The Dice Tower has a Kickstarter to raise money for it’s tenth year and so I figured now would be a perfect time to look back and reflect on how The Dice Tower came to be and where it’s going.
“I played games my whole life,” Tom Vasel the president and head of The Dice Tower said. “But it wasn’t until around 1995 that I got into collectable card games. Then by 1999 I was into miniatures and Warharmer and finally it was around 2002 that I discovered hobby games.”
Vasel began branching out onto the web with written reviews and eventually in 2003 he created The Dice Tower Podcast along with Joe Steadman.
“I always used my real name with my written reviews so when we did the podcast I had to come up with a new name and that’s where The Dice Tower came from,” Vasel said. “Using your full name and real name is a boon. People know you by that name instead of as 57Dice1986 or something. You are then a real person to them and more relatable.”
As the podcast grew, Steadman eventually left and was replaced by Sam Healey and then Eric Summerer. Now, nearly ten years later, the show has over 300 episodes and a whole network of other podcast that all sit under The Dice Tower banner.
“One day Geoff Engelstein and Ryan Sturm called and they were the ones who wanted to start a network,” Vasel said. “I said that two podcasts don’t make a network and Ryan said he had a second show idea called ‘How to Play’ So we only had three podcast at the start. Eventually I hunted down more podcasts and we leveled out at around five.”
Now the podcast network is made up of over twenty four different podcasts and the main flagship show, hosted by Summerer and Vasel gets almost 20,000 downloads an episode!
In 2008, Tom branched out from just doing written reviews and the podcast and uploaded his first real YouTube video (which you can see above).
“I had maybe 700 to 800 written reviews done by then,” Vasel said. “At the time I was working as a full time pastor, a teacher, doing the Dice Tower and something had to give. The audio work was more fun but if I gave up the written reviews then there would be nothing to talk about on the show. So I thought that maybe I should do a video review.”
During his inaugural Top 100 series, Vasel threw a box off frame and commenters were vocal over it. They accused him of mistreating his boxes and told him that he should have more respect for them.
“Once that happened I started to think about what else I could do for fun that might bother them,” Vasel said. “I ended up cutting cards with scissors and eventually we started doing the component drop. By that point it wasn’t about provoking a reaction as it was about having fun. That became our trademark. We were there to have fun and be enthusiastic over games.”
Just like how the podcast expanded into a network, so has The Dice Tower’s YouTube channel. Reviewer Ryan Metzler was brought on board and soon after a whole plethora of contributors were adding videos of their own.
“One day I saw this video of Ryan Metzler comparing crokinole boards and I wondered if I could get him to come to my channel to review stuff,” Vasel said. “He was excited about joining and I didn’t realize he was going to be as prolific as he was. From there things sort of snowballed.”
Putting out so much content isn’t easy which is why in May 2012, The Dice Tower incorporated and became Vasel’s primary job.
“I really made the choice in 2011,” Vasel said. “I was putting so much work into it and I couldn’t keep it up while still teaching and working for the church. I had to quit one of my jobs and I really didn’t want to take The Dice Tower back to a lower level of what it was so I just went for it.”
With The Dice Tower being Vasel’s primary focus he’s tried to grow and evolve the content that is put out. This past fall he tested and then did several live events where he interacted with fans live on YouTube.
“I’d really like to move to a two camera set-up. It will really help with our live shows and eventually I want to start doing live shows from conventions,” Vasel said. “My goal of the show used to be to review every game. I’m not sure we will ever pull that off but I’ll say that we’ve reviewed nearly every game that matters and if we haven’t then don’t worry we will get to it.”
Putting out thousands of hours of video and audio content isn’t easy and with a family of six to look out for Vasel was nervous about doing The Dice Tower full time, which is why things like the current Kickstarter make such a difference.
“The Kickstarter is to ensure we get some income for me and The Dice Tower,” Vasel said. “But ultimately it’s about making the show better. I’m moving to a new space and I could really use new equipment, lights, camera, and a computer to up the quality of what we do all year round. The show will continue and continue to be free but this is an optional way people can help make it better.”
To back the Kickstarter and to support The Dice Tower as well as get some cool swag and promo items then check it out here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tomvasel/the-dice-tower-2014-season-10
“I have a unique job that only like three people in the world have and I love it,” Vasel said. “But most importantly I wouldn’t be here without the fans and other contributors.”