Friday 13 August 2010

Podcasts on the Menu this Week

Tyranid Pod Cast

The volume of high quality, edifying editorial being recorded in podcast form has exploded in the past few years. I listen exclusively to gaming podcasts, and even when restricting myself to one genre the choice can be overwhelming. Thank goodness for the double speed playback: twice the information, half the awkward silences.

I try to concoct a mixture of content each week that covers news, reviews, features, and design focussed discussion. Over time I've established weekly staples that automatically get a listen, supplemented by more sporadically released podcasts that are a nice surprise when they drop.

My Staple Podcasts

Four rotating seats discuss four topics chosen each week, including a community topic. The intelligent discourse examines videogaming trends that may not be covered by conventional news sources. This podcast takes me to a more contemplative place than my usual news-watching perch, and its variety is always a pleasant surprise. Senior members of the editorial staff from EGM and 1UP founded Bitmob after Ziff-Davis sold those properties to UGO.

Gamers With Jobs - Conference Call
Stalwarts of a community-written blog come together to discuss noteworthy news, what they've been playing, meaty feature topics, and listener emails. I particularly like the diversity of the ever-changing hosts and their insight into niche areas of gaming that larger publications often overlook.

The Joystiq Podcast is my favourite fire-hose of information. There are several uber blogs covering videogames in minute detail, but none has a podcast as consistently entertaining as Joystiq. Come for the chemistry between the hosts, stay for the comprehensive news coverage and bulletproof editorial.

Rebel FM
Irreverent. This podcast is stocked with the up-and-coming generation of young videogame journalists that talk about what they like, when they like, and only pay passing care as to whether they've offended their employers enough to lose their jobs by the end of recording. Also formed from ex-1UP journalists, this podcast takes a more organic approach to content than the structured Mobcast. Usual topics include games they've been playing, bombshell news items, and relationship advice for geeks, all delivered in a delightfully abusive tone.

Games, Dammit! still has enough quality broadcasters after the exodus to produce another top-notch podcast to fill the 1UP Yours shaped hole that was left. This is evidence that the blog was harbouring well above its quota of journo talent before their dispersion. The content is similar to the news-driven Joystiq podcast, but is delivered by a very different collection of personalities. These guys present opinions with a been-there, done-that attitude, meaning that iterative, uninspiring games are given short shrift. Quite right too!

Surprising Podcasts

A Life Well Wasted
This is Robert Ashley's vision for the maturation of videogame podcasting. The programme examines the human stories behind games, as Robert travels across the US to interview a wildly eclectic group of people. Every episode has a theme that each interview relates to, and is delivered with the level of production found in NPR's This American Life. It's an absolute treat.

The Brainy Gamer Podcast
Michael Abbott is a smart, prolific writer, who loves games and has an academic approach to his analysis. No wonder he's able to attract an incredible array of industry guests onto the Brainy Gamer podcast. His thoughtfully selected topics enable the show to break away from the usual regurgitation and prodding of the news. Listening to this well-schooled host always delivers a great return on your time.

Another Castle
Podcasts by videogame designers are a relatively new thing. Finding the time to externalise your own thoughts and processes when developing a game is difficult, and you're always conscience that your audience may not want to know how the sausage gets made. Another Castle takes the sausage, dissects it, and bombards it with discourse until its elements are known. Charles J Pratt has been a game designer since he graduated from NYU's famous ITP course. The host calls on luminaries associated with ITP to bring their scholarship to bear on the subject of game design, delivering gonzo one-on-one interviews.

Out of the Game
GFW Radio was the jewel in Ziff-Davis' podcast crown before the UGO acquisition. When GFW shed its staff they scattered like seeds, each sprouting new endeavours. Out of the Game is an audio record of the infrequent meeting of the bros. when they get back together to chew the fat. Tangential and enthralling, it's the closest you'll get to GFW Radio after they broke up the band.

Irrational Behaviour
One of the contributors to Out of the Game is Shawn Elliott. He was most famous on GFW Radio for his ability to tell surprising, and often morbid, stories that highlighted how strange life really can be. The breadth of the subject matter, and depth to which each story had been researched, alluded to Shawn not only being interested in games. When he did talk about games he did so in a similarly intelligent way, which put him in the category of critic rather than reporter. It was not shocking that he would go on to apply his critical ability and broader interests in the industry, at Irrational Games. Shawn now produces the Irrational Behaviour podcast to showcase Irrational's staff, and give an insight into how they make their games. Keep your eyes peeled for Irrational Interviews episodes too: Shawn Elliott and Irrational's main man, Ken Levine, endeavour to broadcast interviews with people in the wider gaming industry.

The RPS Electronic Wireless Show
PC gaming is great. The walled garden of console gaming is fantastic for a no-fuss, high premium experience, but if you're a gamer and you're not getting your hands dirty in the crash-happy world of personal computer gaming, then you're only scratching the surface of the marvels available to you. The audience for computer games is enormous as almost everyone with electricity has a PC; even my parents! Combine this with an open platform without licensing fees, and the PC is fertile ground for the weird and wonderful world of niche gaming. Let Rock Paper Shotgun be your guide. The Illuminati of the British gaming press nail proper journalism and criticism with aplomb, and occasionally connect their minds directly to their mouths and record it.

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