July 1, 2012 – For those less in-tune with geek celebrity within our hedonistic subculture, Felicia Day is an actress, writer, and producer whose career sky-rocketed with the advent of The Guild, a show she created that is currently enjoying its fifth season. Currently starring in BioWare's Dragon Age miniseries "Dragon Age: Redemption," Day's career continues to root itself in geekdom. More pertinent to Origins, she has a budding YouTube web series called "Tabletop," which she co-founded with Wil Wheaton. "Tabletop" invites celebrities to play board games over the course of a half hour; think Celebrity Poker, but with less whining and gambling. I had the pleasure of participating in a press-exclusive Q&A with Day, in which she was asked a series of questions regarding her personal life, professional life, and "Tabletop."
The first question regarded Geek & Sundry's roots, her partnered YouTube channel. According to Day, YouTube was accepting 100 submissions out of about 4000, which included Geek & Sundry. She explained the unusual name, which she described as including geek culture, but taking what's old and making it new.
Day later elaborated about her gaming interests growing up, because some young girls view her as a role model and icon. Homeschooled, Day never experienced the rejection that other girls may have experienced in more public settings. Her role models included her parents and teachers, who supported her interests and "addictions." She explains, "When we were addicted to playing video games, she just got them for us." This meant that she never felt self-conscious about what she liked, which later changed when she went to Hollywood, where others tried to mold her into what they thought she should be. This made her unhappy, but she came back around and embraced what she liked. She hears from time-to-time that girls look up to her, and she enjoys being that voice.
Concerning "Tabletop," its conception morphed as Day began to work with Wil Wheaton. When she pitched the idea to Wheaton, he said, "What kind of show? I don't want to do just a plain vlogging show; that's the worst." To which she responded: "Well, I'm doing one! But I'm going to have fun with it." Met with laughter, she continued to say that she originally intended doing a dungeon master type show where Wheaton would always be DM'ing. He wasn't so sure about this, and responded with the idea of doing a board game show. Day thought this was great, because if people didn't like a game one episode, they could always come back to watch the next one. Wheaton's passion was clear, and she knew the show would be a great fit.
Though Day has some role-playing experience, she didn't have much board gaming experience at the time, which has since changed. In fact, the entire crew of "Tabletop," some of who had "no geek background" started to ask about where they could get the games on the show. Day was hooked when she played Castle Panic and Pandemic, two cooperative tabletop games. She also enjoys Elder Signs, one of several games that focuses on H.P. Lovecraft's works, and Alhambra, a popular card-driven, city building game.
Of course, the games chosen for "Tabletop" must fit certain criteria in order to appeal to the viewer. A five hour, rule-heavy game simply wouldn't do. Wheaton and Boyan Radakovich, associate producer, pick most of the games. The three primary qualities they consider are: a) is it visually appealing, b) is it easy to learn, and c) is there player interaction?
The guests are another important aspect of the show. I boldly asked what kinds of guests could we expect to see in the future, prodding at the prospect of Patrick Stewart or Joss Whedon, to which Day coyly responded, "Well, those are good selections! If you could hook me up with those, that'd be nice." She went on to say that she reached out to "high profile" people for the show, but many of the schedules just didn't work out. She hopes that if the show gets picked up, she can get the folks from the large roster of people she has. Day admitted that not only did those she reached out to show interest in participating in "Tabletop," but some have approached her and Wheaton about wanting to partake in the fun. "So, that's the cool thing about the show. Not that there are closet board gamers, but there are people who you wouldn't expect to be board game fans who are reaching out to us to be on the show," Day says. Of those scheduled to be on the show, she mentioned Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Garfunkel and Oates (Internet music duo), Bill Prady (co-creator of The Big Bang Theory), Beth Riesgraf (Leverage), and a whole "crazy roster" of other people. She notes that some come in never having played board games before, while others seem over-prepared. Occasionally, however, some avid players get placed in a game that doesn't meet their genre and get defensive when they begin to lose because they view themselves as skilled gamers.
Day later commented on her personal experiences board gaming when she was young. One story she shared concerned playing Monopoly with her mother. While playing, Day caught her mother taking extra money from the bank, which her mother said was okay. "She said it was fine. But it was not fine! It was not something to teach your child! 'Because you're a banker, you can do that.' That is not true, because later I tried it on someone, and they said, 'Absolutely not.'"
Finally, we closed on her video game interests – more specifically her RPG interests. Day said that she likes Zelda, but Ultima was her "gateway drug." She mentioned that her character in The Guild, Codex, was named after The Codex of Infinite Wisdom in the Ultima games. Though she confesses that she has missed out on some great titles in her youth, Day acknowledges the passion and nostalgia that these games inspire.
All told, the Q&A with Felicia Day was entertaining and illuminating. Gaining insight into this icon's personal and professional life served to accentuate my experience at Origins. Gaming is more than just cardstock and electronics. Without people – whether consumers or producers – games cannot thrive.