EDIT: Hey everyone! Wow, thanks so much for all of the incredible questions. I really loved answering them, and I'm now pretty determined to turning this sort of Q&A into a larger feature over at Waypoint. (But also, we'll def do some proper AMAs again in the future!) Thank you so much for your support. If you want the question you didn't get answered here to potentially show up in an episode of Waypoint Radio, make sure to email [email protected] with the subject "Question"!

Thanks again y'all. Hope you have a good night. See you for the podcast tomorrow morning. Peace!


My name is Austin Walker, and I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Waypoint, VICE’s new gaming website. (And hey! Shoutouts to the Waypoint subreddit!)

At Waypoint, we do everything from long form feature articles (like this piece on inmates who play Dungeons and Dragons) to documentaries (like this look into the creation of Hyper Light Drifter, one of my favorite games this year!), and I’m lucky enough to get to put a creative hand on just about everything that we do. Thankfully, every now and then I still find the time to do a little writing of my own. We also do a lot of streaming at Waypoint—check out this clip of me and Senior Reporter Patrick Klepek suffering through Superman 64 in the late hours of the night.

You can also catch me on your favorite podcast player, hosting Waypoint Radio (our twice a week podcast about games and culture) and Friends at the Table (a tabletop RPG podcast focused on critical world building, smart characterization, and fun interaction between good friends.

Before I got here, I was a member of the Giant Bomb family, and just a year before that, I was a broke freelance writer and a grad school student. Time moves fast, huh?

In any case, I’m super excited to be here and can’t wait to answer some questions. So hey, ask me anything!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/nciitjle302y.jpg

Comments: 627 • Responses: 64  • Date: 

patrickklepek311 karma

When are you going to play Knack?

TheCalcutec194 karma

Look for when the sky is clear, And the sun is back. Patrick and I will share some beer, And play some Knack.

V0xus182 karma

Hi Austin! What was the most valuable lesson you learned while working with Giant Bomb?

TheCalcutec590 karma

Good (and difficult) question, so let’s start with this one!

I learned a ton from my time at GB—I cannot begin to overstate the wisdom that was imparted on by everyone there. Really, really hard to push So here's a lesson I from everyone:

Vinny taught me the value of of a backup plan—and how to face the fact that sometimes, even your backup’s backup fails. I remember when Vinny told me that our quick look system had three redundancies. I laughed at how surreal that was. Less than a week later, the initial recording and two of those three backups totally failed. I was very grateful for that third one.

Alex taught me how to push forward on a shitty day. Alex and I both have a great deal in common in terms of our, uh, cloudy demeanors, let's say. But Alex was an incredible professional, and even on the days where things were rough as hell, he managed to put his nose to the stone

Jeff taught me that it’s less about perfection, and it’s more about cadence. Every swing you take will not be a home run—both as a creator and journalist and also as a person—but if you can consistently, reliably do solid work, people will follow you.

Rorie taught me the value of prioritization. Matt is just… super busy over there, and he constantly has to decide what challenges are things he needs to address immediately and which things need to be saved for tomorrow.

Drew showed me the courage (and the deftness) it takes to bring really, really esoteric interests to a wide audience. Things like the Crusader Kings 2 stream or the Twilight Struggle Quick Look (which I did with Drew) never would’ve happened if he didn’t prove that if you bring a fun personality and a lot of patience, you can share your weirdest interests with people.

Jason is a living example of grit. Long nights of setup were worth it, because tomorrow it meant that things would be that much easier. And longer nights of breakdown were worth it because hey, you were done. If I’m every a tenth of the professional Jason is, I’ll be able to get a ton done even on the hardest nights

Dan and I bonded over our social anxiety. His ability to step out into a crowd—but also to know that it’s okay to step away when you need to was a very important lesson for me.

Brad taught me how to deal with criticism. That’s not a joke, either. There were weeks where I saw fans of ours pile onto him unfairly—unaware of whatever really difficult task he was hard at work at accomplishing—and he was just fucking head down on what had to get done. But he also listened when people had real, important, constructive critique. Super important lesson

While I was there, I also worked with a dude named Stan who you probably don’t know, but Stan absolutely taught me the value of working with people who understand the big picture. I’m a humanities dude, you know? I resist stats and charts and all that. Stan showed me how those things could inform my work without forcing it to change in a way I wasn’t happy with.

Patrick was obviously gone by the time I arrived, but watching his whole career (and now being lucky enough to work with him on a daily basis), he’s taught me a ton about the value of being curious. Dig deeper. The story isn’t the obvious thing, it’s the next level down. Always take that next step.

And while I was never lucky enough to know Ryan, as a fan, I was keenly aware of his amazing way of bringing a room of people together. In prepping for our huge 72 hour livestream, I thought a lot about how well Ryan was able to find common ground between people who had very little to do with each other. He was a master MC, and I aspire to bring even a fraction of the joy he brought others.

LanglySE131 karma

Hi Austin,

What sort of planning went into you and Dan sneaking food into the e3 panel and whose idea was it? I was dying

TheCalcutec251 karma

Here's the bit in question.

Dan was really, honestly, asking me if I wanted a twinkie the first few times. Then during one of the downtimes, we just both sort of excitedly talked about how much we loved it and wanted to escalate. One thing led to another... and then another thing led to a coffee machine.

Jeff was... an enabler.

wutastic105 karma

Hi Austin - huge fan, and this is a really random question, but it's been bugging me and this seems like a dumb enough forum to ask it.

