INTERVIEW: Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton isn’t just some guy from Star Trek or The Big Bang Theory. He’s an ambassador for the world of board gaming. He’s been through two seasons of his show TableTop for Geek&Sundry, and he’s been teaching the world to play games.

This Saturday is his second annual “International TableTop Day” and it encourages people in every corner of the globe to get together and play video games.

I had an opportunity to speak to Wil Wheaton himself about the day…

Bryan Young: How excited are you about the TableTop day?


Wil Wheaton: Really excited! Last year I knew we were going to be doing something really cool, but we had no idea that it was going to be as huge and as beloved by the world as it was. This year, because we know that, I am even more excited than I was when it was just a complete unknown for us.


BY: I want to ask about what got you into tabletop gaming in the first place? What makes this special for you?


WW: I grew up playing the old-school board games like Sorry! and Snakes & Ladders and things like that with my family. One of our family traditions in my house was to play the MAD Magazine game every New Year’s Eve and every sort of special holiday. As I got older I felt like I kind of grew out of games like that. When I was about 14, I made a group of friends at school and they were all tabletop gamers. One of the guys in the group asked me do I play board games, and I was like “Eh, no, those are for kids,” and they all sort of looked at each other like, “Oh, you have no idea,” and introduced me to what we now know of as tabletop gaming.


I started out playing games like Illuminati and Car Wars and Warhammer 40Kand things like that that showed me that these were wonderfully written and designed and unique gaming experiences. That experience of getting together with my friends and playing games provided me this incredible joy and this really wonderful escape when I was an awkward teenager, and that relationship that we have as gamers together is sort of the foundation of and the mortar which holds together the longest friendships and the most important friendships of my life.


BY: It’s apparent that board gaming is important to you, but why do you find it important to spread it, almost like gospel?


WW: When Felicia Day asked me if I would do a show for Geek&Sundry, she and I originally talked about maybe doing some type of review show. I told her that I thought it would be better to show, like we could review games by playing them. By doing it that way we could share with the audience how awesome it is to get together and spend some time playing games. I had an opportunity to lead by example and share some of my core values; that we can compete without being competitive, and what we play isn’t as important as the fact that we are playing.


Getting together to play a game is a social, positive, meaningful interaction; and we spend a lot of time sitting on the internet, we spend a lot of time playing video games, and I was seeing that people of my kids’ generation – and even people of my generation – kind of lost the joyful experience of sitting down and sharing each other’s company and playing a game.


Gaming is a really good way, and a great excuse to get together with your friends or your family or your coworkers and just share some time together. So I wanted, with TableTop, I really wanted to put those values back into the world and show everybody, by example, how much fun this was. Maybe a side-effect of that would be people getting together and spending more time together, and having relationships and friendships that are as strong and long-lasting as the ones I have that were all built around gaming.


So TableTop Day sort of takes what we have tried to demonstrate with the show TableTop and it puts it in the real world and it gives people an opportunity to experience for themselves what they are seeing on the show. And, hopefully, it puts more gamers in the world because when there’s more gamers in the world, there are more people for me to play games with. This is not entirely altruistic.

If you want to participate in an TableTop day event, you can check the website for events near you.

If you want to hear Wil Wheaton make some recommendation of some games you should be playing (at least in the Star Wars universe) listen to me chat with him on the Full of Sith podcast.