Video games are part of our world, and many of us don’t even realize how much they can impact our lives. We sat down with Serenity Forge founder Z Yang to chat about what goes into making a video game and why his company puts more into games than a great story and graphics. As parents, we loved learning about how Serenity Forge is creating games that address adolescent mental well-being and real issues faced by teens. Our kids loved learning about free systems they can download to build their own games!
Enjoy this insightful chat with Z about some great new games – The King’s Bird, Half Past Fate, and Once Upon a Coma – you can get today at serenityforge.com. They were just one of the tons of amazing vendors we found at Denver Pop Culture Con!
If you can get through our reviews of SHAZAM! and Captain Marvel (infused with disdain of D.C. movies), you’ll get an earful of the kids sharing their experiences playing Zelda, Minecraft, and God of War. As a mom sitting between the two kids, I got TWO earfuls! Let your kids listen so we adults can share in the ignorant bliss of parenting gamers.
Come as you are to the UnpauseIt review of Captain Marvel! This latest installment in the Avengers franchise brings us the un-origin-story of Carol Danvers, as well as a look back in time at Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, and a few other factors which figure into the MCU.
This podcast is the audio from our live YouTube broadcast. There are no spoilers in the first half, but they do kick in for the second half–you have been warned! We also include our parents ratings and a few random thoughts about other entertainment projects.
When you’re taking your brand to social media, your handle matters. Your handle is your username on any social channel. It’s the unique identifier that appears after the facebook.com/, or instagram.com/.
The more you can make these names match up on multiple channels, the easier it will be for your audience to find you. Think how much simpler it is to say, “My handle everywhere is BrandX!”
When planning your website and social media handles, do your research to see if variations of your brand name are available. The more you can match them all up, the faster your customers will find you.
Every hour as a parent starts to feel like a stolen moment, doesn’t it? To say “time flies” is a massive understatement as these children who were the size of my forearm are gaining inches in height and miles in maturity (or attempts at it) every single month.
Thus capturing the moments and memories is always getting more urgent. And I have one vital factor working against me: I am not a crafty mom. I don’t regularly schedule family photo sessions. I hardly ever think to use a Shutterfly discount code to order prints or even a photo book of my kids. And saving their school or personal projects? Those tend to pile up into an unwieldy stack of papers until we finally spend a whole day posting them to a memory wall downstairs.
In short, I suck at saving memories. But I’m great at digital communications, and that’s where I struck upon what has worked for my particular situation: a family podcast.
Why a Family Podcast?
This all was inspired by the Avengers movies which have been reigning in our entertainment horizons for the last decade. Our family is fully entrenched in the geekery of the MCU (that’s Marvel Cinematic Universe for those who aren’t at our level of nerddom) and, as the kids have grown older and attended movie showings with us, the debates about each movie run fast and furious the moment the end-credits scene closes out and the theater lights go up.
I noticed that each member of our family had no trouble airing our opinions about the super heroes, super villains, plot lines, comedy, and overall appeal of each movie we see together.
I also was getting perpetually harassed by my children – one in particular – about wanting to become a “YouTuber.” Any remotely digitally-savvy parent should be acquainted with the fears of allowing the full force of internet viewers and their anonymous opinions to bowl over their kiddo, and I knew that I wanted to provide a type of training curriculum for my children before the whole “YouTuber” plan would even be considered.
So… we started a podcast. It’s called UnpauseIt. Here’s why it has been a great overall experience for our family.
It teaches production value.
An audio podcast requires that you record moments, and we had to incorporate that mechanism into the normal course of our movie discussions. So I bought us a Blue Yeti microphone, positioned it in the center of our circular dining room table, sat everyone down, and began recording.
The entire first season of our podcast (where we reviewed each Avengers movie from Iron Man through Infinity War) was a learning experience in recording. We learned that when we put a blanket on the table and under the microphone, we reduced the amount of ambient noises captured in our recordings. We also learned to never give the kids plastic water bottles for drinking, because a firm grip (and resulting plastic popping noise) clearly carried into the recording.
We’d let the kids listen to our podcasts once they were edited and published, and they could hear how they sounded or when they needed to speak clearly or stay on point. Additionally, we as parent-producers could hear when we should have paused for a “wiggle-break;” as the show progressed in episodes, we got better at organizing the flow so the kids could be cut loose during segments they found to be more “for the boring adults.”
