Monday 24 November 2014

Feed Me: Game Podcast & Website RSS

Charlton Heston in Planet Of The Apes, Madhouse scene.

Before making games, I enveloped myself in as much professional and enthusiast coverage about games as possible. To efficiently collate all of this written and audio information, I used applications able to aggregate multiple RSS feeds and display their contents. In doing so, I built a personalised window into the industry, constructed from a diverse collection of handpicked stained-glass.

The same is true today, only my content choices have changed over time. In becoming a game developer, the information I seek has skewed towards the business of creating games, rather than consuming them. There has also been a shift towards selecting sources that efficiently deliver the information that I need.

It is important for a game designer to be aware of, if not experience, as much of the cutting edge as possible. There is not enough time to make games and play everything that is relevant or innovative, so critics opinions are still a valuable resource.

Most websites' written game criticism is heavily watered down with press releases, previews and other op-ed. Those sources that do allow reviews to be filtered into a single feed do not exclusively cover games that push the medium forward. There is a lot of cruft to sate an ad-driven business model.

With limited time to indulge in nonessential coverage, I mostly rely on podcasts for player criticism of contemporary releases, and to identify trends in consumer tastes. The limitation of recording only a few hours of audio a week results in a condensed format, discussing notable games with brevity. There is also the added benefit that a podcast can be listened to, sped up, whilst performing grokked menial tasks.

Finding podcasts that consistently deliver high quality, edifying editorial is nontrivial, as their content is not marked up in a meaningful way for search robots to crawl, and for listeners to rate.

In a previous post, I summarised those podcasts that made up my weekly smörgåsbord of listening content. The majority of these have either been retired, or have disappeared with their defunct parent websites. Those centred around the culture or design of games will remain relevant as long as their archives are intact. However, the medium's evolution continues apace, and new podcasts have emerged to beat the march.

Instead of summarising a snapshot of my current listening habits (to become a tragically outdated graveyard of content sources), I have made a Google Doc that will be pruned and updated:

Downcast is an excellent podcast aggregator for Apple products, and exports its list of podcasts in OPML (a data format underpinned by XML). By passing this document through an OPML to CSV converter, the list can easily be imported into a spreadsheet.

I have added a comma-separated “tags” column to categorise and sort podcasts, so that they can be usefully filtered based on the listeners' requirements. However, I offer no subjective assessment, other than whether I am actively listening to each episode produced.

As for written, web-based content, I consider there to be far less of a discoverability problem. Although Feedly (my chosen successor to Google Reader) has OPML export functionality, my consumption is highly developer-centric, and easily replicable. Most podcasts in the Google Doc have a parent website that also produces worthy written content, and the game developer blogs that I follow are linked to from their owners' Twitter profiles.

I will mention Gamasutra, Develop, Techmeme, iOS Board Games and Pocket Tactics, which are all stalwarts I that read daily, but do not appear in my podcast list at the time of writing.

Happy feeding!

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