If you find yourself spending several hours daily on Youtube, watching one recommended video after another, I’ve got some good news. Instead of cats and memes, you can now enrich your brain with some serious knowledge regarding game design and development. If you’re already an aspiring developer, you’ll be thrilled to discover the sea of content that I am about to present in this article.
These are some of the best channels on Youtube for learning about game development and the gaming industry in general. But even if you aren’t all that enthusiastic about the development aspect of gaming, as a player you’ll most definitely appreciate some of the entertainment/ games journalism style videos. Some of you might be slightly more tech-oriented, interested in learning about the evolution of console hardware and how that affected video game graphics.
You’ll find videos on that too, including content on the latest technological advancements in the gaming industry and how that might affect the future of gaming. I’ve also included something for 3D artists, there are quite a few channels on this list that focus on asset creation in software like Blender or Unity. So without any further ado, let’s dive right in.
Extra Credits is a channel centered around explaining the fundamentals of how games are built and work, with a 2D animated cartoonish style to keep things interesting. They have recently diversified into other topics such as history, mythology, and even science fiction.
However, the bulk of their content and their most popular videos are focused around gaming. If you’re an aspiring game developer looking for ways to make your creation better, this is the channel for you. Every video is packed with information that is meticulously researched, and narrated in a casual yet highly concise manner.
Want to learn about good writing and how it lets the player form an intimate bond with the game’s protagonist? Check out their playlist on writing for games. Or perhaps you want to create your first game and don’t know where to start. Worry not, there’s a playlist for that too.
Some of Extra Credit’s staff are former game developers and proud geeks, so they know exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to games.
Ahoy is kind of like a mix between game design and pop culture, he does documentary-style videos exploring the origin and evolution of things like weapons and game consoles. Some of his most popular videos aren’t even about game design in particular, for example- he did a video about the Glock handguns and their history/ role in modern armies and law enforcement.
But the video itself doesn’t feel like a gun review, because it eventually gets into the implementation of Glock pistols within popular games such as Rainbow Six and Counter-Strike. In the video, he also explains how the Glock was utilized in early games such as Half-Life and the evolution of the role of handguns in modern gaming.
Realism vs fun, the gameplay aspect of handguns like the Glock, he even talks about how certain games use a generic name such as G-17 or “9mm pistol” to get around the trademarks. It’s a pretty interesting video, and I suggest you check it out if you’re into shooters. Ahoy also does retro game reviews, and his video series on the history of graphics in video games is very good.
Brackeys have videos about asset reviews for Unity, environment pack reviews, weapon model creation, and more. He talks about AI in the Unity game engine, lighting, and how to create games of different genres like RPGs, platformers, puzzles, etc.
This channel is a Jack of all trades, featuring everything from coding to art and design concepts. You can learn how to make a simple game in 4 days, or explore complex topics like creating your own renderer (although he does it without code).
Game Maker’s Toolkit
Hosted by former games journalist Mark Brown, a man with a smooth and very calming voice who has previously worked for Eurogamer and Wired. Game Maker’s Toolkit is a channel that’s focused around deconstructing and exploring various aspects of successful games to help the viewer understand why they perform so well.
Whether it be level design, storytelling, or mechanics- Game Maker’s Toolkit contains videos on all important things related to the design and production of games. The only downside to this channel is that you have to wait a bit between videos, although Mark sometimes uploads two consecutive videos within days of each other.
But that’s fine because each video is delicately crafted to balance facts with a laid back presentation style that encourages discussion and doesn’t overburden the more “casual” viewers who aren’t very interested in the technical side of things. In fact, even if you aren’t an aspiring game designer but simply want to know more about how and why developers do certain things, this channel is perfect for you.
I highly recommend you check out his video “How Accessible Were This Year’s Games?” in which he plays through a selection of around 50 games from 2019 (both indie and AAA) to explore the theme of accessibility in modern gaming for people with disabilities. Mark’s best and highest viewed videos are on world design, so if that’s what you’re interested in as a developer, this channel is for you.
A channel about having fun with game design through random projects, Dani makes all sorts of game development content. His most popular videos are the ones where he designs a game or website in a really short amount of time, like when he created his first mobile game in one week.
