A Life Well Wasted is subtitled “An Internet radio show about videogames and the people who love them”. You might be fooled into thinking that ‘Internet radio show’ was just marketing speak for ‘podcast’, and that the show was merely another general hour or so of light harmless banter by one or more personages who are excited enough about the subject to be bothered to record themselves talking about it and then publish their output on the Web.
You would be quite, quite wrong. A Life Well Wasted is utterly deserving of its subtitle, in fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s rather modest, and ‘Internet videogame documentary’ would be closer to the mark.
It’s not just the professional audio quality of the show, where speech is always clear and unmolested by external sound sources, it’s that host and producer Robert Ashley has an impeccable sense of timing, a fine taste in musical breaks and backgrounds, and an ear for the perfect sound bite. The production quality is absolutely first rate, the interviews and main narrative are interspersed with the perfect level of background audio, be it atmospheric music or just the general ambience of wherever he happens to be recording from. The interviews are, frankly, captivating. Whether you are interested in the particular gaming sub-genre under discussion or not, you can’t help but be drawn in to the conversation as Ashley asks insightful and searching questions that, although appearing simple, actually drive right to the heart of the subject, which is clearly evidenced by how passionately his interviewees respond. The interviews are cut, faded in and out, the audio output generally played with, and then interspersed with asides and general narrative from the host, whose soothing ‘surfer dude’ accent and laconic style bring an ambience to the show that both relaxes the listener while at the same time captivating them. Not only that, but Ashley isn’t afraid to just let people talk in the classic documentary style, without the need for the rigid structure of a question/response interview at all times; this can be a dangerous thing to do – giving people freedom to run with a topic that they enjoy – but again his expert editing cuts away the chaff and leaves behind only the pure whole grain of the point at hand.
The only downside to the show is that episodes are few and far between, but given the amount of effort that must go into researching and recording interviews, let alone putting the show together and then polishing it until it glistens, it is a disappointment that is easily forgiven. Each time a new show arrives in the iTunes feed it’s like a an unexpected gift has been sent your way.
If you don’t have this on your podcast subscription list, and you are in any way interested in gaming, then go and do so now. You’re missing out on one of the best audio gaming shows on the Internet.