A good quality education in game design has become more accessible than ever given the burgeoning array of physical courses as well as the emergence of many reputable online courses. The growing interest in game design has also facilitated the growth of informal educational channels on YouTube. Many of these channels can help you learn more than just the basics, while acting as a springboard for further study, game ideas, community discussion, or as a supplement to your current education. For anyone looking for a lighter, less structured way to consume game design information, YouTube is certainly one of the best options!
We have compiled a list of our 7 best YouTube channels that may tempt you to subscribe. In this list, you will find our favorite channels for gaining insights into the game design process, or “the act of deciding what a game should be”, as defined by Jesse Schell in The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. For that reason, this list won’t include channels that are dedicated to turning your game designs into reality by teaching you to code or use specific game development software.
1 – Extra Credits
Extra Credits was one of the first and largest channels to release videos about game design concepts. In their early days, they had the advantage of being the only large channel with an active game designer in the industry writing scripts for their videos. James Portnow, who has been a game design consultant for both Zynga and Riot Games, has written video essays about a wide range of topics related to the design of games as well as the games industry as a whole.
Extra Credit’s videos are short-form (5-10 minute) animated videos that each break down a specific topic in an entertaining way making their videos easy to binge. The only downside is that their videos are often based on opinions or anecdotes and can be a little light on hard facts and data. Also, for anyone discovering Extra Credits for the first time, you’ll find that their wildly successful Extra History and Extra Mythology video series make up the majority of their recent content. But there are still plenty of high-quality game design videos in their library for you to seek out and enjoy.
2 – Game Maker’s Toolkit
Game Maker’s Toolkit is another channel that does video essays on various game design topics. Their videos are generally a little longer than Extra Credits’, normally coming in at between 10 to 20 minutes, leaving a little more room for nuance.
A major difference is that, rather than being fully animated, Game Maker’s Toolkit uses a combination of video footage and infographics to keep the videos engaging and informative. Another plus is that the host, Mark Brown has an engaging voice and personality that are a lot of fun to listen to.
Mark also stresses that he does not do sponsored videos of any kind. Meaning his opinions are completely his own.
3 – Noclip
Noclip is pretty unique as far as YouTube channels go. They specialize in long-form documentaries on the making of particular games or the studios behind them. Their videos are completely free of ads and sponsorships as all of their documentaries are crowdfunded through their Patreon.
The biggest advantage to any prospective game designer is that these documentaries give a huge amount of insight into the design process, featuring interviews with the creatives behind some of the largest and most iconic games ever made. Along the way, you’ll find out about the major changes in direction that fundamentally altered how those games turned out, unreleased games and the realities of production that caused them to be canceled, and more. All serving to help you understand not only how your favorite games were made, but also why they turned out the way they did.
4 – Snoman Gaming
Snoman Gaming is the first of many channels on this list which examines specific game design topics by taking a popular game and breaking down what makes it special and why. Snoman Gaming takes this analysis of good games so seriously that he has dubbed the channel the ‘Home of good game design’.
Like most channels that use this format, he primarily uses narration over complementary gameplay footage to highlight his points. Although he does sometimes make an appearance in the flesh. The narrator, while not a game designer himself, he talks confidently about game design and is able to clearly and concisely identify what works about a game and why.
Also, despite his tagline, he also has a number of videos on his channel that highlight games with poorly designed elements and explain what could be done to improve on them. It may be schadenfreude at play but I personally find these even more entertaining.
5 – Sunder
Sunder is a YouTuber who post videos on game analysis, game reviews, and interviews with industry experts. Like Snoman Gaming, his game design analysis videos use footage to illustrate his points as well as often feature himself as a talking head. When he does make an apperance, his expressive personality helps to get across his passion for the subject matter.
The first port of call for any prospective game designers should be his is Level Head series of videos which are specifically focused on game design, most commonly level design. Each video in the series takes an analytical magnifying glass to a game and attempts to articulate what worked about it and why.
6 – ThatGuyGlen
ThatguyGlen focuses not just on game design but rather on the process of how a game is made. His aptly named How __ was Made series of videos takes popular games and documents how they were made from concept through to release and beyond.
These videos offer a lot of the same value as the Noclip documentaries in that they highlight the twists and turns that take place during the development and release of any game while also having the advantage of coming in a much shorter format, with all the currently published videos clocking in at under half an hour. As a trade off you get little to no exclusive interviews or behind the scenes info. Instead, each video acts as more of a summery of previously available info that’s been gathered in one place and conveniently packaged for entainment.
7 – Game Soup
Game Soup is a channel run by two guys that publish a variety of different content, including dev blogs for a game they’re making. The videos that’ll be most interesting to anyone reading this list though are the the ones in which they analyze game design concepts.
The length of these videos vary but the best ones normally lean toward being long-form, often clocking-in at half an hour or longer. Whatever the length, Game Soup manages to nail the balance between being thorough and entertaining. Also, as with most of the creators on this list, they have a clear love for the subject matter that bleeds through in the effusive praise that they heap on some of the games they talk about.
We hope you found some entertaining and maybe even inspiring videos while reading this list. If there are any channels we missed that you think should be on here, please let us know and we would be happy to consider them