Thinking Ahead with Dave and Playing Games with Strangers

Playing Games with StrangersThe winter holidays are a special time for friends and family. So it’s fitting that our January Podcaster of the Month is a celebrated friend and family member of Blubrry: Dave Clements. A highly valued and forward-thinking member of the Blubrry team for four-plus years, Dave does massively more than assist customers within the support team. He is always thinking about the future of Blubrry and the podcast industry. Most recently, he is the father of Concierge Onboarding, Blubrry’s revolutionary new service that helps those wanting to start a podcast bypass the burdensome technicalities – and jump straight into recording and publishing. 

Dave’s collaborative nature within the team is the natural progression of who he is – a podcaster for more than a decade affiliated with myriad ‘geeky’ podcasts along with other like-minded podcasters. 

One of Dave’s stand-out collaborations is Playing Games with Strangers, launched in April 2020. The ensemble comprises eight distinct talents, and recently wrapped up its first campaign. Although not really based on anything in particular, the first campaign drew heavily from the Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition, he said. 

“For our next campaign, we’ll be using a similar system, but we occasionally have one-shot episodes where we’ll use other tabletop role-playing systems like Monster of the Week or Kids on Bikes, among others,” Dave said. 

Playing Games with Strangers is a cast-led show, Dave explains. There’s not truly a host outside of whoever is the game master of the campaign or one-shot. “Playing Games is completely improvised and we use D&D as a structure for various things that we want to do during a session.”

Admittedly, the podcast players are no longer strangers. Cast members dot the U.S, from states such as.:

  • Indiana – Dave and his sister-in-law, Amanda
  • Washington (state) – John, primary game master 
  • Illinois – Katherine, who the audience knows as “Squid”
  • Kansas – Josiah
  • Louisiana – Celeste 

“We also had a couple of other cast members who have moved on to other things at different times during our first campaign. (Hi JS, Steve and Eric!),” Dave said.

Dave Clements
Dave Clements

In addition to PGWS, Geek This! is a review show Dave cohosts with one of his best friends, David Hunt, where they primarily review movies and television shows. “The show is laid back and meant to be just two friends enjoying (or not enjoying) pop culture,” he said. Dave is also involved with other shows in some form or another, including Supersonic PodComics, Casual Gamer Society with John from Playing Games with Strangers, and he’s part of the Geek Devotions Network, The Bottom Shelf, Boomstick Video Club, and his daughter’s first podcast, Lorewoven.

Learn more about Dave and his colleagues:

Dave, what drew you to podcasting all those years ago and how did you start? (first part answer here, leading into . . . )

I’ve been podcasting since December 2012, so just over 11 years. That’s when I released the first episode of Geek This! all by my lonesome. Just myself, Audacity, and a cheap $5 stick microphone.

What systems or routines do you have in place to ensure consistency?

We record one session every other week and turn it into two one-hour episodes. Other shows like ours will do episodes that are sometimes up to four hours, which we don’t feel is easily digestible. One thing we’re working on for Campaign Two is to change to an every-other-week release schedule. It gives us more time to edit and achieve the quality we’re striving for.

Among the PGWS ensemble, it seems all of you are connected through another vocation – can you tell us what that vocation is, some of the external gigs everyone has undertaken, and what some favorite roles?

We actually met through Supersonic PodComics – none of us are professional voice actors. We all heard about Supersonic through other podcasts that we listened to and decided to audition.

When Supersonic was on a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, JS Earls, who was a writer for the show asked if any of the Supersonic cast was interested in playing D&D and recording it for filler material.

John took up the game master role and Steve, Josiah, Squid, and JS took character roles. It was only supposed to be a handful of episodes, but it was so much fun that the cast grew, with Celeste and Dave being added a few months later. Amanda wasn’t involved with Supersonic, but was actually one of our most dedicated Patrons, so we extended a cast chair at the virtual table when Eric had to leave in order to pursue a small business venture. Now here we are with a show that has released over 130 episodes in the last three-ish years.

How does podcasting support the cast’s other roles in voice acting; and how have their careers in voice acting impacted Playing Games with Strangers?

We don’t really have careers in voice acting outside of PGwS or Supersonic, but we’d never turn down the opportunity if one came up! Some of us have done some audiobooks and other roles in podcasts. We did, however, get to play D&D with Katie Leigh, who voiced Sheila The Thief in the 1980’s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which was a fun, wild ride that we’ll never forget.

I would love to know some cast members’ ‘why’ when it comes to podcasting! Such as, what is your biggest takeaway from Playing Games with Strangers? What are your greatest hopes?

(From Katherine “Squid” Czerwinski)

Katherine “Squid” Czerwinski

For me, podcasting has always been about stories. It’s what drew me to tabletop games initially, and what got me into podcasting. I believe that stories are innately human and that we all seek them out one way or another. It’s easy to get swept away in the fast-paced environment of the world now and not pause to seek out stories; be it through podcasting, reading, or just talking to people you don’t know. This podcast, and others, have provided me with an avenue to really engage with that concept. It has not only given me a way to share and create stories with others so that the audience can hear and connect with them, but it’s let me connect more deeply with the cast members who started out, quite literally, as strangers! My hope in podcasting, no matter how popular we become, is always that we put out a story that someone will be able to hear and then see themselves represented in. I hope that we give voice to stories that not everyone has the freedom or the platform to share, or those who may not yet know what words they need to use to share them. For the few hours that we sit down and make jokes and tell stories and play games and maybe even cry, I hope that we put out a podcast that doesn’t just feel like a ‘product’ (although I hope we have a good and entertaining product too), but something that taps into that shared human experience. I hope it shows whoever listens that there are others out there who like the same things they do, that we experience the same good and bad things as them, and that we’re hoping we can one day listen to the stories they want to share as well.

What Blubrry features has the cast found most helpful as your podcast(s) continue(s) to grow?

We’ve utilized the Audience Survey, which has helped us get a better understanding of who is listening. We’re taking that information into consideration with merchandise designs, pricing, and our Patreon tiers so we can make the extras feasible for anyone. We also love the Retention and Episode Comparison information in Listener Statistics. It was part of what prompted us to move to 1-hour episodes versus the 4-hour releases that some other, more popular shows are doing; we want our episodes to be consumable. In the near future, we’ll be taking advantage of the Live Item Tag functionality in PowerPress, as well as Chapters. There’s so much at our disposal as Blubrry PowerPress users that it’s hard to find time to incorporate it all.