Best of British – TotalBiscuit

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 Cynical Brit himself, TotalBiscuit.

John “TotalBiscuit” Bain is a gaming commentator from the UKbest known for his YouTube video reviews and commentaries. Before this he was a key fixture on WoW Radio, an official World of Warcraft fansite where he hosted a weekly live show called Blue Plz! in his distinctly British take on the signature “shock-jock” style of right-wing American radio hosts. It’s partly because of TotalBiscuit’s work on Blue Plz! that WoW Radio developed a reputation as one of the few fansites unafraid to openly criticise Blizzard, something Blizzard and their most diehard fans did not take kindly to at times. After moving on from WoW Radio TotalBiscuit established his own site, CynicalBrit.com, and broadened his coverage of games beyond World of Warcraft. Initially continuing where he left off with live shows and podcasts such as Gaming Express and Gaming the System, TotalBiscuit made the move to video content with series like “Azeroth Daily,” “I Suck at Starcraft 2,” “WTF is…” and others. His main YouTube channel has over 450,000 subscribers and his videos have clocked up at least 146,000,000 views from gamers around the world.  He is notoriously bad at puzzle games.

If American-style shock-jock broadcasting isn’t your particular cup of tea you may not find TotalBiscuit quite to your tastes. He’s bombastic, opinionated and confrontational, and can come across as arrogant to new listeners unfamiliar with the ambivalent tongue-in-cheek way he operates. I don’t always agree with everything he says, just as I don’t always agree with Jim Sterling or Yahtzee, but listening only to people whose opinions mirror your own is both boring and unhealthy. You probably won’t agree with many of his opinions, some of what he says might even make you angry, and he can sometimes be more hammy than the meat aisle in your local Morrisons. Although I can understand how these things might put some people off, for me they’re all part of his charm and TotalBiscuit’s persona and voice set him leagues apart from your average run-of-the-mill gaming commentator. Some podcasts or gaming commentary videos, particularly those with a large cast, have this problem where the hosts’ voices and personalities are almost indistinguishable and totally forgettable, so they all blend together into a mass of grey slurry that sounds like a bi-polar robot talking to itself. TotalBiscuit, on the other hand, is so distinct you couldn’t possibly think you were listening to anyone but TotalBiscuit.

If you do check out TotalBiscuit’s work you will be rewarded with content in a-bloody-bundance, and with enough variety that most gamers will find something to enjoy. For gamers of all tastes and preferences there’s his “WTF is…” series, a Giant Bomb-style quick look at some of the latest games. “WTF is…” covers everything from AAA blockbusters to obscure avant-garde art games, and has served as a great promotional showcase for indie titles like Magicka, Space Pirates vs Zombies and Terraria. Speaking of which, “TotalBiscuit and Jesse Cox play Terraria” is a heart-warming Let’s Play collaboration between TotalBiscuit and fellow YouTube commentator Jesse Cox (in case that wasn’t obvious) about two eccentric people trapped in a strange, hostile land, waging bitter war over who gets to wear a tophat looted from an especially dapper zombie. TotalBiscuit’s collaboration with the Yogscast on their playthrough of Magicka is also definitely worth checking out, particularly to hear Lewis grow increasingly irritated at Simon and TotalBiscuit as they troll the everliving hell out of each other.

On the more niche end of things, catering mainly to people who understand phrases like “chobo”, “magic box” and “Omega 6 pool,” there are his StarCraft 2 commentaries and sundry related videos. Despite the fact I know practically nothing about SC2 competitive play I have enjoyed the occasional TotalBiscuit SC2 commentary because of how accessible they are. TotalBiscuit is an engaging commentator who knows his stuff and can explain what’s happening without reeling off paragraphs of impenetrable StarCraft moon-speak. Any jargon he employs tends to be self-explanatory in the context of what’s happening on-screen, so a Baneling rush is obviously a shitload of Banelings rushing towards the opponent’s base. When he refers to something not immediately apparent to the rookie viewer he’ll elaborate on what it involves and why it’s being used, without being patronising. TotalBiscuit does so many SC2 videos he’s had to move them to a separate YouTube channel so if that sort of thing floats your Protoss Carrier you’ll find plenty there to keep you occupied.

Calling TotalBiscuit a workaholic doesn’t do him enough credit, since on any given day he can put out several lengthy videos, an audio blog or podcast and a couple of live streams seemingly before teatime. During his recent trip to Gamescom 2011 he produced a staggering 40+ videos worth of interviews, demos and vlogs showing off his snazzy tophat. How he finds the hours in the day to do all this makes me wonder if he’s not secretly a specialist cyborg content machine from the future, or some Dark Wizard of Time. The sheer amount of stuff he releases on a daily basis is almost impossible to keep up with sometimes, and it’s all absolutely free. Only utter cretins could complain about something like that. Despite its volumous quantity the quality of his work is always of a consistent high standard, and the way TotalBiscuit constantly strives to refine and improve upon it is a testament to his professionalism. TotalBiscuit’s open and honest receptiveness to legitimate constructive criticism is especially commendable given he works in a medium dominated by primadonnas with fragile egos, who treat any comments that aren’t fawning praise like physical attacks on their own mother.

Love him or hate him, TotalBiscuit works harder than a Dickensian mill worker to make entertaining, engaging, informative, top-quality content, and his immense contribution to gaming cannot be overstated enough. Not everyone will like everything he does but you can say that about almost anything, so mosey on over to Cynicalbrit.com or his YouTube channeland help yourself something from his smorgasbord. You should find at least one thing to savour on his heavily-laden platter of treats and I guarantee there’ll be plenty of it to keep you entertained for weeks, if not months. He’s also got great taste in music and without him I would never have discovered the pleasures of authentic pirate hip-hop.

So let’s hear it for TotalBiscuit for his hard work and dedication, and for injecting a distinctly British touch of class into gaming culture.

Matt

About Matt

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