So, I’ve been keeping up with the world of video essays online for a while now. Not too long ago I brought you a list of ten that I considered to be essential viewing and now I’m back with another ten to get your mind going. The difference this time is that I did not completely restrict myself to just focusing purely on video games, but also on vide game adjacent content as well, such as real world reactions to games and even a look into fictional game systems. Without wasting any more time, let’s dive into these essays and what makes them so interesting. Just like last time, a reminder that these are content made primarily for the internet so they may contain strong language.
POLYBIUS – The Video Game That Doesn’t Exist (1 hour, 10 minutes)
This isn’t the first time that a bit of an older video is going to show up on this list. However, in this case the content is pretty timeless. This outstandingly paced and edited video by Ahoy takes us back to the age of the now retro arcade cabinet, back to the 1980’s and the age of the standalone arcade being all over the place. It does so in order to talk about POLYBIUS, an urban legend of a game that was said to have done all sorts of things to people for all sorts of nefarious purposes. However, unlike some spooky and sensational videos, Ahoy tells us right off the bat that POLYBIUS doesn’t exist and then follows the paper trail of the rumor back to how it may have started through some genuinely interesting twists and turns.
BALAN WONDERRRWORLD: A Review in Three Acts (1.5 hours)
There’s no shortage of videos out there that talk the flaws of Balan Wonderworld to death. It was the hot topic for a while when it came to the realm of bizarre and weird games, bolstered more by coming from a prominent director while also being not well received. I honestly bought a secondhand copy for cheap just to have it in my collection. However, not long after I purchased that, this video by ShayMay (Of 7 hour Omega Ruby review fame) came out and honestly gave me a whole new lens by which to view the game. It’s interesting to see someone both able to acknowledge the many flaws of the game, but also willing to sit down with it on it’s level and actually try and understand why choices were made instead of laughing them off. It’s well worth taking a look at if you are interested in getting a whole new perspective on the title.
A Deep Dive Into The Cinemassacre Backlash (2 Hours)
This is the first one on this list that is a little more video game adjacent rather than just being about video games themselves. Lady Emily looks back on a figure that dominated games criticism in the late 2000’s and how the changes of the internet, of life, and of the times managed to change viewer perceptions of AVGN and how that all led up to some backlash. Sometimes frustration towards a figure isn’t just one incident and is a slow winding road. Better yet, Lady Emily isn’t vitriolic about any of this, instead taking a calm and measured view to give a proper balanced look into a situation that might not be understandable to outsiders.
Why Jak and Daxter Is the Perfect Trilogy (2 Hours)
It’s always a mark of quality when a retrospective on a series of games that I have never played can actually hold my interest through the entire runtime. Breadsword is one of those creators that just has such a passion for every subject that he talks about that I can’t help but get invested even when I had no interest prior and he makes interesting topic all the more so. With a soothing presentation that doesn’t rely on being flashy to get the point across, this is a great way to get a nostalgia trip about this trilogy even if you’ve never played.
Manufactured Discontent and Fortnite (20 Minutes)
Being three years old now this video is a bit out of date about some of the things it talks about, but it is still one that I keep going back to again and again because it is so telling about the state of the game at that time and some of the information and arguments presented in it have only managed to continued to hold up in the way that the game has continued onwards. I particularly fond myself returning to this in the wake of the MLK Jr. level and found much of it to still be so so familiar.
What The Internet did To Undertale (40 Minutes)
If you know anything about Undertale besides it being regarded as a masterclass of a game is that the fanbase for it got pretty weird pretty quickly. However, for those of us who are not inside the little bubble of that fanbase it can be hard to understand why, how, and in what ways this happened. Thankfully, SuperEyepatchWolf is here to give us an entire breakdown and walk us through the way that some of what has been done is actually really beautiful in it’s own way. If you get to the end of this one, it’s worth looking at when he did a similar sort of deep dive into the way the internet has treated Garfield as well.
The Lost Art of Licensed Video Games (18 Minutes)
One of the shorter ones on this list and the second from Breadsword, this video takes a look at a subject that we often forget these days as we have moved away from it. Now that licensed tie in games are more likely to be a cheaply made phone app, we often forget the production that they were back in the day, how they were both triumphs and failures in their own right. So, let’s remember!
Why SAO is a Terrible Game, Too (40 Minutes)
Ah, would you look at that, the oldest video on this list. Still, it’s got interesting points to make even if some of the talk around the subject is a little out of date give the way that the Sword Art Online franchise has progressed over the years. Mother’s Basement is primarily an anime talker, but like many fans of that medium, has dabbled in games as well, which is why it’s so interesting to see him break down all the ways that a fictional game might drive away any real world player base with the choices that were made for the sake of the show’s story. It’s also just interesting to look at fictionalized depictions of our favorite entertainment when presented through the lens of another medium.
Lisa: The Analysis (40 Minutes)
Lisa is one of those games that not everyone knows about, but those who do know are aware of just what a grueling experience these games can be to play and the way that they can tug at the core of you in order to both enhance the gameplay and the connection that you feel to the events. Which is why HBomberguy’s video on them is such a moving piece, digging deep into why these games are able to effect us in this way and along the way serving as an excellent argument on why they’re ones that you should give a shot for yourself.
A Thorough Look At Resident Evil (7.5 Hours)
The last time that I put a Noah Caldwell-Gervais video on this list I went for one of the ones that was shorter and more accessible. This time I decided to give you one of the more daunting ones to pick through. While it might seem like a big pill to swallow, it’s easiest to break this one into chunks and think of it as a supercut of many smaller essays that all connect together in order to take us through the whole timeline of the Resident Evil series from good to bad and everything in between. If you’re curious and want to see if you can really handle so much, you should give this one a watch, or even just a listen while doing other things.