Doug Shute is the founder of Victory Condition Gaming, an outlet that spans many different media formats.
The content on his Youtube channel ranges from reviews, playthroughs, interviews with industry professionals to actual plays of RPGs with the games' designers.
'I think a lot of our viewers are parents as well. There is just so much value in getting kids into the hobby. Board games and RPGs teach kids so many social, math, reading and deduction skills. One important aspect of our content to teaching that having fun is the most important aspect when you are a board game or RPG. Our tag line is "Winning shouldn't be the only victory condition when you get to the table". We also like to focus our efforts on supporting game stores, because without game stores a lot of gaming communities wouldn't exist.'
Tell everyone a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m Doug Shute. I founded Victory Condition Gaming (VCG). VCG started out as me just shooting videos with my daughter, Sydney, who was 8 years old at the time, as I was introducing her to my hobby of boardgames and RPGs and then uploading those videos up on YouTube. Over the last two years VCG has evolved to quite a bit from those videos. Now VCG isn’t just me and my daughter, we have a team of contributors (some that work in the industry) that help with what we do. We’re not just YouTube content creators anymore. We also stream on Twitch, have a weekly podcast, a weekly radio show and we set up at various conventions, stores and events here in the northeast to share our enjoyment of the tabletop hobby while conveying the message that “winning shouldn’t be the only victory condition when you get to the table”.
Has VCG become your full-time job, or do you keep up with it in your free time?
I do have a “regular” occupation, but VCG has grown into something that requires more than 40 hours a week from me. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that in any negative way. I’m extremely grateful for that. And just like most folks that work in the actual industry, I love the gaming community and the hobby. I also want to see those that aspire to be in the industry be successful. When you’re doing something you enjoy, it’s hard to consider it work most days.
I hope you’re not looking for short answers on these.
Not at all!
Ok. I tend to ramble.
Perfectly fine. Just be yourself.
So what does a "typical" VCG week look like for you?
A typical week I work my “real” job during the day and then as soon as I get home I start working on VCG content. Earlier in the week it’s usually the podcast in order to get that up by Thurs AM. Mid-week it’s usually the radio show content. Then again it depends on what we might have scheduled for interviews or actual plays on the show during the week. Most nights I start around 5:30pm and I’ll go until 1-2AM doing editing, graphic design, scheduling, etc. Weekends are a mix of being at events, filming content or interviews with game designers in different time zones. But as far as scheduled content, the podcast goes up Thursday AM and the radio show airs Tuesdays at 4PM. The rest I just schedule around where I can fit it in and when works best for my guests.
Yikes! That sounds like a crazy schedule. How do you keep up with it all?
Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Seriously though. I wouldn’t be able to do any of it without the support of my wife. She does a lot so that I can commit a lot of my time doing this.
Tell me a bit about your history as a gamer.
I like to say I had two “gamer” grandmas growing up. I had one grandmother use to play a lot of those “classic” games with us growing up. Her favorites were Phase10, Upwords, Skip-Bo and her absolute favorite was Rummikub. She passed a few years ago, but I still have her Rummikub game. I have another grandmother that just loves to play cards. There probably isn’t a card game she hasn’t played. She’s 98 and we still accuser her of being a card shark. The nights when those two would pair up at cards, you might as well had not played because you knew you were in for a clinic on that particular game. So they instilled that love of sitting sitting at a table with folks, using your mind and just having fun playing a game. Once we had Sydney we were really fortunate in that Sydney taught herself to read at 2 years old. I’m not talking simple words either. The school we eventually sent her to had her tested going into kindergarten. When she started there she had a sixth grade reading level. She just excelled in that one area, but she had some areas where she had difficulties - math and I don’t want to say she had social issues, but it was hard for her to relate to the kids in her class. So then we were trying to figure out ways to help those areas that she was struggling in. I went back to my childhood and thought of the things I enjoyed growing up and immediately I thought “Hey, I wonder if we get some games to the table that focus on some of these areas she’s struggling with we could make it fun and not a chore?” That’s where the “winning shouldn’t be the only victory condition when you get to the table” phrase came from. We were playing these games not to win but to help Sydney improve her life skills.
What were some of the "go to" games you'd play with Sydney, or was it anything you could get your hands on?
I know back then we played a lot of King of Tokyo, Ticket to Ride and Timeline that I remember. It was a lot of what most folks consider light, entry-level games. But for 5-6 years old it was still pretty amazing. When Arcadia Quest by CMON came out four years ago, she was 7, that became her favorite game and it still is to this day.
