the medium of podcasting grows, so does our selection of local
The Fanboys Lunchcast has been going strong since mid-2006, taking advantage of the medium in its early period to talk about gaming and electronics currently on the shelves, all over a meal somewhere in Utah. Being one of the first local shows and to a degree setting the bar for shows to follow. I got to chat with the three hosts about how the show came together and its history, as well as thoughts on podcasting today. For this interview the three decided to form up like Voltron and answer everything as a group.
The Fanboys Lunchcast (Silent G, Mik & Sooch)
Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
FBLC: We’re just three regular nerds—Utah born and bred. Two of us (Mik and Sooch) have wives and daughters, while SilentG is single and finishing up school. We all work in vaguely tech-related fields and are certified gadget/computer/internet/gaming fiends. We have an interesting range of ages: SilentG is in his 20s, Sooch is in his early 30s, and I’m, well, I’m staring down the barrel of 40 years old.
Gavin: When did all of you get into geek-related things, like gaming and TV and film?
FBLC: We all had the benefit of growing up in houses full of geekly delights: computers, video games, all of it. And we had parents who weren’t hesitant to let us spend time with those things either. So, we’re lifelong geeks.
Gavin: How did you all meet each other?
FBLC: We all worked for the same mega-corporation for a while. Over time, we discovered each other through some passing conversations with other people and were able to identify each other as nerds. That’s a refreshing and reassuring discovery when you’re surrounded by people you presume to only be interested in sports, money, cars, and golf. Nothing forges a friendship like a shared history of spending hours in the basement illuminated only by the glow of an 8-bit console game.
Gavin: Where did the idea come about to start up a podcast?
FBLC: The initial idea was just to start a blog. We wanted to write about all the insanity that surrounds video games, which is also where the notion for the name “The Fanboys” came from. It’s intended to be sarcastic—since we all have no particular loyalties to any company or console. If there’s a good game to be played out there, we want our hand on it, regardless of the console you play it on. But I suppose the name also works literally, since we’re pretty enthusiastic about all things gaming. The podcast came about as a result of just listening to a number of gaming podcasts and thinking “we can definitely do that.” It was a pretty nave notion, in retrospect. It took us a while to figure out what we were doing and discover our niche.
Gavin: Was it pre-planned to just do a chat over food or was it more something you fell into and thought would work?
FBLC: We felt pretty strongly that the podcast would only work if we were in the same room. Doing shows over Skype or by other remote means is tricky business, reliant on technology for stable connections and clean audio, and saps a little of the energy of actually being face-to-face with the person you’re conversing with. Lunch time just became the easiest time to schedule getting together. But we didn’t want to record at the office—mostly because we weren’t sure we wanted people at work to know what we’re up to (still don’t really). So, the idea of recording at different locales was just a practical decision. Once we did it, we liked the flavor it gave the show so much, we started looking for different and unique places to record. And listeners began trying to guess what kind of restaurant we were recording in. It’s a nice bonus that this decision also makes the podcast relatively unique among the myriad gaming-focused shows online. It also helps the show be much more extemporaneous and authentic. We don’t have a format, a schedule, or an outline. We eat and chat and go wherever the conversation takes us. Sometimes that’s great. Sometimes it’s… challenging.
Gavin: On the tech side, what do you use to record the show?
FBLC: We’re quite possibly the most low-tech podcast on the iTunes Music Store. We use exactly three items to record the podcast—with a cumulative cost of around $100. An Olympus DS-30 digital recorder, a piece of foam to keep it from rattling in its makeshift stand, and a plastic paperclip holder (the aforementioned makeshift stand). It’s an incredibly impressive operation. But it does serve to make me laugh any time I hear other podcasters talk about how complicated it is to make a podcast. And it also reinforces the notion that it’s really all about the content. Editing the show is slightly more traditional. We use Adobe Audition for that purpose.
Gavin: What were some of the first episodes like, and what was the initial public reaction to them?
