With the industry as it is, it’s understably hard to see a positive side for many things. Arguments and differing opinions mount up and generally go overlooked due to an insurmountable volume of people who believe, and are frequently told, that their opinion is the only one that matters. While that remains true in regards to where you money goes, what you should be buy and so on, certain political issues are where the subject of opinion is a problem, where people aren’t forced to voice their own, but often feel it necessary to do so – I frequently abstain from commenting on certain topics due to the bitter and resentful reactions my views may elicit. With each publication and website often appearing to be little more than a position on ranking who comments the most and has the most backing in their stance on certain hot button issues, it can be difficult to determine where the good stuff is. The stuff that’s not trying to get a rise out of people. The stuff that’s not trying fight in the corner of the underdog, or trying to smooth the discussion towards reason and logic. Those are all great conversations, things we need to address or clear the air about, and I make no mistake about my left leaning stance on the majority of issues, but sometimes it helps to just be able to kick back and educate ourselves on this industry and the parts of it many fail to understand.
I’m sure few will disagree that video game culture (and comics, fantasy, sci-fi, movies, whathaveyou), has been growing extremely fast lately. YouTubers are the new celebrities to many people, and a select few are making big money from their efforts. Some are making a little less effort than others for a bigger payout, but that’s my bias showing. I understand that a certain “Let’s Play”-er has fans, and many would agree that they have earned them, but the inspiration for this article was birthed in the fact that this particular YouTuber’s girlfriend’s channel has a higher subscriber/follower count than one of the efforts I’ll be discussing today. Perhaps that doesn’t bother who I’m going to highlight, it’s not the size of the boat, etc. These guys are humble and that’s a big part of why I have so much respect for them individually, that they would never consider things in such a way… but I’m not them, and that bothers me. I’m sure she’s a nice girl, I hold nothing against her on a personal level whatsoever, but when it comes to value for content, this shouldn’t be happening. It’s incomprehensible to me. It’s like QI having lower ratings than Bo Selecta. That’s why today, I want to talk about what I consider to be two of the most important voices in the video game industry today and are those that impart their knowledge upon us in fun and fascinating ways. First up, Extra Credits.
I’ve not followed the efforts of the Extra Credits crew from day one and I won’t claim to have, but I have been a loyal fan since before Allison’s accident. At the time of their departure from The Escapist I was unaware of the reasoning behind their split and won’t be going into it now. All I knew was that they disappeared and I didn’t know where they went for a while… but as luck would have it, they were far from done. What these guys do, as a group that includes Daniel Floyd, James Portnow, Allison Theus – who I can’t not mention simply because she no longer works with them – Elisa Scaldaferri, Scott DeWitt and a whole host of other contributors and guest contributors from over the years, is what I personally consider the best example of edutainment. Starting out speaking specifically about games, the games industry and so on with their show Extra Credits, their YouTube channel has grown to be a true blue channel with a wealth of content that is top grade quality.
While Extra Credit focuses on games, mechanics and the business side of things with topics such as the future of MMOs, the role of the players, playtesting, gamification and so much more; their recent efforts to expand the channel have been a resounding success. Adding shows such as James Recommends, where James Portnow (the resident game designer for the Extra Credits team) recommends games not out of preference, and not in a critical analysis sense, but on how they change the standard or innovate in some unique and sometimes strange way. Other shows include Design Club, which is also an expansion on a previous episode of Extra Credits, where they will take a certain scene, such as the first shot in the Super Mario Brothers, what it instantly does right to welcome the player into the environment and how; or weapons, such as the dreaded Blue Shell in Mario Kart why it’s there, what purpose it truly serves, how it has changed over the years and the effect it has had on the game since its origin. With regular content being uploaded there are more shows and they also do a lot of livestreaming events, Q&A’s, Design Club Live and so on. A personal favourite amongst the recent additions has to be Extra Remix.
I’ve known for a while that there is game music. Not music in games, everybody knows that, but I mean music made by musicians who love games and make their own music based on, inspired by, or remixed from games they hold dearly… though I didn’t much care for it. That’s not to say that I hated it. No, I just had a very apathetic outlook on it. Until Extra Remix. Until the Extra Credits gang cherry picked some of the best websites, such as OCRemix, have to offer and held it out in front of me saying “Listen to this, because it is fantastic”. They were right. A personal favourite being this here remix of the Mario Kart track Rainbow Road by CarboHydroM.
What truly stands out for me about the Extra Credits team is that with all this knowledge, they don’t hoard it and keep it to themselves, they don’t put themselves up on a pedestal, they genuinely see their viewers as a part of the team. They don’t talk down to you – which is all the more impressive considering that some of the things they’re discussing many would think would be well over their heads – instead finding a way to put it across in an understandable and friendly way. I only wish I had teachers even half as invested in their efforts as these guys.
You can find the Extra Credits teams efforts on their YouTube channel as well as their website, where you can find podcasts, articles, merchandise, news and one of the most engaging communities the internet has to offer.
Secondly, Robert Rath. No, not the character Stallone played beside Antonio Banderas in Assassins, Robert Rath the novelist and freelance writer who brings us his weekly article, Critical Intel, over at The Escapist. Robert makes 100% sure that he knows his stuff and clearly has a deep seeded desire to know as much information as his brain can possibly hold. In fact, his research makes my own look like a half sincere glance at a library through a filthy window. In winter. At night. With the lights turned off. And I’m blind. Going straight to the heart of whichever subject he is talking about and picking it apart, destroying misconceptions and drawing much more logical conclusions for your reading pleasure – his efforts are the reason things like Evernote are in such high demand, as reading his work is an uncompromising analysis of subjects in a critically intelligent way.
No area is out of bounds with this man be it videogames, tabletop games, politics, science or history. A personal favourite Critical Intel is the one centred around the accuracy of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag geopolitical outline as well as the true attitudes of pirates. Fascinating stuff but far from the lot. In the past he went deep into the Leland Yee affidavit, bringing into laymens terms what much of it meant and how audacious one man could truly be, a man whose efforts were, in part, to drag one of our favourite mediums of entertainment with him into a blaze of ineptitude. All while being almost painfully unbiased. More recently, he delved into Microsoft’s $2.5 billion purchase of Minecraft creator Mojang, putting the value into terms anyone familiar with Minecraft could understand.
What really makes Rob an important voice is his commitment to knowledge. It’s infectious, having a word count limit, he gives you a fantastic, verbose article, but not so much that you can’t further your own investigation into the subject if you’re interested in doing so. He doesn’t spoon feed what he has to say, either. He wants information out there and if he were to stop now – which I sincerely hope he doesn’t! – he would have already left an indelible impression on his readers.
There are a great many fantastic content generators that contribute to video game culture that I could talk about for hours, but if forced to pick which I don’t think I could get through the week without, Extra Credits and Robert Rath would be among the first names to come to mind. I needlessly wish the best for them and hope they all continue to make the internet a better place. Thanks guys!