Sean "Day" Plott is one of the world's premier commentators for "StarCraft 2." In addition to traveling the world and attending numerous tournaments every year, he also hosts his own daily web show on Day9.tv where he breaks down and analyzes the play styles of different "StarCraft 2" competitors .
Although "StarCraft" has taken up a better part of his life, Plott has been recently seen making high-profile appearances in the world of "Magic: The Gathering."
In October of 2012, he played in Gran Prix San Jose. Plott finished in 112th place out of over 500 other entries. In May, he stirred up some controversy when he was given a special invite to Pro Tour-Dragon's Maze. Some people were upset that Plott had received an invite even though he is not generally a competitive "Magic" player.
Last September, Plott, along with Felicia Day's Geek & Sundry, premiered a new show on their YouTube channel called "Spellslingers." Airing every other Wednesday, Plott hosts a different internet celebrity challenger and plays them in a game of "Magic: The Gathering."
Boston Games Examiner was lucky enough to catch up with Day earlier this week. In a candid interview, he talks about "Spellslingers," the "M:TG" community, and responds to the reaction regarding his Pro Tour invite.
Boston Games Examiner: I guess we'll just jump right into it. Can you tell the story of how "Spellslingers" came to be?
Sean "Day" Plott: I've been working with Geek and Sundry for quite a long time, and we were looking for a new show that would be more about the fun, goofy side of competitive gaming because very often people talk about single player games, and then they talk about e-sports, as being serious and competitive, but there's really something in between, which is having fun playing against another person, and "Magic: The Gathering" is the absolute perfect thing to do that around.
It's face to face. You're looking down at the board, and you can look up at your opponent, and you can have a great conversation. We bounced around with some ideas with what we wanted to do. Maybe do a tutorial show, maybe do some sort of elaborate game show around "Magic," and then we just went, "You know what? 'Magic: The Gathering' is such a fun game, let's just film us playing 'Magic.'" And that's how "Spellslingers" was born. It's really great because it's really true to what "Magic" is like as a game.
BGE: Yeah, it's really fun to watch, and you guys obviously have a lot of fun making the show.
BGE: I read on your AMA that you had already filmed all [six] episodes for the season.
Day: That is correct.
BGE: I know according to the press release, you had Bobak [Ferdowsi] on, you played Rob [Simpson] last week, we're supposed to expect Grant Imahara, and Felicia [Day]. That's four right there. Do we get to know who the other two people are?
At this point in the conversation, someone informs us that Jesse Cox was announced as the next episode's guest.
Day: Jesse Cox of YouTube and voice acting fame.
One of my favorite parts of gaming, as you may have read in that AMA, is that idea of expression through the game. You get to see another dimension of people's personality in the game. You might have someone who's polite and pleasant in real life, and then when they play "Magic," they only use really aggressive, hyper-focused decks, or you get someone who's very serious, and he uses goofy, wild combinations, trying to get something fun and crazy to happen. And, Jesse, I think, has one of the most aligned play styles where he is [a] ridiculous, hilarious, goofball in real life and he is in the game too. I spent most of that time laughing my ass off.
BGE: I can only imagine what it was like playing against him.
Day: There were points where I was looking at him wondering, "Oh my god. How is your brain still doing that?" He is so funny.
BGE: Tell me what it's like filming an episode of "Spellslingers;" take me through a day.
Day: Well, I already have a lot of comfort on camera, because pretty much everything I do is live. Well, I should say I am very comfortable just being the way I am in real life on camera because I am live every day on my show. We actually function so much like a normal game, but with interruptions. We're sitting down, and they're like, "Alright, rolling," and I go, "Hey." We do an intro, I say some stuff to the camera, I ask the other person how they're doing, we have a conversation, and then we play. And, every now and again, they go, "Whoa, the camera is overheating. Let's stop it." And then, you know, they'll do that, switch the card out, then go "Okay, we're back again." But for me, I'm really just talking to someone and playing a game, and every now and again being told, "Alright, you've got to hold on." And that is one of my absolute favorite parts of the show. We talked a little about that earlier. It's exactly like how a real game of magic goes for me at least. I talk a lot when I play.
BGE: Now that the show has wrapped for the six episodes. Assuming it comes back, which I think it will, who would you want to play against in the next season?
Day: Everyone is saying Wil Wheaton would absolutely be super high on the list. We're pretty notorious for doing very poorly when we play games live. I would be thrilled to have us both somehow lose. That would always be quite funny.