During the Life is Strange playthrough at GBeast, you were super quick to call Mr. Jefferson a terrible teacher. Now, of course, this turns out to be super true, but I always got the impression that the game tried to paint him in a positive, hip-but-down-to-earth light early on to make his eventual shittiness that much more shocking, and I caught myself falling for it. You - though - had his number from the start.

I always wondered what qualities you saw in that character that made you instantly recognize him as a terrible teacher early on in the story? I always loved whenever you would talk about education on the Beastcast, and I'm currently working on applications to PhD programs to hopefully become a teacher myself some day. You seemed tuned into manipulative teaching tactics that I couldn't see (and that I suspect the writers weren't even fully aware of), but I felt like you never had much of a chance to elaborate on them besides "fuck off, guy."

Sorry, this is like the niche-est question ever, but I always wanted to ask so why not.

TheCalcutec202 karma

Let's just say that being a teacher for so long means that I very quickly developed the senses necessary to recognize the traits of a bad teacher...

Here's a story: At one point in my academic career, I was a at a meeting with all of the teaching assistants in a course that I was also a TA for. The goal was to help us come to agreement on what we were expecting from term papers: What did an A grade paper look like from session to session, for instance? (Sometimes, a TA gets assigned students who really excel, which can throw the average expectations things off).

At one point, a TA asked "how do I know the difference between a B+ and an A?" Another TA responded, "That depends on how hot the student is." Needless to say, that response was not appreciated in a room filled with people busting their asses to figure out how to correctly grade dozens of students. (Worth noting that the TA in question is no longer teaching, or in academia in any way, as far as I know).

Life is Strange's Mark Jefferson moves and speaks exactly like that TA.

SuperTurboMan94 karma

Can Knack 2 possibly be any better than the first Knack?

Also, what are the plans for Waypoint's videos to be like in the future? Are you more interested in the quick look/live streams of Giant Bomb or more edited videos/documentaries?

TheCalcutec102 karma

what if knack 2

had

four knacks

:thinking emoji:

TheCalcutec22 karma

We'll be continuing live stuff, documentaries, and a whole lot of interesting short form stuff too. Stay tuned...

AlongComesASpider82 karma

what's good?

Hexual39 karma

What's REALLY good?

TheCalcutec80 karma

What's really, really good, internet?

mechahendrix61 karma

Has there been a difference in the management style from Giantbomb to VICE? Giantbomb always seen pretty laid back in how they go about things.

What do you hope see out of the Nintendo Switch?

Thanks so much Austin!

TheCalcutec85 karma

The major difference is that I'm in a different role! At GB I was responsible for writing news & some reviews, being on videos and podcasts, and managing the freelancer program. Here, I'm hands on with all of that, but also have to take to much broader perspective on things. I was in a meeting today planning out things as far away as June. I just didn't need to be in that sort of meeting at GB, you know?

The other big difference is that we're a new site, which means that everything needs to be managed a little bit tighter. While overall cadence is important (as I said in another answer), this close to launch means that every post, every stream, every podcast ep... everything we do will have that much more attention on it, and it will be that much more precedent setting. So I'm definitely being a little less relaxed than I would be otherwise.

Re: The Switch, I really want to be able to play for an entire flight from the NYC to SF or LA! Other than that, I'd really love if third parties are given a good reason to support it. Would love to have a Nintendo console that isn't just my "Nintendo Game Machine*.

svnder58 karma

Why did you abandon us, Basil?

TheCalcutec49 karma

Oh, Woodsman. You were always going to do better without my philosophies, anyway.

jayc4life57 karma

As a long-term fan of Giant Bomb before you started working there, how hard was it to adjust yourself from the "I'm a huge fan of these guys" to "I get to work with these guys"?

Do you think Dotemu and Sony's Windjammers reveal would have happened at all if it hadn't been for Giant Bomb spearheading g a revival movement for that game?

Is this AMA Frog Fractions 2?

TheCalcutec63 karma

Not that hard, believe it or not. I've told this story before, but my interview with Vinny and Alex included a recurring time travel joke. And my interview with Jeff included some deep hip hop talk. I hit it off immediately with those guys, and that meant that adjusting was a fun, exciting thing to do instead of something nerve wracking! That said, there were definitely days where I'd be leaving work in the evening and suddenly face how absurd it was: Just months ago, I was tuning into a Quick Look or a UPF or whatever to relax after a long day. Time moves fast, y'all.

Four things, I think, prepared me for this transition from fan to co-worker. First, being a teacher means meeting new people who don't really know you all the time. You have to get good at making a good impression, building trust, and finding a good flow. Second, I grew up working retail, which is a lot like being a teacher, except the lesson you are teaching is My dude, you *really** need these jeans.*" And you don't get to decide who the customer is—maybe it's a parent and a child, maybe it's a gambler who needs to spend their last 20 dollars a clean shirt so that they can go back to the tables looking fresh. I worked in Atlantic City... it's a long story..

Third, I'd been doing a ton of streaming with the Streamfriends, a group that, at its largest size, included 14 or 15 members. That meant that I was really well practiced with hopping onto a microphone with different configurations of people and trying to find my rhythm.

Finally, and this is seriously key for working with anyone you know of before you get to work with them, I did my best to remind myself that everyone who worked at GB was first-and-foremost a real human being. They have good days and bad days, families and friends outside of work, likes and dislikes that aren't always visible. That helped a lot.

As for our thoughts on the Windjammers Situation, stay tuned for more info on that soon.

(I really, really just wanted to type The Windjammers Situation.)

