Extra Credits is an animated webseries, formerly published by The Escapist, then PATV and recently self-published, which is is hosted by James Portnow (writing), Daniel Floyd (narration), Elisa "LeeLee" Scaldaferri and Scott Dewitt (art), the latter's spot formely belonging to Allison Theus before she left to work on other projects. The hosts use the series as a means to cover many issues pertinent to the video games industry, in particular what goes into the creation and development of video games, what video games have to do to become recognized as a legitimate artform, and creating intellectual discourse on important issues in the video game community.The series uses a voiceover over top of static, minimalist illustrations and funny pictures culled from various Internet sources, with emphasis on Visual Puns. This aspect is heavily inspired by another series made famous by The Escapist.The show strives to be both lighthearted and humorous while providing an insightful look into the inner workings of the video game industry, in a topic of the week format, often tackling many of the most prevalent and controversial topics in the gaming industry, such as topics regarding Diversity in games, piracy, video game addiction, and the unreasonable working conditions faced by many game developers. The show also manages to be thoroughly researched on the topics it is covering. This shouldn't be surprising, as James, Daniel, and Allison are all well-immersed in the industry; James is a game designer himself, Daniel was an animator for Pixar Canada (and contributor to OC ReMix), and Allison is a concept artist.Due to a money-related misunderstanding, Extra Credits' run on The Escapist drew 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.As of January 2014, PATV has ended their 3rd party hosting, meaning Extra Credits primarily hosts using their YouTube channel once again.Pre-Escapist episodes can be watched here.The entire archive from during and after their days at The Escapist can be watched here. The episode guide can be found here.Intro: Penguin Cap by CarboHydroM
Tropes which Extra Credits provides an example of:
In "Innovation", and whenever a guest artist is invited. They generally imitate the style while putting their own twists on it.
In season 4 they added LeeLee to their ranks, and while her and Allison's styles were mostly similar, difference between the two could be seen during certain points.
Art Evolution: The show's signature art style went through three iterations during its run, not counting the guest artists. The pre-Escapist videos used a crude, but bright art style employed by Floyd. After the series became weekly, Allison provided smoother art with a more pastel-type color palette. After she was replaced by Scott DeWitt during Season 6, the new artists revamped the style, making them closer to Super-Deformed.
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.
The big problem they have with propaganda games is willfully misinforming the audience. While Call of Juarez: The Cartel can't really be described as propaganda, it is such a disrespectful hack-job of the Mexican Drug War that it deserves everything it gets.
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.
Catch Phrase: James seems to have made "Hello Youtubes! Welcome back to James Recommends!" into one for the James Recommends side series.
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. Even their Call of Juarez: The Cartel review, which is possibly the most negative and judgmental thing they've produced, always speaks professionally and thoroughly justifies every complaint.
Femme Fatalons: Allison sometimes draws herself with some pretty nasty claws for the sake of a visual cue.
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 EC-inspiration Yahtzee shows up, angrily saying, "What are you getting at?"
Flat Joy: What Daniel does when revealing that they're going to be talking about Call of Juarez: The Cartel. "Ta-daaa."
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.
Must Have Caffeine: The second artist, Leelee, might be this, judging from the sheer number of coffee cups in the "Energy Systems" episode.
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.
"It's the suggestion that we shouldn't explore games further. That all of this inquiry and study and tampering is going to just ruin our favorite hobby. And that is a claim that needs answering. It makes no f**king sense!"
In Extra Remix - Sixto Sounds, in a less heavy sense.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to f**king rock out!"
Promoted Fanboy: A few examples. Many of the guest artists are Real Life friends of the others and industry insiders, including LeeLee, but all are fans of the show. While detaching her own webcomic Name Game from The Escapist, LeeLee became a rotation artist for EC, since Theus has been unpredictable.
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.
However, in the episode Toxicity, they urged players who love blaming their teammates for not winning to not treat "winning at video games" as Serious Business.
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.
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.
Funding XCOM, where they talk about... well, funding a real-life XCOM.
The pre-Escapist videos (and even some of the early Escapist episodes) are more representative of Floyd's college-requisite Jade-Colored Glasses, and have been incrementally re-made with new scripts and new art whenever Writer's Block sets in...
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.
But Thou Must: "The Illusion of Choice" discusses how this is pretty much inevitable in most games and showcases a few tricks that game designers use to give the player the illusion that their choices are meaningful when they don't really make that much of a difference in the long run.
They also argue that this is basically what happened to Samus with Metroid: Other M, stating that Samus already had a workable characterization that emerged from the mechanics and backstory of the previous games, and that suddenly ramming a new characterization down the player's throat made Samus worse for it rather than better.
Competitive Balance: Discussed in "Perfect Imbalance" in which they, counter-intuitively, suggest that a designer should deliberately introduce an slight element of minor imbalance into play. The idea being that Complacent Gaming Syndrome will set in if everything is perfectly balanced, as players will find the optimal strategies and only play to those. However, with calculated imbalances, players are forced to adjust their strategies as the Meta Game keeps shifting. They recommend a balancing technique of "cyclical balance" as a kind of extended Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors, where Element A is obviously powerful, but has an exploitable weakness to a strategy involving Element B, which in turn has a weakness to something using Element C, etc. League of Legends is cited as a good example of this.
