Suggestions for Videos of Critical / Thematic Analysis of Games on YouTube


#1

Chrono Cross was the first game that had me running to the internet to chat with others about what the hell was going on! I couldn’t quite put the picture together myself, but as I read entry after entry on the fan site Chrono Compendium I started to see a fuller picture and LOVED the whole experience. A couple of years later I’d have a similar experience with Metal Gear Solid 2. The games were obtuse and hard to understand, but I had the feeling they were saying something special that was better understood collectively.

In retrospect, Chrono Cross is very cool but probably less deeeeeeeeeep lore than I thought, but the fansite was a critical piece of the journey.

Being a young adult with a life full of distraction led me away from games for awhile, only to suck me back in with the release of Bloodborne, and my subsequent playthroughs of the Dark Souls series! It goes without saying… the Soulsborne community is as broad as it is deep, and I LOVE it. There is a huge breadth of video content analysing it’s obscure world building, thematic consistency, and its impact on the video game community, both consumers and developers.

This kind of critical and thematic analysis has been a god sent, and with the conclusion of the Dark Souls series I’ve been on a journey to find similar kinds of content!!! Not just lore dissections (I’d love to see how much you could ring out of other game worlds, but I’m sure most don’t lend themselves as well) but discussing a games themes and impact or just interesting, evocative world details!!

TLDR: Recently I have been on a hunt to find more academic approaches to video games on YouTube, outside of reviews. I’ve realized talking (OR listening) about video games and their impact has been as entertaining as playing them for me. Does anybody have any YouTube suggestions for me?

Or, alternatively, have games not elevated themselves enough to be taken that seriously besides a few special cases?

Sorry I’m so long-winded and my thoughts seem a little disconnected. It happens when you’re at work and keep working between finishing the post. Lock me up if my threads are bad. :frowning:


#2

I’m very interested in this topic and look forward to what others suggest.

My first sugestion is probably a little obvious, as Mark Brown is a well known Youtuber. However, his series Game Maker’s Toolkit provides great insight on video game design.

My second suggestion is Writing on Games, a small-ish Youtube channel that has been growing considerably in the past months. It has “only” 85K subscribers, and the channel focus on delivering in-depth analysis and opinion pieces on games, their designs and their narratives. Hamish Black, the host, uses a very academic, “liberal art school” language and vocabulary, and I love it. It is by far my favorite YouTube channel.

I don’t think I have any more good suggestions, as any other gaming channels that I might follow and regularly watch are more closely related to the traditional coverage and reviews of games.


#3

Pretty much any cultural artifact can be taken seriously as the subject of critical analysis. Whether anyone decides to do so or not, it isn’t because a thing has or hasn’t “elevated” itself, whatever that means.

Having said that, Games as Literature and Noah Caldwell-Gervais do a good job.


#4

These are all really great suggestions. They’ve been given a sub! I’ll watch soon and report back in.

Also, I’m glad y’all are excited for more replies and I hope my rambling doesn’t sink the ship before we get many good suggestions! I realize it’s a littler… unfocused.


#5

I’ve always been a big fan of the work of Chris Franklin, AKA Errant Signal. I’d especially recommend his video on the Beginner’s Guide, but all of his essays are v good


#6

Good recommendations here, I will throw in Joseph Anderson and Electron Dance. Electron Dance’s vid on The Witness is my favorite video about a videogame ever, it is really good. (includes lots of spoilers)


#7

Ahoy makes some excellent documentary type videos and has a voice I could listen to for hours, which doesn’t hurt. Also has an extensive series on different firearms and their depictions in games, touching on what games have done to our perception of military hardware, and its prevalence in entertainment.


#8

If you’re into Bloodborne videos, you probably know about Redgrave’s Little Things In Yharnam series, but if not, definitely check it out.

Other good channels (with linked recommended videos):

Cool Ghosts
Indie Bytes
Super Bunnyhop

Also, oh, what’s this? What’s this, now? A link to my own channel? Why, that would be ever so conceited. Why, it would take a shameless narcissist to put this link up


#9

Folding Ideas/Dan Olson talks about games a bit more sporadically these days, but is still an immensely worthwhile critic that lays a lot of foundations for approaching & understanding games, even with some videos not explicitly about games. I highly recommend his videos on “The Thermian Argument” (and his game-focused followup), Ludonarrative Dissonance and Intended Play. For lighter watching here’s his videos on SOTC and Bloodborne.

It’s weird to have this many hotlinks to one dude here I know, but this dude founded a bunch of critical principles for me and every other critic I could think of were already linked here.

side note: man is Youtube game crit–even on the further left–is fuckin starved for LGBT & PoC voices. I’m hoping whatever fear of harassment that’s caused that (in myself included) is mitigated a bit by how the lefty YT community’s tightened over the years, plus a (hopefully) growing knowledge base on how to avoid that harassment altogether.


#10

I was actually just listening to his Little Thing In Yharnam: Oedon video on my way to work! I think I’m going to treat his whole channel like extra podcasts! haha

These are great suggestions!!! I’m subbing them all! (Including yours!)


#11

People are right about a lack of LGBT and PoC voices, so I’ve included a few that I know!

Eric Vs. Everything is great and its pretty small so it could use the support. His video about Sonic and Cringe Culture is really insightful.

Pushing Up Roses is fun and funny and has a very particular aesthetic and taste that she never apologizes for. Her video on sex scenes in games is great!