It teaches leadership.
We wanted this podcast to fully include all members of the family, regardless of age. So each week, we would rotate in one of us to “drive” that week’s podcast; the driver would be the one to ask questions and decide which person responds with their opinion and in what order. They could choose the sequence of questions, plus they needed to come up with the unit of measure for when we rated each movie.
This didn’t happen without obstacles or hiccups! We’d hit days when the kid driving would start getting tired or disinterested, and we’d have to pause to either have a pep talk or discontinue the recording until we could regroup with more gusto. We parents quickly learned the best times of day to let a kid drive the podcast recording, as well as the value of letting them drive the movies they liked versus the ones they were “meh” about.
It captures memories.
My absolute favorite aspect of this family podcast project is being able to hear my children’s voices at the tap of a screen on my Stitcher podcast player or on our YouTube channel. When the kids were at their grandma’s house for the summer, I’d pull up what I knew to be a favorite movie for one of them and play through their giggles, their attempts to sound like a professional host, their animated discussions, and even their contentiousness with differing opinions.
I may not be a mom that’s good at framing pictures or building scrapbooks. But I’m a mom that’s good at media production, and being able to include my kids in that skill and use it to build media memories I’ll have forever is everything.
How Do You Do a Family Podcast?
Pick a theme or topic for everyone.
This one was easy for us, and my best advice for you is to take a week where you’re on the lookout for those times when your family is all fully engaged with something at the same time. Your family may have many opportunities to choose from, or you may have less; it’s all going to depend on your dynamic and each person’s interests.
The key is to not force a topic. Case in point: our kids ultimately gained more interest in video games than in movies, so we’re pivoting our podcast to do a season about gaming (which might be something they’re more into than we are, but it’s still a shared interest with all of us).
You’ll need a few things to create a podcast:
An audio editing software.
A podcast hosting platform.
A graphic design tool.
Audio quality is a big deal for podcasts, particularly if you have your sights on becoming well-known, popular on iTunes, and even sponsored someday by advertisers because you’re so freaking awesome.
That said, you can get away with the microphone included on your smartphone’s earbuds. It isn’t ideal, but it’s way better than relying on the open-air microphone of your smartphone or laptop.
Our family has used two microphones throughout our podcasting journey (and we’re still refining them):
Blue Yeti USB Microphone – I bought this to allow for a variety of recording patterns, but primarily for the omnidirectional recording we used it for at our circular table.
Zoom H1n Handy Recorder – This mic has been key to when we want to do mobile recordings. It records to an SD card and lets you have free reign and range of mobility, tethered to nothing, able to walk and talk and thrust your mic into anyone’s face who will give you a word.
Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB Microphone – if both of those options are too pricey for you, I swear by this microphone for a great quality sound for a budget-friendly price. It’s USB-connected, but you can also connect it via XLR to a mixer (if you want to mix more than one person into your recording).
Audio Editing Software
Don’t get freaked out by this; thanks to the power of Google and YouTube, anyone can learn to edit audio. Really it’s like editing a sentence in Microsoft Word; if you type a sentence and want to remove a word that you don’t need, you would just use your mouse to highlight the word and hit DELETE.
The same principle applies to audio editing, except you’re working with a waveform and need to use your mouse to highlight the sounds or phrases you don’t need, then hit DELETE.
As far as audio editing software that lets you perform this magical process, you have some good options:
Audacity – It’s a free open-source audio editing software you can download off of the internet. I used this for creating some of my past podcasts before remembering that I had the next option already. Audacity is plenty capable for editing and finalizing a podcast audio file.
Adobe Audition – This was already a part of my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (~$600 for a year, and even less for students), plus it has a podcast template included. As with all things Adobe, I only claim to know about 10-20% of each program because they’re so jampacked with tools and features.
First thing here: do you already have a blog or a website? If so, you may choose to feature your podcast from that website… but that does not mean that each audio file of your podcast should be uploaded to or hosted on your blog or website. That would be like placing the city of New York on a train and expecting it to move at its top speed; it’s not going to happen.
