Announcing Play of the Light

I am pleased and proud to announce the first episode of Play of the Light, a new audio podcast presenting a conversation about videogames between myself and Matthew Weise (former design director of MIT’s GAMBIT Game Lab, now narrative designer for Harmonix).

My inspiration to give the pure-audio production medium a spin comes from the work of Dan Benjamin and company at 5by5, a podcast network that exploded into prominence rather recently and which hosts many of my favorite shows, including Back to Work and The Ihnatko Almanac. Over the last year I have observed and absorbed the values and techniques these shows employ to create highly listenable radio. While I didn’t quite realize it until I had finished cutting the first episode, I want Play of the Light to answer the question “If 5by5 hosted a videogame show, what would it sound like?”

The real answer to that question must remain a platonic model in my head, and I can only splice together my best imitation of it, especially since audio-only recording and editing is new turf for me. But I think I did all right — my video work experience proved at least partially transferrable — and I’ll only get better at it.

I also had a sort of counter-inspiration coming from nearly every other videogame-themed podcast I’ve heard. While I have sampled only a tiny slice of the full field — this is a very well-covered topic in podcast-land — I found most such shows difficult to enjoy. They tend to feature friends talking about new games they like or don’t like (as well as whatever else may spring to mind) until they feel done, and then they publish the result with little to no editing. Listening to the result, for me, feels like awkwardly trying to mingle with a group of strangers who all know each other and have their own language, and this overshadows the ostensible topic.

I wanted to create a show that demonstrated at least a little more care than that, from the topics chosen before recording to the style of editing performed afterwards. As I write in the new show’s About page, I really do consider videogames to play an increasingly central role in human culture, and desire to bring the topic more thoughtful and digestible discussion than the internet-audio medium typically delivers.

We have committed to creating an initial “season” of six biweekly episodes, starting this week. Many will be discussions of individual games or game series, but I hope to get into some wider cultural examination as well. I do hope you’ll listen along as it happens!

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3 Responses to Announcing Play of the Light

  1. Flourish says:

    Can't wait to hear it! :)

  2. andrew says:

    I wanted to thank you for the quality and focus you've shown in the first two episodes. They've been incredible to listen to, and the only thing I've ever heard in "video game podcast" land that actually talks *about* games, instead of just describing or mentioning them.

    When I find myself yelling at the empty air, it's because I've disagreed with a substantive statement (or oversight) about the game's function or meaning, instead an expression of general disgust. For example, the mid-podcast discussion of how Dark/Demon Souls game systems supporting the meta critique of the act of game playing, no one connected back to the combat/hit-stun mechanics discussion from earlier. I don't think Dark/Demon Souls combat strives to be "realistic" with how hitstun works; rather, it forces players to live under the same ruleset normally reserved for enemy characters. You're stuck in a reeling animation with no agency, just like every poor mook from Golden Axe onward, wondering if this will be the combo that obliterates the last chunk of your existence and sends you back to your spawn point behind a flaming barrel.

    You've made a perfect gaming podcast for educated cranky-pants gamers. Bravo.

    I didn't see a comment section on the Play of the Light webspace. Is there an open discussion space planned?

    • Thank you for the kind words, andrew!

      You are correct that the PotL website lacks any comments. This is largely a symptom of my own unfamiliarity with Tumblr. I've been aware of the lack, and will see about stapling a Disqus or something to it by the time the next episode goes live next week.

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