Included in this article are some of the best and most interesting game related videos that I've seen throughout 2017. Put together with the goal of highlighting some of the best content creators and videos that can enhance your knowledge of the industry, developers, events that happened this year, or of individual games. Many of these have been shared in my weekly This Week In Gaming articles.
Each section might include a single video, a single video series, or videos that might be from different people but focus on a similar idea or subject. The ordering does not signify better or worse quality. All mentioned creators are worth following and all of them were likely to have produced other content worth viewing on their channel this year. Some videos are from older channels with a large number of followers and supporters, while some are new and could use more support. Many of them are able to work due to the donations of their Patreon supporters, if you enjoy the content and would like to donate this can usually be found in their Youtube video description or linked social media profile.
The Best Writing of 2017 article can be found here.
Previous Best Video and Video Series Articles
"Max gives up her perfect ending and goes back to the studio in one last effort to save Chloe, while the game stares down the player and says, “How dare you think this was a coming-of-age story. How dare you think time travel was a neat way to work through your indecision. How could you think a power this great could ever be used responsibly? How could you think the consequences for your mistakes would be borne by you and you alone?” This sets up an arc where Max will have to do what superhero movies almost never do: truly reckon with how dangerous real power can be."
Ian Danskin on the genre of Life Is Strange. How it starts as a more resonant coming of age story only to shift to something darker and more ambitious, how your ability to travel through time effects the feel of the narrative, and how the game's final choices each seem to fit with only one of two competing genres.
"What Remains of Edith Finch isn't the kind of story you expect to have a villain and yet, to me, it has one of the most insidious and yet sympathetic character I've seen in recent memory."
Joseph Anderson on the story of What Remains of Edith Finch, his idea of the villain of the story, and the ability of older generations and family traditions to influence newer ones.
"By the end of the game Ashe passed the mantle of leadership to me willingly, not because I had convinced him to rebel, but because I had become molded into the shape that the Disfavored had wanted me to be. I was able to lead the Disfavored because I had become the Disfavored. What had happened to Ashe had happened to me, slowly, incrementally, with me not wanting to admit that it was happening, holding on to a fantasy of dissension that had never come to pass."
Noah Caldwell-Gervais talks about the world and factions of Tyranny. A game that will likely have you compromising your own principles while waiting for the heroic option that that never comes, as you slowly become corrupted by the same ideas and way of doing things as the faction leaders who were originally corrupted in the same way.
"This was not a technological limitation. The game is already full of so many impressive moments of transition that this pause, where Wander stands and is inspected by the being he will soon kill, is a conscious decision. They had the power to do almost anything they imagined, and they chose this."
Dan Olson on the morality of Shadow of the Colossus and how the colossi are presented to tell a story from the feet to the face, one that goes from fear and intimidation to empathy and sadness.
"In a word, and I didn't think I'd be saying this about a Wolfenstein game, it's dreamlike."
Writing On Games on the unwinnable apocalyptic feel and framing of Wolfenstein, characters dealing with and living in a world full of an enemy they can't defeat, and how the game subverts genre and cinematic norms.
"Seeing all this makes me interpret Nier Automata as a complicated confused, and a little but angry, collection of his thoughts about life. They're presented under this heavy veil of video game kitsch and sappy melodramatic anime cliches but that kitsch defined Yoko Taro's life and that's part of the art of it."
Super Bunnyhop gives his interpretation of the story and characters of Nier Automata and its connections to Japanese culture and the people character's names were based on.
"It is an imaginative and compelling game. These two moments are the best, taking game systems and turning them sideways for dramatic effect. A fitting case study for the greatest game of all time."
Heather Alexandra talks about two moments of Planescape Torment that, from a design and storytelling perspective, show why it is considered one of the best games and best stories of all time.
"There are many games out there that deal with grief as a theme. But it's often portrayed as an obstacle to overcome, something to get over. The main character goes through an arc and comes out the other side with a sense of accomplishment, catharsis, closure. And while I don't want to call games out for being too unrealistic, that has simply not been my experience with grief. Which is why Life is Strange: Before the Storm is such a special game to me, as it's approach to grief is far more familiar."
Cagey Videos on the more realistic portrayal of grief in Life is Strange: Before the Storm.
