Three of their most important episodes from the perspective of game design, where they tackle three of the most prevalent misconceptions is modern gaming, making them something that every game developer should know about:
Especially the dissonance of putting together an Old EA magazine article over the top of a Dante's Inferno video.
And their response to how fake reports of the "Bad Nanny" achievement for Dante's Inferno offended the International Nanny's Association:
"You know how hard it is to piss off people who watch other people's five-year-olds for a living?!"
The real MoA for this event, for Extra Credits, for the Escapist and possibly the entire video-game-based web-series genre? The head of EA marketing invited them to a meeting to discuss their marketing strategy after the video went viral.
Think about this— EA saw it and cared. The episode honestly did something, Electronic Arts is trying to right itself. And this is Electronic Arts we're talking about here!
The series' presence on The Escapist was a MoA on its own. In the earlier episodes, before they got picked up by the site, they said that it was inspired by Zero Punctuation. After a while, they're featured on the same site and have an almost greater following.
After they left, they found another hoster almost as fast, and it was none other than Penny Arcade.
Which is itself a MoA, because of the absolute respect and gratitude they showed for Penny Arcade and its Childs Play charity.
The whole second episode on compulsive gaming was one of these, with James talking frankly about his own past problems and ending on the life-affirming message that real life is always waiting for us to return and that we can apply the same zeal we applied to gaming to life with much grander results.
The "Call of Juarez: The Cartel" episode as a whole, but sternly calling out the designers for willfully misinforming people about human trafficking deserves special mention.
Their conclusion about the responsibilities designers have ends simply but powerfully.
We can inform, and educate, and entertain, but failing all that we can at least BE HONEST.
The ''Politics'' video. They managed to get Jared Polis, a REAL CONGRESSMAN, to speak in the show. Wow.
This. For context: Richard Danksy, a friend of James, sent him a copy of Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah, a supplement for Wraith: The Oblivion focused on the Holocaust. The episode explores the game and the topic of what is and isn't appropriate to discuss in a game.
They knew they were gonna hear a lot of angry voices saying, "You can't talk about these things in a game." But they also knew that wasn't true, in the same way that you'd never say that such important topics shouldn't use the medium of television, or that people shouldn't make movies to discuss such serious things. You can't say that something isn't appropriate for a medium. That type of generalization doesn't even make sense. It's not in the medium, but rather how we use it to determine whether we're treating a subject with respect.
The Narrative Mechanics episode. One of the points that the Extra Credits crew has been saying for years is that story told through gameplay is what designers should aim for, but at one gaming convention, the writer, James Portnow, was challenged to name a game that actually accomplished this. Not only does he succeed, but the example they chose is one which forced the player to confront moral dilemmas with limited resources in a universe which invites an enormous emotional investment while delivering a powerful anti-war message in the bargain ... and their example did it before most Extra Credits viewers were even born. As quoted on the TV Tropes page for the game itself:
The Creative Assembly has paid these guys to do a history lesson on the Punic Wars, an educational video series to advertise for Total War: Rome II!
The best part was Creative Assembly telling the EC team that they didn't need to mention them, or the game - just teach some history. But EC did both anyway, since they felt the idea was so awesome.
They enjoyed doing the series so much, they're bringing it back!
And now it's officially a weekly show thanks to Patreon!
The Battle of Cannae. Hannibal not only knew his opponent so thoroughly that he could make them charge him by simply waiting a day, he also created the infamous Pincer Maneuver, whereby he simply had his battle line slowly retreat as the outer edges hold and close in on the enemy. It's poetic that the Punic Wars would be the first in the series of videos, as you will see this tactic again and again in war, always under a different name and with some slight modifications (such as Shaka Zulu's Bull Horns technique or even Admiral Yi's Crane Wing formation), but always with the same general idea.
Fabius, the elected Dictator who would arguably save Rome from Hannibal, managed to out gambit Hannibal during his tenure by recognizing every single bait and refusing to bite. This is despite how Hannibal managed to turn nearly everyone else in Rome into Leeroy Jenkins with his trolling tactics.
However, Hannibal paid him back by deliberately avoiding lands owned by Fabius, casting suspicion that Fabius' reason for abandoning their usual strategy was out of collusion, rather than caution.