LaterKid56 karma

Hi Austin, I enjoyed your work on the beastcast and am happy to see your rise to waypoint. Personally, one thing that I admired about you was your academic background. I believe I was introduced to your work as I myself was finishing up my graduate degree. You similarly, were working on your doctorate. You lamented the struggles of finding work in your field (and of the shrinking availability of jobs therein) which mirrored my own experiences and I imagine, many of the experiences of recent graduates. I can’t speak for your grad school experience but many of my classes consisted of roundtable discussions of the week’s academic reading, critiquing and dissecting the works. I went straight from undergrad to graduate whereas many of my peers were adults with jobs and families of their own. A few were foreigners for whom English was their second language. Some, current and former military, both women and men of varying races. They had diverse backgrounds, no two were quite alike. As you would imagine, the perspectives and experiences of these individuals differed greatly which fostered lively but respectful debates.

This gets into the heart of my question and critique. Having listened to you speak a great deal on the beastcast and on your own twitter, it seems obvious that you greatly value diversity and interesting new takes on video game discussion. I’ve seen you tell prospective writers for your site to investigate whether their take has been done to death or not. However, the viewpoints of you, Danielle and Patrick never seem to diverge from each other nor really my expectations of what they will be. Often on the Beastcast on more contentious topics, Vinny would act as the devil’s advocate and even you would sometimes try to present the opposing viewpoint in the best possible light. Since it wasn’t your viewpoint, sometimes you fell short in presenting the position but you made an active effort to recognize that perspectives outside of your own existed.

1)How do you reconcile your desire to foster new discussions and interesting unique viewpoints with the criticism that your staff’s beliefs diverge very little?

2)Your site right now lacks a comment section, when it was Vice Gaming, it had one. At times the comments could be quite negative. Is the lack of comments a response to that? Do you believe that removing the comment section presents the reader with a one-sided viewpoint without risking the author’s perspective being challenged?

Let me be clear this isn’t a call for you to stop writing about the topics that are important to you or your staff. Instead, my appraisal of you is that you’re the type of individual who has given a lot of thought to this dilemma and I’m curious what your thoughts are. Thank you for your time and I hope you have continued success for your site.

TheCalcutec50 karma

Hey Laterkid,

The first thing I'll say is that our site is still very small, and that there really hasn't been much in terms of topic to make us "butt heads." That said, if you go listen to the question-only Waypoint Radio episode from a few weeks ago, you'll actually hear us disagree a lot. It's just that disagreement doesn't sound like fighting. As much as I was a fan of 1UP Yours back in the day, I'm just not looking to shout at someone who disagrees with me. Still, as we continue to hire up, we'll continue to hire people who have broader interests and feelings about games and the world.

Re: Comments. Partly, that reflects the fact that our Content Management System (or CMS, shout outs to the product & dev team!) , just doesn't have them built in and instead opts for the infinite scroll design. Because of that, we've found other ways to interact with our fans and readers: Things like this AMA, Twitter, our subreddit, our fan Discord, etc. That said, we very much wanna start a letters to the editor section (a la Motherboard), and we also want to look into forums—I've been really impressed by what Discourse can do, and wanna investigate that for sure.

Also, lol, discourse.

karobit45 karma

The very first job interview I had to sit in on as management was with a guy who claimed his experience doing raids with his linkshell in FF11 gave him unique skills to working at our retail store. The helpless look my boss gave me as he started rattling off MMO terms is still burned into my brain. So in the interest of passing this along:

In what ways (if any) do you think your experience running table-top games has informed the way you execute your duties as Editor-in-Chief?

TheCalcutec81 karma

One of the big things that changed how I run tabletop RPGs was learning about a term GMs call "flags." Flags are a way of thinking about what the set of people at the table are interested in, and players will "flag" their interests to you in a bunch of ways.

Here's an easy example: A Ranger takes "favored enemy: goblins." Now, on paper, what that means is "God, I fucking hate goblins." But at the higher level, what it's saying is "God, I really want us to fight some goblins in this campaign." That's a flag.

But flags get way more complex than that. When you hear a player say something like "Yeah so my character is an orphan from Neverwinter, and he went on to become a Wizard who etc. etc." That player might want to be a wizard, and might want to be in Neverwinter, but they also probably want that bit about them being an Orphan to show up even if they don't even consciously know it yet. And it doesn't have to come up in the "And then you meet your parents" way; it can come up through having parental analogs, questions about authority & freedom, etc.

Being an editor-in-chief (or an editor of any kind) is partially about reading flags. Here's a very specific example: Natalie Moore wrote a fantastic piece about The Secret World for us, in which she talks to the members of a the game's roleplay server. She wanted to write a series, she said, about lesser loved MMOs.

After I greenlit the pitch, though, Natalie came back to me to apologize, because instead of the vibrant community she remembered, she found a dwindling (if still passionate) community. But the GM in me saw the flag: The fact that this was a dwindling community playing a game about the Apocalypse arriving was... perfect. So I pushed back, let her know that she should write it, and it came out so so good.

(I cleared telling this story by her, too. Hi, Natalie!)

Soy_Bob38 karma

If you had to make the DiveKick version of your favourite game, what are the two buttons?

TheCalcutec86 karma

I was going to say that it's Crusader Kings 2, and that the two buttons are "Yes" and "No." Then I remembered: This already exists, and it's Reigns.

Socracats37 karma

Hey Austin! What's your favorite anime that's not a mech anime or set somewhere in space?

TheCalcutec61 karma

Oh, good question.

While I'm a big mecha and sci-fi fan, my actual favorite anime director is Satoshi Kon. So in terms of series, Paranoia Agent, probably. Once we're talking films, people will probably tell you (and they're not wrong) that Paprika, Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, and Millennium Actress are dope, and they're not wrong. BUT DO NOT SLEEP ON MAGNETIC ROSE, Kon's short film in the Memories anthology. It's so good. (Also, it has space in it, so I guess apologies.)

