About Me

I have a wife, and 2 girls that keep me busy, and a full-time job. My youngest daughter received a heart transplant at 4 months old, and my oldest is autistic. I've been through more than my fair share of challenges, but I maintain a positive outlook on life.  I have a full-time sales position within the energy industry.

I've been playing board games all my life. Starting with classic games like "The Game of Life," "Monopoly," and "Sorry!" and into "Settlers of Catan," "Carcassonne," and "Pandemic" through college. Now, I play all kinds of modern games like "Terraforming Mars," "Great Western Trail," and "Viticulture." I also organize a board game meetup once or twice a month as we're free.

Through my YouTube channel, I'm creating learn-to-play board games videos! Ever wanted to play a board game that you thought the rulebook is too long, confusing, or difficult to teach to your friends? That's why I'm here! Minimize time, and maximize learning! 

How the Channel began:
For fun, in January, 2018, I made a teaching video on how to play the game “Archipelago.” It was rough around the edges, for sure, but it was a way to have my friends come to game night ready to play. I figured if they watched a video before coming, we wouldn’t have to take extra time going over the rules. Archipelago can be complex to understand, but a lot of fun once everyone knows what’s going on.

Even though the video was shot in poor quality, I gained a lot of valuable feedback and positive comments! I realized there are a lot of people that absolutely need video explanations of things in order to understand them. I didn’t know just how many people refuse to read a long rulebook, or just have so much trouble with it that they quit! I knew there was something to this, and that there are lots of fairly complex games that most people won’t ever get to play if left to figure it out on their own.

Creating that first video was useful to me to get practice, but also find other people who would be able to help me with making better quality videos. Since making it over a year ago, I partnered with a friend who is an expert videographer, editor, and graphic designer. Together, we launched a channel dedicated to providing helpful board game teaching videos. Archipelago became a proof-of-concept thing, to help me get my project together. Having a year of YouTube analytics on it has been extremely valuable.
I’ve been able to get a clear idea of the direction of the channel, and what kinds of games to cover. We’ve created Meeple Mentor because too many great games get unplayed or sit on shelves because they are deemed "too complicated." I aim to change that by creating helpful teaching videos for all kinds of tabletop board games, focusing primarily on medium-to-heavy weight complexity games. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the wide range of games now out there and being created! It's amazing the variety we have, and yet we're still limited by our ability to read, comprehend, and teach new rules.
My YouTube channel's first teaching videos were recorded and edited during the months leading up to the launch in July, 2019. We prepared 3-4 ready to go for July, then planned for 1-2 a month thereafter.  The first recording session was April 27, 2019.  On May 13, the first video was uploaded and published to the YouTube channel.  It was our coming soon announcement for the big launch.  I began getting involved in social media around June.  Media like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and of course Facebook.
My friend quit on me after a few videos recorded, unfortunately.  His life was picking up with a new baby on the way, and he didn't share my passion for the project.  It takes a lot of time to record and edit the kind of videos I wanted to make.  So, I was left to pick up the pieces and find out how to continue to make this channel happen on my own...

