Extra Credits is bad

What do you dislike about extra credits?

They have a blatant narrative bias.

Their attempts to talk about gameplay are really shallow. They tried to claim that candy crush is brilliant and deep and has a lot of thought put into it and encouraged us to “think like designers” by asking everyone to sit down and record how many points it takes to go from level to level in order to painstakingly demonstrate that yes, there is an exponential increase in the number of points it takes each level, something that isn’t particularly remarkable.

They routinely get facts of all kinds wrong, like thinking that a reversal in a fighting game is done as a means of beating a move that is coming at you, rather than a way of getting yourself out of a bad situation, or preaching about how cool it is that a door is framed in the center of the screen, thereby obeying the rule of thirds, sitting in the middle third, which should make anyone with any knowledge of photography or composition cringe (rule of thirds means avoiding the center of the screen and putting things a third of the way across it).

They don’t think through any of their statements. Like they come up with all these half baked ideas that anyone considering them would be like, “No, that’s dumb, please don’t.” They ignore existing solutions and reinvent the wheel in poor ways, or pick the worst existing solutions whenever possible.

The person backing them with supposed real design experience is a dude who far as I know, has never published a real game, worked on a failed call of duty game and maybe some mobile stuff, consults on who knows what, and is generally reviled by students of digipen for being a pretentious-up-his-ass teacher who doesn’t actually teach them anything. I have no credentials either. I don’t expect you to trust what I say because I’m an authority, which I’m not in any real way. I expect you to reject it when I’m wrong, and hope you’ll accept what I get right.

They’re not just random idiots doing shallow and shitty game reviews, they’re people who don’t know about game design, and who actively champion bad game design and bad approaches to game design, attempting to teach other people about game design, and who have come to be regarded as experts. They’re not a failed attempt, they’re actively dangerous. They’re influential enough to get listed as one of the best resources out there for game design knowledge, or to be integrated as parts of curriculum.

What types of bad game design and bad approaches to game design does Extra Credits champion?

This entire video, which warranted a rebuttal by Sirloin,

This video encourages randomness in esports. Watching it originally, I was like, “Are they serious? The only way you can mitigate random factors is by increasing the number of trials until the law of large numbers effectively evens out the results” Then of course they suggested exactly that. But the reason we don’t do that is of course because it’s prohibitively time consuming, not to mention it’s dumb in my opinion to deliberately lessen the importance of any individual game, and make it more difficult for players to determine if their successes are genuine.

I’ve covered their fighting game video before, it’s just wrong on multiple levels, not to mention how they hold MOBAs up as a standard for how to do balance well regularly.

The magic circle in games isn’t about escapism, it’s about contracts. There’s a magic circle in decidedly non-escapist contexts, like rock paper scissors, chess, poker, go, basketball, hockey, tetris, etc. They’re bastardizing an established anthropological concept that I believe goes back to the book Homo Ludens.

Talks about how assymetric games create teamwork
Sirlin again talks about why this is kinda bullshit, around 24 minutes in. I’ll second this because in these games, a lot of the individual skill and interesting decisionmaking is reduced. A lot of these modern teamwork games become about doing your job which is really limited and simple to do, and decisionmaking is done on the whole team level, not really any individual player level. Sure, having the team forced into different non-overlapping roles forces people to work as a team, but that doesn’t mean these games necessarily feature any team strategies beyond players doing their job, like healing, laying down sentries, spychecking, etc.

Here they describe mechanics like the writing style or the palette of the game rather than the thing that comprises the game itself. They’re a means to an end in setting the tone, not the tone complementing the mechanics. It shows their priorities and lack of vision.

This video on villains is a 2 parter, and this part is about “mechanics villains”, whereupon they cover how these villains should be simple in motivation, match the game’s tone, seem like they’re powerful so they’re rewarding to defeat, and make the player feel like a hero for defeating them. Then a justification for why you can’t fight them immediately. Then he spends the remaining minute of the video talking about how we’re worse at making narrative villains, and the next video on narrative villains is 2 minutes longer than this one, and without the introduction.

They champion bad design all over the place. I chose random videos and found it in each one.

2 thoughts on “Extra Credits is bad

  1. Tristram April 6, 2022 / 7:57 pm

    Thank you! I’m glad someone else out there knows about it! It only just began to get peoples attention since their WW2 Nazis in multiplayer games video. But i knew that they were full of bs even before that. They are spreading misinformation and bad game design for aspiring game devs.


  2. Ben July 14, 2022 / 1:54 pm

    When I search for GDC talks on topics related to game dev, I inevitably end up seeing one of these videos because they have covered so many topics. I’m so confused about how they speak so authoritatively and have so many subscribers without the credentials or experience to back it up.


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