Heard of Marco's gamer channel? Bobby and I are big fans of his reviews-- they're super useful, and let's face it: this guy's charming as all get out (I mean look at that smile). Because of his pure adorableness/genius, Bobby and I decided to give him a little interview.
We asked him the following questions-- some pertinent to his career, and some, a little more unusual...
To begin with, how did you get into the hobby of tabletop gaming?
I believe my passion has been there all along-- since I was a kid. My family used to play traditional card games and abstract games (like checkers), and while I had fun with those I still felt that something was missing. When I was maybe 8 or 9 I tried Survive! with a friend, and it was like a blindfold had fallen from my eyes. THEME! A game could have a theme! And tell a story too! Then, I knew I was hooked.
I had a big hiatus in my gaming experience during my college and post-graduation years, when I was concentrated on establishing myself as an academic, but other than that, board games, and thematic board games in particular, have been an important presence in my life.
What made you decide to start conducting reviews on YouTube?
It happened by chance. A colleague of mine at Indiana University knew this graduate student who had created a website about board games, 2D6.org, but was thinking of leaving it behind as he was moving onto other pursuits. My colleague knew about my passion, asked me if I wanted to become in charge of the site (which would close otherwise), and I thought, Heck, why not! So I assembled a team of reviewers and started filming video reviews myself to provide the site with new content. My original idea was to be the editor of the site, and film a video maybe every month or so. It turned out that I enjoyed making videos much more than I enjoyed trying to make the contributors meet their deadlines, so I dropped my role as a "leader" and concentrated on playing and reviewing games. Over 300 videos later, I think that was the right choice!
And what is the most rewarding part of putting your reviews up for everyone to see?
To help gamers get to know about games that may interest them. When I receive an email from a viewer sharing the joy s/he has had playing games s/he has learned about from me, that to me is the most rewarding aspect of the entire activity. Recently a viewer wrote me saying that was a video gamer only, started playing board games after watching my videos, watched a lot of them as a sort of online course about game mechanics, and even started designing his own game.
Now, two years later, he has signed a contract with a publisher who'll publish his game. How awesome is that - knowing that you've helped a person discovering such a deep passion!? Moments like these are hard to come by, but, oh so precious!
What do you think will keep this hobby of tabletop gaming going strong for years to come?
The unique type of experience it offers as opposed to other forms of entertainment. Sure, video games are going strong and have forced tabletop board gaming to shrink, but still, board gaming can offer things that video games can not. There's the tactile aspect, with the fun of messing around with pawns, cards, dice, counters, etc; there's the beauty of the components; there's the advantage that one can customize a game, or house rule things, create unique variants, etc, with extreme ease, which cannot be said for a video game; more than anything, there's the sense of shared experience, which is stronger among people playing a board game together than it is among video gamers playing the same game from different locations, or in the same room but all staring at a screen.
When film came out, many thought that it would have killed theatre, but that has not been the case. Theatre audiences may be smaller now than they were in the 19th century, but they're still here, and they are still able to finance and support their beloved art. The same I believe will happen with board games, because what they have to offer has not been replaced by other forms of entertainment.
How do you go about selecting which games to review?
I do a lot of preliminary work, trying to figure out which games I may enjoy the most. I know my taste pretty well, and in most cases I do get in contact with games I like. If a game has a strong theme (whether historical or fantasy/sci-fi), a combat element, neat mechanics, and comes from a trusted publisher, chances that I'll enjoy it are high. It does not always work, sometimes disappointment does happen, and on the contrary I may be entirely surprised by a game that does not follow the "guidelines" above, but still, those are more or less some of the parameters I use when deciding which games to play.
As for the games I review, well, I try to review almost everything I play - or, at least, everything I can form a clear opinion about, everything for which I can explain why my reaction was A and not B. Sometimes a game just does not talk to me, we don't "click"; I don't enjoy it but without being able to tell exactly why, and in such (rare!) cases I prefer not to film a review. I don't see the point in filming a video whose conclusions are something like: "Eeer, I don't like this game very much, but I can't explain the reasons; I guess that if you like this type of game, you would enjoy this game... maybe... eer..."
What game would you say is the most underrated?
Hard to say specifically. I believe that Victory Point Games have been severely underrated for years, because even though they had some of the most innovative, exciting, and intelligent designs around, many people were turned off by the dtp quality of the components. Such a pity! But recently, since VPG products started coming out with upgraded components, they are starting to receive the due attention. Let's hope it lasts!
The same can be said for many print and play games, and for the same reasons. It is sometimes in designs that are self-published and available for free that the designers have the best chance to experiment with truly innovative ideas (because they can take risks that publishers investing big bucks on a project could not), and yet, again, the idea of playing a game that came out of your printer and you assembled yourself is sometimes enough to reduce the circulation of the game.
What game is the most OVERrated?
AH, you won't get me there! I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that I may later be lynched by an angry mob of fans. No, no, I really can't answer that. Too much risk involved, too much responsibility.
There is simply no way I am compromising myself like that.
...Summoner Wars. :-)
In your opinion, what criteria makes for a really bad game?
Excessive length, which is a concept that is entirely relative to what the design has to offer. Ardennes '44 can easily last over 30 hours, and one doesn't feel that the game is too long at all - epic, for sure, but it does not drag for a minute. Chupacabra: Survive the Night lasts about 10 minutes, and feels like one of the longest games I ever played, because it should last 2 minutes! Or maybe, it just shouldn't last at all, if you know what I mean...
Messed up rules are always a HUGE detriment for me. The game itself may be wonderful, but if I can't figure out how to play it then there's no point, and I simply lose interest in trying to puzzle it out.
But some of my worst experiences have come not from bad games, but bad players. Whining losers, players who don't play according to the spirit of the game, players who try to twist the rules, players who are too concerned with winning, players who make a point of trying to "break" the design to show they can outsmart the designer... well, I am sure we all sat at the table with people like that. Maybe we even have BEEN that person at one time or another, because we are human and fallible. But at the cost of appearing rude, I tend to avoid players who behave like that regularly.
And now for the fun and fast questions...
What was your favorite toy as a kid?
A teddy bear I had named Ciucialito. I also used to play board games with him!!
If your house was on fire and you had to save one board game, which one would you save?
I'd try to save my Dust Tactics collection... also because after I started purchasing premium units regularly, reselling that collection would help me getting a new house! (oh, I SO hope my wife never reads this...)
What’s your spirit animal?
What makes you smile?
My daughters. My wife. Cupcakes. And the mailman, but only when he brings boxes full of games!
If you could be prodigiously talented at one thing, what would you pick?
Maybe cooking - and I'd already be very happy with just "passably proficient". But in general, I am pretty happy with the skills I have and the ones I am still working on acquiring. I have even made peace with the ones I gave up on a long time ago.
Thanks for reading, and if you'd like to see us interview someone else, drop us a line!