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The Smartest Shows in Gaming

While it may seem common for us Giga Geeks to see gaming as a medium that deserves a gargantuan amount of praise, the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily see that. Like literature and film, video games deserve to be preserved for further study to prevent the same mistakes, making the video game a continued evolution, rather than a circle of repetition. I have gone so far as to write collegiate level essays about video games, either about the plot or the mechanics and how they convey emotions.

Thus, I am always on the lookout for Scholars of the Pixel, Patrons of the Graphics Card, and Warriors of Game Design. These shows expand the mind on the subject of video games in all sorts of interesting ways. Feel free to let me know in the comments below if I’ve missed any individuals or groups I should be watching.

created by James Portnow, Daniel Floyd, Allison Theus, Elisa "LeeLee" Scaldaferri, Scott DeWitt, and Dan Jones, among guests

created by James Portnow, Daniel Floyd, Allison Theus, Elisa “LeeLee” Scaldaferri, Scott DeWitt, and Dan Jones, among guests

Extra Credits is a simple show in production, but contains some of the most well-thought scripts of anything I’ve ever watched. Seeing one of its episodes usually inspires me to write something, putting me in a frothing madness until something has been created. Its content always hits precise, yet broad topics across the medium from The Uncanny in horror, what a Skinner Box is, and beyond. It’s really useful stuff for writers, designers, artists, and anyone else in the creative space.

The crew includes artists, designers, and writers who work in the industry. Extra Credits writes fantastic articles, recommends games that are exceptional, but usually obscure, and even shows off some musicians who use video games as an inspiration. It truly celebrates the cerebral side of gaming in an outstanding fashion.

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Where would gaming be without a firm understanding of what it has been?

This is the question that Norman Caruso addresses in each of his publications. Fighting to keep the obscure alive and well, Caruso gives the modern audience a broader respect for what was in the past. He also has a knack for uncovering excellent research on peripherals and consoles. Many of the gadgets he discusses I had never seen before, but still hold lessons in design that are valuable. For example, the Top-Loader NES had better pins to read games, but few know of it, due to the iconic, albeit flawed design of the original NES, sending the Top-Loader into rarity.

Caruso’s skills in research with his expertise in production makes The Gaming Historian an absolute must when studying video games. His videos expand the mind for the future, while keeping the past alive, which is truly commendable.

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aka Arin Hanson

Sequelitis has the fewest episodes when compared to the others, but the statements made in these few are substantial in a lot of ways. Hanson is one of those people who doesn’t care what other critics have said, often tearing down well beloved games in favor of tighter design. He also points out the brilliance of subtle elements in a way that is hilarious and immensely insightful. For example, he harps on the first level of Megaman X on the SNES for a large part of his Megaman episode, pointing out each detail so that it makes sense, even to those not versed in the game design tongue.

There are few shows that have made me laugh as hard as Sequelitis, but then turn around and make me think beyond my usual understandings of a game. The animations and humor make these complex thoughts easy to grasp. The use of examples from the games prove points. The precise nature of his production, only releasing when truly satisfied, shows great care for the subject. It’s brilliant in every way!

If it wasn't for seeing Sequelitis three years ago, there may not be a Forever Classic.

If it wasn’t for seeing Sequelitis three years ago, there may not be a Forever Classic.

In fact, Sequelitis is the main reason I write and produce videos on the subject of video games. I wouldn’t have pursued becoiming a writer at Giga. I may never have taught a Middle School English class with Minecraft. I owe a lot to Arin Hanson and his work.

There is true scholarship to be found in video games. Of this, I know no doubt. The people who are challenging themselves to discover and share this wealth of knowledge is comparable to the essay writers who critique Shakespeare or the journalists who pick apart Gone with the Wind. Video games are a medium worth studying, and hopefully there will be more and more publications on the matter as the folks behind these three shows have shown to be possible.

Thus I challenge our readers to sit down and study a game. Why is it fun or not fun? What elements have been used to craft the experience? How does the art direction or music fit in? It’s a fun exercise I wholeheartedly recommend.

Below are a few more shows you should check out. Stay smart, Giga Geeks.

Game Theory, Zero Punctuation, 8-Bit Philosophy, Did you Know Gaming, Satchbag Goods