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Pod: What Makes a Good Video Game Highlight?

Chris Person of Kotaku joined ‘Achievement Oriented’ to break down how he makes his show, ‘Highlight Reel’

(Blizzard)
(Blizzard)

Chris Person is the editor and voice behind Kotaku’s Highlight Reel, a twice-weekly show that compiles video game highlights. Video game highlights aren’t exactly like sports highlights, and Person joined Ben Lindbergh and Jason Concepcion on the latest Achievement Oriented to talk about how he finds the best ones.

His first observation: Be creative. Anyone on YouTube can compile clips of kill streaks — and those videos can certainly be fun! — but Person often looks outside the box for his clips.

“Originally [the show] was more just like, ‘Hey, here’s a bunch of kill streaks!’” he begins. “There are like a million YouTube channels like that where people put dubstep under Battlefield clips of people just doing the craziest crap. Maybe I’m just a little too old to have been born into it, but I really like an edited thing. I like the espresso of streaming, like ‘Here’s a bunch of weird crap that happened that’s funny and interesting or amazing.’”

And kill streaks can get pretty boring when you’re going through as many highlights as Person is.

“Sometimes you get a little cynical of kill streaks but that’s because people in the comments are even more critical than me!” he says. “That’s the reason I am wary of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive clips. It’s because CS:GO people have the highest standard of what’s impressive. Every once in awhile I’ll try to put one in there, and they’ll be like ‘No, man. He has to have done it 1080 no-scope and he has to also be doing it on a Donkey Konga controller.’ And I’m like, ‘Fair, you guys know what you’re talking about.’”

For his episodes, Person sifts through hundreds of clips to find the best ones.

“I usually get like 300 emails per episode,” he says. “In addition to that, I’ll check Twitch or Reddit. I go on a lot of subreddits because Reddit is one of the few places that correctly aggregates those things, despite a lot of structural problems with the platform itself. And I ask people [if I can use their clips] and 90 percent of the time, they’re cool with it. Most people just want to be credited and for you to link them correctly and to have their achievements acknowledged. That’s really, really important to me, that it is a collaborative show and that everyone sources correctly, because nobody sources well on the internet.”

But sometimes he needs a specific clip, and that can be hard to find.

“I was having this problem with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, [where], when it came out, a lot of the best stuff was [tweeted out by] Japanese players and it would be impossible to index or search. You just have to hope your friend tweeted it out or retweeted it and then you’d see it.”

Cheating can ruin the fun for everyone — don’t do it.

“If your intent is to make art with the game using cheating and it’s clear that you’re just doing it specifically for that purpose, then yeah, fine, I don’t care as long as you’re explicit about that,” he says. “But if you’re pretending that you did something and you cheated, then screw off. I’m OK with modding if it’s really funny, but not cheating if it’s competitive. That’s not cool.”

Ultimately, video game highlights are not very similar to sports highlights. Let Person explain:

“Sports are a team thing, and that’s true in multiplayer, but [video games] are also a canvas for doing really, really weird stuff. I think that’s where the limits of the analogy happen. There’s more room for creative expression and for people really screwing around, [like] doing a video where they pretend to be Shrek in Dark Souls and kill the person who’s invading the swamp.”

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.