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Any good gaming pod/videocasts?

May 26th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 7 Comments · Uncategorized

I love talking about gaming almost as much as I love writing about it. I don’t pretend to know all there is about the subject and there are a lot of intelligent people out there with some interesting opinions. And, being a mostly tech literate audience, you would expect there to be a plethora of great gaming podcasts or videocasts out there.

But I can’t find that many of them.

Not that there aren’t popular ones out there. The 1up Show was recommended to me, and it’s pretty good as these things go. Well produced, just about the right length, etc. But there are too many people for me to keep track of, and something like this depends on personality as much as content. A strong show should have a limited cast; following 1up around E3 was a bit of a chore.

PCGamer‘s podcast is quite good and is also PC focused; Dan Morris is a strong host but his guests and co-hosts vary in ability from episode to episode. The camraderie is clear, but sometimes the inside jokes can take over the conversation.

Some people have suggested the Gaming Steve podcast, but it often clocks in at over an hour – sometimes almost two. I hope the theme song is a joke, because it’s terrible. Steve’s enthusiasm is good, but I find it hard to keep focused on one voice for so long. The developer interviews are decent, but suffer from the same problem that keeps me from paying much attention to interviews with movie directors or actors; asking people about their work is much less interesting when they are also plugging a project.

I’ve been listening on and off to the Poweruser podcast. Most of it is tech news I have no interest in, but they’ve isolated the game segment for listening ease. It’s part of the media empire of Stardock’s Brad Wardell, so he is a regular panelist though moderating duties are left to someone else. Some people have found a change in quality from the point when the ubiquitous Tom Chick was succeeded by Joel Hulsey. I don’t see that. I do think that Wardell is sometimes too dominant a presence in the podcast, and Chick could usually match him – though then the third guy was left aside. My major complaint is one that applies to many podcasts – I have a very hard time telling the male voices apart.

I’ve dabbled with others, but for the most part the limitations of the form become clear. This sort of thing really depends on personality. It’s one thing to read a guy’s 1000 word review of a game, but a really different skill to come across in conversation as an interesting person. People need personality and not everyone does, no matter how well meaning or enthusiastic they seem. A lot of chemistry can come across in video, but it’s not easy to demonstrate this on a radio program.

Plus, as interesting as games are, if you need to fill forty minutes it’s almost impossible to avoid hitting the same topic over and over again. Episode 1: World of Warcraft! Episode 2: Girls in Games! Episode 3: Jack Thompson sucks! Add in an annual E3 episode and you have your schedule for the year.

I’ve often joked that we need a gaming Siskel and Ebert, or even better, McLaughlin Group – put some strong opinionated people in a room, give them an outline of what’s being covered (too many podcasts seem improvised) and see what happens. Maybe not Derek Smart strong opinionated, but at least people interesting enough to generate some heat.

Is this too showbiz? Maybe. But few things are as dull as people who agree with each other all the time. You do want people to laugh at each other’s jokes. And be professional. But why not put up some topics that gamers really disagree on? Is the Action-RPG a step back in game design? Is World of Warcraft actually bad for the industry? Is innovation dead? Is PC gaming?

These topics could get tired, too. And maybe somebody has covered them and I missed the debate. But have game developers ever been asked really interesting questions on these shows? Gaming Steve is so big on Spore that he mentions it every chance he gets – his interview with some of the Spore people was short on really interesting stuff that we couldn’t figure out from the movies.

So help me. Help me find a podcast or video cast that I could listen to weekly. Because I can’t believe that there’s nothing great out there.


7 Comments so far ↓

  • Xaroc

    Our tastes must vary because you basically listed what I listen to every week. I commute 3 hours each day so maybe I just need to fill more time but I really like Gaming Steve and his long podcasts. 1UP is great as well, they seem to have a good set of personalities and know their stuff. The Hotspot (from Gamespot) is pretty good. PCGamer is better than CGW but both are passable. Oh and Major Nelson’s podcast is quite good but it is very Xbox 360 focused so probably not what you are looking for.

    If Jason and I ever get off of our ass and do our podcast we might be listenable to but we talk a lot about consoles as well so we might bore you as well.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    I may be just hard to please.

    Part of it is that I only listen to this stuff as background when I am writing on my computer. So the need is slightly different than commuting – that’s what NPR and Top 40 are for.

    1Up know their stuff, to be sure. These people all know their stuff. Knowledge is not the issue so much as making me feel I *have* to come back next week. I’ve missed probably a dozen Poweruser episodes but it is by far the one I listen to most. Where’s the draw for the listener? What is the value added?

    Maybe I’m just not a podcast person.

  • Dan

    Hi Troy, this is Dan Stapleton from PCGP. We’re always looking for ways to improve the podcast, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on what you’d rather hear us talk about. Drop me a line at DanS@pcgamer (dot) com and let me know what we can do to make you a regular listener.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Hey, Dan. Thanks for stopping by.

    I wish I had some clear ideas on what would make PCGP better. It is already near or at the top of the quality meter. As I said in my first comment, maybe I don’t get what makes a podcast work for me.

    But I’ll re-listen to the last four or five and see if I can pinpoint what I think would make it a weekly listen instead of “when I get around to it.”

  • Anonymous

    Have you tried CGW’s podcast (cgwradio.1up.com)? It suffers from some of the same problems of the other shows (people blend together, sometimes not focused enough and can ramble) but Jeff Green stands out as, well, Jeff Green. Sometimes that’s enough to carry the whole thing.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    “Sometimes that’s enough to carry the whole thing.”

    Absolutely. I think that Morris on PCG and Wardell on the Poweruser one redeem much of the failings of the medium.

    I will admit to not spending much time with the CGW one, though I will in my continuing quest for good podcasting.

    Once the summer starts, I expect to listen to more of these.

  • Bruce

    I just realized PTI is available as a podcast. Who needs gaming?