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 MULTIFORMAT FEATURE

The 10 best video game podcasts

Hear ye! Hear ye!
Product: Top 10 charts
 
Top 10 charts Multiformat, thumbnail 1
We live in a busy world. We simply don’t have the time to sit and read all day, which is why podcasts are so useful. They let you ingest information without having to stay still, find an adequate light source, or put your mind through the ordeal of concentrating.

Podcasts just pour into your ears while you’re doing other things. That's why we’ve come to love them, and why we go to the considerable effort of making you a free iPhone gaming podcast every week.

The best podcasts make you think and laugh, though rarely simultaneously; the worst ones makes you bored and angry, both at once. It's a minefield.

Listening to a podcast may save you time, but trying to sort the good from the bad is a slow and risky businesss. It takes an hour on average to listen to one and they’re not always easy to find. The unprepared podcast hunter might spend days stumbling from dirge to dirge before finding something worthwhile.

To save you from that fate, here’s a list of our ten favourite podcasts. Download, listen, and enjoy.

The 10 best video game podcasts

Joystiq

Frequency: weekly
Running time: about 90 minutes



On first listening, the Joystiq podcast seems to be doing everything it can to disappoint and disgust its listeners.

Host and esteemed Joystiq editor Chris Grant, though knowledgeable and occasionally witty, is incapable of reaching the end of a sentence without saying ‘uhhhm, uh, like, um, it was like, ahhhm, I don’t know’ at least seven times.

Fellow host Justin McElroy frequently runs off to intercept his FedEx man, and while on air he sips coffee and snorts into the microphone as though in defiance at some unaired proscription. On the weeks when he's congested, the podcast can make you vomit.

It’s testament to the sheer brilliance of the good stuff, then, that none of this is sufficient to keep it from the top spot.

On form, it’s hilarious, and its three hosts are often as insightful as they are amusing, explaining the process of Quincying one minute (google it), dissecting sales figures the next, and discussing the principles of video game design the minute after that.

The Joystiq podcast commands such loyalty from its listeners that on Facebook there’s a group called JPAG - the Joystiq Podcast Appreciation Group. The JPAG has its own very listenable podcast, which begat several JPAGPAGs, which has begot at least one JPAGJPAGP.

That's a cult.

Find it here

One Life Left
Frequency: weekly
Running time: about an hour



One Life Left isn’t just a podcast: it’s a radio show, which the team of hosts publishes as a podcast after transmission every week. It stars Ste Curran, a highly regarded journalist who worked on the best Future magazines (PC Gamer, Edge) before becoming a game producer.

Joining him is Simon Byron, another reputable games journalist who made the apostate move into PR but still writes columns and the odd review; and Ann Scantlebury, a young woman who makes a joke of knowing almost nothing about video games.

Her ignorance is no impediment to the show’s success, and that underlines its main strength: it’s less about video games than it is about three amusing, irreverent, and - in the case of Simon Byron - obscene hosts laughing at each others’ jokes, often in the company of journalistic heavyweights like Kieron Gillen and the entire staff of Eurogamer.

When gaming is discussed, it tends to be the esoterica - obscure 8-track music and creatively brave novelty features like Derek Williams’s market economy, reviews from Byron’s niece Talia, and poetry from Craig ‘The Rage’ McClellan.

Relevance to video gaming: none. But so what?

Find it here

ListenUP
Frequency: weekly
Running time: about two hours



A few weeks ago, UGO Entertainment bought out Ziff Davis and the termination of 1UP Yours was announced. To fans, this was pretty miserable news.

1UP Yours was the most polished of the video game industry’s various podcasts, recorded in a studio and gleaming with music and effects.

Host Garnett Lee didn’t sound like a journalist playing radio host: he sounded like a radio host, throwing himself into the role with endearing aplomb.

Joining him from week to week back when 1UP Yours was running were several high profile figures in the video game industry in America: among others Jeff Green, Shane Bettenhausen, Shaun Elliott, John Davison and N’Gai Croal.

The analysis was intelligent and it was always very obvious that everybody in the 1UP studio was extremely glad to be there.

When the podcast went under, it was a genuinely sad day.

But what's this? From the ashes of 1UP Yours has come ListenUP - a less punchy title, and in all likelihood a slightly less punchy podcast as many of the regular contributors no longer work for 1UP, but a reassuringly solid replacement nonetheless, complete with bluegrass intro music, background whisky drinking, and divisively epic running times.

It's back.

Find it here

Podcastle
Frequency: Fortnightly
Running time: about 90 minutes



Although the regular hosts of Podcastle more or less know their stuff, their place in this list has got little to do with their expertise or the effort they put into Destructoid's UK podcast (although Jim Sterling's interview with Jack Thompson deserves to be heard.)

