I first came across the work of Mark Brown on Youtube through his series “Boss Keys.” “Boss Keys” is a selection of videos dedicated to playing through, analyzing and breaking down the structures of the dungeons throughout the “Legend of Zelda” franchise. As a “Legend of Zelda” fan and a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a hopeless nerd, I quickly found myself watching through the entire series and subscribing to his channel. I later found out that Mark had been an editor-at-large (among a variety of other roles) for the UK's mobile and handheld gaming publication “Pocket Gamer”. His time working for the publication came to an end in January of 2017 in order to allow himself more time and energy for his main Youtube show.
Mark’s main show, which he funds through a Patreon, is called “Game Maker’s Toolkit”. This series covers a variety of games, franchises, and genres in an attempt to dissect various elements of gameplay and game design. The idea is simply to study the inner workings of video games and video game design philosophy in a palatable, approachable format. The execution, however, is so much more.
The essence of Mark’s videos is a sort of honesty. Far from the sometimes cringe-inducing attempts at humor that many of the major gaming publications strive for, when Mark says something cheeky it often feels authentic and warm. Instead of strictly gushing about a game or critically panning it, the viewer can usually rely on him to find a specific aspect of a game and present it in a nuanced fashion. It all feels like he’s truly passionate about the subject matter rather than going through articles and video essays for work’s sake.
That genuine feeling that he is just as intrigued as you are is important to an audience that wants to learn more about the industry and medium that they love. Mark also brings a sense of refinement to each video. They look sharp, with professional editing that sets him apart from some of the other gaming content creators on Youtube that may not be part of larger groups or companies like IGN or Gamespot. This is not at all to disparage budding gaming and tech journalists (trust me I’m in no position to judge), but instead to note and appreciate a level of quality that is not always seen in this niche.
Though I have yet to watch all of the videos on his channel, I feel that I can safely say to anyone interested in video gaming and game design (or just in good video essays) that Mark is a must watch. I look up to the way that he is able to balance intellectual dissection of a topic with the excitement of a fan. You never feel like he is going overboard in one direction and neglecting the other. To me personally he and his videos are an example of things that we need much more of in video game journalism.
Out of Mark’s videos I’d highly suggest starting with his episode on the idea of “versatile verbs” and his episode talking about the so called “language” of games. You can follow Mark Brown on Twitter and support him on his Patreon, linked above.