That’s why you need to use a podcast hosting service to upload your podcast audio files to so they can be pulled from there when anyone wants to download your latest episode.
Libsyn – I use this service at the recommendation of business podcaster Pat Flynn and I’ve never been sorry for that choice. Their plans start at $5/month, and the price increases based on how many times per month you upload a large audio file (memory capacity) as well as if you want analytics on your podcast downloads.
Blubrry – I have never used this service, but I hear a ton about it. Plus it provides the plugin I use on my WordPress-hosted website to add the podcast audio link to the blog post for my podcast episodes.
Once again, don’t get freaked out. This part is just about giving iTunes or any other podcast listening app a visual for your podcast, and that is something you absolutely must have.
Thankfully, here too you have a range of options ranging from free-ninety-five to, well, more than that.
Canva.com – One of the best things to happen to the world, allowing people to create pretty things without needing to know much about graphic design. (Though please don’t get me wrong; you’ll never create something in Canva that’s as good as what a designer can come up with.) In any case, Canva is a free website where you can use their templates or put in the size of what you want to create and use their elements to whip something up.
Adobe Photoshop – This is my go-to for creating visuals, though I will also use Illustrator for more complex or nuanced creations. However, if you want the “lite” version of Photoshop, it’s way more affordable and can still support your creation of a podcast thumbnail graphic.
PowerPoint – While being the absolute last tool I’d opt to use, PowerPoint can still let you create visuals and save the slide as an image file (JPG or PNG) to get by.
Record your first three episodes
Wait, why three? Can’t you just test things out and record one first?
Sure, except for this relatively recent new term as it relates to consuming entertainment: “binging.” People love to hear or watch one episode and then leap right into the next one if the content is riveting enough.
Since one of your goals in starting a podcast is to gain subscribers – those fans who will check their podcast player for your latest episode on the day they’re supposed to drop – you’ll want to get them hooked right out of the gate. So plan to record at least 2-3 episodes and publish them as your podcast launch. Bing-Bang-Boom.
This is going to be the best part of creating a podcast but the one part you constantly forget to do. If you don’t listen to what you’ve published, you will miss the value of what you just created, as well as the lessons you can learn for what you will create in the future.
Enjoy the fruits of your family’s labor. Laugh at the goofs. Brainstorm new ideas. Relish the moments and the memories you just created together which will live on thanks to the magic of media.
Now that I’ve told you all about the why and how of our family’s podcast, maybe you’ll want to listen to some of our journey. Our podcast is called UnpauseIt, which is what we always call out when we’re ready to start playing the movie or video game we’re currently enjoying once the bathroom or snack breaks are over.
It isn’t perfect. But it’s ours and, because of who’s in it, I love it with all of my heart.
Minecraft… Minecraft… MINECRAFT! If the kids aren’t playing it, they’re talking about it. Thus it seemed about time for the parents to get a notion about what this game is, how it works, and why the UnpauseIt kids love it so much.
For well over a year, the kids of UnpauseIt have been immersed in Minecraft. Do we parents know what it is? Barely. Do we want to play it? Hardly. Should we learn it anyway? Why not?!
In this episode of UnpauseIt, the girls of the podcast dive into Minecraft. The 9-year old @FuriousGirl guides the 43-year old @LadyDisdayn into this world which represents the focus and fandom of kids all over the globe. The parents might still be trying to figure out why, and if that’s something you can identify with, this episode will give you some valuable insight for why your kids freak out over Minecraft.
Our happy thoughts drifted away like the final title of the film as the Russo Brothers served up an epic beginning to the culmination of 10 years of films… OK, let’s just say this was a tough yet epic watch that the kids now avoid because it pulled at all the heart strings. Here our reactions, plus a few hot takes right after the screening, in this episode of UnpauseIt.
It’s no wonder this film in the Avengers franchise ranks as one of the fan favorites. It’s when we finally get some human personality to Thor, witness the internal battle of Hulk vs. Banner for real, and see Jeff Goldblum playing… himself. This one’s a keeper.
When the original movie-Batman/Beetlejuice is your date’s dad, you’d better have some tricks (and possible webbing) up your sleeve. Even though this is the third unique Spider-man attempt we’ve seen in the 21st century, it’s a solid one. And everyone wants to be the guy in the chair.