Siegarettes, who is a great freelancer and frequents these forums and the website, writes lightening fast and brilliant analysis of indie games. Their video on the Shadow of Colossus Remake is very smart and good.


#12

SUBSUBSUBSUBBED

I guess I just like education/entertainment a lot. Edutainment? I wish there was an easier way to search for something like that on YouTube, you know? Anytime I type “Themes of Undertale” or something, I’m going to get a bunch of songs. There should be some kind of tab that breaks up the Let’s Plays from the Reviews from the longer form critical stuff?

Idk the solution here.


#14

I spend way too much of my time checking out YouTube critics, and so I have a few other recommendations (In addition to Folding Ideas, Noah Caldwell-Gervais, and Errant Signal, which have all been mentioned already):

  • Innuendo Studios - Ian Danskin is such an underrated critic. He’s probably best known for his “Why are You So Angry?” series he put out a couple years ago (a sort of long-form critical analysis the events surrounding Gamergate), but his game/genre-specific essays are well worth your time. My personal favorite being his analysis of The Beginner’s Guide which also doubles as an introduction to semiotics.

  • RagnarRox - If you’re at all interested in what makes horror games so horrific, this is the channel for you. Ragnar is just great at finding extremely specific topics (especially ones that relate to horror tropes/influences/theory) and breaking them down in such a comprehensive and intuitive way. As of late he’s been focused mainly on talking about older games that he loves (sorta like how Cool Ghosts do their “Best Game Ever” series), which can make for some good exposure to games you might not have heard of. My favorite video of his, though, is probably this overview of the influence Junji Ito has had on the world of horror.

  • Rantasmo - Ok, so Rantasmo is, like Folding Ideas, more generally focused on media as a whole, as opposed to being specifically about games (though he definitely talks about games a decent amount). What he brings to YouTube discourse though is a fantastic pedagogy for introducing general audiences to the fun world that is queer feminist criticism. He primarily works on a series titled, “Needs More Gay”, which takes a look at a certain trope or artist or piece of media, and extrapolates the significance and ramifications of that topic over the course of about 5-10 minutes. He’ll go into talking about phenomena like how villains are often queer coded with delicate facial hair, or how the mixed manner in which Persona 4 approaches its LGBTQ characters, or – one of my favorites – why a game having one-dimensional LGBTQ characters isn’t necessarily “forcing” those characters into said game.


#15

Great suggestions! I’ve subbed, and taken the liberty of seeing who some of these content creators sub to as well. I’ll report back if I find any big wins!

(Is content creator a cringey term to use in 2018? Is cringey a cringey term to use in 2018? Am I too insecure?)


#16

If you haven’t seen Heather Alexandra’s video on the topic, which engages with some of the same ideas but gets frames it a little more positively it’s good! Come to think of it I should have put her on my list!

Not only what you mentioned, which was really insightful, but this kind of criticism is sorely needed. Seeing how business affects art is a vital part of criticism in general, but seems especially important in video games.


#17

in that vein I’ll add a recommendation for Satchell Drakes: https://www.youtube.com/user/satchbags

His updates are pretty sparse of late, but there’s some good stuff in the archives under the “Anti-Semantics” and “Case Studies” playlists.


#18

Anyone that disrespects you (especially with the term “cringe”) for using a term as innocuous as that isn’t worth earning the respect of in the first place. You’re good.

Goddammit I’ve struggled to keep up with Heather for years, probably because her content’s put in an outlet cycle I’ve never been good at paying attention to. Either way, she’s good as hell and I’m much more into her observing the differences, rather than turning the cynic crank to 11 for those differences. After all, SOTC was always a product of upper-class dev, weird gamey flourishes and a sometimes-confused approach to its artfulness, just… differently. alsoilikewandersnewfacebecauseitspeakstothegamesthemesofmalepowerfantasybeinginfantileandthefulfillmentofthatfantasyturningalreadyinfantilemenintoliteralbabiesaaaaaa

Again though, Siegarettes was an instant sub because hearing the words “ideology of progress” was music to my ears.

And yeah, business does relate to games more than any other medium, though I feel the corporate attempts at limiting our perspective on who can even make games have created an air of defeatism around what crit like this does exist. Like, itch.io was an indie revelation for me when I actually paid attention to it outside Jim Sterling’s dismissive gimmick videos, whereas we’re expected to beg for hedging platform reform and table scraps of social consciousness in AAA games, and assume everything that can be published as a “real game” has to be beholden to some terrible part of that industry or another.

There’s a casual dehumanization of the very act of making games that doesn’t need to be there anymore, yet we seem almost addicted to it. Big Walker’s Law surprise: this alienation is capitalist and a natural go-to when the whole industry of workers whose work we’re consuming has been forced to be evasive and opaque for decades!


#19

I make videos. While most are reviews with some analysis, I’m planning on doing more focused analysis videos down the road. I usually focus on indie titles and old adventure games, but other things come up every once in a while.


#20

I’m a pretty big fan of the Talking Simulator videos done by Cameron and Alex of the Loading Ready Run crew. Sometimes it’s just them gushing about a game they like, but they do always try to get to a “so what” at the end about what makes the game interesting/worth discussing.

Here’s a link to their video about Gone Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asjSNquBpN8 (These were all originally streams.)


#21

Heather also did a great series on the original SOTC before she was at Kotaku – definitely worth checking out if you have the time.

I’ve also enjoyed hbomberguy’s stuff (even though he doesn’t do a ton of game-related content), particularly his videos on Bloodborne and Dark Souls II.