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"Because games matter!"
Hosted by James Portnow, Daniel Floyd, and Allison Theus (who provide writing, narration, and art respectively) the show tackles topics such as bad writing tropes, Diversity, and Free Speech as they apply to games. One of the core messages of the show is that games as a medium need to start treating themselves as Serious Business, and should work to fight the stereotypes and assumptions that are associated with the medium.
The series uses a voiceover over top of static, minimalist illustrations and funny pictures culled from various Internet sources, with emphasis on Visual Puns. Heavily inspired by another series made famous by The Escapist.
Despite the humour-oriented nature of the series, some insiders have noted that it is in fact very accurate about the material. The piece on what you need to have to be a game designer was noted by one designer as being spot on. This shouldn't be surprising, as James, Daniel, and Alison are all industry professionals; James is a game designer himself, Daniel is an animator for Pixar Canada (okay, not quite the right industry, but pretty close), and Alison is a concept artist at Relic Entertainment.
Unfortunately, it was revealed on the Extra Credits Twitter that due to a money-related misunderstanding, Extra Credits' run on The Escapist has drawn to a close. After a brief "hiatus" period on YouTube, they moved to PATV. Proof, if needed, that the two groups are on the same wavelength. However, due to Penny Arcade deciding to wind down PATV in December of 2013 Extra Credits is back on YouTube for the foreseeable future.
The entire archive from during and after their days at The Escapist can be watched here.
Tropes which Extra Credits provides an example of:
- Art Shift: In "Innovation" and "Gamification", the latter illustrated by Erin Siegel to give Allison a break
- Extra Credits brought in other guest artists after Allison's surgery to let her arm heal, including Erin.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The Stinger for "Our Oscars":
"Big E 3 Developments. New Sony handheld. New HD Nintendo console. And apparently, sports stars don't count as celebrities. I didn't know that."
- Berserk Button: Poorly-made propaganda games. Well-made propaganda games don't always set their world on fire either, but poorly-made propaganda games inspire epic rants like these.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Given the idealistic tone of the series, they rarely criticize games unless they have a really good reason. However, there are a few episodes where they simply tear a game apart, such as the one about Call of Juarez: The Cartel, which uses lots of heavy-handed language; Daniel flat-out calls it despicable and horrid, due to its lazy design and dishonor of the subject matter.
- Brain Bleach: In the first "Western & Japanese RPGs" episode, Allison does a search for "Eroge visual novels" while working on the episode, only to start scrubbing her eyes out with bleach on viewing the results. She's now the page picture for the trope.
- Captain Obvious: Mentioned by name in the Amnesia episode, complete with a Captain America like drawing.
- Catgirl: Allison, more or less. When she gets angry, she gains fangs and claws.
- Caustic Critic: A beautiful aversion. While there are things that piss off the EC team, most of their analysis are done fairly, and often conceding to the problems and troubles the other side of the debate goes through.
- Channel Hop: From YouTube to The Escapist, back to YouTube, and finally to PATV.
- Continuity Nod: After receiving her shoulder surgery, Allison's avatar has had a Bionic Arm drawn in some episodes.
- Cute and Psycho: Allison, as she grows more crazed looking as each episode wears on. Lampshaded repeatedly:
"Uh oh, Allison, put the eraser down, I'm almost done!"
- Erin too.
- Foil: Near the begining of the "Microtransactions" episode, Daniel says that EC is always trying to be the calmer voice, while a crude picture of Yahtzee shows up, angrily saying, "What are you getting at?"
- Mood Dissonance: In the "Open Letter to EA Marketing" video, Daniel reads out-loud the original mission statement for Electronic Arts, a highly idealistic vision for the evolution of video games as an art form. While he's reading this, he shows clips of EA's various cynical ad campaigns that embrace the worst of gaming stereotypes and do little to advance the medium as an art.
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Allison is really good at that. Often borders on Nightmare Fuel.
- Precision F-Strike: In "Art Is Not the Opposite of Fun," Daniel uses this trope while questioning the claim that studying what makes games unique will cause them to become worse or less fun.
- Used again in "Call of Juarez: The Cartel." toward the end
I'm willing to wager there's now at least one person out there who now believes more firmly that Mexicans are stealing our women because of this game, and that is f**king disgraceful. It is a shame to what it means to be a designer, and it belies the responsibility we as a group hold when producing mass media. We can do a lot better than this. We can inform, and educate, and entertain, but failing all of that we can at least be honest."
