Favorite podcasts of 2015
I should probably be writing a “favorite games of 2015” post, but uh, I didn’t actually play a lot of games. Her Story (highly recommended, btw), The Beginner’s Guide, some of Dragon Age: Inquisition, and some World of Warcraft. Not much of a list, eh? What I did do was listen to a lot of podcasts. What follows is a list of my favorites, organized by topic and otherwise in no particular order.
I don’t actually listen to a lot of gaming podcasts. While it’s interesting to hear people’s thoughts on games and I do enjoy interviews and so on with game developers, I mostly listen to podcasts for idea juice, which comes from other sorts of podcasts. That said, I do occasionally listen to the following gaming podcasts and I highly recommend them:
- Match 3 — Gita Jackon, Patrick Klepek and Sam Phillips discuss games and games writing, my favorite segment is generally the part where they talk about some of the most interesting writing about games that they’ve read that week. I also really appreciate that they each bring a quite different perspective on games and games culture to the table, and listening to Sam Phillips talk about introducing games to his after school program makes me want to go volunteer to work with kids again.
- Justice Points — I’ve been listening to Justice Points off and on since they were primarily a feminist World of Warcraft podcast. They’ve since expanded to cover other games from a feminist perspective and they often have guests on the show for some really interesting conversations. They announced not too long ago that they’re ending the podcast (sadface) but with over 120 episodes, there’s a lot of good content that’s still worth a listen in my opinion.
- Fresh Out of Tokens — A gaming podcast by Tanya DePass of I Need Diverse Games and her cohost David Reeves, they have a lot of awesome guests on the show to discuss diversity issues in video games. Tanya has a really frank and genuine approach to conversation that encourages her guests to open up that makes for a really interesting podcast.
- Unconsoleable — hosted by Anna Tarkov and Jessica Dennis, Unconsoleable is a gaming podcast with a slightly different focus — mobile games, rather than PC/console. It’s always an entertaining listen and as someone who is really interested in mobile game dev, it’s right up my alley.
I haven’t found a bunch of this type that I really like, but the two that I have found, I listen to pretty religiously. I’m really interested in good narratives built out of real world events, because I think there is a particular challenge to doing that effectively. Both of these podcasts do that very well.
- You Must Remember This — A podcast about Hollywood’s first century, hosted by Karina Longworth, who is a fantastic storyteller. Each episode tends to focus on one or two Hollywood figures, and each season has a particular theme. (One of my favorite seasons was about Charles Manson and the various Hollywood and music entertainment people that are associated with him.)
- Criminal — Criminal focuses on a different crime story each week, and it covers the gamut, from Venus flytrap thieves to the photographer who captured the photo of Ed Crawford throwing the tear gas canister in Ferguson (this episode made me cry). The stories are interesting, told well and in a sympathetic fashion.
This is a category that seems to have exploded in the last year or so, and hearkens back to the old radio dramas like the original Orson Welles War of the Worlds broadcast. These are by far my favorite podcasts to listen to — I love thinking about how to construct this sort of creepy unfolding narrative and keep it interesting week after week.
- The Black Tapes Podcast — the first of these I encountered, it is best described as “Lovecraftian parody of Serial”. It follows the host Alex Reagan, as she investigates the titular Black Tapes — unsolved paranormal mysteries from the vaults of skeptic and paranormal debunker Dr Richard Strand. Although it begins seeming like a sort of “mystery of the week” type story, as it unfolds things become more and more connected and it does a really good job of pulling it all together into one narrative.
- Tanis — Tanis is the second podcast from the creators of The Black Tapes Podcast, Pacific Northwest Stories, this time following Nic Silver as he investigates the myth of Tanis, which manages to connect numbers stations, scientology, internet forums and Dungeons & Dragons. It’s highly entertaining, especially the back and forth between the mild-mannered and slightly bumbling Nic Silver and his frequent guest, the sharp and impatient internet sleuth known on the podcast as Meerkatnip (you can practically hear her roll her eyes at him — it’s great).
- Limetown — Limetown probably has the highest production values of any of these podcasts, and a large and skillful cast. It follows host Lia Haddock as she investigates the bizarre disappearance of a small town in Tennessee. Each individual episode is great but I’m not as happy with the overall narrative as I am with, say, Tanis — where in Tanis each answer just begets more questions, Limetown answers one question and then asks another. It’s still really enjoyable and very well put together, though, so I am definitely looking forward to season 2.
- The Message — This one’s about aliens! That alone sets it apart from the others, which are more about bizarre conspiracy theories and vaguely supernatural happenings. The message is a strange signal received from space, and a group of scientists who are investigating it. It quickly ramps up the tension, and stands apart for having a twist that actually took me by surprise at the end of season 1. I can’t wait to see where they’re going with it in the next season!
- Dear Sugar Radio — Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond have resurrected the Dear Sugar advice column, this time in the form of a podcast and it’s just as lovely as you could imagine. They are both incredibly empathic and kind and it’s one of my favorite things to listen to when I’m feeling sad or anxious.
- Strangers — Lea Thau talks with various people about their lives and tells their stories. I’ll admit my favorite episodes, however, are the ones where she talks about herself, and the Love Hurts series (part one, two, three and four) consoled me through my most recent breakup as she talked about her own struggles with love and online dating.
- ’Til Death Do Us Part — Katie and Patrick Klepek love horror about as much as I do (possibly more, even!) and in this newer podcast they talk about horror that they’ve watched recently (mostly without spoilers). It’s right up my alley and the dynamic between them is usually great, so I definitely recommend it if you’re a horror fan.
Of course there are plenty more that I haven’t mentioned here, and I’m sure there are some that I don’t know about yet. Please tell me about your favorite podcasts, I’m always on the lookout for more great things to listen to.