[8 June 2011]
PopMatters Multimedia Editor
While this week is all E3 news and its ensuing gaming press hullabaloo, I thought that I’d take a minute to point out a few podcasts that exist outside the standard enthusiast press. While by no means a comprehensive list of some of the good podcasts that are out there, these are a few of the shows that I enjoy listening to regularly that tend to go beyond merely talking about the latest games but, instead, consider games in more depth, from a variety of angles, and usually with an eye towards analysis and critique, rather than mere evaluation. In a word, these are a group of the more thoughtful podcasts out there on gaming.
So, if you’re looking for some smart discussion on video games while you are out and about this summer, these are a few podcasts that you might want to have a listen to.
Michael Abbot’s Brainy Gamer blog has been one of the more important hubs of thoughtful game conversation on the net for the last few years. By bringing together those interested in gaming from various backgrounds, including games journalists, academics, bloggers, and just plain gaming enthusiasts, Abbot has managed to create one of the most civil spaces for discussion of games, games as art, and games as performance on the web. While he has produced fewer podcasts in recent months (though a couple new ones arrived very recently), he has a back catalog of discussions with interesting guests and interesting topics that is well worth combing through.
Abbot’s civility and curiosity is ever present in these discussions, leading to interesting back and forth between guests and host. His respect for his listeners, guests, and gaming itself make it clear why such a unique community has formed around his site. You can find his podcast at www.brainygamer.com.
According to hosts Scott Juster and Jorge Albor, “ExperiencePoints.net is a site dedicated to the serious—but not humorless—analysis of video games and culture,” which is a pretty apt description. It may seem like a bit of nepotism on my part suggesting Juster and Albor’s podcast as some of the best on the net, given that they also write for PopMatters. However, the reason that I asked them to write for this site in the first place was based largely on having listened to their podcast and reading their blog for the last year or two and always coming away impressed with the level of conversation there.
Juster and Albor’s weekly show is most often a discussion between the two hosts—with only occasional guests dropping by. The format works very well though, as this allows the two to very sharply analyze an issue in gaming in a tight, focused conversation that usually clocks in around 30-45 minutes. Additionally, they have most recently added a new series of shows called The IndieCast, which focuses on discussions of independent titles in gaming. They have a pretty extensive archive of episodes, which can be found at www.experiencepoints.net.
The Digital Cowboys Podcast
While I initially dismissed The Digital Cowboys podcast as just too long to listen to on a regular basis (each episode usually runs over two hours), I have found myself drawn back to the site most every week to listen to new episodes and catch up on old episodes because they are just too often too damned good to ignore.
The show is well served by the wit and good humor of Alex Shaw and Tony Atkins, who serve as good foils for one another. The two have a uniquely fruitful chemistry as they discuss games with a plethora of guests on a host of topics. I very recently pointed out two episodes that I especially admire of theirs (one on death in games and one on sex in video games), and I still contend that either one is good place to start for the uninitiated. You’ll probably remain hooked on their discussion, as I have. You can find their rather massive list of shows at thedigitalcowboys.com.
Hosted by Charles J. Pratt, Another Castle is a podcast focused on discussions with both creators of video games and thinkers on gaming culture. Pratt’s show is incredibly well produced. Discussion is accompanied by ambient noise, giving these sit downs a sense of intimacy, as if you are listening to Pratt and his guest having a chat in a downtown bistro.
Pratt’s interview style is the best kind, as he knows how to get out of the way of his guests and let them speak to a topic, but he also knows when to engage in debate and discussion to tease out the most interesting points in a conversation. You will hear from everyone from interesting indie designers like Anna Anthropy to thoughtful academics like Jesper Juul and McKenzie Wark. His shows are well worth a listen and can be found at gamedesignadvance.com.
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