Hannibal bringing Elephants into combat against the Roman Army. Dan was not kidding when he said that this story would have fighting monsters. And these were pissed off elephants.
And then the Romans, the reservists and dregs who weren't sent off to Spain, to Africa, hold their ground in the face of the Elephants, and if it were not for the defeat of their cavalry, quite possibly would have won.
Really, the fact that Carthage was able to stand against the might of Rome for as long as they did is a MoA all on its own.
Oda Nobunaga, forced to pull an ignominious retreat after an ally turned on him, leads his troops marching down a forest road, when a ninja shoots him with an arquebus, pulls another, and shoots again, fleeing in the confusion. Nobunaga is thrown from his horse, and his men clamor in confusion. Then, slowly, Nobunaga rises, one bullet lodged over his heart, the other in his helmet. His eyes *glow* with fury, and the viewer has no choice but to pity his traitorous brother-in-law.
Ieyasu makes it back to a castle with only five men to protect it after being crushed by the Takada cavalry. Five men against a whole army is suicide and yet Ieyasu dodges death again by lighting braziers along the wall, throwing open his gates and banging a huge drum, daring the enemy to come and get him (which they don't). Then, his secret weapon, Hattori Hanzo, does so much damage to the Takada in the night that they flee to their home.
Torii Suneemon's Undying Loyalty and Heroic Sacrifice. He's captured by Takeda Katsuyori, crucifiednote It's debated whether he was crucified before or after his defiance, and told his life would be spared if he shouts that no help would be coming from Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Suneemon takes a deep breath. Everything is silent. Suneemon shouts that Tokugawa is on his way! Hold firm! And then he's stabbed with dozens of spears, and dies. But the garrison does hold out, and Tokugawa and Nobunaga arrive with their army.
Justinian and Theodora.
The Battle of Dara, the way Daniel narrates Belisarius' observation of the numbers at the battle it sounded something to the effect of: "Well, better put some coffee on, this is going to be tricky to plan for."
Empress Theodora proving her status as Empress by basically telling her husband and the Imperial Court to stand and fight, rather than run from the rampaging Demes.
Belisarius taking back Carthage from the Vandals with only sixteen-thousand men, even less than the numbers he had at Dara. And succeeded where the efforts of BOTH of the Roman Empires of old backfired with six times that many soldiers.
He then proceeded to take Rome itself with even LESS troops.
Theodora holding the empire together while Justinian was stricken with Plague, preventing a coup and maintaining general order until he miraculously recovered. Not for nothing is episode 10 of the series labeled not "Justinian and Theodora" or "The Byzantine Empire", but rather simply "Theodora".
Belisarius, when faced with the task off defending Rome from a much larger force, laughs at them and then shoots down three riders to raise his men's hopes.
Suleiman the Magnificent
Suleiman's sheer dog-headed determination and drive. From the moment he becomes Sultan, nothing distracts him from his dream of expanding the Ottoman Empire and inscribing his name into the annals of history. No matter how cruel, misguided, or capricious he might be, his determination never fails. He even demands his army march as full-speed, despite the fact that traveling so wracks his aged, gout-ridden body with utter agony.
The Knights Hospitaller must be given their full credit: They are the last of the Crusader Orders. Before them, the Templars were brought down by the avarice of kings, the Teutonic Knights destroyed themselves in battle after battle in Eastern Europe. Yet they stand tall, defending the soft underbelly of Christendom, the Mediterranean.
Suleiman unleashes the full might of the Ottoman Empire against their island fortress of Rhodes. Do they capitulate? No. They stand and fight, for over five weeks, defying the ruler of one of the greatest empires of the known world, until at last he accepts generous terms and lets them and all Christian souls depart, unmolested.
Years later, the Knights have forged themselves anew on Malta and continue to harry and harass the Ottoman shipping lanes. Once again, Suleiman dispatches an army to root out this last relic of the Crusades. Whilst this time it is a smaller force, such an army should nonetheless be able to destroy the Knights of Saint John. But this time - in a conflict known as The Great Siege of Malta - the Knights hold firm. Even when the entire garrison of one of their forts on the island is killed to the last man, they hold on and repulse the pride of the Ottoman Empire's forces. Without doubt, these Knights of the Hospital proved for all time why they were the last to fall (some two-hundred years later, at the hands of no less than Napoleon) out of what was once the spearpoint of Christendom.
