My Top 5 Gaming Podcasts, Past and Present
I’ve been listening to gaming podcasts since 2006. I realize that it’s a very nerdy activity, but sometimes I need something other than music to listen to (especially when playing a game like Peggle), and podcasts turned out to be the perfect thing. In 2006, my friend – a long time iPod aficionado – told me that a podcast was a specialized radio show available on the internet. He explained that podcast allowed people to talk about certain subjects that could never make it on normal radio because they didn’t appeal to a big enough market. Intrigued, I proceeded to go to my favorite gaming site at the time, 1up.com, where I discovered the now-defunct 1up Yours podcast. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve continued listening to 5 or 6 podcasts every week since. The introduction of podcasts to the gaming press added a different dynamic to the names we always read under the headlines of articles. It allowed us to get to know them more as people, and gain a different perspective on the material they wrote. Needless to say, podcasts are awesome. Here are my top 5:
5: The Gamespy Debriefings
Admittedly, I’ve only been listening to the Gamespy Debriefings since episode 75 or so, but this “gaming” podcast has evolved into an entirely different beast since. When Ryan Scott and Anthony Gallegos took over the podcast in 2009, they decided to add some of the comedy writers from the IGN staff: Scott Bromley, Brian Altano and Brian Miggs. Altano and Bromley tend to dominate the conversation (which never seems to involve games at all), and often get in some hilarious but good-natured jokes at Ryan Scott’s expense. Sometimes the jokes can be offensive or repetitive, but I think these guys are hilarious and look forward to it every week.
Listen to a clip of the Debriefings guys riffing on Street Fighter
4: Giant Bomb
Former Gamespot editor Jeff Gerstmann’s firing from Gamespot and the controversy that followed is long past now, but those of us that remember it know how crazy it was at the time. Soon after, a bunch of Gamespot employees and Giant Bomb was formed. Each week on the Bombcast, Gherstmann, Brad Shoemaker, Vinny Caravella, Ryan Davis and others talk games in a fairly down-to-earth, but critical way. It’s not the most humorous of podcasts (compared to some of the others listed here), but you can tell the writers at Giant Bomb are extremely intelligent and it shows when you listen. It’s more pre-planned and comprehensive than most of the podcasts I like (think 1up Yours), but its quality material and I highly recommend it.
Listen to the Giant Bomb staff talking about Gears of War:
3: Rebel FM
Another podcast born out of layoffs, RebelFM was created by Nick Suttner, Phil Kollar, Anthony Gallegos and a few other employees after being laid off from 1up in early 2009. Soon after Suttner and Kollar left to different jobs, and the podcast now features Gallegos, Arthur Gies, Tyler Barber, Matt Chandronait, and frequent guest Ryan O’donnell. It’s easy to say why RebelFM is a great show: the guys on it are extremely smart, yet scathingly witty at the same time. A few different views are also presented. Gies and Gallegos work for IGN and are always reviewing games, so they tend to be more critical. Barber and Chandronait are both more artistic and in some form of graphic art/production so they tend to only play games they love and are a bit more forgiving. The aspect that I like best about Rebel FM are the “Game Club” episodes, in which the guys of Rebel FM get incredibly in-depth and talk about a single game from beginning to end. Think book club for games – you play along with the guys and are encouraged to write in with your opinions. I know I’m biased towards former 1up employees, but Rebel FM is great and you should definitely check it out.
Listen to part one of Rebel FM’s excellent Game Club podcast on Half-Life 2: Episode 1
2. Idle Thumbs/The Idle Thumbs Podcast
What can I say about Idle Thumbs? It’s scathingly sarcastic, yet thought provoking. It’s intellectually deep, but often contains dick and fart jokes as well. Simply put, it’s amazing. Idle Thumbs had two iterations, it was originally “Idle Thumbs” for 50 episodes and then after Nick Breckon left, it became “the Idle Thumbs Podcast” and had a few cast changes. Idle Thumbs featured Chris Remo (former editor at Shacknews and Gamasutra, now at Irrational Games), Nick Breckon (former editor at Shacknews) and Jake Rodkin (TellTale Games). When it became “The Idle Thumbs Podcast” Breckon was replayed with Steve Gaynor (Irrational Games) and frequent guest Sean Vanoman (TellTale Games). The mix of game developers on Idle Thumbs and gaming journalists led to a really interesting podcast. The guys often discussed games in a different way than most press, often being scathingly critical of aspects of games that are normally glossed over. Chris Remo, who was one of my favourite game journalists ever, also contributed classic video game songs such as “Space Asshole,” and “the ballad of John Riccotello.” Unfortunately, Idle Thumbs ended in late 2010, but the guys still podcast occasionally and are now all working on amazing games. I’ll be wishing them luck when Bioshock Infinite (Remo and Gaynor), The Walking Dead (Rodkin and Vanoman), and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (Breckon) come out this year.
Check out one of my favourite Idle Thumbs moments regarding a foreign trading card:
1 CGW/GFW Radio
Computer Gaming World was one of the venerable gaming magazines of people who played PC games for their whole childhood like me. In 2006, CGW started a podcast, which eventually became Games for Windows Radio when the magazine was sold to Microsoft. The show featured (with cast changes) Jeff Green, Shawn Elliot, Ryan Scott, Sean Molloy, Robert Ashley, Anthony Gallegos and Darren Gladstone. This was the second podcast I ever listened to and the first few episodes were a little awkward, but I stuck with it and it soon became my favorite. The thing that set GFW apart from the rest was the off-the-cuff nature of the discussion and the frank honesty that the editors of the magazine displayed. Shawn Elliot became notorious for griefing stories and reading hilarious message board comments and bad gaming articles on air. Jeff Green, editor of one of the biggest PC magazines, would routinely rip into games for being stupid and make fun of prominent game developers. Robert Ashley provided a laid-back humorous voice and Ryan Scott was the rage-filled gamer inside all of us. GFW Radio really had the same editorial flow as the magazine, and you could really tell these guys were trying to tell interesting stories. Unfortunately, Green and Elliot left after the magazine was shut down in 2009 and the others were soon laid off from 1up, so GFW/GFW Radio is now defunct. The games discussed aren’t so relevant anymore, but it still remains the best gaming podcast ever.
Listen to one of Shawn Elliot’s best “Heroes of the Web” segments here: