Oi oi, you lucky people! It’s the first Friday of the month, so that means it’s time for another Community Champion award! If you’re not familiar with this person’s work, what rock have you been hiding under? He’s worked ridiculously hard for as long as I can remember to produce content more professional than some sports channels, bringing the top tier of play into the homes of many, and for a lot of people given them the taste of Worlds they’ve never got to experience in the flesh…
That’s right, it’s Ben Torrell, aka DODGEPONG!
And so without further dramatic flair from me, here’s the interview…
How did you get into Netrunner?
I first heard of the game when I was living in Bellingham, WA (north of Seattle) and was fascinated by the premise. A friend of mine had a Core + Genesis that he didn’t get to play much, so he offered to lend me corp cards while he built a runner, and we finally got to play. It was a blast, and I knew that I had found something special.
Sadly, things went south at my workplace, and I ended up moving to my home state of Georgia in 2014 to find new employment. I didn’t have any friends in the area beyond my family, but I knew I really wanted to play Netrunner, so within the first week of moving to Georgia I found myself at a local Netrunner meetup. Fast forward to today, and the people I met that night are now some of my best friends in Atlanta.
Are there any other games you play?
I’ve been really enjoying the Arkham Horror LCG, and have a group that I play with regularly for that. I know people maybe be burned on FFG at the moment, but Arkham really is the best kind of game for the LCG format, and it works really well.
Of course, I also play a lot of board games with my ATL gaming group as well. Some recent favorites have been Ethnos, Welcome To, and The Mind.
How did you feel when you saw the announcement from FFG about the official support ending?
When I read the announcement, I felt physically numb, like learning that something life-alteringly bad had just happened. I actually tried recording a reaction video the night that the news broke, and I just ended up ugly-crying… I should probably delete that footage. This game has been a huge part of my life for four years, and the announcement that it’s over felt like a personal friend had died. I was deeply saddened, to say the least.
Today, I’m very glad that the NISEI Project has been able to spin up so quickly, and I’m excited to see how things develop and how the game keeps moving forward sailing on its own.
What inspired you to get involved with the community?
When I first started learning Netrunner, I felt so far behind everyone else in the Atlanta meta, so I ravenously absorbed everything I could get my hands on to learn the game better. I read blogs like The Satellite Uplink, scoured forums like Stimhack.com, and of course, watched endless hours of videos from creators like Team Covenant, Trace 5 (under the banner of TeamworkCast at the time), Apreche, and more. When I get into something, I tend to go deep, and this was no exception.
I remember someone posting a thread on the Stimhack forums for people to join a Skype chat group, which I found to be a great opportunity to hear what the best players in the game had to talk about. However, I found Skype to be clumsy to use, so I took the initiative to start a Slack channel instead, which is how the Stimhack Slack was born. Shoutouts to Dan D’Argenio for finally moving over from the Skype channel.
What is your favourite thing about the game and/or the community?
I love that the game gives you an incredible amount of agency. Your 3-4 clicks per turn can be spent to shape the game however you want. Do you want cards? Draw some cards! Do you need money? Get some money! Your fate is in your own hands, not the top of the deck, and that is a really powerful thing for me.
I also love the bluffing aspect of the game, and I don’t just mean Vizzini-esque Mushin no Shin decks (though those decks are great, don’t @ me). I mean that even two seasoned players that know the entire contents of each others’ decks can still outwit and outplay each other with calculated baits, unexpected tactics, and brilliant reads. It’s really a beautiful thing to watch, and almost every game of Netrunner I play has me sweating bullets at some point, which can’t be said for any other game I’ve played.
The community is been phenomenal and welcoming. It’s not perfect, but it has a much greater openness to improving itself than other communities do, and that has allowed it to make great strides in the way people interact and respect each other. At every tournament I go to, I find players who are enthusiastic, gracious, friendly, and genuinely excited to play and share the game with others, and it’s always the part of events miss the most after I leave.
If you were a runner, what faction would you be in?
I tend to identify most with Shapers, I think. I’m introverted, curious, adaptable, studious, and contemplative; I find myself motivated to prove to myself that I can accomplish things, rather than to others; also, I find myself to be cautious, preparing for everything, sometimes to a fault.
If you could only play 1 runner and 1 corp ID from now on, what would they be?
The most fun corp deck I ever played was NEARPAD in NEH back in 2015, which was a horizontal deck (when asset spam was a niche, rogue archetype) that leveraged the run pressure of never-advanced AstroScripts, Beales, and SanSans against a minefield of Snares, Dedicated Response Teams, and Psychic Fields. That deck, alongside a Stealth Hayley deck (who was a new ID at the time), propelled me to my first (and only) regional top 8 at the 64-player Team Covenant Regional in Tulsa, OK. NEH is probably my favorite ID, and I’m sad that it’s not as playable anymore. Maybe I’ll just try forcing it now, anyway.
