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.