The untold stories of video game history, as shared by seven great YouTube channels
Whether you are an avid gamer, a casual Pokemon Go player, or someone with only a cursory awareness of video games, it’s hard to deny that gaming has become a large part of modern pop culture.
YouTube is bursting at the seams with popular personalities that play and review games — but we’re not here to talk about them. If you look hard enough, you’ll find a small niche of creators that explore the history of the gaming’s largest successes and flops, the evolution of gaming graphics and technology, and stories of the people responsible for creating it all:
#1 | NOCLIP
NoClip is a channel of amazingly high quality gaming docu-series, created by Danny O’Dwyer, a veteran video game journalist and documentary producer from Ireland. According to Danny, NoClip aims to tell “authentic stories about video games, the people who make them, and those who play them”. With crowdfunding via Patreon, O’Dwyer creates professional and deeply researched documentaries about lost pieces of gaming history.
“Gamers deserve media that reflects our passions, a press that uses its access to tell stories about how games get made, the people who play them, and the ways in which they reflect our lives — stories that make us proud to be gamers”
One of NoClip’s first stories was about the development of Rocket League, a multiplayer game that involves playing soccer with rocket-powered cars. The documentary reveals how the game originally started as a mode in Unreal Tournament 2004 and evolved into one of the most addicting sports games of all time (and became a personal favorite of mine):
One really great element of NoClip’s documentaries is how they tell stories that are absolutely fascinating, whether or not you have played the game they are covering. Rocket League may be one of my favorite games, but I have never played a single game in the Final Fantasy series. Despite my ignorance of the subject matter, NoClip drew me in by weaving a compelling tale of how a big-budget massive multiplayer game by a popular studio completely flopped upon release, was completely remade in secret, and then replaced the original game and went to to be a huge success:
In addition to their lengthy, in-depth documentaries, NoClip also has a series of “NoClip Sessions” that are shorter, snackable video conversations with people who work in games, and some additional content on Danny’s channel.
All of the content on NoClip is entirely crowdfunded, so if you like what they do, consider visiting their Patreon page to toss them a few bucks. As a backer, you’ll get access to all kinds of extra content and help them make more.
#2 | AHOY
Brought to you by Stuart Brown, Ahoy is a channel that provides what he accurately describes as ‘insightful gaming content’, which includes videos and series that describe the history of video games through various creative lenses and beautiful, animated vector imagery. I’ve featured Ahoy once before, but this is one quality channel that is worth mentioning again.
Ahoy has several series and standalone documentary videos that take a look at specific points in video game history. For example, “Nuclear Fruit” is a series that explores the Cold War’s effect on video games, and “CRASH” is a video that goes into the reasons behind the video game industry decline in the 80's:
Other series and videos on the channel explore video game developmental history: “Open World Origins” unsurprisingly explores the development of the first open world games and how they have evolved into the games we play today, and “Pixel Pioneers” is a series that delves into the history of graphics and how technological advances have shaped video games over time.
There really is a series or video for every aspect of video game history that you can imagine — there’s even a video on the depiction of zombies throughout video game history! Some of my favorites include“Retro Ahoy”, which digs into why some older games are considered classics today, and “Iconic Arms”, which analyzes the historical representation of weapons in video games:
With the beautiful vector graphics and Stuart Brown’s perfect narration, it’s easy to binge through a ton of the videos on this channel in one go. Ahoy is also seeking donations on Patreon — content like this isn’t easy to make!
#3 | GVMERS
GVMERS is another channel that takes an historical deep dive into video games. The channel has three separate docu-series formats: ‘The Rise and Fall” series takes a look at popular franchises that have met their demise, the “Evolution” series tracks how popular franchises have evolved over time, and “Investigating” looks at unreleased games that never saw the light of day.
I grew up playing Red Alert and other RTS games in the Command & Conquer franchise. Like other fans that loved the campy cut-scenes and ridiculousness of the series, I was furious to learn that there were no plans whatsoever for new games or sequels in my favorite series. I wanted to know why, and the GVMERS episode of “Rise and Fall” on Command & Conquer gave me the satisfaction and closure that I didn’t know I needed:
It could be said that I have a bit of a thing for alternate history / timeline fiction, and the “Investigating” episode on a game called Reich showcased a game and story within the genre that I had never heard about. Despite not being able to experience the game in a finished state, “A Game Too Ambitious — Investigating Reich” is an excellent examination of what went wrong with what could have been an interesting game (in some other timeline, of course):
GVAMERS has been around for a little over a year, and is also crowdfunded on Patreon — take a look if you want to help them along.
#4 | GAMING HISTORIAN
The Gaming Historian is a channel by Norman Caruso, who began making videos as a history student in 2008 when he couldn’t find any good video game history content to watch.
Now graduated and a full time creator, he makes videos that range from the history of the Konami code to the development of various consoles and hardware like the classic Power Glove:
Other examples of video topics on the channel include coverage of famous gaming lawsuits, personalities that have made a large impact on the industry, and in-depth studies of the creation of games like Super Mario Bros, Wolfenstein, and Super Smash Brothers. Visit Norman’s Patreon for more.
London Vice, a former pro wrestler, makes video game documentaries that research obscure gaming hardware like Apple’s forgotten 1996 gaming console Pippin, the Game Genie cheating devices, and the Famicom Modem.
He also delves into stories like why Superman 64 became such a notorious flop, and even how a modern game called Overwatch became a smash hit.
Launched by Chris Alaimo in 2006, Classic Gaming Quarterly was originally a print-only fanzine called “Sweet 16” that focused on 16 bit gaming. Over the years, the name changed, the focus evolved to retro gaming in general, and Alaimo launched a YouTube channel for longer form, in depth videos. The main attraction on this channel is the console launch series, which aims to give a history of the development and release of every North American gaming console, as well as a review of the games released alongside them:
#7 | HISTORICNERD
Historic Nerd is the result of historian Ian Thorpe’s fascination with gaming. His channel takes a deep look at the collective culture of history and how it has influenced gaming in its current and past states. Some of his topics include the history of video game companies like Activision and Electronic Arts, while others explore elusive gaming consoles like the Atari Jaguar:
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