Beyond that, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is like my favorite "smart junk food" tv. Blend of easily digestible, crime-of-the-week procedural stuff with some heady ideas tossed in for fun. Also: robots. Whoops. I guess the Tachikomas count as mechs.

Crimsai8 karma

What about the sad cat anime tho?

TheCalcutec39 karma

CHI'S SWEET HOME IS VERY GOOD

wavemotiondan34 karma

What do people pitch you WAY TOO MUCH OF at Waypoint? And what do you wish people would pitch you more?

TheCalcutec46 karma

I get lots and lots of pitches about retro games that are good, but that there's already a ton of stuff about out there. People know what Earthbound is, you know? And that doesn't mean that another Earthbound article is fully moot, but it does raise the bar for what it needs to contain for it to be worth our resources to pursue.

The sort of gold standard of pitches is "Here's a cool game or community that a wide audience can understand but that they don't already know about." Those are the easiest to greenlight, especially if there's a great "hook." Think about Patrick's story "One Player's Nine Year Journey to Open a Locked Secret Door" here.

HEELHousell25 karma

Hey Austin, given your well documented affinity for hip-hop and how strong this year has been what was your favorite project of the year? Thanks!

TheCalcutec52 karma

GOD

There's been so much. Stuff that jumps to mind:

Chance's Coloring Book, Noname's Telefone, Kendrick's Untitled, Unmastered, Danny Brown's Atrocity Exhibition, Lil Yachty's Lil Boat, Kanye's Life of Pablo.

Two of my favorite albums this year aren't really rap records, but both have a lot to do with hip hop: Frank Ocean's Blonde and Solange's A Seat At The Table. Andre's verse on Solo (Reprise) alone. Gotdam.

Stuff I haven't heard yet (I know, I know): The new Tribe record, the Swet Shop Boys album,

Weremidget3 karma

Do you ever feel like you've stumbled and lived every word and you're working just way too hard?

TheCalcutec8 karma

God that shit hit me.

planetdiver23 karma

Hi Austin! Here's a spicy question: Do you think we'll ever see game publishers or developers creating or curating porn for their own games? I doubt Blizzard is ever going to hire any professional artists to do officially sanctioned Overwatch porn, but what about a more risk-taking publisher like Devolver, or some small indie dev?

TheCalcutec51 karma

I think this is a super interesting question. The short term answer is: Not a big publisher, maybe a tiny pub (or the opposite, we'll see porn game publishers find break out, mainstream success with a crossover game).

In the long term: Maybe! But that depends on a lot of things changing about the public perception of porn (let alone porn games.) The question is what the actual benefit of doing it "in house" is, versus it being something that emerges naturally from the fan community.

Think of it this way. Blizzard has X budget earmarked for non-game Overwatch stuff this year. Some of that will go to events. Some to merch. Some to the creation of the short movies that get them a ton of praise. If they diverted some of that money to make porn, the benefit of that spend probably wouldn't equal whatever gains it led to—however tasteful, funny, or sexy the porn was. Meanwhile, the fan community will continue to make Overwatch porn, which will contirbute to the huge fandom around the game. And that costs Blizzard nothing, directly. Until that calculation changes, I don't see big companies trying to get into the porn game.

Niflhe22 karma

Hey Austin!

I don't really "get" Invisible, Inc. As it just came out as part of Playstation Plus, I'm interested in giving it another shot. Do you have any valuable tips for understanding how it plays? What am I missing?

TheCalcutec45 karma

Constantly ask yourself, out loud, "Okay, why am I doing the move I'm about to do?" and when things go wrong, take a page from Alex Navarro and ask "What did we learn?" Invisible, Inc. (née Incognita), is very much the sort of game that rewards care and attention, and punishes bad habits.

To do well at Invisible, Inc., you need to get information. But to get great at Invisible, Inc., you need to know exactly when take risks instead of wasting time gaining more information. Learning that balance takes time (and is why it's one of my favorite games ever.)

mintyice21 karma

What does Brad do all day?

TheCalcutec82 karma

Like everyone else at GB, work his fucking ass off. The business of working in games journalism—especially at a site with only a handful of people at it—means getting a lot of stuff done that is totally invisible from the outside. Endless meetings, tons of paperwork, editing podcasts, prepping features, writing. There's a always a ton to do.

Endreo20 karma

If Patrick is Scoops, what would your nickname be in the morning zoo radio format?

TheCalcutec32 karma

Stheno18 karma

[deleted]

TheGroomOfTheStool44 karma

DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT!

TheCalcutec30 karma

Thank you for this!

TheGroomOfTheStool18 karma

Have you had any more info from the Sigil Master?

TheCalcutec31 karma

No! I actually got some outsider information that made me disengage totally from the Game Detectives chat and everything around it. I KNOW TOO MUCH (and don't wanna ruin the fun for other people.)

Guardian_Ainsel18 karma

What do you think is the line between story and gameplay in terms of game quality? For years we have seen games with masterful gameplay and subpar stories (MGSV comes to mind) get extremely high scores, while games with great story and subpar gameplay (Mafia III) have reviewed more poorly. Do you think this is right? Should game journalists give more emphasis to story, or do we already have a good balance? Thanks for taking the time to do this!

TheCalcutec44 karma

There isn't a single answer to this. If anything, I'd like to blow up the dichotomy between "story and gameplay."

Thsoe categories are super useful for us as shorthand: "Yeah, the story was good," is easier to say than "The game has really solid characterization and the plot is exciting and the setting is really evocative!" But when you push yourself to be a little more specific, suddenly you see how "the gameplay" and "the story" are overlapping categories.