FBLC: The first few episodes were, well, awful. There were only two of us doing the show, our audio quality was atrocious (even by our lowered standards), and we just didn’t really have an identity. Adding Sooch to the podcast gave us that identity instantly. The chemistry and tension a third person added, especially since we really never know what Sooch might say next, was the missing ingredient. People started gravitating to the podcast after that.
Gavin: What made you push from doing them monthly to bi-weekly?
FBLC: We weren’t even monthly, originally. Our schedule was “whenever we get around to it.” Committing to a schedule was the thing that really helped us take off—not just in the sense of gaining a listenership, but also in our own enjoyment of doing the show. We’ve talked about going weekly with the podcast, but scheduling is really the most challenging aspect of the entire enterprise. It’s amazing just how difficult it can be to coordinate a fortnightly lunch date. Kind of sad, really.
Gavin: You've been doing the show for three years now. What are your thoughts on the show and how its grown over time?
FBLC: We’ve been really surprised at the growth of the audience. We made a conscious decision early on not to really promote the site and the podcast other than to a relatively small circle of online friends. The growth has been entirely organic, but it has been steady and satisfying. I think we’ve gotten better at what we’re doing and have had just enough new ideas to pepper the show with to prevent it from getting stale. I think the bi-weekly schedule helps that, too. Our listeners look forward to the show and start harassing us if it doesn’t go up on time. That’s a pretty great feeling.
Gavin: Are there any plans down the road for more material for the show or the website?
FBLC: We actually just started a new feature on the site: we’re now doing game reviews in print form, rather than just discussing them on the ‘cast. That’s hardly a revolutionary idea, but I think we’re bringing a slightly different twist with our “Reviews… In So Many Words.” We’re looking forward to that. We’d like to get back to doing more articles and blog posts. That was originally our plan, because we all like to write—and think we’re better writers than raconteurs, to be honest. But, as I’m sure you understand, writing is heavy lifting. It takes quite a lot of time to really craft a piece to the degree we like to. But when we have, we’ve been really happy with the results. One of our articles hit the front page of digg.com, and basically blew up our server until SilentG came up with a quick solution to save the day. You can see that article here.
Gavin: What do you think of podcasting today as a medium?
FBLC: I’m an absolute podcast junkie. I can’t get enough. I know there are many in the “proper” media who are none too happy about this kind of democratization of information, but I think it’s wonderful. In fact, given the choice between a big-budget corporate-sponsored podcast and an indie alternative, I’ll almost always choose the little guy. There’s something very interesting about hearing the opinions of regular folks talking about movies, music, games, etc.
Gavin: What's your take on other local podcasts and are there any favorites you listen to?
FBLC: I tend to be unaware of where the podcasts I listen to originate. I do really enjoy The Geek Show, which is obviously a Utah staple. There’s also a rather unique little indie show that cracks me up every time called The Underground Shortbus. Those guys are crazy. No, like, literally crazy.
Gavin: Entertainment-wise, what are you thoughts on gaming today both good and bad, and is there anything you think could be done to make them bigger or better?
FBLC: It’s a pretty exciting time to be a fan. Games are coming fast and furious to every console, every handheld device, and every browser window. Even in the historically slow summer months, there’s just so much to play, it’s downright intimidating. Our only hope is that these companies don’t decide to launch their next consoles too soon—the current set are just now hitting their real stride.
Gavin: Same questions, only this time on the film industry.
FBLC: Much like with podcasts, we enjoy more indie flicks these days. Summers are depressing when you are faced with film after film that’s defacing a story or character you revered from your childhood. I don’t think I can take another Transformers or Land of the Lost, to be honest. I actually feel a bit the same about retro gaming—some things are best left as cherished memories.
Gavin: What can we expect from the show the rest of the year and going into next?
FBLC: Honestly, mostly more of the same—because we’re just that imaginative. Actually, we’ll be trying to involve the audience more in what we’re doing. We have a feature that we call “Gamestore Confessions” where we surreptitiously record ourselves messing with clerks at video game stores. We’re going to start accepting entries for that series from our listeners. Should be interesting, to say the least.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you’d like to plug or promote?
FBLC: Nah, we’re lousy at self promotion. But thanks for inviting us to be a part of your blog!