Some of his videos provide the viewer with a great amount of insight into life as an indie game developer, and it’s really interesting to watch Dani evolve as he learns new techniques and skills over time.
This channel is all about CG, special effects, animation, and 3D modeling in Blender. It contains tutorials on everything from low poly asset creation in under 1 minute, to videos on how to fix bad CGI in Hollywood blockbusters.
CG Geek once created a CGI 3D tornado in Blender, and that was right after he made a cartoonish fat Thor inspired by the Avenger’s Endgame movie. CG Geek uploads fairly frequently, you can expect one video per week. He also does the occasional hardware review and PC build guide, like when he tested out the insane 64-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990x in Blender to see how it demolishes rendering workloads.
Marc Brunet is one of the best art-focused Youtube channels for game designers and developers. His content on facial and muscular anatomy is truly remarkable, it will help amateur artists create truly lifelike 3D human character models for their games. And using just Photoshop, Mark creates some really high-quality concept art in record times.
His weekly live stream on cubebrush is a place where artists can hang out and watch him create amazing assets in real-time. You can also ask questions and do assignments, just like in a college. Now, it is paid but you get a lot for your money. And, it’s way cheaper than a specialized game art course in some college.
The best part is, you don’t even have to sign up on cubebrush to watch his educational content since all ART School weekly live streams are uploaded to the Youtube channel where you can watch them for free. Marc also does product reviews for artists, like the XP-Pen Artist 15.6 Pro tablet.
On Marc’s channel, you’ll find videos on how to paint different materials, draw characters from different game genres, artist portfolio reviews, Photoshop tutorials, and more.
The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is a major industry event where game programmers, artists, designers, and other people involved in the production cycle meet to showcase, share, and discuss ideas/new games. What makes GDC different from other channels on this list is the fact that it contains lectures and presentations from renowned industry professionals, including lead developers who have decades of experience with AAA games from various big publishers like EA and Activision.
Great advice, straight from the best source possible. You’ll find videos on everything from art and storytelling to programming and animation. They even have videos on monetization models in games, balancing game mechanics, and level design.
One of their videos I highly recommend is the recent interview they did with Bioware creative director Mark Laidlaw in which they discuss narrative and storytelling.
This channel mostly consists of video essays that talk about game design, with a focus on early Nintendo games and indie titles. Snoman Gaming tells you whether a game is actually good, and why.
He focuses on various aspects of games from multiple genres and takes into consideration things like sound effects, music, mechanics, UI, character design, storytelling, and more. And each video is focused on one of these aspects, using a popular game as an example to get the point across.
A very simple concept paired with excellent execution, which results in educational videos that are entertaining to watch and teach you a lot about what goes on inside the mind of a game designer. And if you’re just a player who doesn’t know a whole lot about game engines or coding, well this channel is perfect for you.
It indulges in exploring the creative side of game design, the philosophical aspects of it rather than the actual framework underneath each game. I really liked his video on Outer Wilds, which is an Indie space exploration game. It explains how the game manages to be so uniquely interesting and filled with surprises that reward exploration, even though there isn’t a central objective-based “driving force” to keep you moving from one place to another. And on top of that, it looks amazing.
Snoman explores the design of this game, and why it feels so great. I recommend you watch it too.
How do game engines work? What are the best resources to learn C++ as a beginner? How to create a collision system in your game? You’ll find answers to all these questions and many more in The Cherno, a channel focused around the development (especially programming) of video games.
Most of the other channels on our list are centered around art or game design, but The Cherno tells you how to do game coding and talks about stuff like shaders and render engines.
This channel is for the more technically inclined among you who want to get down to the nitty-gritty of game making. He has a bunch of videos on C++ (dynamic arrays, sorting, stack vs heap memory, dynamic libraries) and OpenGL (vertex arrays, uniforms, blending textures).
So if you are interested in those topics, I definitely suggest checking out his channel.
Thomas is a game developer, writes music, and creates illustrations. He uses his channel as a showcase for current games that he is working on, and posts behind the scenes style videos on how he creates his games. A lot of his videos provide general guidance on game design as a career and help upcoming indie developers make the right decisions.
