I’m breaking a rule this week. Normally I set a limit of 100k subscribers on YouTube channels as the limit of who I’ll cover here. However, as it is my rule and my column, I’ve decided to break my rule and no one can stop me. Mwahahaha!!
Errant Signal is one of my favorite channels on the whole platform. Part of that is my unabashed love of people doing long form critique and analysis of video games. The other part is how much I learn from channels like this.
In one of the first videos I watched from Errant Signal, the creator of this fantastic series, Chris Franklin, gave me a word to describe something I never had a word for: kinasthetics. He has a video on the subject but the short description would be how it feels to play a game and how the combination of controls and physically interacting with those inputs feels when combined with audio visual feedback. I had always known some games felt better to play than others and was always aware of that sense of “game feel” but never had a way of describing it with words.
Errant Signal covers all aspects of games in a fashion similar to how it covers kinasthetics, in that it looks at component pieces of a game and examines how they interact. How do the controls affect how we experience the story? How does the tone of the art design match the sound design? If they don’t match, is it an aesthetic choice creating intentional dissonance to reflect a plot point or is it just a bad design choice?
His choice of games to cover is fairly eclectic is terms of genre. From Doom to Life Is Strange to Burnout Paradise, you never know what he’s going to cover next. But whatever it is you can be assured you’ll come out with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the game as both an interactive experience and an artistic endeavor.
As I was prepping for this article I went back and watched two episodes I hadn’t viewed in a while. I chose to watch two, one on a game I have played extensively and one I had never actually played. I sat down for Prey (the one I played extensively) and Firewatch (that I hadn’t played).
With Prey I had experienced the game in depth, seen the twists and turns of the plot, and thought I had a good handle on what the game had to say thematically and experientially. I was way off on that assumption. He covered the game as part of a series of “0451” games, a series of games built in the immersive sim style originally inspired by Looking Glass studios. If the name sounds familiar it’s because they created games like System Shock and Theif. He covered different mechanics, themes, and other game elements and how they fit into this pseudo-genre as well as what does and doesn’t work about them for this particular game. There is also discussion of tone, pacing, and the ending of the game itself. It challenged some of my opinions of the game as well as reframing some of my perspectives to connect what I thought were disparate elements. That’s pretty good for a half hour video about a 50+ hour game.
On the flip side, watching the Firewatch episode with having never played the game or having any real thoughts on it was a completely different but equally enjoyable experience. Once again, a heavily narrative focused game in the “walking simulator” style, each aspect of the game is examined individually and as a whole. Working in a somewhat start to finish fashion, the game is laid out in a way that even though I had never played it i felt that I had a solid understanding of the experience. That’s an impressive feat.
Really, that is what i have enjoyed the most about these videos. The discussion is laid out in a deep enough way that i can learn from games i have never played while moving quickly enough to stay entertaining and engaging.
If you enjoy learning, especially about the story telling and the importance of how to properly fit mechanics into a game,as well as the history of developers and how each game fits into a larger body of work, check out Errant Signal on YouTube and consider supporting him on Patreon. You can also follow Chris on Twitter.
Thanks for reading,
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