Host Jim Sterling frequently resorts to obscenity for cheap laughs, and his co-hosts Atheistium (Lauren Wainwright) and Wardrox (John Kershaw), though not as depraved, are happy to go along with it. There’s no real evidence of planning, no regular features to speak of, and the production values are lower even than those of the Joystiq podcast.

It’s not particularly informative, and it’s not particularly thought-provoking. If you don’t like swearing or the sound of three youngsters having a rambling conversation and trying to make each other fall about laughing, you'll want to look for one of the more solemn entries on this list.

Listening to Podcastle is like eavesdropping at a door in a halls of residence to a conversation between three nerds juiced up on South Park and Dr Pepper. It’s not particularly edifying, but for some often outrageous giggles on the subject of video games it’s hard to beat.

Find it here

PC Gamer UK
Frequency: monthly
Running time: about an hour



The PC may not be an entirely dead platform, but it’s in a hell of a downswing. While console and computer games once formed two more or less comparable factions, the ever-expanding video game industry now well and truly belongs to console.

The crying shame of this is that computer gamers were always the superior tribe. We were more intelligent, more dedicated, more friendly, better at games, better at making magazines, and just all round better than the shallow juveniles who owned consoles.

PC Gamer is still one of the best video games magazines out there, and its writers make one of the best podcasts. The show is recorded in a studio, but this is the extent of its polish. There’s no obvious planning, no particular features, and no theme music - the rambling just begins, carries on for a while, and then stops.

But what rambling. It's far more well-mannered than Podcastle, though no less funny for its restraint. The hosts are all knowledgeable and skilled gamers, and the jokes are the sort you need to be a nerd to laugh at.

For example, during the 24th episode Tom Francis said, “Grammarbot is happy,” and the show momentarily came to a halt while the cast fell about laughing.

That tells you pretty much all you need to know.

Find the PC Gamer podcast here

Australian Gamer
Frequency: weekly
Running time: about half an hour



The Australian Gamer podcast might be a bit too niche for this list were it not for one thing: Yahtzee.

You’ve almost certainly heard of him, but for those who haven’t Yahtzee is an English video game journalist who lives in Australia and has achieved fame of a sort with his Zero Punctuation video reviews, in which he subjects a game to a withering review on The Escapist every Wednesday.

Yahtzee isn’t quite as funny without his script and the visual material that accompanies Zero Punctuation, but that’s part of the appeal: it’s novel to hear him freestyle, particularly when a joke falls flat or the hosts turn on him.

Hosts Guy "Yug" Blomberg and Matt Burgess are engaging enough, and it’s nice to get an antipodean perspective on the industry, but the show inevitably belongs to the novelty curmudgeon they wheel out every few weeks.

Find it here

You might also like….


Kotaku
Frequency: monthly
Running time: about half an hour



Kotaku is royalty amongst video game blogs, but its podcast heritage isn’t quite as distinguished. Nevertheless, there are some interesting offerings from Crecente et al. Rather than deliver ordinary audio podcasts, the members of team Kotaku play a game together and record their voices. Interesting idea - in this month's edition they get drunk in GTA IV - but not quite as fun as it sounds.

Find it here

Major Nelson
Frequency: weekly
Running time: about two hours



Major Nelson is a Microsoft employee who delivers a podcast every week on all matters Microsoft. Despite being a company stooge, Nelson is well-respected among the video game community, and his podcasts are well worth a listen if you want to keep your finger on the pulse.

Find it here

Penny Arcade
Frequency: intermittent
Running time: about an hour



The Penny Arcade guys are legends in the video game world, producing a popular webcomic, an annual expo event, a well regarded XBLA game, and an intermittent podcast. If it were more frequent, the podcast would probably be higher up this list, but as Penny Arcade's auditory adventures are rare, brief, and sloppily produced they're confined to the outskirts.

Find it here

The Brainy Gamer
Frequency: monthly
Running time: about an hour



Mainstream and casual gamers may not be aware of it, but beneath all the flashing lights and sweaty controllers video gaming is a serious academic discipline, with its own words and everything. Do you know whether you favour narratological games over ludological ones, or vice versa?

No? Well then, you might want to listen to the Brainy Gamer podcast, in which host Michael Abbot waffles on about his life and takes games very seriously.

Find it here

Of course, as ever on Pocket Gamer this is a conversation, not a monologue. If you have any particular favourite podcasts, let us know about them. And if you somehow missed the link at the top of the page for our iPhone video podcast, here is it again.
 

Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn 4 February 2009
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