What Makes a Good Video Game Podcast?
Despite the inherent difficulties in using spoken words to describe visual media, some game podcasts are well worth your time
I love reading well-written articles about video games. I find it interesting to see what my favorite authors think about games I’ve played, and I particularly long longer think-pieces that go beyond simple reviews. For me, this love of good game articles applies to podcasts as well. I spend a lot of time driving, and I try to fill as much of that that time with interesting opinions and thoughts on video games as I can.
Of course, it’s difficult to define what separates a good video game podcast from an average or mediocre one. To really shine in this medium, the hosts have to be able to describe games (a visual experience) as well as possible. In an article, creators can easily supplement their words with pictures and video. In a podcast, word choice and description are critically important. Below, there are a few podcasts that I find particularly enjoyable. If you can think of any more, please list them in the comments!
Achievement Oriented is run by Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion of The Ringer, and it’s their site’s main source of game-related content. Episodes typically release every Friday, and run approximately an hour long. Lindbergh and Concepcion are excellent hosts, and sound very comfortable with one another on every episode.
That level of comfort is the first reason I like their show. Both hosts are excellent podcasters (they’ve each starred on other audio ventures in addition to this one), and they bounce ideas and thoughts off of one another easily and quickly. However, I also enjoy this podcast because of the in-depth, interesting interviews that make up the bulk of most episodes. I’d happily listen to Lindbergh and Concepcion talk about games by themselves for entire episodes, but the people they interview — from voice actors, to designers, to other positions in the industry — are fantastic. I’m always left wanting more when each episode ends, which is perhaps the best indicator of quality I can think of.
Shall We Play a Game
JJ Sutherland and Chris Suellentrop — two writers for various outlets — co-host this show, which runs weekly and consists of the hosts picking a game, playing through it, and sharing their opinions. The two typically play through single-player games almost exclusively (which plays to my own interests), and always have interesting thoughts to share on their experiences.
The main reason I love this show is similar to why I love Achievement Oriented: the co-hosts are extremely comfortable with one another and have interesting opinions that go beyond “this game was good” or “this game was bad.” The analysis that I get from this podcast also goes far beyond what I would find in any review online. Sutherland and Suellentrop have shared great opinions on games like Super Mario Odyssey, Wolfenstein 2, and Uncharted: Lost Legacy, and I always enjoy their opinions even when they differ from my own. The world of video games needs more podcasts like this one.
Kotaku’s Kirk Hamilton and Jason Schreier co-host this weekly podcast, which consists of their thoughts on games, breakdowns of news items, and interesting interviews. Just like the other two podcasts I’ve listed above, both Hamilton and Schreier are clearly comfortable with each other — and enjoy working together — and that sense of comfort makes the listening experience worthwhile. They also share interesting thoughts on games both new and old, and I always appreciate their opinions on these titles.
Splitscreen focuses more on news items than the other two podcasts here, which I feel is worth mentioning because of how even-keeled Hamilton and Schreier are in their treatment of often-controversial items. EA’s quest for loot boxes has dominated gaming sites and sub-reddits for well over a week now, and a sense of anger and vitriol hangs over the entire saga. Splitscreen’s hosts wade through this hot mess calmly and rationally, and their coverage of it focuses on EA’s mistakes without dipping into anger or outrage.
These podcasts are all different, and this list is by no means comprehensive There are many other excellent shows on iTunes and elsewhere, and this list reflects my personal tastes rather than a universal judgement on which shows are good or bad. However, I think that making a video game podcast is both difficult and worthwhile, and these three shows all do a great job of establishing a rapport between the hosts, talking about games in complex, interesting ways, and establishing a general sense of goodwill. That’s not a comprehensive list of what makes a good gaming podcast, but it’s certainly a good starting point (in my mind at least).