The First Crusade.
The desperately outnumbered Crusaders holding the line against the Turkish forces for hours without retreating, without being baited into an attack, and then, after four episodes, the Crusaders finally band up assemble as one to repel the Turkish forces in a daring charge, clearing the way to the city Antioch. There's even a observable Big Damn Heroes moment for Bishop Adhemar (who spent all other episodes suffering some physical or moral injury), who comes crashing down in the Turkish flank and pretty much saves the civilians.
The civilians themselves get one — as women risk their own lives running with pitchers to give the shieldbearers water to drink to sustain them.
Love him or hate him, Bohemond's stratagem to take Antioch for himself is very clever: He plays the Byzantines like a fiddle (claiming there's a plot to assasinate their leader, and when they retreat to confirm that information, accusing them of cowardice), then delivering a crushing blow to the Turkish reinforcements and finally bribing the guards to take hold of Antioch. His crusader allies are impotent to do anything against him due his popularity with the common people, meaning he does all this without even damaging his reputation.
Bishop Adhemar gets a second Big Damn Heroes moment by stopping a mass desertion amongst the crusaders (he even drags Walpole back to the Siege), proposing a fast to regain favor with God, thus single-handedly solving the troop's starvation problem and boosting their previously-falling morale.
Admiral Yi who, when he broke his leg while on horseback during a military examination, hobbled over to a willow tree, splinted his broken leg, and completed the examination.
Yi: My Lord, you are asking me to assume the whole responsibility for the misfortune. But you are wrong. May I remind you that you have always refused my frequent requests for reinforcements. The defeat was not a result of my negligence of duty, but in large part, your fault. Therefore, it is not I, but you, who should be held responsible for the defeat.
Pretty much all of Admiral Yi's naval campaign against Japan is one long moment of awesome (note that this started after he was called out of his retirement).
He creates the turtle ship, which can't be flanked or boarded by the enemy and uses it to devastating effect.
He goes battle after battle without losing a single ship (some of his ships were commandeered fishing boats).
He takes a bullet to the shoulder and continues to direct a battle, and then casually digs it out with a sword afterwards.
Yi was actually so awesome and loyal that James struggled to find ANYTHING that had something bad to say about him. Eventually, he found one book that heavily criticized what Yi had done. Hisauto-biography.
The same segment had this quote from Admiral Togo, roughly 300 years later.
In a meta sense, their series about Admiral Yi is (as of August 2018) the first, second and third video hits on Google when searching for him.
Odenathus creating an army from nothing but his cities troops, scattered Legionaries and the peasantry of Palmyra, and beating the Parthian Empire to a standstill, even twice going to their capital. But that's not all, he pretty much moved Heaven and Earth to maintain stability in the empire, giving the Roman Empire enough time to lick their wounds and rebuild their strength.
John Snow and The Broad Street Pump:
The first episode's depiction of John Snow's rapid ascension from mere apprentice to fully learned Doctor with every possible license one could attain in the field of medicine at the time, in ONE YEAR.
Despite everything the world had to throw at her, from disease, racial remarks, the loss of her husband and dear mother on the same day, the loss of her hotel in the fire that ravaged Kingstown, she never conceded defeat. Despite the war department and the nurses of London refusing to send her over to Crimea to assist the sick and injured soldiers, she never conceded defeat. In short, she was The Determinator personified. No matter what happened, shit was going to get done.
Catherine The Great:
She started out as The Unfavorite of her mother, who was hoping for a son to help solidify her position in court. However, Catherine proved better at selling herself than her mother, greatly impressing Frederick the Great over idle conversation, convincing him that Catherine was far more interesting (and interested in learning) than her mother believed her to be, sending a favorable letter to Elizabeth in Russia to inform her of such.
Her coup against her husband goes off beautifully, with Catherine having successfully won the hearts and minds of commoner, noble, and clergy-member alike, utilizing this when representatives from her husband show up to try dissuading her from going through with her revolt. Her retort hints that she would become The High Queen.
The embassy from Peter's company arrives, one of them begs Catherine not to take arms up against her husband. She takes him by the elbow and leads him to a balcony. Gesturing to the ecstatic crowd, she says: "Deliver your message to them."