Interviews and Documentaries
"Where once stood a game that threatened to sink the Final Fantasy band forever now stands the second most popular subscription MMO in the world. And as the years pass us the myth of that original version and its incredible redemption story are at risk of disappearing. How did it all happen, how did the same studio that shipped a broken mess turn it all around in two years? Why did they make the decision to keep the old version still alive while secretly working on a brand new game. And how did they manage to make all of this, the redesign and rebirth part of the game's lore. We knew this was a story worth telling, not only for those who were there to see it all go down, but for the millions of you who never heard about this, who never knew the extraordinary lengths the development team went to to save this game."
Noclip tells the story of the development and the developers of Final Fantasy XIV, how they turned a failure into a success, and how you rebuild an MMO while people are still playing it. An excellent documentary with candid interviews with the developers, localizers, and CEO of Square. The playlist includes the two trailers and the three part documentary.
"I think there's something sad but beautiful about Rick Dyer and his dreams of Halcyon. He calls himself and his team pioneers in this news broadcast and the truth is, he's right. Pioneer isn't an inherently positive term, it just means you were among the first to explore something and that doesn't mean you were successful or right. A lot of early pioneers didn't make it back and a lot of people, a lot of us, are going to end up more like Rich Dyer than we'd hope to be."
hbomberguy looks at the work of the designer of Dragon's Lair, Rick Dyer, his $2500 voice input home console that represented the direction he thought the industry would go in after the crash of '83, the game that was being created to expand on the style of Dragon's Lair, who we remember in history, and what gets forgotten.
"So what would happen is... pirated disks are cheap, it was just DVD-Rs, but consoles are not. Usually raids would happen on Monday, so Sunday night we would pack backpacks full of PS2s, this was like in '04, and pack them full and go to cars in the parking garage and just hide them in the trunk."
Drew Scanlon recently left Giant Bomb to start Cloth Map, you might have seen him produce similar content in the past when he traveled to Iceland or Korea, you may also know him after he became a popular meme this year. In this series he travels to Brazil to learn about the game industry's past and present, the fans, and the country's developers and artists. This playlist includes five videos, with the fourth being a vlog after his return and the fifth being the trailer.
"Today, both products can be found laying around thrift stores for a measly dollar, but their legacy lives on in the form of legal precedent."
The Gaming Historian on the products, people, companies, and legal battles behind early emulation.
"It was really a magical experience and it made me realize there's a whole audience out there who can enjoy this type of game with a few tweaks."
A three part documentary by Mike Mahardy, Jake Dekker, and Jean-Luc Seipke covering Arkane Studios, the immersive sim genre, developer inspirations, and interviews with creators, Richard Garriott and Warren Spector, who helped define the genre.
"Beneath its perceived b-grade movie schlock, grainy graphics, and silly theme song is a game that made a lasting impact on the video game industry. This is the story of Night Trap. How it was made, its legacy, and how more than 25 years later we're finally able to see it as it was meant to be seen."
My Life In Gaming looks at one of the most controversial video games ever made. Covering the games that lead to the idea behind it, the pitches, difficulties of production, congressional hearings, and the remaster that would come 25 years later.
"The original "Witcher" PC game was released ten years ago. We present our humble summary of Geralt's long journey from the pages of his books to computer screens. Today "The Witcher" is a world famous series. But at the time no one expected it to have such a great impact on the Polish video game market as well as worldwide."
arhn.eu's documentary on the creation of the first PC Witcher title. Multiple team members are interviewed on topics covering the problems with early concepts for a cancelled Witcher game in the 90s, early ideas on a later project that would lead to their first Witcher title, how team members used to work at their old studio Metropolis Software and at CD Projekt Red when it was just started, the Polish game industry, the first mobile text based Witcher game, work translating Interplay games, the game's script, and more.
Systems, Level, and World Design
"Where does that put you as a player, well it puts you, here. Just here. Look at that, beautiful. Barely anything shown on screen here but barely anything missing. You can turn these bits off at the bottom right too, if you want to. I don't mind, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. They don't distract me from the game, they don't distract me to the point of changing what truly matters. The game resides here, it resides in a sea of grass, on the cliffs of a mountain, and the rivers, lakes, and hidden caves."
Matt Lees talks about the map and interface design of Breath of the Wild, the tone and feel it creates, how it invites you to adventure, and how it allows you to appreciate the beauty of the game at your own pace without rushing you or making you feel like you need to complete everything.
