Meet Extra Credits – a video lessons series presented by game designer James Portnow, animator/narrator Daniel Floyd, and a talented team of artists!
Location: Seattle, WA
**Patreon Page: **www.patreon.com/ExtraCredits
Q+A with the Extra Credits Team
Describe, in your own words, what it is that you create:
We make a history show! Our Patreon supporters pick a topic from world history, and we try to bring it to life in a way that hopefully inspires people to want to learn more. We also have a couple of shows about video games, looking at the ways they’re designed and what role they’re starting to take in our society. We’re all games industry folks by trade and we’ve found that way of thinking – that conscious design of information and engagement – trickles into the way we talk about history, too.
How did you get your start as a creative team?
You’d have to go all the way back to Dan’s college days for that. He was making a school project and reached out to James for permission to use an article he’d written for a games industry website. Once James saw the finished video, he thought it was a fantastic teaching tool and offered to write more of them. They actually collaborated for several years through emails and Skype calls before they ever got a chance to meet in person.
What did it take to end up where you are today?
Many, many, many all nighters and the support of people who love us enough to go along with it when we insist that making videos on the internet is important enough to go through all that stress.
What are three tactics you’ve used to grow your audience over time?
We talk to our fans as much as we can, because they’re the biggest thing making the show successful (obviously) and they’re the ones who help us grow the most by sharing the show with friends, loved ones, and sometimes classrooms.
We also give some love to our old episodes whenever we can, because often new people come in through an episode that might be three or four years old but it’s brand new to them, and it doesn’t feel good when all the links are broken or the description doesn’t say anything helpful.
Finally, we try to branch out to try new things, like our recent “Because Games Matter” series on Extra Credits where we shared the stories of people whose lives were changed by games. It’s different from the game design episodes that we usually do, but even if some people love it and some people hate it, at least you learn. And hey, if you try new things, sometimes new people will find you.
What has been the most effective monetization method for Extra Credits the last year?
Game plushies (stuffed animals)! Launching a store in general has been a really big win for us, and hopefully for our fans too. For years, every time our artists drew someone hugging the Game character from Extra Credits, we’d get a ton of comments and emails saying “make that a plushie, I want it.” We just wanted to do it right, and judging by how many pictures we now get of people hugging their plushies, wearing their Walpole shirts, or putting their Fail Faster posters above their desks as motivation, I think we’ve achieved that.
How have your fans helped you throughout your creative career?
Fans mean everything to us. They stuck with us in the early days when we had to bounce around various game sites before we finally found a home on YouTube, and honestly they give us the energy to keep going when we’re feeling low. We have a folder in the Extra Credits main email account of all the letters we get from people saying what the show has meant to them, and when things start to feel rough we go back and read them. Little things like that have kept us going.
When did you decide to launch on Patreon, and in what ways has it affected the team’s creative goals?
We decided to launch on Patreon back in 2014. We had done a few history episodes the year before, just as a one-time thing, but the fans really loved it and honestly we loved it too. We wanted to bring it back. We had just recently settled on YouTube so we talked to them about it and they said absolutely don’t do that, you will kill your channel by trying to put educational history content on a channel about video games. But Extra Credits has always been about learning, and lots of people who love games have grown up on games like Civilization that take world history as a theme, so we thought it made sense, and we turned to Patreon because that way our audience could tell us if they wanted it or not. And they said heck yes, we want it. It really blew our expectations. We thought if we were lucky, we could afford to make an episode every other week, and our patrons made it possible for Extra History to come out every single week. More history than you can shake at a stick at. They made it possible for us to dream so much bigger than we ever expected.
We thought if we were lucky, we could afford to make an episode every other week, and our patrons made it possible for Extra History to come out every single week.
What does Patreon mean for artists and creators?
Patreon makes it possible for artists to try new projects, or to keep doing things they love that the marketing world doesn’t understand or trust well enough to finance – but fans do.
How did you first announce your Patreon page to your community? What was the general feedback?
We announced it through a YouTube video, and I think the most common response was “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.” We are wildly lucky to have the kind of audience we do, who are willing to let us try new things and geek out just as hard as we do about the history of some good old 18th century financial shenanigans.
What’s next for your team? Are there any exciting projects or big goals you are working towards?
Ohhh, yes! We’ve got a few things on the horizon, although I can’t talk about them just yet. Don’t want to jinx anything. One I can talk about is our new series on game animation, Extra Frames. Dan’s taking a detailed look at a bunch of games and using them to study or teach some aspect of game animation, and right now he’s working on a huge look back at the evolution of animation in series like Sonic and Final Fantasy.
If you could challenge creators to do one thing that worked for you, or was transformative in your experience, what would it be?
Make a schedule… and follow it. And talk about it! Extra Credits is made by a team of people, so it takes a lot of coordination to get everything synched up and ready at the right time. We used to feel like we had so much to do that we didn’t have time to schedule anything more than “episode airs this day, so have everything ready by then.” As soon as we did make that schedule, though, things got so much easier.
That’s all, folks! Want to say hey? Reach out to Extra Credits here: