Best of British – The Yogscast

One in a short series of articles recognising British people who’ve made a notable contribution to gaming in some way, whether as writers, artists, developers, publishers or gaming enthusiasts. What they all share in common is their country of origin and, importantly, a passion for gaming. This week it’s the loveable Jaffa-scoffing rascals at The Yogscast.

YouTube sensation The Yogscast stars the loveable Jaffa-scoffing manchild of a thousand voices Simon Lane, comedic straight-man Lewis Brindley, and the sometimes-sensible sometimes-silly Hannah Rutherford, who produce regular funny videos about the games they’re playing.  They started out making World of Warcraft raid guide videos with their guild before branching out into a irregular podcast called the YoGPod, where Simon and Lewis talk guff about things like Cow Tetris, Jaffa Cakes, ex S-Club 7 member Tina Barrett and Brian Blessed’s jam addiction.  Even the episode where they interview Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor in HBO’s Game of Thrones, devolves into glorious silliness that teeters on the edge of ridiculousness without becoming annoying.  The YoGPod also serves as an occasional vehicle for their somewhat questionable singing abilities.

The Yogscast achieved wider popularity in the gaming community with the Shadows of Israphel (SoI) saga, a Minecraft video series in which Honeydew, a dwarven warrior of Khaz Modan played by Simon, and Xephos, Commander William Riker of the USS Enterprise as played by Lewis, explore the world of Minecraftia together.  It begins as a traditional Let’s Play about the pair surviving their first night in Minecraft by huddling together for warmth in a dark wooden shack on a frozen beach, surrounded by zombies, skeletons and giant spiders. After this harrowing start they convert a handy nearby cave into The Yogcave, a cosy little dwelling Simon almost burns-down after trying to cook some porkchops. From here on things proceed as you might expect…for a while at least.  Soon mysterious landmarks begin to appear across the landscape, a pale-faced stranger in black starts harassing them and eccentric “NPCs” appear to solicit their help in saving the world.  From its simple Let’s Play roots the series has now become a semi-improvised ongoing comic-fantasy epic, somewhat akin to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost stumbling through a Lego version of Middle Earth.

Between SoI episodes The Yogscast regularly play Minecraft adventure maps: pre-made worlds with specific ground rules (like only being allowed to destroy clay blocks) and a central narrative conveyed through additional text read at certain points during the adventure, usually indicated by a sign post.  Simon and Lewis are usually pretty good at following these rules unless they get stuck in a hole or on a particularly tricky door puzzle, usually around the time one of them mutters “balls to it!” and busts out some TNT.  A lesson The Yogscast teaches well is that many problems in Minecraft can be solved and caused by liberal use of TNT.  Aside from adventure maps they also cover other Minecraft-related things like mods, official game updates and anything else that catches their fancy, in a way sometimes informative yet always amusing.  Their video for a custom map based on the TV series Lost is more entertaining than the show ever was.

The Yogscast are big on games of all kinds and don’t limit themselves to Minecraft.  Most of their video output for other games covers titles with some sort of multiplayer element like Portal 2 or the disappointing Hunted: The Demon’s Forge.  Simon, Lewis and Hannah occasionally cover single-player games on their own, like Lewis’ brief playthrough forAlice: Madness Returns and Simon’s aborted Portal 2 run.  One of the most popular and enduring of these single-player series has been “Hannah Plays LA Noire” on The Yogscast’s second YouTube channel, Yogscast2.  Yogscast2 is also the home of YogTrailers in which Lewis and Simon talk over trailers for upcoming games in the style of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 before passing judgement on them.  It’s a lot funnier than it sounds, particularly when the game they’re watching a trailer for looks, as Simon is fond of saying, “FUCKING SHIT!”  Yes, The Yogscast does indeed have a fair bit of naughty language at times, though nothing the average Brit isn’t used to.

Another feather in their fetching cap of talent is how they’re consistently entertaining with whatever games they cover.  In The Yogscast you’re almost guaranteed to find something to make you smile, like Simon having a nervous breakdown over a low-budget magical pony game he bought on Steam, Lewis losing his temper in Magicka multiplayer, or Hannah doing her best to censor a naked murder victim’s lady-parts with a giant 8-bit purple dwarf face in LA Noire.  The Yogscast are also delightfully unpretentious, a virtue sadly uncommon in gaming these days.  You don’t have to be a core-gamer drinking Mountain Dew by the crate to enjoy their comedic antics either: their videos are accessible and enjoyable for non-gamers too.  My girlfriend is a Yogscast fan and she doesn’t play games at all except for Minecraft, which she got into after watching Shadow of Israphel – needless to say, she’s absolutely hooked.  In addition to all this, unlike 99% of the cack on YouTube The Yogscast crew actually put some serious effort into the quality of their videos.  When you watch a Yogscast video you get crisp clear footage of whatever game they’re covering, not grainy webcam images of an SD-TV in a dimly-lit hovel.

If you’re the sort of hardcore nitpicker who can’t stand to watch games being played less than flawlessly, The Yogscast may not be your particular cup of bile.  Hannah, Lewis, Simon and co aren’t stereotypical pro-gamers racking up headshots and spitting racial slurs into a mic, just regular gaming folks producing videos with bucketloads of charm, humour and, above all, sincerity.  All of which combine to make The Yogscast a uniquely British celebration of gaming’s best qualities – friendship and fun, and well worth your time.

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.