I'm kind of excited at the idea of spreading out into the general nerd kingdom. There's a lot of authors - like Patrick Rothfuss, I think, is an amazing, awesome human. He could come on getting some of the notable folks from the game design field, comic artists, as well as other YouTubers. I really think that gaming brings people together. Especially for people who have, you know, say...Brandon Sanderson, the famous fantasy author has just amazing, beautiful stories and plays a [expletive] ton of "Magic."
It's kind of just cool to see that you can have that really personal connection with someone who normally would seem kind of distant. You'd read his book and see the name, "Brandon Sanderson," and that's about it, but to be able to go up to him and go, "Oh god, those two top deck Traitorous Instincts in that draft, and I got killed," and he says,"Ugh." That's really awesome.
BGE: I know you do the daily every day, except for Friday, where you have your day off. Since you do your own show, what are some of the things you think that "Spellslingers" can improve upon for next season?
Day: It's sort of an interesting place where "Spellslingers" lives. Where, right now, there's a pretty good amount of exposition as to what's going on. [For example], in this position, we're doing this and that because of this thing, and I think that makes a lot of sense because if you want to start season one of "Spellslingers" and you don't know "Magic," you really shouldn't start to get to learn "Magic."
I like the idea that in future episodes there would be less exposition because people would have been able to watch season one, get the gist of the game, maybe go out and play a little themselves, maybe get "Duel of the Planeswalkers," and then come back and have more of that focus on what's really true and genuine. I suppose that's the only slight deviation from the way the game would normally play.
I almost don't want to have that many changes to it. I know that "Spellslingers" has really great production value for the fact that it is just a card game, but that's what's really awesome about it. It's just a card game. There's not need to create this big, elaborate interface or huge spectacle. Sitting down at the table and playing is really what it's all about, and that's what we really like about "Spellslingers."
BGE: Do you read a lot of the comments? Do you pay attention to them?
Day: Most of what I'm seeing in terms of critique are people [who say], "I couldn't see what his cards were here." This is a problem all across all of e-sports. "We want more data! Can you give us more data? Everything! We want to know it all." There are that sort of thing, but like you were saying, a lot of people there like the fact that it has that natural feel to it.
BGE: At this point, you're two episodes in to the season, and you've obviously done other things in regards to "Magic." What kind of reaction have you gotten from the "Magic" community? What has your experience been like with them?
Day: It's been an interesting mix. Overwhelmingly positive; really, really nice, but it's kind of funny because I'm not very good at "Magic." Then you contrast that with "StarCraft" where that's one game that I've played for 15 freaking years, you know. And I know how to improve and I know how to work away at that game, and for me it's really fun, and "Magic," to have that complete, utter lack of knowledge...
A lot of people are like, "Oh my god, here is a great deck you should use. Here's some advice! Here's all this information." Part of me [goes], "Ah! No!" I actually enjoy the process of sucking and making horrible mistakes and learning from them which is pretty atypical, I think, just in general.
What I think is especially fun about "Magic" and the community interaction is that there's not as much distance between a player and the viewer.
Let's say I'm playing "Magic" and you're standing behind me and you're staring at my hand and looking at the board. You're essentially playing "Magic" right there because it doesn't involve any physical gesture that involves you processing what all the decisions are and then in your head sorting out what the best one is and then making it. It's really, really interactive in that sense. You contrast that with something like "StarCraft" where you can be watching me play and think "Well, I don't know if that attack is good because my macro is not as good as the pro gamer I'm watching. So I wouldn't have that much stuff." It's really cool to have that thin boundary between viewer and player. Overall, I like it. It's really fun to go to "Magic" tournaments and to just be a newbie. To be the most confused, gurgling, panic-stricken idiot. It's the most thrilling thing ever because it reminds me of my early days in "StarCraft."
BGE: It must have been really exciting to have gone to the Pro Tour back in May.
Day: That was cool, and I was really pleased with the fact that every one of my rounds was "1-2."
BGE: You were just happy to get that one game in?
Day: Yeah. No matter what game you're playing, when it's hard and you actually have to make decisions, it feels so good when those decisions wind up paying off. It's kind of interesting because in "StarCraft," it's real time, and it's an ultra-fast game. So you have to play fast. Making the wrong decision as quickly as possible is way better than sitting around, stewing, debating , trying to figure out what's best, and then being late. You have to make decisions and wing it fast. Contrast that with "Magic: The Gathering," you should not do that...at all. You should stop, slow down and really process it. I've got this 15 years of training-urge to just throw down what approximately, I think, is the best play. There were several games at the Pro Tour where I was in a weird spot and made myself sit and think very hard, and it felt very good. Even though I went [overall] "1-5," I'm still pretty pleased when going "1-2," [in matches] when let's be honest, I'm a "Magic" newbie.
