Review: Extra Credits

Extra Credits Title Card

Being a far-left pretentious snobbish hipster, I have a very deep personal investment in some very hippie-esque things, such as free education. I am a very firm believer in the idea that all knowledge should be free and available to all, which is why I’m such a fierce advocate for the public domain and universal access to informational resources.

One thing that intensely frustrates me is the general lack of quality, open resources for learning things such as computer programming or 3d modeling. In general, within the tech world, if you want to get into a career you have to fork over a pretty penny for training. I consider this to be nothing short of ridiculous, as it costs nothing to download everything you need to do either of those things; rather, you instead have to pay a stupidly huge amount of money to simply learn how to do those things.

It is for that reason that I weep with joy every time I see low-to-no-cost, quality, entertaining, effective resources for learning new skills. One example of such a resource is how-to-draw books, which contributed a great deal to my development as an artist.

Of course, there are many, many skills that don’t get remotely enough coverage by such accessible learning tools. As I’ve said in my reviews introduction, the purpose of my reviews is to either discuss or recommend works. It is for this reason that I plan on reviewing accessible, quality educational resources; whenever I find such a resource for a little-covered subject, I consider it to be my duty to give it as much attention as possible so that other aspiring artists might also receive the same wise guidance that I did.

For an introduction to science, I recommend Bill Nye the Science Guy. For beginning a pursuit of drawing comics, I recommend Making Comics by Scott McCloud. And finally, for an invaluable, free course in game design, I recommend Extra Credits.

This show began as a college project for Daniel Floyd, who would go on to be an animator for Pixar. HIs very first video was on women in video games (and incidentally, my own researching of the subject is what caused me to discover this show in the first place). When he formally launched the first “official” episode, Bad Writing, his team consisted of himself as the narrator, esteemed games designer James Portnow as his writer, and artist Allison Theus to create the visuals. Its style is casual yet intellectual; it is drawn in a pleasantly cartoonish art style, with frequent sight gags and explanatory visual aids to illustrate what Daniel says. Though there is an expected literacy in games from the audience, the creators generally attempt to make it accessible through explaining and highlighting the specific relevent aspects of the games they discuss. In their pursuit of the teaching of game design theory, they also discuss the achievements and techniques of other media and how to apply it to the betterment of the media of games. For instance, in their antiheroes episode they discuss the works of Lord Byron (a major codifier of the archetype) and the antiheroes therein. They compare the Byronic heroes to mainstream antiheroes in video games, highlighting a perceived lack of true depth in video game antihero protagonists and proposing how that might be remedied.

This show is extremely entertaining. Not only is it very funny, but its great optimism and enthusiasm for its subject matter result in clearly heartfelt performances. If you’re like me and love (some kinds of) horror and cyberpunk, you’ll be especially pleased; they cover such topics frequently.

Their advice is very solid, too. I’ve played and made games with their observations and advice in mind, and as it turns out they’re largely correct about most of what they talk about; by and large, when games are in accordance with their advice, I find them to be better constructed and more entertaining than when they don’t.

Of course, there are things that I disagree with them about, most notably their position on the place of the story in the game making process. Personally, I believe that it’s a perfectly valid practice to begin with a story first before designing gameplay around it (after all, for games such as RPGs, the story is the entire point, and thus should be the first concern). Of course, this might be nothing more than an artistic difference.

I cannot stress how good this series is. It was one of the main inspirations for the style of this blog, and I wish the world had far more things like it. If you want to begin getting into the show, I recommend you start with Video Game Music, since it’s a very accessible yet informative and entertaining episode that’s a great way to ease yourself into it.

Once you’ve seasoned yourself a bit and have watched several episodes, I recommend you watch Call of Juarez: The Cartel, which in my opinion is their best episode. However, it is also one of their heaviest; it’s about the potential danger that laziness in game design can pose to our ideological clarity and understanding. It is a call for game creators to take their craft seriously, and I sincerely wish that everyone in any way involved or interested in games would watch it.

If you want to ease your mind a bit after that somber experience, I recommend you watch their Games You Might Not Have Tried series; it is my favorite collection of episodes, and many of those games are now in my steam library and I wholeheartedly recommend the rest of you to play many of them as well.

This show is, overall, a masterpiece that I adore.