To this point, I've admired the fact that none of them have brought the dirty laundry out into the open. It's internal business and it should stay that way.
But, I have to admit, I'm questioning whether I'm going to bother listening anymore. Of course, I'll still go to the next FTC, assuming there is one. I had way too much fun at the last one.
Josh Thomson, also a fellow I met at FtC and also now a regular member of my local group:
Luke's departure bothers me more than Adam's, and I wasn't particularly happy about Adam being kicked off the show.
Fear the Boot desperately needs someone like Luke. Luke's happy enthusiasm was an excellent balance and foil for Dan's sometimes-stodgy lectures and Chad's general contrariness. Fear the Boot is a show about games, and Luke was the only one who really sounded like he was having fun.
Speaking from a more personal perspective, I identified more with Luke than with the other hosts. If someone whose views I share is driven away from the show, I have to wonder whether I, too, will be driven away.
As for the new direction of FtB, I'm not interested in podcasts full of amateur fiction or Chad talking about why he doesn't like some piece of pop culture. It's not that I'm opposed to a change in direction--I'm just specifically uninterested in those particular sorts of podcasts. I've listened to several examples of both, and they do not appeal to me. I'd be happier if the hosts just sat down and talked about whatever popped into their heads for an hour, with no particular format in mind.
Ardent Finder on the FtB forums and also someone I met at Ftc:
I'm worried we may be losing the Boot, but also believe in the hosts strength of commitment and the collective will of the community to sustain the show. It is much larger than any of us now, and hopefully has acquired sufficient inertia to roll on.
Citizen Joe, a frequent poster on the forums
...As to Luke's departure, I honestly have a lot of trouble telling people apart so I didn't even realize he was gone. I didn't know Adam was gone either...
As to the show itself, I'm a bit worried that it may have jumped the shark at FtC...
Citizen Joe stated that I could quote him in this article but that I should "please make note that I want to have constructive criticism, but I haven't had time to figure that out yet."
To date, Brain On has not yet dropped an episode. Though I understand that they have some things in the can. Dan posted as recently as yesterday about planning for Fear The Con II. It appears this year's event will run Thursday night through Saturday night.
I am so there.
In my opinion, the show is not as strong as it once was. Adam and Luke - their energy and personality - are both sorely missed. New co-host Chris is an able, welcome addition to the show and has greatly improved my enjoyment of it. And do not get me wrong - I loves me some Chad and Dan. Those guys are terrific, rock-solid talent. It's just that FtB has always been a whole super-sized combo meal. Now someone has taken away my large Diet Coke and big-ass fries.
This doesn't make me happy, but maybe I can learn to love the small yogurt?
Am I thrilled with where things are now with FtB? No.
Am I still listening? Absolutely.
Despite all of the drama, all of the flux, I love this show. I deeply appreciate the passion and commitment these guys bring (almost) every week. In all of the changes, FtB has gone from my favorite podcast to my second favorite RPG podcast in my top three.
I'll talk about my number one pick tomorrow.
Posted by Aron Head
at 1:39 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 28 August 2008 1:38 AM CDT