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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Recommendation: Metadating

When the Geek & Sundry channel started up on Youtube, I was excited but decided that there was really only one show I wanted to watch regularly, Tabletop. That turned out to be a bad idea because their lineup has changed quite a bit since, including the addition of a show I only discovered this weekend but already love: Metadating. Metadating is a long-- usually almost two hour-- show that's really a Google hangout of three guys playing (well, one guy playing and two others watching) a video game involving romantic relationships and discussing it as they go. Now, this already has potential if you just enjoy gaming and you're the kind of person who likes watching other people play (and I do), but what really makes the show special is who these three guys are.

The show is hosted by Sean Plott, or Day[9], an e-sports commentator for Starcraft 2, and two game designers, Bill Graner and Sean Bouchard (Bouchard did a TEDx talk on the intersection of gaming and education which you can see here). The three have a ritual of introducing each episode by talking about what they're drinking that evening and the show moved from "family friendly" to "parental advisory: explicit language" on the second episode, and a good time is had by all. But the best part, by far, is that these guys actually know what they're talking about, and it's really cool to watch and listen to people who know both gaming and relationships discuss the depiction of relationships in games. Especially when, as you know quite well if you're a gamer yourself, the topic isn't exactly central most of the time. Slaughtering people via one means or another-- explosives, swords, guns-- generally take precedence, for understandable reasons. It's exciting, and it's easy. Relationships are hard. Or at least, they're hard to depict in a way that makes sense and is compelling rather than seeming laughably fake, and laughably fake is more acceptable or even welcome in a lot of aspects of gaming, but relationships aren't one. Especially romantic relationships, which are conspicuous in video games by their rarity and are even more rarely a central focus or goal, and when they are a goal are often depicted....questionably. I guess my standards are low, because I was gobsmacked  when the word "narrative" first came out of the mouth of one of the hosts (Bouchard, most likely) and I realized that this wasn't just going to be a show of three guys drinking and laughing at video games.

On Youtube the comments are, as you'd expect, full of reactions from people who love the game being discussed in that particular episode who are bristling to criticism of it ("You just didn't play enough to get the full experience! You don't know what you're talking about!") and the occasional person wishing that they'd "get a lady on." Yeah, it makes sense that if you're going to do a show about the depiction of romance in video games, you might just want a female perspective. But Plott, Graner, and Bouchard all went to grad school together (USC's School of Cinematic Arts) and seem to know each other well, and rapport is so valuable for shows like this. And I've honestly been impressed by the even-handedness of the discussion so far.

So. You know. If you're into that sort of thing....check it out.

And I now have two gaming-related books on my Goodreads "want to read" list:

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