"Do not Tangle. With the kind of people. Who install Linux. on their Playstations. Trust me: You. Are. Wasting. Your. Time."
- Rerun: Almost every episode from the show's run on YouTube was revamped for The Escapist.
- The "Uncanny Valley" episode they uploaded to PATV was the third time they've covered that topic, once for each incarnation of the show.
- Interestingly, the PATV episode was remade from scratch with a reworked script and animation.
- The "Uncanny Valley" episode they uploaded to PATV was the third time they've covered that topic, once for each incarnation of the show.
- Running Gag: Allison's shoulder injury is rendered as a Deus Ex style cyborg arm.
- Self-Deprecation: The Uncanny Valley episode pokes fun at the show's art and Daniel's narration.
- Serious Business: A large part of the series's message is that video game developers should take their medium as seriously as other media.
- The importance of balancing gaming with Real Life and the serious consequences of game compulsion was detailed over two episodes, and broke the usual style of the show by having James speak directly.
- The breakdown of Call of Juarez: The Cartel is absolutely brutal in its treatment of the game, condemning it for multiple sins; it starts with how its lazy design indirectly encourages the killing of black people and gets more serious from there.
- Shout-Out: In the "Sharing Our Medium" episode, the "PLAY ALL THE THINGS" pictures are a shout out to Hyperbole and a Half.
- And in the end credits of "Let's Talk About Pacing", their encouraging message ended with "Also, Santa is real. And Friendship IS magic."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The tone of the series is extremely idealistic: it views the recognition of video games as art as inevitable, treats virtually all developments in the industry as furthering this cause, and views most obstacles in the way as easily overcome.
- Something Completely Different: Game Addiction (Part 2) where James Portnow sits down in front of the camera and discusses his own past in this area. Daniel even comments on how they tried to do it in their normal, academic style of commentary, but James simply couldn't write a good enough script while remaining objective.
- Their episode on the controversial bills SOPA and PIPA had James, Daniel and the owners of various gaming websites speaking in live action, urging the viewer to boycott E3 unless the ESA, which is E3's main backer, withdrew their support for those bills. They followed it up the next week with a conventional episode on it however.
- They did it again with their "Extra Credits supports Firefall" video. There was even some lampshading by the team about it.
- Spin_Off: Starting in early 2014 they have announced the possibility of several spin offs, starting with Jame's Recommends.
- Updated Rerelease: the Uncanny Valley episode, mk. 3! Now on PATV!
- Very Special Episode: Game Addiction: Part 2. Complete with An Aesop:
James: Life will always welcome you back.
- Visual Pun: Very common.
Tropes that are discussed by Extra Credits:
- Boring but Practical / Difficult but Awesome: Discussed in the "How to Play Like a Designer, Part 2" episode in which they explain that "First Order Optimal Strategies" (which require little player effort but give good results such as the "noob tube" or "hundred hand slap") are necessary to allow new players to have a competitive edge and allow them to gain enough confidence and experience to start using more difficult but ultimately even more effective strategies necessary for more difficult levels or matches. He cautions though that any such thing needs to be carefully developed and thought through, as it can create unintentional Game Breakers which might flatten an otherwise expertly plotted difficulty curve.
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: Warned against in the "Microtransactions" episode, with a crossed-out picture of Jareth from Labyrinth.
- Character Derailment: They argue that this happened to Kratos in the God of War sequels.
- Critical Research Failure: In-Universe, they really lay into Call of Juarez: The Cartel for making extremely basic errors in its portrayal of the terrible Mexican drug wars and indirectly encouraging the grossly racist "they are stealing our women" stereotype -- even though, in reality, the reverse is much closer to the truth.
- Criticism Tropes: Discussed in the "Game Reviews" episode. Analysis focuses specifically on the differences between the informational content of typical movie reviews and the informational content of typical game reviews. The former tends toward more contextual information as to how the film compares to other films, while the later tends toward more descriptive information as to what is in the product. While they concede that the descriptive information is essential, if that is all a video game review is, all reviews end up looking alike and it becomes difficult for a reader to glean perspective.
- Four Point Scale: Also briefly touches on this, mentioning that to someone who comes into the hobby from outside of it and is more familiar with rating systems for other works such as movies, game reviews would often seem quite misleading when giving numbers.