What types of games do you play now? What are some of her other favorites? What are some of yours?
Lately I’m really into Scandinavian RPGs. I really dig the titles from Free League Publishing - Tales from the Loop, Mutant Year Zero and Coriolis as well as Symbaroum from Jarringen and Trudvang Chronicles from Riot Minds. Then for non-Scandinavian titles, we do a monthly Tiny Dungeon campaign on the show for Gallant Knight games which was actually a Kickstarter stretch goal last year when they Kickstarted Tiny Dungeon Second Edition. Besides RPGs, I play quite a few tabletop and boardgame miniatures games. I might have a problem with miniatures. They are like my kryptonite. Being an 80s kid I love games like Star Wars Imperial Assault, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shadows of the Past and I play a lot of Walking Dead All Out War Miniatures Game by Mantic Games.
Right now Sydney is all about Grimm Forest by Druid City Games and Stuffed Fables by Plaid Hat Games. She will tell you that she loves the art of those games as much as the games themselves.
Man, you totally lost me with your list until you got to Star Wars and TMNT. Scandinavian RPGs? How did you get into those?
Haha. Yeah, that happens a lot when I say Scandinavian RPGs. A lot of folks know about D&D and Pathfinder. Which is awesome because probably 10 years ago you could say D&D and hardly anyone would know what you were talking about. I always liked RPGs growing up, but I had no one to play them with me. The last 4 years I have been really paying attention to that part of the hobby. What some folks don’t realize is that back in the 80s when D&D was really popular here in the states Sweden was a hot spot for RPGs, but they were playing games of their own. I like D&D but it’s not my “go-to” game to play. Even with boardgames, I seem to gravitate towards games that focus more on story and theme. The RPGs from Free League, Riot Minds and Jarnringen are just loaded with theme, art and some with Scandinavian folklore which I find fascinating. Now that D&D has become more mainstream I decided a while ago that VCG should branch out into RPG content as well as boardgames.
What's your process like when reviewing an RPG?
Usually I read the core book and if the system has a QuickStart I’ll read that to see what mechanics or theme the designer or publisher is trying to focus on. I’m a math guy so I like percentages and probability . If I see a mechanic that doesn’t fit, I’ll calculate the mechanic out and figure out why the designer may have put that particular aspect into their game. Usually there is a reason you just have to find it. Then if I can’t get Sydney or some friends to actually sit down and play the game, I’ll find actual play session podcasts or streams to listen to while I’m at work. I’ve found that sometimes just witnessing a game you pick up on a lot of the nuances of that game because you’re not focused on what you or your character needs to accomplish while you are playing. Maybe there is a whole other aspect to the game that you were not paying attention to because your character didn’t have to deal with a particular situation. Since RPGs take hours to play with multiple people it’s hard to get them played multiple times over a short period. Unlike boardgames where you can usually play a game usually with as little as 2 people and play it multiple times in an afternoon or session.
I love the idea of listening/watching other play sessions.
As a content creator yourself, what other outlets do you find yourself checking out on a regular basis?
I listen to quite a few podcasts because what I do for a day job allows me to just marathon episodes. I recently realized the joy of listening to podcasts at 1.2x speed so I can consume even more content during my days! I wish I found that years ago! YouTube content of course is a go to. Boardgamegeek and ICV2 are sites I go to almost daily. We have a few game stores here in state and I love talking with store owners, staff and their regulars and hearing what about is popular what seems to be clicking with their communities. The one thing I have to credit the stores in our area is that they all kind of specialize in certain things to make them unique. Another thing I really respect with the stores in state is that they do a great job of communicating with one another. So say one has a Destiny event on a Saturday most of the time another store will have their event on Sunday or another weekend. I use any stop at stores as a learning opportunity about the gaming community.
Do you find a lot of inspiration for VCG from your visits?
I’m not sure about other content creators, but for me I have what I call “peaks and valleys”. These are times when I feel my content is connecting and points when I feel like it isn’t connecting as much as I’d like. I think these peak and valleys happen a lot [email protected] reason or another when you are making content for online consumption. I really enjoy store visits not only because I enjoy supporting our stores and being a part of their communities, but also to get direct feedback either positive or negative on what folks thought of content I’ve posted or maybe I’ll tell folks about upcoming guest scheduled on the shown and see what their reaction is. Usually I walk out of a store with a new idea or feedback about content we created or are going to create and that experience rejuvenates me as a content creator. Having great game stores and awesome gaming communities here in Vermont/NH and NY is something I try not to take for granted. I’d love to give a few stores some shout outs if possible?
