Over the years that led to me being here at Marooners’ Rock, there have been plenty of journalists, shows, and critical pieces that have inspired me to constantly strive for better understanding of the video game medium as well as increase my quality in my work. These are just a few of the authors that I feel like do exceptional work, beyond the scope needed of a typical review. These are the academics of the gaming world, those truly expanding the minds of all sides of the process of creating and consuming video games. Here are my five favorite video game journalists and inspirations.
Hopefully these picks will inspire others in the industry as well. Plus if there are other journalists or projects that I should look into, please let me know on social media or in the comments below. Note, that these are in no particular order or ranking.
Jim Sterling – The Jimquisition
Jim Sterling of the Jimquisition stands as a stalwart defender of journalism and fair and open criticism of the medium. Through his hilarious takes on gaming’s best and worst moments, Sterling has cut a name for himself deeply into the mountain of the industry. Previously found on Escapist Magazine, Sterling now leads his own ad-free website that includes a ton of content ranging from articles, videos, and podcasts that’s all being supported directly by fans through Patreon.
Of course, Sterling is also the one that often calls out game development companies for shady business, at one point even being sued for millions of dollars by Digital Homicide. If that case had been lost by Sterling, we may be seeing a much darker agenda to video game writing in general where publishers control review scores and scrub away negative opinions. I’ve always found Sterling to come off as a brutally honest, brilliant critic, and I’ll continue enjoying the way he views the gaming world.
Website – The Jimquisition
Youtube – Jim Sterling
Podcast – Podquisition (also with Laura Kate and Gavin Dunne)
Mark Brown – Game Maker’s Toolkit
Mark Brown takes a systematic, almost mathematical approach to games, often dissecting them in elaborate ways that I had never even considered. His silky voice is enough to remind one of the best National Geographic documentaries, but far more interesting to those that love the video game world. Known best for Boss Keys, a critical look at dungeons in the Legend of Zelda franchise, Brown continues to pump out fantastic, thoughtful work on his Youtube show the Game Maker’s Toolkit.
Brown has a staggering resume, working for sites like Edge, Wired, Eurogamer, and more. While this finely tuned shaping of his craft obviously should lead to interesting work, the amount of intelligence and determination imbued into every script is surprising and infectious. Truly, this man could be the study of game design on the academic level, a supplement and source of inspiration for students in both the design side and the writing side of games.
Youtube – Game Maker’s Toolkit
Youtube – Boss Keys
James Portnow and Daniel Floyd – Extra Credits
I cannot praise the efforts of the Extra Credits show enough, which funnily also stemmed from Escapist Magazine. They find such great talent! Anyways, Extra Credits touts the phrase, “Because games matter” as their banner. I’ve always found that endearing, especially when we deal in a medium that is often put down by the populace at large as being childish, one that still struggles to be recognized as the artistic expression that it always has been. Powered by the writing and musings of one of the game industry’s finest thinkers, James Portnow, and presented by the cartoon caricature and squeaky voice of Daniel Floyd, Extra Credits teaches its viewers about all sorts of happenings in the gaming world, all with a flair for education and discussion encouragement.
Actually, Extra Credits is what got me into pursuing video games in a more academic sense. In fact, most of my writing sessions start with an episode of Extra Credits and a cup of tea. During PAX I actually got to see Portnow’s panel and asked a pretty deep question about emulation. Even got him to sign my copy of Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero before he was dragged away by a crowd. Extra Credits is surrounded with good talent and their shows include things about the medium that are just worth considering and talking about with our peers.
Youtube – Extra Credits
Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw – Zero Punctuation
Zero Punctuation was probably one of my earliest tastes of video game criticism with an edge, presented in a flurry of words spoken in British idioms, all on a yellow backdrop. I actually first was introduced to Croshaw during my regular watching of X-Play, which was the show and personalities that had me entertaining the idea of being a game journalist. At the end of each viewing of the episode, Adam and Morgan would claim there was more on Escapist Magazine and since then I’ve religiously gone to that site every Wednesday to see Yahtzee’s next take on whatever game he chose for that week.
Croshaw is also one of the few authors on this list for whom I’ve pursued their other work. I picked up his book Mogworld and after reading it, quickly shared it with all my friends. Even today, I’m not sure where that book is, because we’ve passed it around so much. If uncensored, often alarmingly eye-opening dialogue is what’s on the table, then Croshaw is the journalist to look up.
Website – Zero Punctuation on Escapist Magazine
Blog – Fully Ramblomatic
George Weidman – Super Bunnyhop
While I’ve been a big fan for many years of the other figures on this list, George Weidman’s creative outlet, Super Bunnyhop, is a new obsession. Similar to Mark Brown’s essay style videos, Weidman often takes interesting moments in the gaming world and explains them with academic precision and extrapolation. Each episode is informative on multiple levels and the topics are always getting at something deeper. One of the best works I have seen from Weidman is his study on the Witcher game series, where he also dives into the English releases of the novels. It’s a journey worth hearing about in his series.
I always walk away from a Super Bunnyhop video feeling educated and wanting to revisit the game’s he discusses with a newfound lens or to find something I may have missed out on. Weidman’s timeless style on his video pieces are wonderful and his website writings have that same air of quality.
Website – Super Bunnyhop
Youtube – Super Bunnyhop
Video game journalism is once again extremely complex, mostly because of the complexity of the medium. These five authors are the ones I look to for inspiration and to get myself in the tone that I like to adopt when talking about games in a more academic sense. Though, there are plenty more critics that I’m discovering every week and I didn’t even get a chance to talk about my original inspirations, Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb of X-Play.
Criticism helps define the work further, with hopes for improvement of the art form and the people involved. I grow a little bit every time I write a piece and I hope someone grows a bit while reading it. This exchange of ideas is what I love so much about writing on games and I’ll continue improving through the rigorous study of this fantastic art medium.
Here’s hoping my writings are striking a chord somewhere and that I’ll continue to find more excellent academics in the gaming world.
Did I miss a phenomenal critic? Let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter.