I would have never have guessed that the latest thing to do would be to watch people play video games. Even when I wrote up Project Lore, I kind of figured that was more of a testament to the World of Warcraft fanbase than anything else. Enter Pwndcast, the latest web series to prove me wrong – it consists of basically watching some guys play games (first-person shooters, usually) for the duration of a ten-minute episode.
On the game-watching spectrum, watching Pwndcast is kind of like watching a handful of mid-thirties men play a pickup game of basketball; you’re not in it for the professional-caliber play, and it won’t appeal to anyone trying to pick up any new tournament strategies. It is, however, a refreshing change of pace to watch Christian, Puna, Timothy, Jake, and whoever else opts to join in on the night’s events (Season 1 consists mostly of Battlefield 2 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare) engage in a few rounds of good-natured gaming and equally good-natured trash talk. If that sounds like your kind of thing, go check it out here, and if it doesn’t sound like your thing, well, give it a shot anyway because you might be surprised.
Fortunately, we were lucky enough to get in touch with the producer half of the Pwndcast team, Timothy Horstman and Christian Sass, and get their take on Pwndcast‘s unique appeal.
Tubefilter: What’s the creative inspiration behind Pwndcast?
Christian: First off, we are enthusiastic about the new media revolution. When video podcasts originally became a possibility, I thought immediately, “Wow, this is like the desktop publishing revolution! Cool!” But then we realized that meant most shows ended up looking as good as an 1980’s sheet-fed dot-matrix birthday card.
Basically, we just wanted to make a show that we would want to watch. Reflecting from our experiences we were drawn to what we enjoyed most. Gaming!
Originally, we wanted to see a show that represented games the way we saw them. as an emerging spectator sport with story-lines and infinite possibilities for camera work and story telling. but not long after that epiphany we found that another company was already doing this. so it was back to the drawing board.
Tim: To have fun. And all the stuff Christian said too. But really we are just a group of friends that just like to get together and play games. Here is a little background: This adventure started about 4 years ago. Christian and I developed a concept for a competition gaming show. The concept was great, but after a bit of research, that has been done. We wanted a show that hasn’t been done before. So about 3 years ago we shot the first episode of Pwndcast. It took us about 5 weeks of failures before we finally got one in the bag. But it took nearly 30 hours of post production to put one episode together. That just wasn’t something we could handle without sponsorship income. Then about 6 months ago, we found a more manageable and efficient production and post production solution allowing the production time to be cut in half.
Tubefilter: How did you decide that it’d be a good idea to record yourselves playing video games with each other?
Christian: That was Tim’s call, he the one with the cameras. So when Tim said it was a good idea. Although I have always thought that games were destined for some sort of mass entertainment.
Tim: The first time I played a LAN party, I was hooked. The cafe experience is no different. Having the players in the room to talk trash, or to heckle – it’s just natural to turn a video camera on and capture it.
Tubefilter: What kind of response have you gotten from the public?
Christian: Well both of our fans love the show! at least that what Dan says. But we hope to steadily grow an army of rabid fans.
Tim: Numerous positive and great responses from many within the gaming community. We have even got a response from a pretty big name from a pretty big video sharing site who said “I have never seen a group of guys having so much fun playing games.”
Tubefilter: What kind of budget are you working with?
Christian: Currently we are completely out of pocket. it a lot of investment and perseverance but we hope we can turn some sort of profit someday in order to prove the wives wrong.
Tim: The kind that pays us nothin’. Someday if we just get our costs covered, I’m cool with that. We use (2) full size XDCAM-HD cameras with a teleprompter, and 2 small Sony HDV cameras, as well as recording the gameplay of both Christian and Puna. We plan on expanding the offerings a bit for the next season.
Tubefilter: Do you have any sponsorship plans?
Christian: We have a few people we’d like to approach, we’d like to think we can pick our partners but we open to any ideas.
Tim: We would love to partner with a company or product, that makes sense, and continue to develop the show. I personally like simple and “clean” sponsorship, so one presenting sponsor is what I would love to see. Maybe one with a ton of products that could easily be placed within the show.
Tubefilter: Is there an overall strategy for the development of the show?
Christian: None whatsoever. No, really, we hope to keep responding to viewer feedback. That’s the beauty of New Media – no red tape in order to get through to the content creators so they can tweak and improve the show.
Based on feedback we’ve gotten, we’re making major changes to the show, like including console games and doing more remote stuff. We also hope to get to a point where we can get a celebrity guest to play a round or two with us when we can, in the traditional sense and in the gaming world.
Tim: There is always a plan. The hope would be to be sponsored so our wives are cool with us “playing games.” But I think that we could put together a series of web shows, and the best of those shows would be assembled together for 30 min TV show episodes that could be distributed to cable outlets world-wide. That is the dream plan, we shall see.
Tubefilter: What are some games on the to-do list?
Christian: Hmm. Well I’m sure I’ll get dragged into playing stuff I don’t like, which should make for good viewing watching me get beaten up. But I’m looking forward to covering Quake Wars, Gears 2 on the 360, and believe it or not.. Wii Bowling and Rock Band 2
Tim: We are in the planning stage for second season of Pwndcast right now. It will feature another cafe, and will begin to slowly integrate consoles, XBox, PS3, Wii into the shows. That itself will expand the number of games we will have access to play. I would expect to see Gears of War, Quake Wars and probably a WOW episode. We will also have a few surprise guests, that hopefully will join us for nearly every episode
Tubefilter: Think you’ll ever find enough common ground with the Project Lore guys to get some kind of head-to-head game going?
Christian: I’d love that. They are doing what we were thinking of doing by dedicating their show to WoW. When we started out we thought we would literally do a season of just BF2, so I think it would be fun to see them play something else! Or just get wailed on in WoW. The ball is in their court! 🙂
Tim: Awesome. Truth is that I think the common ground is already there. We would play WOW and get our ass kicked, and they would play any of our games and Christian will get his ass kicked. Actually Alex (Albrecht) never returns our calls? WTF?
(Ed. Note: This is something we’d like to see – a Project Lore vs. Pwndcast duel of honor.)