Thursday, January 15, 2009

Again?! (Now with S. Bettenhausen)

Aww, guys. Rebel FM was already good enough that I would have listened to it as long as you kept making it. You didn't have to bring the GLaDOS voice! You didn't have to tell stories about drinking (hard) with Ayami Kojima or singing duets on "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" with Koji Igarashi or terrorist fist-jabbing Hideo Kojima. But you did. You did, and I think I might have liked this week's episode even better than last week's.

So, a week—one week!—has passed since the Hearst acquisition of 1UP, and already there's another episode of Rebel FM on the online. Remember that 1UPocalypse happened last Tuesday; this episode went up yesterday. The episode was actually recorded less than a week after the acquisition! So what are you doing with your time, hmmm?

This week's show is handled by Philip Kollar together with the staff of, Anthony Gallegos, Arthur Gies, and Nick Suttner. Also appearing are guests Andrew Pfister and Shane Bettenhausen. Andrew Pfister, of course, needs no introduction; I trust everyone remembers Shane from his appearance in The Matrix Reloaded.

Although I've heard some complaints from people who don't know what they're talking about, the sound quality on this week's episode is greatly improved. This means that the DIY quality I praised last week is somewhat diminished, but hey, as long as you guys can include barking dogs or car alarms or gunshots or, I don't know, guys outside yelling, I'll keep listening, okay? In fact, in all sincerity, with the exception of just a few mild air-blasts, this sounds almost on par with most of the 1UP podcasts I've heard.

Contents this week include best (and a few worst) stories from everyone's EGM/1UP experiences, which are lots of fun to listen to. Since this show is hosted by 1) game industry professionals who are 2) male, taxonomy is a big thing, so everyone gives his list of the top five games of 2008. The lists are great; I'm definitely glad I got to hear these guys' top fives, and if you haven't been playing as many games as you should, you might get a few ideas.

There's also a discussion of bias that starts when the Rebels mention some of the comments they've been getting on the first episode. Apparently Chuf and Gies have been getting some accusations that they're keeping Sony down or advertising for Microsoft or something ridiculous like that. Okay, so for a while now, has worn a Halo 3 skin while Anthony and Arthur worked on other things. Now there's still more stuff, like, um, Rebel FM. So it did take Chuf and Gies a couple of days to update the skin to something different. But hey! Fanboys! Yeah, even if they'd left that up? A Halo 3 skin isn't a political statement. Grow up; you're making gaming look like a hobby for children.

Sorry! Like other rational gamers, I am always annoyed by the ridiculous things some people will say about one system or another. However, I also acknowledge that this is not entirely surprising given the way that game publishers treat game critics; this episode also has a discussion of a couple of the milder flaps these guys have dealt with after publishing negative reviews of games that, frankly, probably weren't particularly good. When game publishers can't act any more adult than this, I guess it's not so surprising that many consumers don't. Also, a lot of said consumers actually are, you know, 13 year olds. But look, I'm not arstechnica, so enough of this.

Anyway, this leads into a related conversation about perceived bias at 1UP and in the games industry in general. This ends up being quite interesting as well, with a few remarks on the 360/PS3 rivalry (the commercial one, not the prepubescent one). It's nice to hear these guys say what they think. Nick Suttner points out that a preference is going to be inevitable: game journalists are going to be interested in something, and they're going to write about what they're interested in. This is simply how it's going to be when what these guys are paid to write are critiques; they need to have opinions, and they need to be able to voice those. The greater discussion of bias in the media, what that is, whether there is one, what's bias and what's opinion, etc., needs to come up a few levels in terms of intelligence, but the issue of bias in gaming media is a completely different discussion, carried on by a subset of our society (several of whom take no part in that other conversation), and it's good to hear the Rebels address gaming media issues head-on, and with intelligence, too.

The show ends with a few entries from the EGM letters archives, or EGM: The Lost Letters, as I think we can all agree to call them. Some of the letters are pretty fun, including one that gives EGM a huge F for switching from number scores to letter grades for game reviews. Shane's remarks about the importance of F- and F+ are much appreciated, and his sentiments on the soap opera Passions will be passed along to the appropriate parties.

Rebel FM continues to be a great listen, with some really interesting issues coming up this week. I still can't believe the level of professionalism on the show, given that most of these guys are fresh out of the first post-layoff week. Things continue to be positive, with no slandering of 1UP or anything of the sort, and in fact, with the exception of one or two emotional moments, you'd never guess what the Rebels have been through in the past week. Again, the listener's just struck by the degree to which every one of these guys loves the industry he works in, and the level of talent everybody has for the work he does is absolutely commensurate with that enthusiasm.

So guys, I know it's tough, but what you're doing continues to be great. Keep recording Rebel FM, and I'll keep listening and covering it.

Oh, and links:'s entry for Rebel FM Episode 2 (also available on iTunes and Zune)

Talking Orange, Matt Chandronait's webpage and future home of the rebooted, indie version of The 1UP Show.

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