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Well I hope you aren't sick of the whole "Best of 2011" topic. Instead of presenting my favorite games of the year (which will be in the February issue of the magazine) I thought it would be fun to rank my favorite Game Informer videos from 2011. Now in a way this is self-serving, I am the one that produced these videos, but I want to emphasize the people and the subjects in the videos more than any production value on my part. Without further ado, here are my favorite videos of the year.
10. E3 2011 Show Floor Tour
This is one of the most frenetic videos of the year, mainly thanks to the insane music from Funtastic Power, but it captures the vibe of E3. This was my first year attending the show, after years of following every kernel of information I was thankful for the opportunity to dive head-first into the bedlam. There's an unhealthy amount of street comedy from Ben Reeves, but I love the cameos from Tim Turi and Phil Kollar.
9. Composing Skyrim's Theme
Skyrim was my first cover trip and I was incredibly nervous, I distinctly remember my hand shaking as I clipped the microphone onto Todd Howard for his interview. It wasn't until I shot a series of videos with Bethesda's audio director Mark Lampert that I felt like I had captured something that I was proud of. This was the public's first aural glimpse of Skyrim's incredible theme, and I remember pumping my fist with excitement after getting this on tape. Once back in the Game Informer office I listened to the new Elder Scrolls theme again and again. Yes, the video could have used more B-roll, but I'm glad that fans of the series enjoyed the music and interview as much as I hoped they would.
8. Battlefield 3's Sound Design
I'm not a fan of first-person shooters, but last year I thought I would try the demo for Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I was immediately blown away, the gameplay was good but absorbing the sound design from that game was a religious experience. Once we decided on the Battlefield 3 cover story, I knew that the audio team at DICE was my first priority. Stefan Strandberg was a fascinating interview, and I'm very thankful that EA and DICE let me use some of the "home movies" they shot while recording the sounds for Battlefield 3.
7. Behind The Scenes of Video Games Live
This video was my first real labor of love at Game Informer. I contacted Tommy Tallarico out of the blue and he was incredibly generous with his time, allowing for a lengthy interview and backstage tour. I was also awestruck by the fans of gaming that were willing to let me shove a camera in their face while they were waiting for to receive Tommy's autograph. Tommy Tallarico is an eccentric yet enthusiastic guy, and I can't thank him enough for letting me use footage from the Video Games Live concert DVD in this video.
6. Designing the Asari in Mass Effect
The Mass Effect cover trip was the first one that punched me in the nerd-gut. I'm a huge fan of the series and visiting Bioware was a dream come true, especially considering they were so willing to share incredible concept art from when they were designing each of the alien races. The initial designs for the Asari are the most interesting, but I recommend learning the story behind all of the races in our series of videos.
5. Joe Mad's Drawing Process
You may sense a trend as we near the top of my list: I love when developers come across as candid human beings during interviews. This video of Joe Mad from Vigil Games is a perfect example. We were nearing the end of our Darksiders II trip when I asked Joe Mad the worst words an artist can hear: "Could you draw something for me?" Thankfully he wasn't too annoyed and ending up sketching a great drawing of Death from the sequel to Darksiders while we asked him questions about his drawing process. And just in case anybody is wondering, this drawing is now framed above my desk.
4. The Notch/Todd Howard Conversation
I was worried that all of my videos from E3 2011 would fall into the all-too-common rut of handheld and distracted interviews with developers on a noisy show floor. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to connect different developers that were all in the same convention center, and thankfully Bethesda let us shoot this interview in a small, dark room in the back of their booth. The video itself was a bizarre experiment, I knew that Notch (creator of Minecraft) was a huge Elder Scrolls fan so I thought that a completely off-the-cuff chat with the director of that series would be lead to some interesting topics of conversation. My sincere thanks to the masters of video over at 2 Player Productions for wrangling Notch and to Todd Howard and the Bethesda crew for going along with this interview about nothing.
3. Designing Battlefield 1942
I have a soft spot in my heart for the history of games, so when Battlefield 3's multiplayer lead designer cornered Matt Bertz and I in the hallway while on our Battlefield 3 trip with design documents from Battlefield 1942, I knew that I had to sit him down for a quick video. It was a bit of a ramshackle interview, but I'm glad I was able to set the camera up in time to see the Battlefield nostalgia ooze out of Lars Gustavsson. It's this kind of passion from developers that leads to the games we all love.
2. History of Volition
I should have known that the scope of this video would snowball out of control, it all started because I really wanted to talk to Volition about the first Red Faction. Luckily Jeff Cork and I ended up interviewing Mike Kulas, one of the co-founders of the studio. Jeff asked him one question and Mike talked for 45 minutes straight. Normally this would be a problem, but Mike gave a perfect and fascinating history of his studio. Not only that, but he also had old pictures and videos ready to go to help illustrate the story. The video took a lot of time to put together, but I'm really proud of the complete story that it tells. After posting the video on the site, Mike Kulas e-mailed me and explained that he was retiring as president of Volition and that Jeff Cork and I had asked the perfect question at the perfect time in his life. At the time this interview was filmed, he was the only person at the studio that knew he was stepping down and he was in a reflective mood. Occasionally I'm tempted to create another full video on the history of a studio, but I know that I'll never come across an interview situation as serendipitous as this one.
I wish that more of my top 10 videos from this year featured the Game Informer staff, but I hope that this massive video from the Guinness World Record attempt back in March makes up for that. Above anything else, Smashed is a crash course on four distinct personalities from the Game Informer office: Dan Ryckert, Jeff Cork, Tim Turi, and Ben Reeves. While crudely shot in a lot of places (I'll blame sleep deprivation) I'm proud of this video and the way that it captures the spirit and real people that work in our office. I was so excited about the footage that I ended up editing this video over my summer vacation. I hope it stands as a love letter to people that make up our office and the Game Informer community at large.
Well, that's it! Thanks for reading my list. I'm sure I forgot about some videos that I loved from this year, so let me know what you enjoyed this last year and what kind of content you'd like to see more of in the future.
Email the author Ben Hanson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.