The more observant of you may have noticed that this article has been uploaded on the wrong day. Well actually, no it hasn’t. From now on, Robin’s Rants will be published on Thursdays instead of the traditional Wednesday (can you have a tradition that’s two months old?). This is for a number of reasons, namely school timetabling (I have longer to write on a Wednesday afternoon than on Tuesday) and so that each of the three columnists gets a fair amount of time on the front page. All satisfied? Good. On with the article.Ooh, and today’s art is by the wonderful Florosprout once again. You rock, Floro!
If you don’t know what Extra Credits is, it’s definitely worth watching, so visit here to see what the fuss is about. Essentially, it’s a slideshow-like presentation in the style of Yahtzee Croshaw’s Zero Punctuation, but with a squeaky Canadian narrator, a game designer writing the episodes and one of the best artists on the internet (I said one of, Florosprout, don’t hit me with a tablet!).
They look at gaming and games in detail, much as I do every week here, creating an informative and entertaining show that’s almost guaranteed to broaden your mind, much as I don’t here every week.
Recently, Extra Credits were caught up in a lot of gaming media coverage after a large contract dispute with their host website, The Escapist and its parent media group Themis Media. The dispute resulted from the question of what to do with a huge surplus of fundraiser money that was used to fund Allison (Extra Credits’ artist) for her career-saving arm operation (for she lives in one of those backwards countries where you have to pay to be ill). The Escapist’s line was that the money should be put back into the website to fund more shows, while James Portnow (Writer of Extra Credits) pushing for the establishment of a not-for-profit publishing company aimed at getting small developers their first big break.
It then emerged that the trio hadn’t been paid in several months, as a result of some financial trouble on the part of Themis Media, who at the time owed them some $20,000. This brought forward a number of other complaints from smaller contributors against the website, alleging that they too had been left behind on payment.
It’s a political minefield within the industry, one which I’m very interested in, but I was careful to avoid the specific topic when I caught up with Extra Credits founder and narrator, as well as Pixar Canada Animator, Daniel Floyd. I hope you’ll agree it gives an interesting perspective on gaming!
Robin: At what stage did you become involved in Extra Credits? Where did the concept come from?Daniel: I was more or less the creator of the show. It started as a pair of class presentations I made while attending SCAD. I had to give a ten minute oral presentation for a research thesis, and I opted to make an entertaining video presentation instead. I quoted an article by James pretty heavily in the second of those presentations and sent it to him later. He invited me to make “episodes” based on his other articles, and soon he was writing new scripts for them. About a year later, he managed to land us a weekly deal with The Escapist, and we brought Allison on to take over the art duties.R: What parts of each episode are each of you mainly involved in? (writing, research, art etc.) How much time does it take up?D: Obviously I still do the narration, but I’m also filling a sort of editing/production role. I keep track of every episode from start to finish and make sure we’ve always got one ready to go each week. My role starts when James sends me a rough script. He and I take turns revising and polishing it, and then I record the narration when we’re happy with it. After that, I send it off to Allison, who spends about a week creating the art. Once she sends me the video, I’ll do an editing pass in Final Cut, polishing the timing, adding intro and outro credits, etc. Then I render it and upload it a day or two before it “airs”. At any given time, I’m probably working on three different episodes at different stages of completion.R: Your videos, especially their video-without-video style, seem quite similar to Yahtzee Croshaw’s Zero Punctuation series. Was there any influence there or was it purely coincidence?D: Definitely at the beginning. When I made those first “proto-Extra Credits” episodes for class, Zero Punctuation had just started, and I thought it would be fun to imitate the format. Since then, I think we’ve settled into our own style, but Zero Punctuation and other “slideshow” type videos were definitely the original inspiration.R: Could you make an estimate on the amount of time it’ll take until the controversy about game content dies down, much as it did with film in the early 1990s? Why do you think controversies like these die down?D: These controversies usually seem to start with the younger generation latching on to something new (jazz, heavy metal, rap, comic books, violent movies, etc), something scary and unfamiliar to their parents and grandparents, who raise a big fuss about it. But then time passes and the younger generation grows older, and that “scary new thing” becomes more widely accepted. And then that younger generation’s kids find some new thing and the cycle repeats.I feel like we’re already in the process of seeing it happen for us, simply because the gaming generation is getting older now. The average gamer is an adult. Scare-mongering news reports seem to fall on increasingly skeptical ears. I’d guess (and this is a completely uneducated guess) that we’ve still got another decade or so of residual controversy to wade through. There will probably always be a subset of people who cling to that controversy, but they will represent such a minority opinion that it won’t make much difference.R: Do you see yourself still being involved with Extra Credits in, say, five years? Or do you think you’ll move onto other things?D: If the show is still around, I’m determined to be involved in some way. Although Extra Credits is now as much James’s and Allison’s show as it is mine, I still feel a lot of personal creative attachment to it. I don’t know what role I’ll be filling in five years, but I’ll definitely still be involved somehow.R: Do you have a favourite console or game? If so, which one?D: My list of favorites is incredibly long, but I usually default to Psychonauts.
Well there we go I suppose. Daniel Floyd happens to be one of my favourite internet personalities, and I’d like to wish him and the rest of the Extra Credits team good luck in their future pursuits. For now, I’ll finish by rounding up what I’ve been saying as an Overclocked Remix version of a classic game song slowly fades in over my voice. Extra Credits rules, and they can be assured of a very loyal viewer as long as I’m around. They inspired me to do what I do today and I hope that we’ll have some more correspondence in years to come.