Many of my favorite games weave their storytelling through the game's moment-to-moment mechanics. Even something like Doom (2016)'s story about a demon-killing super-marine is emphasized by the player's own empowerment. That story just doesn't have punch without the combat being so mobile, the player such a devastating force.

I have my own tastes, obvs, but, I don't think game reviewers should give more emphasis to this or that at all. I think they should be radically honest about their own experiences and try to understand why they like and don't like the things they play. I'm not out to tell someone who skips through cutscenes that they should pay more attention, and I'm not here to tell the player who lives for Lore that they should care more about gameplay balance. That way lies boring dogmatism.

Guardian_Ainsel12 karma

Thanks for the answer! So maybe instead of asking "is gameplay more important or is story more important", I should be asking "how do we better merge the two?" Thanks again!

TheCalcutec19 karma

Maybe! I think what we should be asking is "Does the thing that the game makers did work for us." I don't think a game like, say, Zach Gage's Bad Chess (or even Far Cry 2) needs more story to be good—in the same way that I don't think Picasso's "Guernica" needs more color.

hellaverity18 karma

Hey Austin! I was wondering if you could talk a bit about your approach to queerness and worldbuilding in Friends at the Table? One of the things I love about the show is the way that you build in a diversity of genders and sexual orientations to the worlds you guys create, and I was wondering how intentional that was, what your though processes about it were, etc.

Thank you (and the rest of the FatT cast) for making such a cool show!

TheCalcutec26 karma

I want the games I run to be as diverse as the world we live in, and to reflect the diversity we actually have at the table, too.

We're not always perfect—I've definitely fucked up with pronouns before, and I'm not happy about that—but we're really trying to push ourselves in this regard!

thundarrshirt18 karma

Austin what do you think makes a good GM (as a good GM yourself)?

TheCalcutec21 karma

Being open minded and invested in figuring out what the group wants, and knowing where their own strengths lie. Frankly, if my group wanted to do an old-school dungeon crawl, I'd probably not be the GM to give it to them—though I totally think that type of campaign has its merits.

dyw7703017 karma

I've heard you reference Ta-Nehisi Coates a few times on the Beastcast and (I think) Waypoint radio. Have you read any of the new run of Black Panther? What other authors do you enjoy?

Thanks!

TheCalcutec13 karma

I haven't read his run of Black Panther, but I'm very excited to! One of my plans for the holidays!

slasher_lash16 karma

Knife or bat?

TheCalcutec33 karma

I have always been team bat. Reach is important.

But... knives...

KSeth16 karma

Hey Austin, big fan! If you could take 3 games with you to a deserted island you're stranded on (power but no internet, for some reason) what would they be?

TheCalcutec34 karma

This is a very difficult question.

  1. Dwarf Fortress
  2. Invisible, Inc. for all the reasons I outline here. Please don't push the Austin button.
  3. The Witcher 3, with DLC, because then I'd finally have the time to actually play through that whole thing.

martijos9415 karma

A while ago on the podcast you mentioned that, among a number of things you were juggling, you wanted to find the time to watch Luke Cage. I just wanted to ask, did you ever get around to it? I remember being curious what you would think of it.

TheCalcutec27 karma

I haven't! I did manage to watch all of Atlanta in the last week though, and I really liked it.

Xdeser215 karma

Do you feel liberated working at (and running, of course) a site more focused on writing?

TheCalcutec32 karma

Not "liberated," really. It scratches a different itch for sure, and I love being able to give a platform to great written articles (both long and short). But I wasn't chaffing under the yoke of Quick Looks or anything.

WeedLordVegeta13 karma

Besides WinRar, what kind of tools and programs should someone have going into the field? Can you just get by with basic word processors for awhile?

TheCalcutec26 karma

I do basically all of my writing & editing in Google Docs! Really, really long form stuff is aided by some additional programs (and I'd be interested to hear people's productivity & writing suggestions!)

Beyond that, though, the things I use the most are communication tools like Slack & Discords and organizational tools like Trello.

slatterg13 karma

Hey Austin, Your ascent from freelancer to EiC of a big gaming website has been a joy to follow.

My question is, what was the conversation you had with Jeff like when this (waypoint) offer was put on the table? like what advice did he give you? etc.

Keep up the good work, the Kerbal Space Program is my favourite series on the site

TheCalcutec29 karma

We had a deep, real conversation about my goals, ambitions, strengths, etc. Jeff fought hard to keep me, I'm honored to say, but has also been incredibly supportive of what I'm doing here. He's been an incredible mentor and friend.

TechMF13 karma

If you could choose Patrick's desert island game what would it be? Keep in mind Patrick would choose Knack for you.

TheCalcutec28 karma

Dwarf Fortress.

Wait. No. No. ALSO KNACK

If we go down, we go down together.

aqissiaq12 karma

Hey Austin, what has been your favorite moment of Friends at the Table? Could you talk a bit about the prep and play leading up to it?

TheCalcutec37 karma

For the uninitiated: I run a tabletop podcast called Friends at the Table, in which I run RPGs for my friends (and which features the incredible music of Jack de Quidt.

Favorite ep we've done is probably all of "An Animal Out of Context," (from our mecha/cyberpunk/noir season COUNTER/Weight) in which we learn the secret history of the massive, terrible super robot named Rigor. It was super experimental in format, and it was using a still-in-development tabletop game that I and one of the other players had co-designed. So the prep was, technically, years long. The result was something really, really special. Real highlight of my year!

