Do you like video games? Do you think they can be more than just a toy? An art form, useful for education maybe, inclusive for everyone? Then today’s Web Crush, Extra Credits, may be right for you.
Created and presented by game designer James Portnow, animator/narrator Daniel Floyd, and rotating artists Allison Theus, Elisa “LeeLee” Scaldaferri, and Scott DeWit, Extra Credits is a show that presents lessons about video games and the culture and industry around them.
They do three things that make me happy. First, they do an excellent job of teaching about various mechanics and ideas in gaming. For a budding developer, or anyone interested in the process, these videos could be pretty beneficial. Additionally, they are well-researched, occasionally funny, and well thought out. They cover a large array of topics, ranging from design and the gaming community to the industry and its careers. Naturally, these topics are helpful ways to improve gaming as a construct and hopefully the culture with it.
Speaking of culture, the show also aims to teach about how games can be used for more than just entertainment. Recently, and throughout the show’s run, they’ve talked about using video games as an aid for education. They’ve also warned against some of the issues of such endeavors, like not using games as babysitters, or what pitfalls might affect the application of video games into educational settings. Continuing with their commitment to culture, there are many videos about different kinds of diversity and how to defend and foster it. Included are videos about gender, racial, and religious groups and how to represent these properly in games, and by extension, culturally.
The third thing Extra Credits does is related to diversity, and is also the thing I love the most. It is one thing to talk a big game about diversity and representation, but it is another thing entirely to be actually inclusive. The set of characters in the videos is fairly mixed. Sure, most of the animated people are just generic proxies for positions like gamer, developer, etc., but they cover many groups casually. There are characters of various ages, races, genders, and cliques. Some fit archetypes like hipster, professional, or casual. This consideration runs deeply for me. I don’t recall ever actually crying from happiness until an episode of this show. It was a small gesture, probably not even a huge thought for the artist. But, in an episode about how Minecraft could shape future developers the team described that games would be passed generation to generation, and the mother and child pictured were Black. It brought a tear to my eye.
I often talk about how important it is to see characters like yourself in media and this hit that point perfectly. Many times, “diverse” groups are characterized by their “otherness”, or their characteristics are made the center of advertising or controversy. However, here, the characters are portrayed as normal! Their race isn’t even brought up! This is often EC’s method of showing any different type of person in their shows; it’s incidental unless otherwise noted.
It’s this implied message of community and education that makes Extra Credits important not only in terms of the gaming community, but in its accessibility to the general public as well. Extra Credits blends together these three points to create a program that shows what the gaming industry can be, rather than what it is today. They should be applauded for not just telling their points, but by showing as well. Although these three points are what make the show special to me, there’s something for everyone. You can find them on YouTube at Extra Credits and Twitter @ExtraCreditz if you want to keep up with them.