Online Nickname: Dr_Hoot


My name is Utah Robertson. I am the General Manager/Owner of Nexus Game Lounge where we specialize in taking Tabletop gaming experiences to another level. I employ a staff of love 20 other professional GMs who all run games using our fully immersive facility, expertly crafted props and miniatures, and truly craft a world for all our players to experience.

I have been playing and running tabletop for well over 2 decades now. With my academic background in professional theatre and my current position at Nexus, I would make an excellent judge for the ENNIES because I know my stuff. There are a lot of games out there, and while I haven’t played them all, I know what makes a great game and what keeps players coming back for more.

Why do you play/run RPGs?

I come from a background in theatre and live performance. I have always loved the escape that tabletop games allow a person to feel when they play them. Mix in a little strategy, mystery, romance, etc. and you have a whole world to escape to for a couple of hours. Life can be hard sometimes, but I find joy in having someone sit at my table and, for the few hours they are there, be that brave sorceress who can conquer the villainy in the world and not be oppressed by it. Playing games allows people to dream while awake, and more importantly, with others. I play and run these games for these reasons.

The ENNIES requires a major commitment of time and energy. What resources do you have that will help you discharge these responsibilities? Will your gaming group or other individuals be assisting you? Does your family support you?

I have an entire store at my disposal, as well as our staff, my family, and my friends to boot. When it comes to gaming, my support system couldn’t be stronger. As for my commitment, tabletop is my passion and my job so being fully committed to this project is a pleasure and a privilege that I can absolutely devote time to.

Judging requires a great deal of critical thinking skills, communication with other judges, deadline management, organization, and storage space for the product received. What interests, experience, and skills do you bring that will make you a more effective judge?

Currently, I manage a team of 20 GMs while also handling the day-to-day operations of the store. I thrive on time management, deadlines, and communication. I employ software like Trello and Notion to keep things in order and communicate effectively with my groups.

What styles and genres of RPGs do you enjoy most? Are there any styles or genres that you do not enjoy? Which games best exemplify what you like? Do you consider yourself a fan of a particular system, publisher, or genre?

I love character-driven storytelling games. I am highly into games that give a strong structure that allows players to roleplay. Systems that are extremely rules-heavy and strict I just find limiting. I am a huge fan of the games published by Free League Publishing because they allow for my type of playing right out of the box. I love Chaosium games because their world-building just scratches an itch in my brain with some of the obscure details they include. All in all, I haven’t found a game I hate enough not to play when asked, but there are games I prefer to play than run.

List (up to 5) games you’ve played in the last 2 years. What drew you to playing them? Which did you like best and why?

Dungeons & Dragons 5e – This is the tabletop staple at the store. Every new player wants to start here. It has a lot of nostalgia for me, but it leans on the side of combat pretty heavily if you play with unseasoned role-players.
ALIEN RPG – I love the world of Alien as a franchise and playing in the world was a delight. I loved the ability to develop a lot of props, websites, and models for this game. The rules allow for a ton of roleplay and the horror aspect makes you be a little less reckless as a character.
Ten Candles – Again, another character-driven storytelling game. The atmosphere it creates, the dread it can cause, and the chance for each player to change the narrative it amazing.
Microscope – Worldbuilding game that can get super specific or vice versa. Cooperative Storytelling and a different type of gameplay.
Call of Cthulhu- The world, the dread, the character progression initiated by a player having to try new things. I love it all. The mysteries are great and the game leans on the heavy prop production aspect which I love giving out props.

Out of them all, I would have to say there is no definite best. Each game does something better than the others. Quite honestly they should exist in different categories. They each have brilliant aspects and also things that could be better.

Have you been a game master in the past 2 years? If yes, what games have you run? What made you decide to run those games?

Yes. The above listed games as well as:
Tales From the Loop
Mutants and Masterminds
Hollow Earth Expedition
Pendragon 6e
Blade Runner
Walking Dead
Death in Space
Fallout RPG
Scum and Villainy
Blades in the Dark
Ghostbusters RPG

Summarize the criteria you would use to determine if a game deserves to be nominated for Best Game.

Is the game easily approachable by new players?
Is the game explained in less than 30 minutes so that a session may be played?
Does the game allow for player creativity?
Does the game have rules that can be easily referenced by the Game Master?
Does the game adequately prepare the Game Master for written scenarios?
Is the game affordable for the common player?
Does the game have proper distribution to game shops?

How will you judge supplements or adventures for game systems whose core rules you are unfamiliar with or you believe are badly designed?

First I would seek out a Game Master familiar with the rules and have them guide me to running the module properly, or I may have them run it as my Co-GM. Badly designed games still deserve a chance to be played RAW. After a RAW playthrough, I would tweak the things I thought could be improved and then run the game again. If my improvements result in a better experience I know I was right and the game is badly written, but if the game doesn’t work with my changes then it is clear I have misunderstood the product and need to start from scratch giving it another fair chance.

How would you like to see the ENNIEs change? What should remain inviolate?

I have not experienced the ENNIES firsthand, so I would need to experience it in all facets to answer this question appropriately.