This week in The Moobaarn? Reach, and plenty of it. Up to Brigadier Grade 2 now, 59% Commendations. And, apart from mentioning that Grifball is my new favourite cRedit whoring method, that’s all I want to write about that.
There’s a new addition to the family this week – my first new PC since 2004. Sure, I’ve bought a couple of laptops since then, but I’ve got no hardware newer than my pre-unibody MacBook Pro. And bugger me if hardware hasn’t marched along… sure, that’s hardly an astute observation, but there’s such a massive leap in performance from my last PC that it actually makes me feel like my new mid-range video card was actually an overspend. Where the old graphics card used to cough and splutter under the Shader 2.0 efforts of my most recent PC game acquisition – Gridrunner Revolution – the new video hardware barely raises a sweat under Shader 3. And Gridrunner really benefits from the extra grunt; running it full-screen at (essentially) 1080p is akin to serving up a visual feast. Delightful, and I’m looking forward to spending some more time with Minter’s work.
But, in the absence of any game-progress-related talk (I’m saving all the best Reach-related stories for later), I thought I’d tap out a few words on a topic that has been sitting on the back-burner for a while now – gaming podcasts. And when I say “a while”, I’m talking years – I’ve got a note from July 2009 that was meant to act as a post-prompt that was conveniently ignored.
Now, I listen to a lot of podcasts – probably up around twenty hours a week. Music, current affairs, tech, politics, and – yes – gaming. But of all those topics, of all those podcasts, the gaming field has proven to be the one with the biggest turnover… because, quite frankly, a lot of them really suck.
Or, worse, are borderline offensive.
I realise that there’s a large element of personal taste involved in any podcast selection; after all, you’re essentially making new friends. You’re inviting new people into your ears. It’s like a more intimate extension of the old Zzap!64 philosophy: provide consistent personalities that the listener can learn to recognise and identify with. So when I listen to a podcast for the first time, and hear nothing but testosterone-fueled conversation which wouldn’t feel out-of-place ensconced in a date-rape joke, then you’ve lost me almost before we’ve started.
I usually give podcasts a fair bash before deciding that they’re not for me; my most recent rejection received a good dozen episodes – nearly twenty hours! – before I decided that these people just did not deserve the ear-time. Well-meaning – and even pleasant – in their own circles, I’m sure, but me and them were just never going to get along. But some gaming podcasts struggled to make it through one episode; they were people I’d be ashamed to share the same air with, as laden with narcotic fumes as it would appear to be.
But when you do get a podcast that works for you… well, it’s like a little reunion every episode. A great example of that is the Giant Bombcast crew; when I first started listening to their two-hour-plus ramblings, full of discussions on energy drinks and cooking and – hey – a little bit of video gaming, I initially thought that they’d be heading to the Reject pile. But a few episodes was enough for me to get a feel for the regulars, and their insightful gaming commentary shone through. And their recent E3 episode featuring David Jaffe is amazing, featuring a wonderful, heartfelt discussion on the interactions of design and development, with Jaffe weighing in as only he can.
I’ve tried really hard to stay positive here by not naming any podcasts that I simply don’t get along with. But here’s a list of those that are still in my RSS feed, including a few that are sadly no longer with us…
- Giant Bombcast: An audio spurt out of the Giant Bomb crew, this is probably my favourite gaming podcast at the moment. Yes, it’s usually bloody long, but it’s totally worth it – especially if you have any interest in Mortal Kombat or Starcraft (some pet loves of the crew). Great guests, passionate commentary.
- Retronauts: Just about the only 1UP podcast I can handle, even if the regulars have a seemingly unhealthy interest in the Final Fantasy series. They’ve recently shifted formats to a alternating themed call-in shows (which can be disastrous) and in-depth panels; the recent Deus Ex episode [MP3 – 92MB] was great.
- 8-4 Play: Despite the lame podcast name (and rocky first few episodes), Japanese translation company 8-4 push out this great podcast from Japan, focused on Japanese games and gaming. It’s a great alternate take on the western podcasts, and their episode that featured a surprise drop-in from Tetsuya Mizuguchi was fantastic.
- GDC Radio: GDC Radio used to have a bunch of fantastic (and free!) recordings from GDC. Sadly, they all appear to be stuck behind a paywall now;
- Kotaku Talk Radio: Another production that seems to have fallen by the wayside, the Kotaku folk put out a handful of decent shows. The show featuring Tim Schafer was beyond great, though.
- Platinum Games PGTV: No audio here, but plenty of video… including director Hideki Kamiya’s Bayonetta playthrough (with commentary!).
- Major Nelson Podcast: If you can forgive the (expected) Microsoft bias (not so apparent now, but in the year after the 360’s launch their was some real shonky “interviews” in there), this is actually a relatively enjoyable bit of banter.
- Zero Punctuation: Oh come on, is there anyone out there who doesn’t watch Yahtzee’s stuff religiously?
- The Arsecast: Hands down, the funniest gaming podcast committed to the Internet ever. Though it’s been four years(!) since an episode was released, this short-lived indie-focused one-man show is beginning-to-end brilliant. Graham loves his indie stuff, and his scripts are riotous in either their effusive enthusiasm or brutal mockery. If you can handle any level of classical British humour, download every episode forthwith… and thank me in the comments.
Apparently, there’s also a Grasshopper Manufacture podcast that’s occasionally available on their Facebook page – I’ve never seen (nor heard) one, though.
And what about the two of you out there who’ve read this? Do you have any gaming podcast faves?