February 25, 2016

Gaming Podcasts

Tags: Games, Podcasts

I have regularly produced posts on history podcasts for this blog. However, the vast majority of my podcast consumption is not focussed on history. Instead my iPod is full of music and gaming podcasts. I won’t review the music podcasts, but I do write about gaming occasionally, so I thought it may be worth giving my brief thoughts on gaming podcasts. Here is part 1: my opinion on 4 gaming podcasts. While the next part will detail 4 game design podcasts.

Three Moves Ahead is a long running podcast focusing predominately on strategy and tactical games. I am a huge fan of such games, and this is my favourite source for deciding whether a game might be something I should consider buying. Episodes are a well produced freeform discussion between a group of game journalists (often hosted by Rob Zacny). Most episodes are an incredibly detailed deep dive into the gameplay and mechanics of a single computer game (or occasionally, a board game). So detailed is the examination that I considered also including this podcast in the game design post. The games chosen are also not always the big current releases, they also look at old classics, and once a month a title chosen by their listeners (by vote). Excellent podcast and a must-listen for anyone remotely interested in strategy/tactical games (as a player or creator).

DLC is the latest gaming show from Jeff Cannata, previously from the discontinued TRS and NLB (what is with the 3 letter acronyms?). Here he joins comedian Christian Spicer and a weekly guest (journalist, developer or sometimes just a friend) in a structured discussion on current gaming news. Each episode follows a familiar progression: first is News of the Week, where the latest game news is discussed; then Playlist, talking about the games the participants played this week; and finally Tabletop Time, looking at board games (although this last section often feels like an afterthought, becoming a Jeff Cannata monologue). I find this podcast the best source of gaming news (despite it being up a week old) as the subsequent discussion is usually quite enlightening and contains reasonable (unlike Internet commenters!) and differing points of view. This show is also the most professional podcast in this list and it shows - it is a high quality production and both presenters are good speakers (no talking over each other here), but it also contains a couple of minutes of advertising (not much of a problem in a 90 minute show). While the News section is a weekly must-listen, and the Playlist an interesting discussion of current games, I usually find myself skipping Tabletop time.

Crate & Crowbar is a revolving group UK game journalists having a chat about what they are playing while drinking (alcohol), and sometimes a bit of bit news & listener questions. This is the only podcast where all the participants are actually physically together in person, and can sometimes feel like eavesdropping on a friendly work chat between knowledgeable gamers, with a side competition in who can provide the most humorous quip. It tends to require some knowledge of current games, and listeners should expect some serious and often intellectual discussion on the nature of game design and the role of games in culture (I never heard a gaming podcast mention Ludonarrative dissonance in their reviews before). There are also often entertaining stories on notable moments in games (cool, or disappointing). They generally play what ever is new that week in any genre, and if its something that doesn’t interest me I’ll just fast forward a bit. They also answer listener questions at the end and this can be a real highlight (who asks these questions? other intellectual game journalists?).

SpaceGameJunkie has only been on my listening list for a few weeks, but it is sounding good so far. This podcasts differs from the other as it is the only one made by fans rather than industry insiders (as far as I can tell). Sometime this results in questionable production quality, but also with what appears to be real interest for the games being discussed. As the title suggests this podcasts focussed exclusively on space games (although there seems to be a wide definition of that genre). The format is a discussion about a single game between two gaming fans and one or two people from the development team. There is usually an accompanying YouTube video of the game being played. The chat is always friendly, but unfortunately the devs often sound like PR people. The games covered are often small and not well known. Sometimes they are in an early stage of development and the podcast becomes a design session. The strong impression is it is just a few people who want to talk about their games and help promote them. A laudable goal and the result is worth a listen.