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Friday, April 24, 2015

Subscribe to This: Extra Credits on YouTube

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 4:00 PM


I'm not as much of a gamer as I used to be (RIP, Festival Game Palace), but I'm trying to become more of a gamer than I currently am. I inherited an Xbox 360 last year, have completed Beatles Rock Band, and am currently making my way through BioShock, mostly because of its similarities to last year's second-best film, Snowpiercer. I even occasionally play games that were made during Obama's second term!

I also like to keep up with gaming culture, which is no less vital than movie or television culture. Indeed, how much more money video games make, it's arguably the most vital of the three. And that's where the terrific YouTube channel Extra Credits is indispensable.

The stated mission of Extra Credits is to "make video game design approachable by exploring concepts like gamification, perfect imbalance, the skinner box, the uncanny valley, and more." As that description suggests, there's an emphasis on design the target audience is arguably budding designers, but it's still very accessible for those who just want to learn more about the field. Written by professional game designer James Portnow, narrated in a pleasantly pitch-shifted voice by Daniel Floyd, and animated by Allison Theus (except for when it's not), it's presented as an annotated cartoon lecture.

I first became interested in Extra Credits while watching PBS Idea Channel, which I will exhort you to subscribe to at a later date. The Extra Credits folks collaborated on an Idea Channel episode about video game mechanics from October 2014, but what really piqued my interest was when Idea Channel host Mike Rugnetta stated in the follow-up episode that some people had written in the comments that they'd refused to watch because Daniel from Extra Credits had recently spoke out against GamerGate, as most anyone with a brain did at the time.

In other words, their politics are unimpeachable, which is to say they're progressive leftists. (Will I finally get a Ricky Maddow troll in the comments? Fingers crossed!) Extra Credits never actually did a GamerGate episode since they're not a topical / ripped-from-the-headlines show as such, but they did an episode about harassment back in 2012.

Their episode about the Uncanny Valley is an excellent (and necessarily unsettling) introduction to a topic that I find endlessly fascinating.

One of their strengths is making abstract concepts such as Operant Conditioning vis-à-vis the Skinner Box understandable to not-terribly-smart people such as myself.

As the harassment episode suggests, they don't shy away from the worst aspects of their culture and industry, such as calling EA to the carpet for their horrible, horrible marketing.

They also take on the notion that grittiness or hard-boiled-ness makes a game more grown-up, and what it means to be quote-mature-unquote.

Even if you don't play video games — actually, make that especially if you don't play video games — Extra Credits is a great way to keep up with what much of the rest of the population is enjoying, and it's an enjoyable way to do so.

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Sherilyn Connelly


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