"But one thing most gamers can agree on is that this game does a pretty stellar job of depicting a bond between the boy, and Trico. And in this video, I want to show how Ueda and his team at genDESIGN, achieved this relationship. Not through lengthy cutscenes or dialogue but, instead, through the unique language of video games."
Mark Brown examines how The Last Guardian uses mechanics to build a bond between characters and how those mechanics show you the evolution of that bond.
"Further than merely working better as a game than a film, for example, Yoko Taro's latest creation simply would not work in any other medium."
Writing On Games uses NieR Automata as an example of a game that uses everything about the medium to tell its story and how the developer is creating stories about humanity through gameplay and viewer culpability.
"Retro took the level design pattern that had served Nintendo so well, for so long, and then evolved it to the next step. By thinking about themes as well as mechanics Retro managed to form an incredible set of levels that all modern 2D platformers should be judged against."
Mark Brown looks at the level design of Tropical Freeze and how it expands on the style Nintendo is known for. His series that I highlighted last year on the dungeon designs of the Zelda games also continues and can be found on his channel.
"Despite how marketable the concept is, a game that truly makes your choices matter is one of the rarest types of experiences in the medium today. It's that Holy Grail that goal so many strive for but few have attained, but with that rarity comes immeasurable value. A game that can make your actions bear weight is one of the most powerful statements that the medium can possibly hold."
PostMesmeric on player choice and responsibility, and how Pyre uses its gameplay to give weight and consequence to your actions.
"I don't want to play it again; contrary to what you might believe the function of a game to be, it was most certainly not "fun". But that doesn't matter. That is a good thing. What Hellblade is, is necessary."
Writing on Games on how Hellblade forces you to work through mundane mechanics in order to better understand the main character's state of mind.
Life and Games
"When you make minimum wage your struggle is to put a roof over your head and put food on the table, there is no time, no money, no opportunity for adventure or for significance. To me, this makes the simulated adventure that video games provide the furthest possible thing from frivolity. It scratches an itch that would otherwise grow and grow and grow until its unpleasantness overwhelmed us."
Noah Caldwell-Gervais talks about how his video game criticism has allowed him to travel America in a Volkswagen Bus, his life, the appeal of travel, the appeal of watching Let's Plays, about games that allow you to travel a large world or universe, and how until now he had filled his longing for adventure with the help of video games.
"Night In the Woods, is a game that didn't pander to any demographic or show us "hey look at me, this is a game about depression and how it affects people." It had us do the actions. The game's mechanics are walking and talking. And when you're limited to just dialogue options, it feels honest within its limitations and true to its fleshed out cast of characters."
Leonardo Da Sidci on how games can help people suffering from depression. He talks about his own experiences with depression and those of people he has spoken to or read about, games that focus on coming of age stories and depression such as Night In the Woods, and how video games and their immersive elements can provide a cathartic experience.
"Video games aren't an integral part of daily life, but as a form of entertainment, they're one of the most incredible mediums for storytelling, mechanical engagement and interactive technology. Growing Older comes with commitments, whether they come in the form of work, family or relationships, and as a hobby, enjoying games is no longer a priority."
Leonardo Da Sidci on growing older with games and finding games that can be enjoyed when you have other commitments. Leonardo has a relatively new channel but his varied content has already reached a level of quality that most never will.
"The orchestra represents purpose, and so introducing the orchestra at this moment is Journey's way of saying this is the purpose of life. To return from your journey in life, whatever that may be, and use the knowledge you gained along the way to be a blessing to other people."
A look into the music of Journey as a crucial part of the game's story, how it represents characters and places, what each of the five used solo instruments represent, and how the soundtrack alludes to the Hero's Journey. By an excellent newer Youtube channel, Game Score Fanfare, which is focused on the music of games. Journey's composer, Austin Wintory, called it the most detailed and accurate analysis of the score that he has seen.
"It's unusual to have a composer working on a game so early in development, but Darren is in this position because Supergiant value music in their games, just as much as they do the art or the writing. As a result, they're using music in ways that many other studios aren't even thinking about."
Game Score Fanfare on the music of Pyre and how it is used to tell the character's stories and the story that you create through your choices.
"Now, each Zelda game has a very different vibe, and Nintendo has always reflected this in the choice of music. Ocarina of Time is heroic. Wind Waker is optimistic. And Majora's Mask is foreboding. So what about Breath of the Wild?"
