Studio: Robert Ashley
Category: Games & Hobbies
What It Is
Robert Ashley creates a serious, NPR-toned show about video games.
This show began in 2009 and the last episode was posted in 2013. Despite this respectable running time, the show turned out only eleven episodes. The entire archive is available on the iTunes page. Proper episodes of the show, of which there are seven, run an hour or a little more; the other episodes are “B-sides” and announcements and might run anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour.
What About It
I respect Ashley’s vision for this show immensely. I like some video games shows, like 4Player and Rooster Teeth, but those shows succeed in large part because of how silly they can be. Ashley openly admits that This American Life is his primary influence here and some of his episodes features three or four stories, dividing the episode up into TAL-esque acts. And the production style is a conscious attempt to mimic that style, albeit on a lot lower-fi level. He’s after serious stories and a kind of transcendent exploration of why people play games and what games really mean. The show fails most of the time and the interviews and stories he shares on the show simply aren’t particularly meaningful, which wouldn’t be that bad if the show was super-entertaining or something, but the serious tone works against the show at times. It’s kind of sad, really, to see Ashley’s ambitions fail to come together. Like I said, a five year period yielded only seven actual episodes of the show and each episode features Ashley apologizing for the long delay and predicting that the show will become a lot more regular in the weeks to come. That never happens and, for instance, we get only one episode in 2010 and one in 2013. The idea here is good, but the execution fails on multiple levels.
You know, an episode a year is about all you can manage in your rotation.
Avoid Like the Plague If
Your main goal in approaching video games is having fun.
Best Entry Point
I think the best is actually a “b-side” that’s only about half an hour long. Ashley asks for his listeners to send in audio files explaining why they play video games and the answers are genuinely fascinating. One guy answers via a quiet, acoustic guitar dirge; another spends all of his time arguing that he doesn’t need to provide a reason; others tell surprisingly sincere stories of times when video games got them through tough times. It’s a compelling episode of the show, even if it’s not an “official” episode.