But my favorite individual moment is when we realized the truth behind Brandish's pirate fleet! Earlier on in the campaign, we used this cool little mechanic called "love letters" which let's the GM fill in the gap of a character's backstory or downtime. In this case, we had a rad warrior named Hella who had come up against a pirate king named Brandish. A roll of the dice determined how well she defeated him, and what sort of reward she got for doing it. Based on her roll, she was able to take three of the following four things: The food & money he'd stolen from Hella's city, a special spyglass, a map to a mysterious island, and Brandish's head. She took the first three.

Jump forward a few episodes, and the group has found their way onto a boat. A few bad rolls later, and guess whose ship appears over the horizon...

"I defeated him, right?" asked Hella's player. "You did, you did, but you didn't take his head..." I responded, and at that point in my mind, he had just managed to escape that previous encounter with his life. Then another player in the game, asked a big question:

Keith: "When you're saying 'she didn't take the head?', are you saying she didn't cut off his head, or that she didn't take the head with her after she cut it off?" Me: "That's a really good question!" Keith: "Yeah. Okay. Undead pirates. Fuck boats. I said no boats!"

Now I could've just said "oh, no, he's fine. he's a regular pirate." But it's way more interesting for: 1. Him to be a zombie pirate, 2. Me to have to figure out how and why he's a zombie pirate. From that "yes and..." moment, I was able to totally redirect the remainder of that campaign, taking my party to a city frozen in time, where the undead and living worked side by side. It's very much one of the moments that first helped me conceptualize the vibe of the whole show!

The_Giffer6 karma

Hey Austin! for the link formatting to work, the URL needs to be complete. Try

[incredible music of Jack de Quidt](http://www.notquitereal.bandcamp.com)

Thanks for the wonderful AMA so far!

MichaelRUnderwood11 karma

What tabletop RPGs are you excited about but haven't yet gotten to play?

Any established favorites you're especially keen to get back to?

Could you shout out a favorite bit of game design in a tabletop RPG and why you like it?

TheCalcutec16 karma

There are so many. I really wanna play Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine and Ryuutama: Natural Fantasy RPG, because anime. I really want to play Fantasy Flight's Star Wars RPG, but without hacking it for another system, it won't work for Friends at the Table—we're pretty committed to staying in our own fictional worlds.

Oh! Very excited to play Ben Robbins' Follow, sometime soon, I hope!

I already miss Blades in the Dark, which we used for season 2 of FatT. That's also one I'm thinking about hacking for a future season!

My favorite bit of tabletop design is the way ammo works in Dungeon World (and many other Powered by the Apocalypse games).

So, there are a lot of ways to do "ammo" in a game. Some games attempt to evoke a simulated sense of "reality," so you make players track ammo manually and tightly control their access to more. Others play fast and loose with ammo, only counting "special" arrows or bullets or whatever. In Dungeon World, the focus is on cinematic storytelling, so (like in a movie or a great piece of fantasy fiction) "ammo" comes up whenever things get hairy.

Every player with ranged weapons has an ammo number—this tends to be low, like between 3-5. The way you attack with a ranged weapon is a "move" called "Volley." Volley states:

When you take aim and shoot at an enemy at range, roll+Dex. ✴On a 10+, you have a clear shot—deal your damage. ✴On a 7–9, choose one (whichever you choose you deal your damage):

You have to move to get the shot placing you in danger as described >by the GM You have to take what you can get: -1d6 damage You have to take several shots, reducing your ammo by one

So you roll to hit and you land a full hit? No problem, you're like Legolas in pretty much any scene in Lord of the Rings. You roll a 7-9 though, and things get tricky—and maybe you have to take a few more shots than you'd like to, reducing your ammo.

It's an abstract number, but also a very real, material one. I love it because it illustrates the wide range of possibility for storytelling in games like this (and because it shows that a roll can change the entire tone of the game!)

Muimdac11 karma

What Mass Effect character would you most like to have a drink with?

TheCalcutec15 karma

GOOOOD question.

Saren.

Guardian_Ainsel11 karma

Hey Austin! Big fan! Waypoint Radio has quickly become my favorite video game podcast. It's made me think of games I never have in the past!

My question for you is this; a few years ago it seemed like the "are video games art?" discussion was on everyone's mind, and I wanted to see where you fall in that debate. I can understand those who say that they aren't, because for art to be art, the audience can't have a hand in its creation (such as controlling the protagonist). Do you think this is a valid argument? Thanks for doing this! And keep up the great show!

TheCalcutec34 karma

I don't think "the audience is involved, so it's not art" is a good argument, at least not unless you want to dismiss a whole ton of very important artists.

It's a longer thing to get into than I can here (I have to spread the love around!) but I fundamentally believe that any artwork that has an audience is, in some way, interactive. We all bring our own lens of analysis & interpretation to a work of art. Pressing a button is a more obvious sort of interactivity, but it's not the only sort. The fact that I cringe when hearing holiday music is as much a part of me as it is the music itself—never work retail if you want to keep liking Christmas music.

That doesn't make our opinions less valid, it just means that we should be aware that we bring ourselves into every game we play, every song we dance to, and every movie or show we watch. Each is interactive—albeit in different ways—and each is art.

GBloodworth10 karma

Hey Austin,

I'm actually a grad school student right now, and I'm hoping to be an editor one day. Any tips for getting into the gaming journalism scene?

TheCalcutec22 karma

I've answered this a bunch of the years, but my best answer is probably still this post on my Giant Bomb blog.

Number three there is my biggest "tip:" Write. Write a lot. Write long form and short form. Do interviews, reviews, essays, reported pieces, retrospectives, archival digs, news repots. Stretch your writing muscles and find out what you're good at and what you want to be better at. Find someone to give you honest feedback.