Mark Brown talks about the strength of Zelda Breath of the Wild's soundtrack and how each Zelda's soundtrack has a different vibe to it. He also responds to a comment where he mentions the composers of famous games that have mostly been overlooked.
"The issues we see in Andromeda might actually have nothing to do with the animators. The animation team will have built all of the animations, and the face expressions, and all of the animated pieces that are meant to fit into this system, true, but they aren't actually the people that put all of these pieces together or direct the scenes."
Daniel Floyd talks about animating different kinds of games and the systems and work behind them, using Bioware, CD Projekt, and Naughty Dog as examples.
"A lot of these are strictly functional in terms of animation but they serve to create further contrast between these characters, to make them each feel all the more different to inhabit as a player."
Daniel talks about the hand and body movements of Overwatch characters and how it helps you learn about and feel like them.
"We had to take a step back and say that the goal of these NPCs searching for the player isn't to find the player. It's to present interesting gameplay."
Mark Brown talks about what makes the AI in games good and what gameplay features and behavior patterns lead players to think that AI is good or bad.
"Today, on this week's episode of Here's A Thing, we're going to tell a story about how three people disobeyed direct instructions to scrap what is one of the best games ever made and somehow kept its development going in secret."
Chris Bratt on how the original X-COM was supposed to have been cancelled and how the current XCOM was saved from disaster due to the teams approach to game design. Chris later had Jake Solomon on stage at EGX with him to discuss this further with new footage of the game in development, that video can be found here.
Long Form Analysis
"It explores themes that can be quite difficult to talk about and which plenty of people, quite justifiably, don't want to and the game is too good at focusing on what it wants to be about that you can't ignore it and just focus on something else."
hbomberguy examines the three Lisa games, looks at the influence from Yume Nikki, at how the mechanics and story exist to give off the same ideas and create an emotional experience through their execution, learning about characters through their actions while also learning about the people that made them that way, and why he believes that a future hit game will likely be made by someone that Lisa has left an impression on.
"I landed in an oasis in the heart of the infestation. There was a bench, which is the game's checkpoint system, and I used it without thinking what I had just done. Because now I was stuck in the Deepnest with my raggedy nail and no lantern. With no way out because I couldn't climb back up the long fall that got me there. And so began one of the best gaming experiences I've had all year."
Joseph Anderson on the differences between review and critique, differences in gameplay focus between Hollow Knight and games from the same genre like Ori and the Blind Forest and Super Metroid, upgrade placement and progression effects on boss fights and exploration, and how he had one of the best gaming experiences of the year after a checkpoint trapped him in an area he wasn't meant to be in yet.
"This was a particularly funny situation, particularly because it didn't feel scripted in any way. It felt like I totally outsmarted a ridiculously complex AI system in the dumbest way possible."
Writing On Games look at the level design of each mission in the first Season of Hitman (2016). How the opening level teaches you, the absurd situations it puts you in, making each area of the map feel important, the way the AI works and responds to you, and finding the comedy inherent to the system design.
"The game's point isn't that we the gamer are Walker. Typically in games we save the day, help people in the world. SpecOp's point is that we the gamer have far too much in common with Walker."
Raycevick goes over a brief history of the Spec Ops series and The Line's development before getting into the gameplay, the story of the game, how the plot holes reveal another potential layer to the game's story, and the multiplayer the developer didn't want. There has been a lot of writing and videos on the game over the years but Raycevick manage to frequently say something new.
"Would more mechanics make this a better game? Yes. But they might make it a worse movie. To take a more active role would be to give up on some of this sensation of helplessness, and helpless is how the game wants you."
Noah Gervais on the Outlast games and DLC. Why you would want to include ideas from found footage media into video games, making entire games with limited mechanics and linearity, being a game about making a movie, antagonists working more due to their acceptance of their environments or attitudes mirroring real world personalities rather than their outrageous aspects, use of body and sexual horror, the terror of helplessness, and how the sequel falls victim to the most common film cliche of all.
"Another thing both series share is a real self-consciousness about the themes and tropes of horror media and a kind of deliberate engagement with the cliches of the genre."
Noah Gervais on the subject of horror media and the ways that two series compare to each other through the ways that they engage with horror tropes.