On the Runner side, my best successes have come from Hayley and Geist. It’s a tough choice between these two, but I think I ultimately lean toward Hayley — playing Spycams with Replicator and Bazaar was a great deal of fun. Let’s say I add DJ Fenris and call it a draw?
Least favourite ICE to faceplant?
If I never had an Anansi rezzed against me ever again, I would not complain. That card is such a piece of garbage to have to deal with. Just let me Femme it in peace!
Geist: blue shaper, or a criminal minifaction?
I know I went on about how much of a Shaper I am, and maybe that’s why I like Geist, but when I play Geist, I very much play him like a Criminal. My 2016 Worlds Geist was all-in on Siphoning my opponents into the floor and derezzing things with Crescentus, and it earned me by best-ever Worlds placement at 67th (pairing mishaps notwithstanding). So to me, he is definitely a Criminal at his core.
If you could unrotate a single card, what would it be?
My gut reaction to this question was Personal Workshop, but thinking back on all the fun I had with Replicator in Hayley (both in Spycam decks and Stealth decks) makes me think that maybe I should pick that one. They are both tremendous Shaper Bullshit cards, and I really miss some of those weird tricks that they used to be able to pull off.
What prompted you to start streaming?
I’ve always harbored a love for video production. In 2012, I was really into a video game called Tribes: Ascend, and started learning how to stream by covering tournament matches between competitive teams in that game. I had a great drive to make excellent productions, and was constantly on the lookout for ways to make things better and improve my graphics, quality, and presentation. After Tribes: Ascend was utterly bungled by its developer, I moved on to streaming tournaments for some other games that I played, such as Super Smash Bros Project M and HearthStone.
When I got into Netrunner, I knew that I wanted to start recording and streaming it as well. There were already several people producing great recorded content on YouTube, but where I saw the most room for improvement was in streaming coverage. Streaming a live event is much more difficult than streaming a video game, largely due to the extra hardware demands for capturing gameplay, as well as the added complexity of executing a livestream on-location rather than from the comfort of your home. Thus, even though I understood why there were so few Netrunner event livestreams, I was still disappointed that good tournament streams were so infrequent.
Another goal of streaming was to help people feel connected to an event that they may not have been able to attend. This was especially important to me for events like the Atlanta Regionals, SMC Championship, GenCon, and KOS/Worlds. I wanted people to be able to have a sense of presence and to help ease any FOMO-induced anxiety about missing the event. This definitely fueled my drive to make as enjoyable and entertaining of a stream as possible.
Finally, I had a big heart for new-player education. I wanted my content to be as accessible and educational as possible, so that new players wouldn’t be as confused while watching. I don’t think I accomplished this as much as I wanted to (through series such as The Art of Running), but this desire still directed me toward prioritizing including things like on-screen card overlays and hand-cams for the streams, both to help people follow what’s happening in the game, and to make sure the commentators were fully-informed about the game state to be able to communicate it clearly.
Any advice for budding event streamers out there?
I actually wrote a whole post on PeachHack.com that goes into a good amount of detail on what kinds of equipment to get and what to focus on while getting started with streaming. It’s the article that drove me to create a website for PeachHack in the first place, and probably the only worthwhile piece of of content on the site, sadly.
The main advice I can give is to feel free to start simply with just a laptop, a Logitech c920 webcam, a cheap tripod, and a copy of OBS. But more importantly, be ready to teach yourself a lot, because if you want to improve, there is a lot to learn about things like OBS settings, lighting, cameras, audio, and more. I’m completely self-taught, having spent hours on YouTube watching tutorials and more hours reading advice on forums and product reviews. But you have to have a foundation to build off of first, so a simple setup is the perfect place to start.
And keep in mind that even if your first streams aren’t “great”, the fact that you’re providing coverage at all does the community and the game a huge favor.
So there you go, we all know a little more about Dodgepong – and also how to get started streaming, if any of you get inspired by this to stream for yourself, let me know and I’ll give you a little plug!
Time for some other business…
Since we put out the call for playtesters in last week’s update we’ve had more than 100 applications, so thank you to all for your enthusiasm! We’ve been sorting through the applications and you’ll hear back from us early next week. If you were thinking about applying but haven’t done it yet then there’s still time! Just fill in this survey and we’ll be in touch with you soon.
The survey on running events is also still open, give us some details if you’re interested in buying kits and running events at your FLGS, game club, or dining room!
And that’s a wrap! I’ll be on holiday next week (ping me on stimslack @realitycheque – if you live in Austin, Texas and fancy a game) so my right hand man, @Orbital_Tangent will be coming at you with… an interview with me. So it might be my week off, but you’re still not actually rid of me. I’ll catch you all in 2 weeks for the NISEI update, and until then…