Critical Bits host Joel Ruiz talks Spider Day, roleplay

It all started with a box of toy plastic spiders.

Today Critical Bits, an actual play podcast using the Masks system, celebrates its one-year anniversary. 12 months of the three unlikely teen heros Gene (Paul Byron), Kim (Shannon Strucci), and Ace (Shelby Lee) blundering their way across Heavendale in an attempt to thwart evil. Things go well… sometimes.

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Here There Be Gerblins: Episode One | Pod to Page

Welcome to my listen/read-through series of the first arc of The Adventure Zone! Each installment of this series I will listen to an episode of the first arc of TAZ: Balance, then the accompanying pages of the graphic novel adaptation. We’ll compare, contrast, and see what the McElroys have done to retroactively massage a fully-formed narrative into a Dungeons & Dragons starter kit.

It’s here, the beginning of the adventure. I’m thrilled to be taking on this quest with you, dear reader. Let’s get tucked in.

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6 Killer We Hate Movies Spooktacular Episodes

It’s October, which means it’s time for one of my favorite seasonal podcast events: The We Hate Movies Spooktacular! For the uninitiated, throughout October the WHM gang only cover horror movies. From the biggest franchises to deep cut obscure flicks you’ve never heard of; the Spooktacular always delivers. You know you’re in for a good time when the fantastic Spooktacular theme song kicks in.

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Fan Wars delivers delightful nerdy rom-com storytelling

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Fan Wars: The Empire Claps Back is a romantic comedy about two massive Star Wars nerds bickering about The Last Jedi on Skype. Or, at least, it starts off this way, metamorphising into a frenemies-becoming-friends tale through snippets of conversation.

I don’t normally ship characters. I really like characters and it’d be cool if they end up dating, but few elevate me to that special level of commitment where any scrap of implication they’re falling for each other makes me want to craft a Twitter thread

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It’s time to get back in the zone | Pod to Page

As The Adventure Zone begins wrapping up season two’s Amnesty plot with one final arc I find myself nostalgic for the first season. This is surprising to no one; the three constants of the universe are death, taxes, and the inevitability I’ll re-listen to old episodes of Adventure Zone instead of the 14,000 new episodes in my podcast queue. 

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Luminary Launches App Lacking Features, Content

Luminary image advertising at least one podcast that isn’t available on launch day.

[This review has been edited to incorporate new information that has come to light re: Luminary. Edited/added content will be appropriately tagged.]

The venture-capitalist funded podcast company Luminary launched their app this morning, capping weeks of hype and controversy with a podcasting app sporting fewer features than its free competitors. Launching two months earlier than originally proposed, Luminary lacks some basic quality-of-life functions one has come to expect from a podcatcher after years of just having these features for free. It feels like Luminary the Company put all of their power into establishing themselves as The Company With 40 Exclusive Podcasts You Have to Pay For they never stopped to ask the question “how do we also make Luminary a good podcast app.”

Luminary is the only place you can go to listen to certain shows, namely Lauren Shippen’s The AM Archives, set in the Bright Sessions universe. While the boutique content is a large selling point of the app, this review will specifically focus on the app itself. Plenty of Twitter debate and column inches have already been dedicated to how much Content the company has promised to deliver (and failed, as of this writing, but we’ll get to that) but it seems nobody wants to dig into discussing the fact Luminary’s app is, first and foremost, a podcatcher. It has a gated-off community of paid shows exclusive to the app, but it also can listen to freely available podcasts.

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PodCon 2: A Month Later

For one glorious January weekend, hundreds of podcast nerds descended on Seattle for PodCon 2. Between the convention itself and several pop-up fan events, I was surrounded by podcasting for seven days straight. It was a life-changing experience. Yet through it all, I had the sense we were making our own fun, not following the curated experience every convention strives to be.

Now that I’ve had a month to ruminate on my first podcasting convention experience, let’s talk about the things PodCon 2 did right, the things it didn’t quite nail, and hopes for the future.

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Podcasters are People: The Intimacy of Medium vs. Parasocial Relationships

A masterfully written piece by Wil that every podcaster who’s growing a fanbase needs to see.

Wil Williams Reviews

There’s an issue in podcasting that’s bothered me about fandom culture for as long as I can remember. It’s the uneasy feeling I get when I see fanfiction written about real people. It’s the pang of pain I feel for celebrities whose personal lives get speculated on by complete strangers. And it’s something I’m seeing more and more of in podcasting.

The phenomenon is what happens when parasocial relationships allow strangers to feel educated about, or entitled to, a creator or performer’s life.

If you want a primer on the topic, we covered parasocial relationships in podcasting on an episode of Tuned In, Dialed Up, the podcast I make in partnership with fellow podcast critic Gavin Gaddis:

What is a parasocial relationship?

Coined in the 1956 piece “Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction: Observations on Intimacy at a Distance” by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl, the term “parasocial…

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Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet: reviewing the reviews.

Any time you click away from the page for a product or business on the internet without looking at the reviews you are doing yourself a disservice. While the rest of the world ticks along at its normal breakneck pace a beautiful, unappreciated artform matures with every passing second: the pissed-off reviewer. Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet is a new podcast purpose-built to read you some of the choicest examples.

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