BGE: I know you got to play against Luis-Scott Vargas. How was that?
We're both "1-3," and then he sits down and I was, "Oh my god, it's time to be a fanboy! Hi!"
BGE: Did he recognize you?
Day: Yeah. We both know one another's work which is always a funny situation.
BGE: What was it like playing LSV?
Day: Well you know my favorite part about magic is that social experience and that social connection. He was right there on the other side of the table. We chatted throughout the game, it was very nice and casual. Sometimes one of us would be "Give me a second," and then we'd look and stew on the decision. Then, I won game two, and I almost threw up. I [thought to myself], "Oh my god, if I win I'm going to brag so hard!" But, then I rightfully lost, which was still cool in itself. I got to get owned by Luis-Scott Vargas in game three.
BGE: He didn't go easy on you, did he?
Day: I don't know if I'm good enough to know. Because in "StarCraft," you can easily see, "Oh my god, he's expanding seven times. That's terrible, but he's probably going to beat me because he's better." In "Magic," I don't know if he's holding back some cards or whatnot.
BGE: Maybe you could shed some light on one of the more serious questions I have. There was some mixed reactions to you showing up to the Pro Tour and playing "Magic." I think it's great that you were on the scene, but can you offer a response to those who were upset with you being there?
Day: That is an interesting question. Here's how I would approach that.
So traditionally speaking, in a competitive game, or should I say a game known for its competitiveness, eyeballs are gained via skill, and that's really the only clear benchmark.
More people will tune in when it's two champions in the final of a Gran Prix [rather than] two no-names. That's very typical and expected. And then what happens when people starting getting eyeballs when they're clearly not good like me. You get a really odd, unnatural mix of reactions.
[For example], very few people I saw actually said, "Oh hey, cool, he's playing." There were people who were, "Oh my god, Day, you're every bit as good as they are. You're amazing and incredible, don't let them get you down." And, [I say], "I'm really not. Let's be very fair here." Then there were some people who were, "Oh my gosh, okay, we'll get a lot of eyeballs. Let's try to tutor him and help him, and here are a million different tips that you can't process all in five minutes because you're new." Or just the other one which is just outright hate which is, "Hey, oh my gosh, that's unfair and ridiculous that he's there."
And, again, I only think it comes from the fact that the viewership number does not align with my skill. I have a lot more attention as a really bad player. Many find that to be inherently unfair in some way, and that's honestly ridiculous. I'm not claiming to be excellent. No one was ever claiming that. I just happen to be there. No one is going to see that and see that I am somehow a pro now. I am not using that to leverage more packs out of stores. It's understandable for [an] initial reaction.
Actually, I'm of the opinion that this is the struggle that a lot of females have when they start streaming themselves playing a game. That they're getting a lot more eyeballs for simply being female, and that generates this set of very odd, unnatural reactions.
So, I don't really have, per se, an answer. That my analysis of the situation. This is what bothers me a lot and hurts me so much whenever I see people throwing some amount of hate or overwhelming [a] female gamer.
It was a little surreal in that sense. I guess I don't care too much.
BGE: You're just there to have fun.
Day: Yeah. Also, I have really thick skin. So, if someone is, "Oh, he's a total jerk. He doesn't deserve to be at the Pro Tour because he's not good." That's a totally fair point, and I know exactly where you're coming from. Also, calm down.
I think that is exactly why females get so slammed, and there's so much unfairness to women in gaming. It's that there's more eyeballs on them as a result of something that is not skill, and people think that something very unfair is going on as a result. Which is so stupid. It's just as overwhelming as the negative reactions are. [For example], "Oh you're a girl. Ugh." It's also overwhelming to also have, "Oh my god, let me help you out. Oh my god, let's be best friends. I think it's really cool you're a girl gamer!"
No one in their life ever wants anything more than to be talked to like a normal person. That is the fundamental law of existence. Just talk to people like people.
Aside from more games of "Magic" Online, Plott will be working for Artillery Games where he recently landed a position as a designer for an upcoming RTS.
To read all about what he hopes to accomplish as a designer at Artillery Games, then click on this link.
That's it for now. Make sure to check out new episodes of "Spellslingers" on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. The next episode, with guest star Jesse Cox, will air October 16th. Additional new episodes should air every other Wednesday after that.
Also, we never found out who the final guest will be. If you have a guess as to who it may be, then leave a comment.
For more on Sean "Day" Plott, then head over to his website at Day9.tv where you can check out his blog, the Day community, and his daily webcast.
If you'd like, you can e-mail BGExaminer@hotmail.com with any direct questions. Also, if you like what you're reading and want more then, please, click on the "like" and subscribe button. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @simeoncortezano.