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Denise, the receptionist, is on the phone when we arrive. “Hi guys,” she says, covering the mouthpiece. “Hi Douglas,” she adds in a voice that has all its own color, timbre, and pitch. We’re ‘guys’, he’s ‘Douglas’.

“Gentlemen, right on time,” says the studio owner, ushering us into the booth. The weird little guy who records a podcast before us is just leaving. Nick, the high school kid and owner’s son, our very own engineer, gives us the thumbs up from behind the glass.

“So I hear there was a big event in Los Angeles this week?” the owner asks me. “You attended, yes? Press credentials and all. How was it?”

“Yeah, they have it every year. Los Angeles is really nice. Nintendo had a good presentation, but the Playstation 3 is in trouble. Rock Band is really cool.”

“Ah, well.” He has no idea what I’m talking about. I need to remember to prepare a ‘How was E3’ sound bite for mainstream people. “But I hear there’s a price cut on the Sony Playstation 3, and that the Microsoft Xbox 360 has technical problems.”

“Don’t get him started,” Trevor says as I get started. “We’re going to get into all that for this week’s podcast.”

“Well, what with this price cut on the one and the technical problems on the other, I intend to get Nick a Playstation 3 for his birthday, which is coming up in two weeks,” the old guy says, conspiratorially. Through the glass, I can see his son’s dismayed look. Obviously, the mics are turned on.

“Welcome to this week’s Shoot Club podcast!” Trevor introduces us. “This week, it’s part one of our annual E3 Extravaganza. Wait, why are you picking your nose?”

He’s looking at me. I most certainly was not picking my nose.

“What?”

“Just because you’re on a podcast doesn’t mean you can pick your nose.” He’s silently laughing. Douglas is laughing slightly less silently.

“I wasn’t picking my nose.”

“Dude, you are totally busted. We both saw you picking your nose.”

“Yep,” Doug says, leaning into the mic so his voice booms in my headphones. Then he leans back and muffles his laughter.

I definitely was not picking my nose. They must have planned this in the car.

“I was not picking my nose. That’s stupid.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it, but don’t do it during the podcast.”

“I wasn’t. Jeeze, would you guys grow up?”

“Why are you so defensive?” Douglas leans in and asks, making his voice godlike and authoritative.

“Yeah, if you weren’t picking your nose, why are you so defensive?” Trevor adds. “Hey, where’s my slide whistle?” he asks, turning over the little cow thing to make a moo in lieu of a whistle.

Douglas is all but giggling, the nose picking gag compounded by having obviously taken the slide whistle when Trevor wasn’t looking.

“Come on, man, what did you do with it?”

“You promise you won’t use it?” Douglas says.

“No, fuck off. What did you do with it?”

“I’m not giving it back unless you promise you won’t use it.”

And that’s how the first ten minutes of the podcast go. Finally, there’s an awkward pause, which Trevor uses as a segue.

“Okay, on to E3.”

“Let’s hope someone doesn’t have another meltdown like he did in the car.” Douglas shoots me a look as he says this.

“It wasn’t a meltdown. I just think it’s silly is all.”

“What was that word you used?”

“What word?”

“E-pistol something.”

“Forget it.”

“No, what was it. We should have a Word of the Week.”

“You guys are Philistines. You know what? You deserve what you get. Let’s just talk about whether there are dual plasma swords in Halo 3.”

“Awesome. Are there? Let’s also talk about how awesome Rock Band was. Did you sing? What songs does it have? Oh, and is Killzone 2 going to be any good?”

“Killzone 2 is … okay, you know what, I’m not going to talk about this. If you want to know about E3, you can get the same information from anyone else. You know what I want to talk about this week? Persona 3.”

“But it’s our annual E3 extravaganza.”

“What’s Persona 3?” Douglas asks.

“I don’t care,” I say. “I’ve been playing Persona 3. Let’s talk about that. It sometimes reminds me of Killer 7.”

“Killer 7? Persona 3? I’ve never even heard of those.” Douglas is looking at the little topic list Trevor prepares for the show. He checks the back of the sheet.

“It’s Japanese. It’s a Japanese RPG from the Shin Megami Tensi series, or something like that. I don’t really know the name, and I haven’t played the other ones, but I’m really digging this. So let’s talk about it instead of the crap at E3. I don’t care about E3. I wish E3 would just die already, like it said it would last year. ”

“Oh lord, here he goes.”

“No, no, I’m not going to get into it. ”

“But what about Killzone 2?”

“Killzone 2 will be totally awesome. Mark my words. Game of the year material. There. Satisfied? But Persona 3, on the other hand, no one will play it because it’s a Japanese RPG. But it’s doing some really intriguing things that deserve to be recognized.”

I let this sit for a moment. They look at me. Nick in the sound booth is reading a copy of EGM. Poor kid.

“Should we do the top ten list first?” Trevor asks.

“Yeah, go ahead and do the top ten list. Then let’s talk about Persona.”

“What’s better, Persona or Killer?” Douglas asks. “And should I start with Persona 1 or Killer 1?”

“This week’s Top Ten List is the Top Ten Things Leonidas, King of Sparta Says About E3. And the number ten Top Ten Thing Leonidas, King of Sparta Says About E3 is …”

He reads them, pausing between each one as if to leave room for a laugh. Douglas gets up to get Cokes and probably won’t be back for a while. So after the top ten list, Trevor and I talk for a while about Persona 3. He only uses the moo cow thing once, when Douglas comes back in to read the news, which consists only of the fact that there’s a new patch for Command & Conquer 3.

“And that’s Radio Shoot Club,” Trevor concludes. “Join us next week for part two of our annual E3 Extravaganza.”

Little does he know we’ll spend most of next week talking about the Civilization IV expansion, but only after we’ve colluded with Nick to put a filter on Trevor’s mic that makes his voice sound high-pitched. Podcasting. The wave of the future, right up there with YouTube, MySpace, and AmIHot.

***

Tom Chick has been writing about videogames for fifteen years. His work appears in Games for Windows Magazine, Yahoo, Gamespy, Sci-Fi, and Variety. He lives in Los Angeles. Shoot Club appears in this space every Thursday.

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