- Darker and Edgier: Discussed in the episode "Hard Boiled". They explain why Darker and Edgier tends to happen with video game franchises, taking Max Payne 3 which they had just played as an example. Some of the reasons cited are misplaced ideals that Darker and Edgier makes something seem more Serious Business, assumptions about what a young audience wants to buy, and the game industry's Egregious tendency to Follow the Leader.
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: Discussed in the "Piracy" episode. Daniel and James' viewpoint in a nutshell: if it's not available in your country or has been lost in the sands of time, then pirate away. Otherwise, if you like something, just pay for it, and don't be a dick. They also address companies that release their games with annoying DRM, saying that pirated games already have the advantage of being free, and giving them the additional advantage of being unrestricted and less buggy is not going to help in the long run.
- Downloadable Content: They touch upon the process behind the creation of this, particularly the reason for Day-1 DLC, in their Mass Effect 3 DLC video. They do acknowledge that publishers and developers can abuse this, but state the reasons that sometimes DLC should be necessary to not only keep up the value of the product, but increase the available content in the game, especially in shorter games.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: Touched upon briefly in "Amnesia and Story Structure" but taken to its logical extreme in "Narrative Mechanics" where they cite Missile Command as a case-study in how a game can tell a story using only its game mechanics.
- Gender and Sexuality Tropes: Discussed in a few episodes.
- "Diversity" hints at the several episodes to come.
- "Sex in Games" introduces the topic, exploring why developers might wish to include sexuality as part of theme or characterization, citing games like Ico as an exploration of intimacy even without sexuality.
- "Sexual Diversity" uses Persona 4 as a case-study in how including some diversity of sexual orientations can greatly add to characterization in games.
- "True Female Characters" discusses how to write female chacters. It also cements a theme through these episodes that writing a character like this requires thinking about what expectations that character's society places on them, and what aspects of those expectations they choose to embrace and what they choose to reject, saying that someone who rejects every social expectation placed on them is just as sterotypical as someone who embraces every expectation.
- GIFT: Not by name, but the episode "Harassment" lays out some ideas on how these people can be expunged from the gaming community.
- In Medias Res: Discussed in the Amnesia episode (see Three Act Structure below).
- Nostalgia Filter: The topic is touched upon in "Videogame Music". Daniel ponders why gamers are more fond of the old NES themes, despite the better resources available to video game composers these days. Like most topics, he chooses the middle road, stating that there's still great soundtracks being made today, while encouraging composers to stay grounded in their roots and create a strong melody that will endure for years after the fact.
- The Power of Trust: Discussed as its importance between the consumers and the producers of any technology that requires users to share personal information for the sake of functionality during the "NOT a Security Episode" episode.
- Race Tropes: Touched upon in the episode "Race in Games". In particular, they look at how the context of race-relations can inform the player about a character, using LA Noire as an example. They elected to go for that perspective rather than a "how to write racial minorities" bent because they were concerned that would only lead to stereotypes. They went on to say that many of their suggestions about how to handle Gender and Sexuality Tropes apply to Race Tropes as well.
- Stealth Parody: Discussed briefly at the end of the "Hard Boiled" episode, where they suggest that the Modern Warfare series has become self-aware of how over the top they have gotten through Serial Escalation, and the end text of the episode recommends playing Modern Warfare 3 with the mentality that it is a send-up of modern shooters.
- Three Act Structure: Discussed in the Amnesia episode, particularly with video games and their habit of starting in Act 2.
- Token Minority: Mentioned in the diversity episode as a bad solution to accusations that there aren't enough female, black, or other minority groups.
- Uncanny Valley: Discussed In-Universe in one of the pre-Escapist episodes; "Video Games and the Uncanny Valley".
- Brought up again in the Halloween Episode, "Symbolism 101".
- Unfortunate Implications: In-UniverseThey note how poorly thought-out game mechanics can accidentally send very dangerous messages if designers aren't careful and responsible. As an example, they cite the convention of making certain races and groups the enemy in recent mainstream shooters, which risks dehumanizing them in the minds of players who are required to slaughter them in droves without question. They single out Call of Juarez: The Cartel as an example of a game that does this, devoting an entire episode to ripping apart the Unfortunate Implications within it.