First aired on July 28, 2010, Extra Credits is a weekly webseries about deconstructing video games and the video game industry. In the past they have covered topics ranging from game design, what working in the industry is like, what can and has been done with the medium, what effect games have had on society, games as art, and ideas on how to apply concepts from games to other areas of life. Primarily the series is meant to spark intellectual discourse on these topics and help video games be recognized as a legitimate medium rather than simply as a child’s plaything.
The format of the show is made up of five-to-ten-minute stop animation videos, consisting mostly of hand drawn pictures with some found images and rare video segments used to accompany a monologue. The show is written by programmer/designer/consultant James Portnow, narrated by animator Daniel Floyd, and drawn by artist Allison Theus. At one point Theus needed surgery on her drawing arm so a series of guest artists were brought in, eventually leading to artist Elisa Scaldaferri becoming an official staff member to rotate production with Theus. When episode 1 of season 6 rolled around, it was announced that Theus was finally stepping away from the project with Scott Dewitt coming in to fill her shoes.
The style of the show is cute but informed. The art is not much different from what you’d find outside of a daily webcomic, but it is consistently well done, with characters presented on a white background. Portnow, Floyd, Theus, and Scaldaferri each have their own avatars (Floyd is usually standing behind a podium, and Theus is now occasionally presented with a cyborg arm); there are also neutral human figures used to represent gamers*, as well as anthropomorphized figures representing concepts like industry jobs, game aspects, even the mainstream and independent industries. For the narration of the show, Flyod's voice is pitched and sped up. This originally came from a need to condense the length of the lectures into a more manageable timescale. Most people are surprised when they hear him talk in his normal voice during the live Q&A sessions or other projects. He has said it would be one of the things about the series he would change if he could, but going on over two years now, the voice has become one of the more recognizable aspects of the show for better or for worse.
While most episodes are based around a single issue, a few episodes have been set aside for answering mail and a series called “Games You might Not Have Tried” in which they discuss games from the last few years that, though might not be good, have done something interesting either with mechanics or how the game is presented.
The series was originally published exclusively on The Escapist, but around July 2011 there was a conflict over what to do with the massive amounts of funds garnered from the charity to pay for Theus’ surgery. The Escapist wanted the extra money to be spent on producing further episodes and to go toward merchandising the show. However, since the charity was done independent of the show, the fact that The Escapist hadn’t paid the EC staff for several already aired episodes, and since EC wanted to put the funds toward creating an independent game publishing company, they split with The Escapist. After some time posting new content on YouTube, EC found a new home over at Penny Arcade. The continuing series, as well as the back catalogue of episodes, is now available there, on the EC website, and youtube (always a few episodes behind the current schedule).
*: Season 1 Episode 8 is about whether the term “gamer” is an appropriate moniker for members of the community and the issues surrounding that term.