Welcome to The Culture Club, a new column on Leviathyn about gaming media and culture. This week, we present five gaming podcasts you need to be listening too. So sit back, drink some tea, and listen to awesome people talk about video games.
The gaming media’s shift toward highly-opinionated, personality-driven content can be best exemplified by the rise of podcasting. Podcasts, for the uninitiated, are downloadable radio shows, available by RSS subscription. Unsurprisingly, talking about games translates incredibly well to the radio-show style format of podcasts. Because of this, some of the most intelligent and hilarious discussion regarding modern video games have come from podcasts.
However, podcasts can be daunting for potential listeners. Simply put, there are way too many of them out there, and it can be hard to find the good ones. To simplify the process of discovery, below you’ll find five of the best gaming podcasts currently available, tailored to specific viewer tastes. If you can’t find something good here, you probably shouldn’t be listening to podcasts.
Note: For the sake of dispelling bias accusation, Leviathyn’s own podcast, the Leviacast, isn’t included on this list. Even though it’s great and you should listen to it!
For Intelligent Discussion Mixed With Frequent Hilarity: The Giant Bombcast
Hosts: Ryan Davis, Jeff Gerstmann, Brad Shoemaker, Vinny Caravella, Patrick Klepek
As the arguable creators of the Let’s Play format, Giant Bomb was one of the pioneer “videos-about-video-games” sites. Their podcast, the Giant Bombcast, mixes their irrelevant, deep-pull pop culture style of humor with intelligent discussion about games and the industry as a whole. Topics vary wildly from 90s hip-hop and ska to Little Ceaser’s to the principle of game design, but host Ryan Davis has the uncanny ability to move the conversation naturally between the tangents and discussion. It leads to a podcast that is paced substantially better than it should be, especially considering it’s monster three-hour plus running time. Listen if you want intelligent conversation paired with laugh-out-loud hilarity.
For Thoughtful, Well-Produced Audio Journalism: A Life Well Wasted
Host: Robert Ashley
The passion project of journalist-turned-musician Robert Ashley, A Life Well Wasted is sporadically updated and prone to year-long hiatuses. It says something, then, that the episodes are almost worth the wait. Meticulously produced and brilliantly mixed, A Life Well Wasted is the This American Life of gaming podcasts. With episodes centered around a central idea, like “Work” or “Play”, Ashley interviews mostly unknowns from the gaming industry and greater culture, exposing their often heartbreaking and inspiring stories in a respectful yet dramatic manner. With an archive of only eight episodes, ALWW is easy to dive into, and completely recommended for those looking for something a little more thoughtful.
For Glimpses Into Podcasting History: Weekend Confirmed
Quick history lesson, people: one of the first popular video game podcasts was 1up.com’s 1UP Yours, hosted primarily by Garnett Lee, John Davison, and Shane Bettenhausen. Because of it’s pioneering, adult discussion of games, 1UP Yours was groundbreaking, it’s influence is still felt in podcasts and gaming media as a whole. Even today, it’s still widely regarded as the best podcast of all time.
It’s no surprise then, that Garnett Lee’s current podcast, Weekend Confirmed, is at it’s best when it’s a reunion episode. This casts a bit of damper on the other episodes, but Lee has crafted a show that’s engaging even when he’s the only Yours veteran on. Co-host Jeff Cannata is funny and his optimism is infectious, but the rotating guests are generally more hit or miss. Still, segments adapted from 1UP Yours still remain springboards for engaging discussion, and Lee is one of the best hosts in radio.
For Just A Damned Good Podcast About Video Game: Rebel FM
Hosts: Arthur Gies, Anthony Gallegos, Mitch Dyer, Matt Chandronait
Born out of the cancelled 1UP FM, Rebel FM is a simple podcast. Four people sit in a room, and they talk about goddamned video games. And then sometimes they read letters. Compared to the complexity of ALWW, the sudo-skits of the Bombcast, and the highly-segmented nature of Weekend Confirmed, Rebel FM’s simplicity is refreshing, and the addition of IGN’s Mitch Dyer has rejuvenated the stagnating show. The discussion here is simple, light and casual, and if that’s what you’re looking for, Rebel FM is fantastic.
For Something Off-Topic: My Brother, My Brother, and Me and/or The Comedy Button
Hosts: Justin, Griffin, and Travis McElroy (MBMBAM), Brain Altano, Ryan Scott, Scott Bromley, Max Scoville, Anthony Gallegos (The Comedy Button)
Both featuring casts primarily made up of day-job games journalist, The Comedy Button and My Brother, My Brother, And Me are two frequently hilarious and constantly off-topic podcasts. The Comedy Button is a vulgar collection of the host’s insights and life stories, usually relating in some way to sex, drinking, or zoo animals. While the crew frequently falls back on old inside-jokes and belittling co-host Ryan Scott, the podcast is hilarious when it’s hosts are “on”. Meanwhile, MBMBAM dubs itself as an “advice show for the modern era”, mixing in actual advice requests with user-submitted Yahoo Answers questions. The advice, even at it’s straightest, is rarely helpful, but that’s not really the point. The McElroy brothers have a natural chemistry and rapport, and their southern charm generally carries the show no matter what the subject.
Giant Bomb’s Interview Dumptruck - The crew from the Bombcast interview developers. The quality of the recordings is generally abysmal, but anything else would detract from the “raw” feel of the proceeding.
8-4 Play - A Japanese focused podcast from the master translators at 8-4. Offers a unique perspective into Japanese gaming culture, even if you don’t like Monster Hunter.
We’ll be back next week with another edition of Culture Club, but until then, follow the author, Tom Bunting, on Twitter. Missed your favorite podcast? Sound off in the comments!