As you've likely gathered by some combination of the teaser and my Twitter blathering, the next episode of The Gameshelf is going to focus on Allan B. Calhamer's board game, Diplomacy, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. As a matter of fact, I've had the idea of dedicating an entire episode to the game ever since I first came up with the concept of The Gameshelf, knowing exactly what approach I'd take with it.
When, last spring, I was talking with a friend about getting back into producing the show, I decided on the spot that now was the time to make it happen. It would get me excited about working on the show again, and would also result in a damn fine half-hour of television. (If you're a geek for this sort of thing, anyway.)
I knew all along that it would be a challenge to make this episode the way I wanted, because Diplomacy is a very long game. So when I realized after the fact that three independently taping cameras times six hours equals way too much work, I really had no platform to complain from. When dealing with completely unscripted material, during which something usable might pop up at any moment, it takes me between three and four hours to review one hour of footage. Between logging, editing, recording voice-overs, and everything else, I've easily sunk more than 100 hours into the project so far, inching ever closer to the 30-minute-long final cut. I'm committed to finishing it, and I'll be glad to have done it, but it's highly unlikely I'll ever want to do something like this again.
However, while I've been slogging away at this, I've been plotting out what I want to do next with The Gameshelf. My relationship with games and game culture has changed over the last couple of years, and I've picked up new philosophy and inspiration from other people who have learned how to publish regular and frequent creative work on the internet. (See, for example, Scott Kirsner's excellent book Fans, Friends and Followers, or Ze Frank's seminal rant about Brain Crack.) This puts me in the interesting state of being really excited to work on The Gameshelf again - mission accomplished - and also really impatient with the work that still remains with the Diplomacy episode, since it doesn't resemble what I really want to do any more. All I can do is set my shoulders in a posture of grim resolve and try to put another hour or three into it every night until it's done. It'll turn out good, and you'll like it. Then I'll get to start really having some fun...
So what does come after this? I don't want to spent much ink on it here, at least not until I've produced a couple of solid examples, because I'm a firm believer in the dangers of self-jinxing: to talk too much about a thing you haven't made yet is to let all the air leak out of your own inspiration for it. The teaser mentioned "new episodes", with-an-S-plural, in 2009, so feel free to hold me to that much. We'll see what happens.