Picking up the pieces...
After my channel partner quit on me, I needed to figure out how I could continue to make videos myself.  With him gone, I lost my recording space, camera, editor, lights, microphone, and experience.  Additionally, my kids dropped my personal laptop on the floor and broke it beyond repair.  Yikes.
I reached out to local friends and gamers I knew for anyone experienced with filming or editing.  After a couple weeks, I hadn't found anyone that was interested in joining up, without being paid a salary.  It's a hobby project, and one that I have no funding for- so it's difficult to find any help.
I knew I had to get at least the basic resources myself, and learn the editing process as I go.
Thankfully, my parents supported the channel idea and wanted to help.  They gave me an early Christmas AND birthday gift in the form of a new laptop.  Bingo!
My wife is an amateur photographer and uses a high quality digital camera.  She was very happy to help me continue filming gaming videos, and agreed to let me use her camera when I needed it.  We still share it!
Around this time, a friend of mine was working at Sam Ash music and was about to quit for a different career.  On his last day, I was able to pick up some supplies using his employee discount, which was a big help!  I got an attachable microphone for the camera, mic stands, cables, and some other things.
Lighting was my next concern, so I asked my first recording buddy where he got his lights and what he uses to diffuse it.  He gave me some great advice and referred me to some very practical items to get 4 clip lights to use.  He also had an extra green screen I could have, so I can record almost anywhere!
To start recording again, I needed a space.  We have a playroom that our kids use, but only on the rarest occasions.  They really prefer not to be alone, and tend to play wherever mom and dad are.  So, the room was largely unused and available.  I set up the green screen on the wall, set up lights around the room using mic stands, and set up the camera.
After some tests and practice, I got comfortable with how to light the room, and where to place the camera.  I was happy to see the channel may survive after all!  I continued on my own like this, but still open to finding people to help.  Slowly, some people reached out to me... at varying degrees of assistance.

Help Comes...
As I continued to produce videos alone, I looked for assistance still with the editing portion.  Anyone I talked to that was interested, also needed me to pay them, which I couldn't do.  Finally, a friend of mine introduced me to his buddy who lives locally and manages a YouTube channel.  He was very eager to help, and insisted he teach me how to edit on my own, instead of him doing it.  Made total sense to me: teach a man to fish instead of giving him a fish.
After a session of meeting with him, I picked up a lot of helpful tips and shortcuts in using Adobe Premiere.  I also used Google A LOT early on to search for answers on what I wanted to do with Premiere.  Through this method, I also learned how to use the green screen effectively.  I'm still not an expert editor, but I get by with what I need!

Around November, I was contacted by a friend of a friend who was interested in doing board gaming video content on YouTube as well.  She regularly plays Dungeons & Dragons and has another board gaming meetup group meeting weekly.  Her interest was to be able to represent the female gamer perspective online.  The plan was for her and I to start working together and doing news together or some kind of 2 person show.  Before that, the PAX Unplugged convention was about to happen, and she was planning to attend.  So, we started with the idea that she would be the reporter on the road for board gaming content.  Looking for interviews and board gaming news via attending various conventions around the country.

We started actually with a Skype interview with Shem Phillips in New Zealand, from Garphill Games.  The interview went very well, and I was looking forward to more interviews she would be getting in the coming week at PAX.  Unfortunately, that didn't work out for a number of reasons.  I won't get into everything here, but by the time we reconnected after the convention, she decided to back out of helping the Meeple Mentor channel.  I think she shared her excitement of working in YouTube, and her long-time friend asked her to help him with his channel instead.  I'm not sure how that's going, but she has said she'll still support me when she can.  I think this means maybe passing out business cards at conventions.

I discussed with one of my old friends from college the prospect of doing reviews on the channel back in early 2020.  He's a huge board gamer like me, and we still try to game together when we can.  We live 3 hours away, and life gets busy.  I'm not sure the timeline yet on when the reviews may start, because everyone's plans got pushed out due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.  Additionally, I know he had to deal with moving to a new house and then looking for a new job...etc.  So, his reviews may wait, or end up not coming to fruition.
Until then, I'm still doing everything I can with limited help.  I'm enjoying doing it, and have a passion for board gaming.  I plan on continuing forward with creating great gaming content for a long, long time.

A New Committed Help

In August of 2020, I was sent a BGG email out of the blue from someone who just moved to my area.  His name was Jason Mathew, and had communicated he saw my profile and had a lot in common with me.  We both had special needs girls, were huge board gamers, and were able to get through a lot of trauma through our faith.  I was intrigued and gave him a call.  We chatted on the phone for about 3 hours to discuss all kinds of things, including how he used to run a board game meet up at his church in New England and was hoping to do something like that again here.  He also was interested in getting a board game podcast together, which he was never able to get off the ground before.
We were both excited at the prospect of joining forces and working together to add new content to the Meeple Mentor channel.  But, he had no experience with A/V or editing.  So, I need we needed to get a plan together so I don't overexert myself on the production side.