Cosmic Horror Story / Eldritch Abomination: In "Why Games Do Cthulhu Wrong", they discuss why video games can't do the cosmic horror genre any justice, at least not without subverting almost everything mainstream video games are about. Video games are usually about presenting the player with a challenge to overcome, and while portraying Cthulhu as such a challenge hits the notes of Lovecraft, it completely misses the music; true Lovecraftian horror is about forces so completely beyond humanity that just seeing one leads to madness, and that are impossible to even fight, let alone defeat.
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.
Revisited in the episode "Growing With Our Heroes", which in contrast to the earlier "Hard Boiled" episode discusses some of the positive reasons why people keep being drawn more mature reboots of older franchises. A lot of it boils down to nostalgia factor, wanting to keep our "childish" things rather than discard them, but try to make them relevant to us at a different age. The key difference in whether it ends up being good or bad has a lot to do with why such a thing happened: if it is to appreciate something from a new perspective of experience that tends to work out well, but if it to try and make it seem more serious in fear of judgement, then it tends to end poorly.
For game companies: By releasing their games with annoying DRM, they just provide pirated games the advantage of being free, and giving them the additional advantage of being unrestricted and less buggy, and therefore is not going to help the developers in the long run.
For pirates: Any justification you have for piracy based upon the argument that "the game is not worth buying/playing" for whatever reason instantly becomes hypocritical and meaningless once you pirate the said game, because by doing so you have just proved that the game IS worth playing.
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.
Difficult but fun: The game consistently follows its own internal rules, provides players alternate options to overcome challenges, and offers short respawn times that allow the player to quickly get back into the action after failing.
"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.
"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. The later episode "Toxicity" discusses the way people treat each other online, including this.
In Medias Res: Discussed in the Amnesia episode (see Three Act Structure below), and in the Starting Off Right episode.
The Load: In the episode "Minority", they point to this has one of the bad uses of children in games, comparing it to Clementine from The Walking Dead, who is a useful ally.
Micro Transactions: Discussed in "Microtransactions". They believe that microtransactions can be very beneficial to gamers and to the industry, giving players the option to spend how much they want on games, from $5 to $500, instead of a flat $60 for everyone. The problem with microtransactions right now is how the industry is using them as a free-for-all gouge-fest.
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.
Discussed in more detail in the episode "A Little Bit Of Yesterday" where they discuss the popularity of Retraux games and what exactly is that certain something about those older-style games that we are trying to recapture.
The Video Games and Religion videos suggest that science and religion are this, as both are ultimately rooted in faith (in science's case, that previous observations and theories are in fact correct, often despite knowing that new discoveries may render them inaccurate after all, as often happens.)
After the firestorm on the forums over the above episodes, they made a follow-up video explaining how faith and science go together, and pointed out that some of the people who were defending science were acting in a zealous manner similar to creationists.
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 L.A. 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.
Railroading: Discussed in the episode "The Illusion of Choice". For players to feel agency within a game, they must feel like their choices in the game are meaningful, but since any player choice requires extra work from the developers, there is a limit to how much freedom games can give; therefore, games will give an illusion of choice, keeping players on a set path with various tricks to make them think they are the ones in control. It's only bad if the illusion falls apart and the gamers realize they're being herded by the game.
"You see, there's nothing inherently wrong with cutscenes. The fault lies in how we've been using'em. The cutscene is a tool; asking games to forever abandon the cutscene is like asking the carpenter to give up his square, or the painter to never use grey or brown... or the game to never use grey or brown." (followed immediately by a picture ofGears of War).
Sequel Escalation: Discussed in "Spectacle Creep", pointing out how making games "bigger and better" eventually leads to games becoming absurd, and even losing sight of what made their predecessors so successful. This leads to a Continuity Reboot in order to get a franchise back to a more sane level, before spectacle creep sends it back into absurdity.
Stealth-Based Game: Discussed in "Like a Ninja", which points out the differences between stealth-based games and action-oriented games, and why stealth games are either really good or really bad.
They also cover why it's hard to put Stealth-Based Missions in action games, because the core feeling of stealth is overcoming obstacles despite being underpowered and plays out more like a puzzle, while action games tend towards overpowering your enemies through combat.
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.
Technobabble: The subject of an entire episode. They link it to the difference between the extremes of the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness, with hard science fiction on one end and future fantasy on the other, saying that the really inaccurate use of technobabble tends to come when an author cannot commit to a fantastical idea and tries to tenuously ground it with sciencey-sounding language. They then go on to briefly define a few commonly used ideas in physics to give viewers a slightly better understanding of those terms.
Unfortunate Implications: invokedThey 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, concluding that They Just Didn't Care.
For example, the only achievement in the game related to "Kill X Enemies" called "Bad Guy", and is done on a level with exclusively-black gang members (whom you purposely incited to violence). Couple that with tweaking reality to fit the narrative (in this case, using one level to depict Mexican drug cartels coming to the US to abduct American women to sell as sex slaves, when the reality is pretty much the complete opposite) and their outrage over this is understandable, even if Hanlon's Razor applied. Oh yeah, and the "heroes" treat the strippers in that latter mission as Disposable Sex Workers.