I appeared as a guest on The Colbert Report on Tuesday August 7. A lot of my friends and colleagues have been asking the same questions, so I thought I’d try to cover them all in one place.
First, if you haven’t seen the interview, I’ve embedded it below. It runs about five minutes or so. This clip doesn’t include the brief mention-with-quip at the start of the show, so I’ll share that in textual form: My guest Ian Bogost says videogames can make you more compassionate. But I already cry whenever I play Frogger.
The show was a lot of fun to do. I was a bit apprehensive beforehand but not nervous at all during the actual taping. It really was a fun time. Colbert often has authors as guests, and I was indeed there to promote my new book. But we also talked about my game design practice. It wasn’t lost on me that the last (and I think the only other) game designer to appear on the show was Will Wright.
Responses to the segment have been almost entirely positive, and you can read many of the blog-bound ones via Technorati. If you want to read some crabby gamer responses to the appearance (or more accurately, to my work in general), you can find some of those too, although they do represent to be the exception rather than the norm.
Everyone seemed to ask me what Stephen Colbert is really like. I didn’t get to spend a whole lot of time with him, but he did visit with me both before and after the filming. He was earnestly kind and welcoming. He also obviously works very, very hard. It’s easy to imagine that the show is totally improvised, especially given Colbert’s own background in improv theater, and he obviously really really does think fast on his feet. But between every segment he’s working with the writers and the staff making adjustments. My show had a prerecorded segment (the hilarious Better Know a Protectorate piece on American Samoa), and while it aired Stephen kept right up with it from the studio, speaking right along so he’d be on top of it.
The staff was totally awesome too, and very down to earth, which is something of a rarity in television. I’ve done much less popular TV shows with less personal treatment.
Something that only the studio audience knows is this: the night I was on, they also recorded another guest segment for later broadcast, before mine, with a very, very well known personality. The result of that interview was, well, unexpected.
When it airs I’ll update this with a link to it and some more detail. Update: the whole story has been leaked by now anyway, including a mention at Boing Boing, so I might as well confirm that the guest was Richard Branson (there to promote his new Virgin America airline, one of which has been named after Colbert). At the end of his spot he threw a mug of water on Stephen, who then doused Sir Richard in return. The staff was totally aghast, and they blowdried Colbert’s jacket and person off as best they could. No costume changes on The Colbert Report. Most of the sites reporting on this story also seem to think that the segment will never see the light of day, and I’m not sure why they do. I’m pretty confident it will air, so stay tuned. The interview aired on the August 22 show, complete with fantastic setup that effectively mocked all the media buzz around the interview.
A lot of you also asked about The Colbert Report green room. The green room is small but nice and well-stocked with food and drink. There are actually two green rooms, and because I was booked earlier I managed to get the nicer one despite the considerably greater renown of the other guest. The guest gift bag included a certificate for two free hours of tattooing, which I guess I can use next time I’m in New Jersey. What should I get, and where?
Some of you (a lot of you) marveled at the idea of my wearing a suit, which sort of surprised me, and even almost bothered me. There was a time when I wore a suit to work every day even. It made me wonder if I should work harder to combat my professor-cum-game developer super-casual habits.
Some of you also asked if The Colbert Bump is for real. Book sales are definitely up, at least as far as I can tell from its Amazon ranking, which has been wavering between 1,500 and 3,000 over the past couple days, which is pretty darn good for a non-fiction book like this one.
Finally, I got a ton of email from people afterward. Lots of ordinary people, which I like the most (as opposed to the people in the professional worlds I usually run in, just because I like to hear new perspectives on my work). And one of the things that’s very common to get in these emails is game ideas. Some are very hypothetical, very high-level. Some are really well thought-through. A lot of them start out with the words, “Could you make a game about…” And the answer for me is always, “Yes, you could!” I couldn’t possibly make all these games even if I wanted to, but it’s encouraging to me to see just how much unexplored potential there really is in this medium.
Well done Ian – just watched – great inteview!
Ah, thanks for posting the segment! I’ve been trying to view it on Comedy Central’s website, but it would never stop loading.
I have the book on my wishlist.
As for a tattoo, I wouldn’t know where to go, but you should get one of either a Space Invader or a Pac-man ghost on your upper back, behind a shoulder even. You know, so it is like death is following you, giving you incentive to do something great. Or watch the movie Airheads again. I don’t know.
Richard Van Eck
That is a great segment, Ian, and you handled the interjections and one-liners very well, I think!
One of my students from the last games class I taught, Karen Arlien, made me aware of this embed and suggested it would be good for my next games class, so I hope you’ll leave this up so I can share it with them.
I think you handled yourself really well. A lot of the guests fumble (understandably!) Colbert’s quick wit. You definitely held your own.
Have you ever had one of those Hell in a Handbasket days? Yeah, so we get linked here AND get linked on BoingBoing.net … and our site goes down. ARGH!
Could you please correct your link to the leaked story to this please? Thanks!
I know how it goes. I updated the link.
@Chris, @Richard, @Dylan
hey ian, thanks for answering some of my questions! bad ass review/round up and again, great show! congrats for all!
Thanks so much for sharing your experience! We’ve linked to your blog post at Colbert University, in “Behind the Scenes at ‘The Colbert Report,'” the area where we collect guests’ reflections:
Well done on the interview. Colbert is a blast!
Rep the brand,
Pink puffy sparkly and f-cking fabulous!
Good work there, nice to here some behind the scenes stuff
Wow, you absolutely nailed it. Finally I’ve heard someone publicly say that games don’t simply have to be “fun.”
Surely the goal of a game is not to make things more complicated, but it is to simulate complicated things and so that they are easier to understand. Vide game does not add to the complexity to the world, but add fun and stimulate interest into the complex world that we live in.
Apologies that one of those grumps had to be at Joystiq (the curse of public comments)! but great job on the Report regardless. It’s wonderful to have one of the game community’s most intelligent voices out there talking about gaming instead of some other, less savory voices.
Great interview! You handled yourself very well. I also think its absolutely hilarious about the water throwing.
I wonder how the Digg bump compares to the Colbert bump?
recommendation – loose the suit please, you made me uncomfortable… 🙂
cool Video! Must be awesome to make an appearance on tv!
Just gave u a digg :>
Great job on the interview. I know nothing of your field and I got what you were talking about.
re branson, I bet you now wish you could have pulled the mug-in-Colbert’s-face trick. The next author to do that will get a lot more than a bump.
Kelly, Steve, and I just saw the clip. We are big fans of Colbert and you handled yourself like a pro!
Even thogh colbert was making fun of some of your ideas, i really heard what you had to say about video games being an element of the media because games can influence american culture. As a thirteen year old kid myself, I viewed games as colbert did (just amusing time consumers) Also, you made a really good point about the fast food part of grand theft auto, and i’m no gangster but i’m trying to lose weight and i never even thought about the influence games could have on youthful obesity. I think games could even subliminally effect people’s subconsious mind.
I would like to see a this guy make a real world type of game like Deus Ex
I just saw the interview.., Colbert and Branson seemed to have a good lot of fun, and there was nothing uncomfortable about the interview at all as I could see. It seems like you mislead us all a bit, or no…? What am I missing here?
I can’t seem to get the video to work! Bummer, I was really interested in seeing it.