Beyond that, though, and this is maybe not the most sunny answer, is that everyone who wants to be in games journalism should really think through their desire to be in games journalism. I love my job to death (and loved my time at GB too!), but I've been incredibly lucky.

My time as a freelancer—and almost anyone who wants to break into traditional games journalism will spend time as a freelancer—was incredibly stressful, exhausting, and trying. I was dead broke (and that was when I had an additional income as a teacher, too), and I spent as much time trying to find outlets for my writing, chasing down paychecks, and filing paperwork as I did writing (maybe more!)

Then, if you manage to find a full time gig, well, it's full time. And there really is something about turning your hobby into your job that can dull some of the polish. I've said it before, but I think I can count the days I've spent "at work" playing games in the last two years on my fingers. Mostly it's meetings and planning, drafting and editing, fighting with recording equipment and coordinating with other departments.

My experience isn't everyone's, for sure, but I do think that it's instructive, a reminder that being a games journalist is a job, not an escape from the stresses of work. I think about this Lester Freeman speech a lot. "The job will not save you." (And if you're looking to pay the rent, and who isn't, there are better careers to follow.)

That said: If you still wanna be a games journalist? Fucking do it. There is nothing that gets me more pumped than finally understanding the thing I want to say about a game, or being able to really dig into the design and background of a game with one of its makers, or being able to elevate the ideas of amazing writers who are looking for a platform. This is very "do as I say, not as I do," I know, but really, it's an important step to take.

Aislinana10 karma

What kind of perspectives and stories are you most interested in including at Waypoint and what have been the most exciting so far?

TheCalcutec13 karma

I've kind of explained the first bit before, but here's the list of stories I send around when someone asks me what sort of stories I'm interested in publishing:

Obviously there are dozens (hundreds?) of other articles I love by writers like Kate Gray, Jack de Quidt, Yuseff Cole, Julie Muncy, Cameron Kunzelman, Chris Schilling.... the list goes on and on and on and on. But these represent a great collection of the sorts of articles I love publishing.

KCduder9 karma

Gex or Bubsy?

TheCalcutec15 karma

This is easy.

Gex has a tuxedo.

treesley9 karma

Hey Austin, I've been inspired by a lot of the FatT GMing you've done (especially s2 and Marielda). What do you prep in writing for your players, and how much of each story comes from adapting to player input?

TheCalcutec16 karma

The games i like to run emphasize "world building" as prep. I build characters who have intentions, goals, and abilities, and who are part of factions that have those things. I outline locations, maybe a few setpieces or challenges, and then find a goal for my players inside of that format.

Think about a level in Hitman: That's sort of how I prep for games. It takes a ton of time, but it means that if the players go left instead of right, my prep is never wasted. I just take a step back and say "okay, how does that change how the characters and organizations I've prepped act?"

Emb3rSil9 karma

Hey Austin! Realtalk: What could modern games learn from the Matrix Online?

TheCalcutec11 karma

The value of GM-run events that go beyond big combat encounters!

amillertime128 karma

I've really been enjoying what Waypoint has done so far, but I'm curious about your editorial philosophy. In a world where that is little actual reporting in games media, how much news reporting do imagine Waypoint doing at its peak? Patrick has been one of the best games reporters, so do think the site will become more news or commentary? Or is there a perfect balance you're looking for?

TheCalcutec6 karma

i think the balance we have now is about where I'd like to be going forward, with perhaps a little more short form reporting to supplement the great long form stuff we have now!

ultron878 karma

I ran my first game of Dungeon World the other weekend. It was very fun, but I had some trouble coming up with interesting results for when the players missed or got 7-9 on Defy Danger. You have any favorite go-to moves for those results?

TheCalcutec13 karma

Always keep your player's inventories in front of you. They have something they like? Let them decide if they want to succeed at the cost of that thing being taken from them (at least temporarily).

goddamnimglam7 karma

What are or were the challenges in honing your voice when you write?

TheCalcutec7 karma

For me, it was identifying where and how much to cut. I spent a LOT of time defending really long for writing. But as I got stronger as a writer, I got more and more free with my editing scalpel. Learning how to zero in on the best version of my arguments (while still retaining nuance and clarity) has been my longest running challenge!

bigbagofmulch7 karma

Reinhard von Lohengramm, or Yang Wenli?

TheCalcutec8 karma

Siegfried Kircheis.

ilifin7 karma

Which Gundam show is the best and why is it Gundam SEED?

Reddhat3 karma

The UC life is the only life.

TheCalcutec8 karma

UC >>>>

Lord_Snark6 karma

What was the last anime you watched all the way through? Do you still have any time at all, now that your running your own space?

TheCalcutec12 karma

I honestly don't even have the answer off the top of my head and that is very sad. I think probably... the first season of Aldnoah.Zero? There's SO MUCH that I've started and dropped off of because I haven't had time. Watching anime is tough because it's mostly subbed, and that means that I actually need to give it full attention (which I rarely have these days).

Weebos6 karma

Hey Austin, I've been a fan of yours for awhile. What is one non-videogame thing that you think somebody should watch, read, or experience?

TheCalcutec8 karma

This is such a big question, and not really the sort that I have an answer for. I know what things influenced me, but I don't think that there's some silver bullet, canonical answer to a question like this.

ohnoitslubu5 karma

If you could cosplay as any Dynasty Warriors character, which would you choose and why? I am in no way bias to your answer.

TheCalcutec19 karma

Zhou Yu was my first favorite, but over time, I've become a Lu Xun dude.