Found In Translation
"It's been 20 years since Final Fantasy 7 came out, I have more than a decade and a half of Japanese speaking experience behind me so I'm replaying Final Fantasy 7 in Japanese and English at the same time all the while analyzing the nuanced little differences."
Tim Rogers compares the scripts of the English and Japanese release of Final Fantasy VII by going over meanings and subtext that can become lost, tonal changes, character differences and how and why these differences likely occurred by giving some information about the Japanese language and the history of the translation. This is a playlist that currently includes nine videos. He has also made a video on Xenoblade Chronicles 2's translation which is not included in this playlist.
Summer of 0451
"Really, 0451 games on the whole tend to be about how we think about ideologies more than the ideologies themselves. Bioshock for example isn't a nuanced critique of Randian objectivism so much as it is a look at taking an unstable world-view to its most extreme logical conclusion."
"I'm really genuinely excited to talk about a game that's so near and dear to my heart, on the other hand, a lot has happened in the past 17 years and the context in which I view it now as a 32 year old adult is sort of fundamentally different than the way I played the game as a 15 year old kid."
"The twists in 0451 games usually recontextualizes your relationship with established characters. Those who were friends may become enemies, those who were enemies might become friends. In Tacoma the twist recontextualizes your relationship with yourself"
"The opening of Prey is frankly an amazing setup thematically, suggesting that games, particularly 0451 games, and likely this very game, are inherently untrustworthy and designed to test you in ways that search for a truth, but whose truth? What truth can be found in pretend worlds and what truths have these games been after all along?"
Errant Signal talks about the origins of the Easter egg 0451 in Immersive Sims, how the meaning changed over time, and what kind of themes the games that include the numbers tend to explore in his 0451 video. His followup videos looked at multiple immersive sims and how they handled their narrative, world building, if they were successful at examining the ideas they presented, and the ways that they might have differed from or expanded on the systems from previous 0451 titles.
The Game Industry and Connected Industries
Videos looking into different aspects of the game industry, important companies associated with it, Youtube, funding, hiring practices, etc.
"Me being the masochist that I am, I was super into experiencing that chaos first hand. Little did I know, however, that what would greet us would be something this bad."
A look at the experience of attending 2017's E3 and the problems that they weren't equipped to handle.
"So Cuphead is the hot topic to argue about, so we keep talking about it until it doesn't get us attention anymore and that's how Youtube works folks. And not to skip ahead too much, but if nobody is actually saying anything worthwhile creating a ranty response, for example if nobody is calling Cuphead racist, you can just pretend they are and your audience will believe you anyway."
Shaun on Cuphead and the Youtube/clickbait outrage culture surrounding it, how reactionaries work up their audience with fake information, misleading screenshots, and imaginary enemies. Useful video to see the kind of Youtubers and internet personalities that make money off of creating fake controversies for gullible followers, the importance of actually finding and properly reading and looking into the things that they will typically never link to, and the need to learn about the world outside of gaming. (Incidentally, most of the people mentioned here aren't allowed to have their content posted to the AJSA due to their constantly abusive behavior)
"This is why I'm deeply suspicious of the "just pals" help the site grow mentality. We're "just pals," until we're not. Any platform that doesn't codify their relationship with content creators, that positions the relationship as "just pals" and "all on the same team" without any structural commitment to that relationship is ultimately lying."
Folding Ideas on video platforms, business models, creator and platform relationships, competing with a monolith, getting the audience you build for, and how companies like Maker Studios or the platform the Fine Brothers were going to launch back in early 2016 are designed to draw in and take advantage of content creators with vague promises. This video was from June, Vidme has very recently closed in December, but it is still a good look at platforms and his Twitter posts over the year, collected in a thread, predicted Vidme's closure back in August.
"Bioshock Infinite, for example, only exists because Ken Levine watched a PBS documentary called America 1900. When Team Bondi sent artists to get photo references for L.A. Noire, two of the archives they used were NEH grant recipients. When we talk about arts funding we are discussing the resources and future of our creative economy."
Extra Credits, with writing from Robert Rath, looks at the importance of arts funding for the game industry.
"One scene sees him strung up by a group of Uruks and Lamarr recalls being asked to shoot that scene, which would require the actor himself to be strung up, without any stunt safety professionals."
Chris Bratt talks about video game voice acting, the voice actor strike, and how some actors aren't always told what they are working on.