After completing her (surprisingly non-violent) coup, Catherine manages, through sheer force of will and personality, to cajole the Orthodox Church into becoming officially State-owned, as Russia's treasury was nearly empty due to a number of failed military ventures, and they desperately needed more tax revenue.
Operation Fortitude, the largest military deception operation in the history of warfare.
The last video of the series, detailing the German perspective, is truly awe inspiring, it shows just how effective the actions of the Allies were, the deception of the British (detailed in Episode 2) hampers their response, the French sabotage of specific bridges and railroads (detailed in Episode 3) slows them further, and the assault on the beaches (detailed in Episode 1) were devastating.
Hunting the Bismarck
In the aftermath of the horrific loss of the H.M.S Hood in battle, the British navy burns with renewed fervor to bring down the German behemoth, conveyed through a steely delivery by Dan as the pulse-pounding music rises:
The airwaves are thick with this one message: Sink the Bismarck. Sink the Bismarck. Sink the Bismarck.
Let's take a moment to reiterate this: The Navy HQ is despondent over the devasting loss of the Hood and the damage to her sister ship, the Wales. They don't know what to do now and they are at a loss. Then a phone call comes. It's Prime Minister Winston Churchill. While the HQ is having an HBSOD, Churchill is angry and he has one order to give them and he insists that they follow it. Just by saying the three words, Churchill managed to whip the Navy into the frenzy that spurred them on and they transmit this order to every ship in the North Atlantic.
Then comes attacking the Bismarck. The Swordfish biplanes are not up for the task: Inexperienced pilots, the planes are made out of canvas around a metal frame and most of their new torpedoes are faulty. Yet not a single plane goes down every time they assault the Bismarck.
One pilot is going up for the rear for one last attempt, but his co-pilot shouts "Not now!" Said co-pilot is hanging off the side of the plane in order to judge the water waves for a good strike. And he picks a perfect window. They knocked out the Bismarck's steering and sent Him back out into the Atlantic instead of France.
Amidst the attackers, one warship signals the Bismarck "I am a Pole," before opening fire.
Admiral Toby leaves nothing to chance against the Bismarck as His guns are more than capable of taking down any of his ships, so he attacks from all sides, forcing the Kriegsmarine to split their fire salvos against multiple targets and not do enough damage.
One thing that went unmentioned after the Bismarck had finally sunk. A midshipman aboard the Dorsetshire, Joe Briggs, went down into the water to pull out a German sailor who had lost both his arms. Several Bismarck survivors noted this bravery and Mr. Briggs' fellow sailors wanted him rewarded for such humaneness.
Kavadh (Khosrau's father) pulls off a Batman Gambit that would make the trope-namer proud. When dealing with Sukhra, an advisor who was making him into a Puppet King, Kavadh finally dismissed him from court, knowing full well that it wouldn't diminish his influence.
The Battle of Saragarhi had 21 Sikhs at a signaling post against an army of a 10,000 tribesmen. The Sikhs know they can't win but decide to Hold the Line anyways to give the forts the army want time to prepare. Ishar Singh the commander of the Sikhs pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to buy the others time to retreat. Finally the last Sikh left kills 20 men before the room is set on fire and he dies shouting a Sikh battle cry. The delay gave the forts enough time to get reinforcements and beat the army and when the post is retaken hundreds of tribesmen are found dead in the station.
The Catholic Church in Philadelphia during the Spanish Flu epidemic went way beyond the call of duty in helping the city manage the plague and its victims, despite the horror and widespread death (one warehouse contained corpses over twelve times the building's usual capacity.)
While the patients who died directly from the flu were beyond help, those dealing with secondary illnesses like pneumonia were able to find relief with Dr. Avery's anti-pneumonia serum and new thoracentesis treatments that drained the fluid from lungs. With doctors either overseas or overworked to their limits, nurses were able to provide help by keeping patients warm, hydrated, and breathing comfortably, and manage symptoms as best they could, which was more than what doctors could reasonably provide at the time. The Red Cross was even able to develop a system to predict flareups of the flu, allowing nurses to know where they were needed beforehand.
Dr. Joseph Goldberger's fight against Pellagra, both in determining a cause and cure, and in getting southern leaders, who didn't want their control of cotton farms threatened, to back down enough to help the poor. Not even dying from cancer stopped his work, as his colleagues took up his work, eventually discovering niacin.