Jason joined my local game group and we played games regularly for months, but since there were already 2 "Jasons" in our group, I asked him if he had a nickname we could use.  So, he goes by "Jay" in our circles now.  I did lots of research into podcast hosting and we did some brainstorming on where/how to record, and how often.  We came up with lots of ideas, topics to discuss, top 10s to cover, and more to give us a plan for the podcast's future.  Things were beginning to take shape.  And, we had a name for it: "Mentor Minutes: A Board Game Podcast."

The first episode of the podcast released August 29, 2020 and was all about introducing ourselves.  To help me with the workload, I gave Jay the responsibility of coming up with topics, organizing recording dates/times, and creative direction.  This was the only way I could manage the extra editing work on top of keeping my tutorials on schedule.  From there, we released 2 podcast episodes a month ever since, and have covered lots of top 10s, game designer interviews, and more.  The podcast video is hosted on the YouTube channel, while the audio is streamed to lots of different platforms: Apple, Google, Spotify...etc.
Here we are a year later and I consider Jay one of my best friends, and we're still going strong.   

News and Networking

In November 2020, I began to again brainstorm new video series ideas to add to the channel.  I realized another missing area among content creators was a consistent news program that could give a quick update and overview of what's new in the hobby.  With doing some research and finding some great sources of board game news, I decided I could take on this news project myself.  On November 12 I published the first episode of "What's New in Board Gaming," which started my foray into reporting the news via YouTube videos.  I focused on current crowdfunding board games, industry news, and of course new game announcements.  Since then, I've consistently released news summary videos every other Friday!

At this same time, I found the GameCasters podcast based out of Minnesota, lead by Ryan James.  Ryan and I started discussing a new kind of way to promote small content creators like ourselves.  He's been working on a board gaming network, and gathering some of the best people that are small or growing.  He invited me to be a part of it, and I saw the unique benefit of collaboration and of course better name recognition.  It's called The Gateway Network, and has a central website that points to dozens of small content creators.  We even have merch available through the Gateway Network!
The network has been great for me personally just to meet new people in the hobby who are also working hard on various productions.

To do my part of shouting out other creators and the network itself, I began including features in my news videos to talk about one of the creators in the network.  At first it would be me just saying a few things about them and where to find them, but later, people would start recording themselves promoting their content.  I was happy to throw their video introductions into my news videos to give them more attention.  Occasionally, I hear the Meeple Mentor channel mentioned on GameCasters or other podcasts, as well as having a lot of my Instagram and video content shared by others.  It's been nice to be part of it! 

Adding Reviews!

Looking at the kind of content we have already, I noticed most of the videos tend to be long: tutorials, podcast episodes...  What was really missing is a short video series where people could just quickly jump in and jump out without a big time commitment.  With the number of videos I'm regularly producing at this point, I wouldn't be able to be the one to prepare this.  I would, however, still have to edit and produce it.  I approached Jay again to see if he had an interest in making 2 to 3 minute short review videos on board games he liked.  He was quite excited about the idea, and we began to brainstorm ideas for the series.  After trial and error, we found music we wanted to use and I made an intro he was happy with for the series.  We settled on the name, "Jay's Takeaways."

The series launched August 4, 2021 with 3 videos.  Unmatched: Deadpool, The Quest for El Dorado, and Takenoko.  I gave him a video camera so he could do recording on his own at his leisure.  Going forward, the plan is he will record what he wants and send me the file.  I would do the final editing and production and publish it on our schedule for the series.  We're looking at every other Wednesday.  With Jay's help in the filming and preparation, I knew I could handle producing a series for less than 5 minute videos.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the series does with our viewers!

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