First up, it needs to be asked, why The Dice Bear? Why not some other animal?
Bear is actually a nickname my wife gave me. I like to think that it’s because I’m a big softie who’s very protective of those around me but it may be that I’m quite loud and have a tendency to stomp about the place
when I’m hungry.
As for the dice part, I wanted something that would be instantly recognisable as a gaming artifact, that would represent my love of games, the mechanics behind them as well as being an object that a vast majority of the populous have had experience with.
So The Dice Bear was born.
Congratulations on the website – it looks great, and I know that isn’t easy! What prompted you to commit to gaming in this way?
Thanks, I’m glad you like the site.
It wasn’t my initial intention to focus so heavily on gaming, I actually wanted my site to be an exploration of the Nerd-iverse but without the negative overtones that come with ‘Nerdism’ and definitely without the elitist pompousness that comes with a certain type of Nerd.
I wanted people new to comics, indie games, tabletop gaming, the full spectrum of the Nerd-iverse to be able to have somewhere they could come and say, “Hey, I’m new, where do I start?” without being made to feel inferior or a nuisance.
I also wanted to use The Dice Bear as a platform to help promote the incredible indie games and tabletop games I kept finding online.
It seems like accessible gameplay is a key feature you look for when reviewing. What else makes a great tabletop game in your view?
One of the hardest things I’ve found about tabletop gaming is how to get people past the initial stigma that still lingers with boardgaming.
This is why accessibility is a key feature I look for in a game: the quicker you can get someone playing, the less time they have to withdraw from the idea of tabletop gaming as a whole. Once you get past that initial resistance it’s amazing how quickly people fall in love with board games and begin trying games they’d never have contemplated playing before.
As for what makes a game great, a game can be enjoyable for a multitude of different reasons but I think for it to be truly great it must be played as much off the table as on it: tabletop gaming is a shared experience and those games that create off-the-board moments are the ones you’ll remember forever and return to over and over again.
I also believe for a game to be great it must strive to be as simple as possible, We shouldn’t confuse simple with easy but it shouldn’t be so overly complex that learning the rules becomes a barrier to actually playing and enjoying the game.
If you can nail that mix between a shared experience and simplicity then you’re onto a winning formula.
Your website straddles the video game and the tabletop world. What do you see are the similarities between these worlds – and what are the differences?
Most of the video game developers I know are avid board game fans so I don’t see them as coming from different worlds – more like neighbouring countries on the same continent.
Both computer games and board games allow us to be someone else for a while, to explore new worlds and to play in them. They both have the desire to entertain and challenge us.
However the main difference between computer games and boardgames is how we interact with them; computer games have become a very solitary experience, with multiplayer being something we do in isolation. Whereas board games are a social event, you have to physically gather together – groups tend to purchase snacks and buy drinks to share with each other as they enjoy a social experience, both in the game and in the real world.
Unfortunately, a modern lifestyle is not always conducive to playing board games. Before I started The Dice Bear, I was lucky if I managed to meet up with my friends once a month and even then we were all so tired we tended to just catch up over a couple of beers. Life is busy!
Now, I am able to share my passion for board games with a vast array of like-minded people and enjoy that regular social interaction with my friends and family.
Finally, you’re stuck on a desert island for 18 months with 1 game (and enough stranded companions to play it with). What is your desert island game and why?
If I were to be stuck on a desert island for 18 months there is only one game that could possibly keep me entertained for that amount of time: Dungeons & Dragons.
We were brought up with stories, our morals were taught to us in part through fairy tales and I am fascinated with group story telling, creating a common narrative through which we can explore experiences and social dilemmas such as right and wrong and good and evil – and all from the comfort of our own gaming chairs, with Pringles and a bottle of Hobgoblin on hand!
D&D allows us to play in worlds where the only limitations are our own imaginations.
The two times I’ve recently DM’d a session of Dungeons & Dragons, we’ve been there for 4-5 hours yet it only felt like 20 minutes. I can remember events like they really happened and we still, to this day, laugh about the time one of us fell off the top of a wagon while trying to jump into a tree (you had to be there!).
The in-jokes have become a secret language that can only be shared by those who were there and which bond us together tightly as a group.
Dungeons & Dragons should allow our 18 months stranded on the island to turn into a giant Geekend – the possibility for the story to grow and evolve throughout this period is actually an exciting one rather than one to help the time pass by.