The story of Guy Gabaldon, "The Pied Piper of Saipan". Growing up in Los Angeles, Gabaldon had been orphaned as a child and was adopted by a Japanese-American family who taught him to speak their language. During the Second World War, while his adopted family was interned in a Japanese internment camp, Gabaldon enlisted in the Marine Corps and was deployed to Saipan. During the fighting, Gabaldon abandoned his post and using his grasp of the Japanese language managed to convince two Japanese soldiers nearby to surrender to U.S. forces. His superiors punished him for leaving his post by assigning him an overnight guard shift, only for Gabaldon to leave his post again and come back the next morning with over fifty Japanese soldiers and local civilians that agreed to surrender. For the rest of the campaign, Gabaldon would be assigned to help convince Japanese soldiers and civilians to surrender peacefully. Armed with nothing but candy, food and grenades as his only means of self-defense, Gabaldon would walk up right to Japanese encampments alone and make friends with the soldiers as he convinced them to stand down as opposed to fighting to the death or committing suicide. All told, Gabaldon is credited with having captured over one thousand Japanese soldiers and civilians, most likely saving their lives in the process.
Sun-Yat-Sen, a revolutionary who failed multiple times in his attempts, arrested by local authorities, friends getting assassinated left and right, and banned from multiple countries, sucessfully overthrown the Qing dynasty and become the first president of Republic of China. Both Communists and Nationalists respected him as "Father of the Nation" even to the present day.
John Joseph Hughes, bishop then archbishop of New York, founded Irish schools and newspapers, fought for Catholicism, lead classes on how to fit into American society to help new arrivals from his native Ireland, and not afraid to bring on the hurt. When the nativists who torched Catholic churches and beat up refugees and migrants in Philadelphia scheduled a meeting/rally in New York (that everyone was afraid would devolve into torching and beatings), Father Hughes visited the mayor of the city to deliver a message. "If one Catholic church was touched, the Irish were prepared... to burn.New York.to the ground."
When Queen Nzinga meets with a Portuguese official, he sits in a chair while only offering her a mat on the floor. Rather than sit in a position lower than him, Nzinga orders a servant to get down on all fours and sits on her back.
This exchange between General Lee and the Native American Ely Samuel Parker during the surrender at Appomattox.
Lee: It's good to see at least one real American here.
Parker: We are all Americans.
Hawaiian citizens tearing down a Confederate flag that a Southern-born citizen tried to fly there.
The Mexican American militia that thwarted the Confederacy's attempt to seize gold mines in Texas to bypass the Union blockade.
Joseph De Castro, the Hispanic Union flag-bearer who charged into enemy ranks, fought a Confederate flag-bearer, stole his flag, and returned both flags to his commanding officer. He was the first Hispanic American to receive a Medal of Honor.
During a mini-episode where Dan was recording without James, he eventually decided to man up and take on Havel the Rock as many times as necessary until he won (prodded by comments from viewers telling him he'd get a super-awesome ring for doing so). He expected he was going to die and die and die again, and indeed the first time he tried he messed up and Havel predictably squashed him with his first attack. But when he went back for his second go, he killed Havel easily, making the entire sub-episode video a mere 6 minutes long! This was arguably the point where Dan first really "got gud" at Dark Souls.
After much fretting and stress, and without even knowing exactly what it was he was fretting and stressing about, Dan beat the Capra Demon on on his first attempt.
Dan:First. Try. You guys thought I was gonna die, all of you did!
For each game in the series, Dan wrapped it up with a "Lore Retrospective" video in which he explains the backstory of what he encountered during the series, connecting the dots for himself and the viewers. In the final one, the music mixing builds up masterfully to the theme of Gwyn, while Dan delivers a litany of Gwyn's crimes against nature and mankind that will absolutely send shivers down the viewer's spine.
Dan:The first Soul of Cinder. Gwyn. The one responsible for all of this. He who clung to his Age of Fire, who staved off The Dark for as long as possible. He who committed the first sin, and doomed man to follow in his footsteps for generations to come. He who subjugated us, who robbed us of our age to preserve his own. He who used us, and has continued to use us long after his own demise. The Lord of Sunlight.