Go for it.
The Frozen Ogre in St. Albans, VT is awesome. Erik has a great store. I call it the Willy Wonka game store. Games, gifts, candy, frozen yogurt - it’s like my 8 year old self’s dream store. Erik also does after school and summer day camps. He’s just a great part of that town. Quarterstaff Games in Burlington, VT is the longest running game store. Ben, Jordon, Jay and their team are doing such a great job. They wouldn’t be the longest running store is they weren’t. Tinker and Smithy in Middlebury, VT is another store doing things right. Scott the owner is high energy and Everett their main store employee just does a great job of cultivating a great community. Black Moon Games in Lebanon, NH and Rutland, VT are amazing. Tony and I have a great back and forth and he’s doing a lot of things right in order to be able to maintain two locations. Dark Mountain Games in Springfield, VT is store I wish I could get to more often. Kevin and Scott run the store in their after hours when they aren’t doing their main professions, but you can tell it’s not just a side gig for them. They love the gaming community and want to give the town a place to hangout and play games with friends. Then there is Cooper’s Cave in Fort Edward, NY. A few of the VCG contributors frequent there and have great remarks about their store. That’s just the stores there are also other awesome folks building their own gaming communities with events. Carnage which is a 3 day gaming convention in Killington, VT that’s going to be 21 years running this year. They just take over a ski resort for 3 days and it’s amazing! I mentioned Champlain Games Festival earlier. I’m really excited for that event going forward. Curtis the show owner had a great turnout for his first year and the potential is very high for that event in Essex, VT. Then there is Adirondacon in Glens Falls, NY. Veronica and her brother exceeded expectations for their one day event last fall so they are expanding to two days in September.Wow I exceeded the character limit on that reply. It’s almost like the Academy Awards playing the music to get folks off the stage when giving their acceptance speeches.
Very niceSo before we wrap up, what's can we expect in the future from you? Anything else you'd like to add
First, I’d like to say that one thing I’m extremely grateful for is the fact that VCG started out as just my daughter and I, but now it’s not just us. There is a whole team of contributors that help us do what we do. We wouldn’t be able to keep the content flowing and do half as much at events without Bryan Whalen, Bill Van Patten, Joshua Melville, Bob Bever, Jordan Streeter from Gamers Against Alzheimer’s, Kent Blue from Roll to Play podcast, Tim Devine from Dice Up Games, Amanda Kahl from Fearlight Games, Alan Bahr from Gallant Knight Games and of course my wife, Amanda.
As for what’s in the cards for the rest of 2018 - we’ll continue to put out content weekly on the YouTube channel, the podcast and radio show. We’re already schedule to be at quite a few events this year. We’ll be at Adirondacon Tabletop Day on April 28 in Glens Falls, NY. The Long Game benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association in Burlington, VT on June 23. That’s a totally free event at the Burlington Airport. Lots of gaming and fun. We’ll have a live show there. We’ve been asked to have a presence and gaming lounge at Granite State Comic Con in Manchester, NH on September 7&8. Then the following weekend, September 14&15 we’ll be at Adirondacon again in Glens Falls, NY for their two day event. Then November 2-4 we’ll be at Carnage Con in Killington, VT and we’re going to do that up big. We’ll do a live show there and last year I GM’ed an RPG game to benefit Gamers for a Cure who raise money for cancer research and I’ve got big plans for their benefit game this year. I can’t divulge the details publicly just yet but let’s just say I have a publisher that is helping me make this year just an incredible game. I hope it really raises some funds for them. Jamie who is one half of Gamers for a Cure has had cancer twice and has beaten it both times and she’s awesome.
I lost a grandfather and aunt to cancer and a grandmother to Alzheimer’s so Gamers for Cure and Jordan’s work with the Alzheimer’s Association really hits home with me and I’m really grateful we can do good things with VCG.
I really push the limit with the character maximums on these replies. I’m sorry. I’m sure you’ve noticed that once I get talking I don’t like to stop.
Perfectly fine. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!
About the Nor'easter Series
Nor'easters is a series of articles spotlighting a different tabletop game designer, publisher, or content creator from the Northeastern United States each week. The series was inspired by all the amazing people in the industry I've met over the years in my home region of the US.
Make sure to come back every week and see who is spotlighted next! To see a complete listing of the series' articles, click here.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.