I can’t get enough of nerdy television shows as I spend countless hours trying to make games work or design levels and artwork. Usually they’re just on in the background to make me feel less alone as I work during the day, but also certain shows have become permanent installations on my walls of inspiration. When I was in design school, our studios were in these old 1950’s style blue metal military barracks. They were sparsely decorated with aging 70’s furniture, asbestos tiles, and flourescent lighting. It was creativity suicide.
So now, I keep myself surrounded by things that give me inspiration: Steampunk landscape art on my desktop, printouts of cool design patterns, art on the walls, IKEA furniture, my own notes and drawings and lists, Toro Y Moi beats, anything to stimulate my creative juices. A handful of tv shows are now added to the list.
Irreverent and off-the-wall, this lude 8-bit comedy is a staple for any gamer or game designer. If you can stomach the gratuitous use of the “gay” word as an insult, it definitely captures a lot of the charm [and frustrations] of the gaming world. This show was indispensable during the Photoshop stage of Away Team. Having a reference for solid 8-bit visuals while working on it gave me lots of insight as to how to accomplish simplicity while retaining likenesses of many of the characters. Also, it’s funny to listen to in the background while mind-numbingly clicking on layers and applying styles or pen-tooling. I recommend the episode “Psychological Problems” from season 2 which introduces the hybrid half-chicken half-monster villain in Todd’s next game: Cock Goblin.
Innocent, yet self-aware the Guild makes you want to be part of an insanely awkward group of six introverts. The show is dialogue-driven, full of video game references, and pulls no punches to depict the irony of how an MMO guild can bring people together online, then pull them apart when they try to interact in the real world. It’s refreshing to see this kind of story told from a female perspective, through the VLOGs of guild-girl Codex [Felicia Day] as she struggles to keep her friends together both on and offline through LAN parties, romance, rival guild wars, and CONs. I never really had the desire to play an MMO like the WoW-esque game in this show much less join a guild. The scheduled time commitment required to raid and my desire to spend time with my wife and friends in real life always kept me from trying it out. I have an addictive personality, so I’d hate to get absorbed into it as the cliche suggests. But despite all that, the show makes me want to find a weird group of friends to nerd-out with online.
Video Game High School
Pure cheesy brilliance. Freddy Wong serves up every gamer’s fantasy world in VGHS. An internet production made up of short videos funded by KickStarter, I saw it for the first time in movie form on Netflix. A bit boyish and single-serving toward FPS games, it still manages to entertain. Everyone speaks in a combination of l33t speak and gamer dialect that gives the whole universe an immersive flavor. It also separates the gaming universe into two groups: struggling n00blets and egomaniacal high scorers who settle into their gaming genres like clubs at a Japanese high school. It’s a stereotypical love story that sticks to established gaming tropes, and that’s a lot of the allure. It’s a cult classic for cult gamers and I can’t wait for the next webisode.
The IT Crowd
Full of painfully embarrassing situations, information technology representatives have never been this misinformed and technologically handicapped. The three main characters are an amazing batch of socially awkward basement office jockeys that get into ridiculous jams on a daily basis. Despite its British-isms, IT is definitely a nerd treasure chalk full of classic sketch comedy moments and a cast of colorful side characters. Moss is by far the most loveable geek in all of film, oblivious and gullable to the point of idiocy, but still possessing a hidden genius that comes out at just the right moments. Watch it at least once giving it your full attention, then cash in its replay value while you work. Find it now on Netflix.
Now I want to go back to community college. The common threads of my favorite shows seem to be finding friends in unlikely places and Community is no exception. Another cult classic, this show quickly became one of the best on the list. It’s one of those shows that panders to it’s own fans and isn’t afraid to make fun of itself on a regular basis. It’s difficult not to pay attention if you haven’t watched each episode once already, but is just as fun to listen to the second time around while coding or scripting games. Luckily they’re making new episodes again, so if you haven’t seen it yet do it! For now it’s available on Hulu, as long as Chevy Chase doesn’t screw it up.
An oldie, but a goodie, Home Movies is one of the funniest shows I have ever watched. Somewhat high-brow, intellectual dialogue masked under the guise of school child character “drama” and low-budget squiggle-vision animation, this cartoon comedy is a must-watch for any nerdy fanboy [or fangirl]. It doesn’t necessarily pander to gamers, but the silly conversations alone are reason for celebration and repeated viewing. I’ve watched the hell out of this show, and can’t stop binging on it as I work for extended hours in front of a level editor. Try out the episode It’s Time to Pay the Price for starters. Episodes are searchable on google video.
Oh, the joys of low-budget sci-fi interludes and voice-over riffing on some of the worst cine-trash in existence. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is the love of my adolescence. With over 9 seasons of feature-length hilarity, this show is the best way to zone-out while you work. Press play and let it lull you into an extended game creation session with minimal need to break your concentration to start the next episode. You can find episodes in clips on google video, I recommend Manos: the Hand of Fate, and Mitchell for starters. The movies this reluctant cosmonaut and his robot companions are forced to watch are, for the most part, incongruent nonsense with no plot and little for visuals so it is the perfect background laugh-fest for my studio. Whether you’re a Joel nut or a die-hard Mike fan, there’s plenty of Mistie love to go around. Personally, I have a signed red jumpsuit from a fan signing with Joel that you know I’ll be wearing to the next CON.