He talks about topics like motivation, confidence, and mistakes that you should avoid. He also does technical stuff like 2D character design tutorials and modeling in Blender.
Thomas is the creator of Pinstripe, a platformer adventure game inspired by The Christmas Before and Alice in Wonderland. He is also working on a game called Once Upon A Coma and is the owner of indie game studio Atmos Games.
If you’re currently in high school or college and looking at game design as a career, I highly recommend you check out this video from Thomas which should provide you with some direction on what to do.
New Frame Plus
This channel is hosted by Daniel Floyd, who’s a co-creator for Extra Credits as well as a professional animator. New Frame Plus focuses on game animation (both 2D and 3D) so if you’re looking for some animation knowledge to complement your art skills, you’ve got to check it out.
New videos are uploaded every couple of months (yeah, we know that’s a long time) but the wait is well worth it because all topics are meticulously researched and professionally presented. I recommend you watch his video on the most well animated games of 2019, in which he shows gameplay footage from titles such as Anthem, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and Luigi’s Mansion to illustrate his points on what makes game animation truly feel “alive”.
Proper animation is necessary in order to convey emotion and makes the character feel relatable to the player.
Interested in the technical aspect of game design and development? Founded in 2014 by a developer named Sam, Sykoo focuses on everything from engine comparisons to asset reviews for Unity. He also does technical tutorials, like his video on the cloth system in Unity 2018.
I highly recommend some of his recent videos, like the one in which he reviews the best assets for realistic graphics in Unity. He also posted a video 6 days ago on how to create terrains and landscapes in Unity, which I would call fairly beginner-friendly (for people who have at least a little bit of experience with Unity).
Sam has also made videos like “How to Become a Game Dev in 2020” and he even has a video on the rigging and animation of 2D characters. If you’re looking to create your games in Unity, this is the channel for you.
Created by a French developer named Noa Calice, Blackthornprod is a channel centered around game development in Unity. So if you’re interested in this particular engine, I highly recommend the channel.
You’ll find technical videos on AI, pixel art animation, level creation, menu design, and more. Some of his most popular videos are on how to create a game super fast within Unity, like the one inspired by Brackeys (another famous channel on this list) in which Noa creates a Unity game in under 10 minutes.
Blackthornprod is all about indie and small scale game development, and he has a lot of content on 2D art and animation. So if you’re part of a small studio, I highly recommend checking out his channel because it contains everything you need to know about indie game development within the Unity engine.
I recommend you check out his devlog playlists in which he shows behind the scenes content. From the prototype stage to a finished product, he talks about his thought process behind decisions and documents changes/ improvements.
His videos consist of animated clips, screen captures, and gameplay footage in combination with professional-grade narration. Oh, and Blackthornprod has a very unique art style that is reminiscent of games such as The Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy.
Here, you’ll find educational content on various topics such as storytelling and AI within games. TheHappieCat doesn’t upload very frequently, but her videos are filled with extremely useful information presented via a casual narration style in combination with screenshots and gameplay footage.
Her video on how 3D graphics works in games is highly informative, and I suggest you give it a try even if you aren’t a game developer. It will teach you the basics of vertices within 3D space and pixel rasterization (some basic grade school math knowledge is a prerequisite).
TheHappieCat also has a really interesting video on how AI works in games, and some of her videos talk about specific techniques such as pathfinding using Dijkstra’s Algorithm. The content is a mish-mash of technical stuff and basics, like how things such as collisions, lighting, etc. work in games.
To summarize- if you’re interested in short videos talking about the basics of AI in video games and techniques such as lighting, 3D rendering, etc., TheHappieCat is definitely worth checking out (most of her videos are under 20 minutes).
Think of this channel as a “tips and tricks” of video game design, provided by actual developers who have been active within the games industry and have several years of experience.
It is like asking questions to friends and family who work in the games industry, and the presentation follows a casual style
As the name indicates, this channel is dedicated to the analysis of game design concepts. It talks about why a game is good, and which aspects of game design it has implemented correctly. How to make boss fights feel entertaining, the importance of good level design, what you should avoid, etc.
