Is Wil Wheaton’s Table Top just a reality show for board game geeks?

Yesterday Wil Wheaton wrote a blog post (and corresponding reddit post) in which he apologized for “completely screwing up the rules” in at least half (10 out of 21) of the episode of Table Top Season 3. IMHO his apology is a text book example of how not to apologize. He spends the majority of the post singling out and publicly shaming a specific producer on the show – the “rules guy.” The way he’s handling this has made me lose a lot of respect for the guy, but Reddit thread covers that ground pretty well, that’s not what this blog post is about…

By placing so much blame on this producer and taking very little responsibility himself, he has revealed a lot about how the show works and I’m beginning to think it’s more reality show than documentary.

Ostensibly, Table Top is a show were Wil Wheaton plays his favourite board games with his friends. He presents each and every game with such passion, knowledge and excitement that it is not a much of a logical leap to assume that he’s played the game a few time and is at least familiar with the basic rules. In fact, he’ll often throw in a pro-tip, a specific strategy that he likes to employ during a certain point in the game or a funny antidote.

I no longer believe this to be the case. In light of his blog post, I now feel like Table Top is more like a reality show where Wil Wheaton the actor, plays the character of Wil Wheaton the board game geek.

If Table Top was authentic, if Wheaton was actually into the games, if he knew the rules; then he wouldn’t be blaming a producer so heavily. Sure the gamers might make little mistakes here and there, but anyone familiar with the rules should be able to catch the bigger mistakes. If not on the first or second round, then maybe a few rounds in and definitely when reviewing the episode.

The fact that they employee an expert to review the rules really demonstrates the “show-ness” of the show. I don’t think someone outside of the Hollywood film & television industry would even think to hire someone like this. They would rely on the combined expertise of the team.

Not only that, but throughout the series Wheaton really strongly presents himself as the expert. If this was actually the case, having another expert on the team should be completely redundant. But the huge amounts of blame levelled on this one producer implies an opposite and equally huge amount of distance between Wheaton, the games and the production process.

I would not be surprised if the games instruction consisted of hand-holding Wil and friends through game between takes. “Roll the dice, then draw a card and … action.”

Phewf.

That said, I think the show is still a great introduction to the world of modern gaming. It’s certainly much more accessible than something like The Dice Tower or Shut Up & Sit Down. But I don’t think I’ll be watching the series again…

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