Regardless: Wu For Life.

ScaryGent5 karma

Are you caught up on Gundam? Been watching Origin, or Ironblooded Orphans?

TheCalcutec9 karma

I'm not! I never found the time to even finish IBO part 1. Haven't seen any Origin! I know, I know, I KNOW!

Gatowag5 karma

What's good, Austin? Are there any future plans for video features on Waypoint besides the podcast?

Love the work you're doing! It makes me really happy to get a little dose of Miss You every week with some good people talking video games.

Bonus Q: Have you been watching Atlanta? I feel like you would appreciate the tone and conversation surrounding that show.

TheCalcutec13 karma

Definitely more videos coming. LOTS. We're already streaming over on [Twitch](twitch.tv/waypoint) every Wednesday, and we're going to be doing more video stuff in the near future.

Glad you like the Boen track! I was over the moon when he gave us the go ahead to use it.

(And yeah, really dug Atlanta! Not sure if the season is over or if it's on break or what, but very much want more of it.)

OhTheStatic5 karma

Austin!

I'm about to begin my MA program for Literature and have began brushing up on literary theory and criticism. My question for you is if there are any particular scholarly or academic articles that you recommend to better understand video games? This can be virtually anything: the psychology of why people play games, narrative theory in games, cultural studies surrounding games or investigating game mechanics.

Thanks so much for the great content over the last couple of years. Keep it up.

TheCalcutec13 karma

This is a HUGE topic. The big books for me were Ian Bogost's Unit Operations, Bonnie Nardi's My Life as a Night Elf Priest, Alexander Galloway's Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, McKenzie Wark's Gamer Theory, and Greig De Peuter and Nick Dyer-Witheford's Games of Empire. The latter is what got me into games academia to begin with.

president_horse5 karma

first off, I know you're planning to do a Marielda postmortem at the end of FatT Season 3, so apologies if you don't want to answer this one here, but.

Marielda felt much tighter to me on its conception of the nature of divinity than the first Hieron season did. What changed about that direction between the season 1 finale and today? Or was it always intended to be like that (more or less) and Marielda offered the chance to explore it?

TheCalcutec10 karma

The thing that changed was that I got to run COUNTER/Weight, which generally made me a more invested and careful storyteller!

That said, Marielda also meant taking more control over the story from my players. So, think about the Samot & the Wolf story in Season 1: I had no idea how that would go. I was sure the animal chasing Samot would be a dragon, not a wolf! In Marielda, I didn't let my players give those sorts of details, I laid them out in front of them and asked them to respond. Giving a very tight, prescripted sense of who Samot & Samothes were was important for future things in Hieron.

Just wait...

lighthaze5 karma

Hey Austin, big fan. Waypoint is a site about games and gamers. What I really miss (from most gaming sites) is articles about fringe genres (like, for example, simulations).

Do you think this lack of articles comes just down to the fact that less people play this games (and thus also less writers) or do you think that many of these articles just won't get published, because their contents are often not of interest for the average player?

TheCalcutec10 karma

One way to think about it: Take a major game. How many of its players both really, really understand it well and also can write cogently (and insightfully or entertainingly) about it? That's not a diss to those who can't or don't do that, only a matter of numbers.

Now take a game with a much smaller audience. What's the chance that one of its players is also a writer? Obvs this changes from game to game, but it really is a numbers game at some point.

There is also the question of broader interest, but if something is really interesting about a niche game, places like Waypoint, Giant Bomb, and Paste are all super interested in covering them! The question for the aspiring niche writer is "How do I make this accessible and interesting to a wide audience." (And that's not to say that all writing should be accessible—I come from academia after all! But writing for a mass audience does need to consider approachability.)

stevelandr4 karma

Just one really important question, why did you force Mako to choose about the life of our waviest boy?

TheCalcutec7 karma

Because ours is a show about drama.

Audaxon4 karma

What is the rationale behind Waypoint's policy to not give video games ratings? I'm not advocating in either direction, I just haven't read or heard any of the reasons for or against it.

TheCalcutec21 karma

It's not only that we don't give them ratings, it's that we don't do reviews at all. Instead, I'm very focused on getting our writers to find angles other than "should you buy this?" or "is this good?"

That's not because I don't think those are valuable questions—they super are. People only have limited time and money, and being advised on their purchases is a real thing they need. But because those questions are good, they're also very well answered. The day a game comes out, there are dozens of places you can go to see a review and get a score, and thousands of people you can turn to if you want to see live impressions and reactions. That field is stacked with talented, hardworking people.

So instead of trying to compete in that already very crowded space, I wanted to build a site that focused on the sort of articles that most sites can only do after they finish their review—maybe a report on a game's community, or an in depth essay about death mechanics, or an interview the dev about the way history or politics influenced their game.

There are places that absolutely tackle those things, but we want those to be our bread and butter, not our dessert. Hope that makes sense!

Karf4 karma

Austin, what is your favorite thing about Theodore Horst? Besides keeping it wavy, of course. Did you have any inclining that he would become such an intrical part of Mako's story arc when you were coming up with him?

TheCalcutec14 karma

ZERO idea. And again, Lazer Ted is a huge example of why tabletop RPGs are great when things emerge naturally from play. Ted didn't exist before Keith said "I want to call on one of Mako's old contacts," and he didn't exist AS "Lazer Ted" until Keith called him that. And then I heard the name. And then I knew exactly who Lazer Ted was.

BattleMcStruggle3 karma

Hey Austin! Just today i read Vice will cooperate with the Guardian. Will this influence Waypoint too?

TheCalcutec5 karma

Not in the immediate future. So stoked for that partnership though!