Design Doc also tackles slightly different ideas such as game patents, the history of cheat codes in consoles, and balancing a game redesign with the retention of certain mechanics to keep the core fanbase happy. Design Doc also talks about UX and UI design, and the evolution of game genres. One of his best videos is the one he did analyze the Nintendo Switch console.
AI and Games
Dr. Tommy Thompson works as an AI researcher who’s also a developer and consultant within the video game industry. His channel AI and Games are all about discussing the design and evolution of AI within gaming, and how it affects our experiences as a player (plus how games influence the development of AI).
He makes some really interesting videos, like the one discussing why adding bots to Fortnite might be a good idea. His AI and Games video series is excellently crafted, exploring how AI works within different games. Not just AI in general, but specific portions of the game AI like NPCs, crowd AI, AI-driven animation, enemy combat AI, etc.
He has videos exploring the AI of Gears 5, Hitman 2016, and even retro games such as GoldenEye. One can also learn about finite state machines and machine learning through videos on this channel. One of his best videos in the analysis of AI research in MOBAs like Dota 2, and the role AI can play in improving player performance through data analysis of things like drafts and team fights.
Jeroen Bekker (strafefox) posts videos in which he breaks down the creation of retro video games from the 80s and 90s, using custom 2D and 3D animations/ art assets to illustrate everything in a tight documentary-style presentation. Each video is extremely well crafted, and in my opinion, his channel is highly underrated (should have way more subscribers). Try his video series on “How Video Games Were Made”.
It shows you the challenges faced by early game developers when it came to creating graphics on the hardware of that time, as well as the tactics they used to market their games.
Strafefox uses an 80s synth-wave background music and has a very relaxed narration style which really makes you feel as if you were transported 40 years back into a different time. Each strafefox video picks a video game or retro console and takes you on an educational journey behind the scenes to unravel the process of its conception, design, release, and marketing.
You learn about early console hardware, what challenges it presented to developers, how they invented clever tricks to get around these hardware limitations, etc. One of my favorite strafefox videos is “How video games were made – part 1: Graphics”. It explores the concepts of sprites, name and pattern tables, viewports, etc. by using the NES as an example. The NES featured many popular games such as Mario, Zelda, and Mega Man.
The video explains how retro home consoles use visual tricks to create amazing (for the time) effects with otherwise weak hardware.
Game Dev Underground
Tim Ruswick from Game Dev Underground has a very unscripted, candid way of presentation in his videos in which he talks about both the design and business side of making good games.
He has some really good videos on how to work as an indie game dev, such as this video on 9 game design mistakes that will kill your indie game. Tim also discusses progression systems, UI, map design, and more. He isn’t afraid to tackle some of the more “difficult” aspects of indie game development that a lot of developers don’t prefer to talk about in their videos.
An unrestrained perspective on things, combined with a straight in your face attitude is what makes Game Dev Underground one of those niche channels that may not have as many subs as the rest, but its content is still amazing.
A channel that focuses on all sorts of things game design, but its highlight is the “Level Head” series where Sunder talks about level design and how it complements the other aspects of the game. His analytical breakdowns of a game’s levels and why the designers chose to put certain elements in those exact places are worth a watch and will teach you a lot to help you elevate your indie game from good to excellent.
Sunder also does developer interviews and game reviews. he recently interviewed Laura Shigihara, the developer of the indie game Rakuen. They talk about how the game was designed, and the challenges faced by an indie game dev. I urge you to watch that video if you’re an aspiring game developer. Sunder hasn’t uploaded any new videos recently, and his channel is mostly inactive these days.
But there’s a wealth of info lying around in the older videos, truly timeless content.
Keith’s best creation is his “3-minute game design” series in which he discusses various aspects of designing a game. Each video focuses on a single topic, while being short and to the point. There are numerous examples provided within the video via gameplay footage and screenshots/ slides to illustrate his points and you can easily watch a video while traveling to work or relaxing on the bed.
Just 3 minutes provides you with plenty of valuable information straight from an experienced developer, on topics that many would consider too “abstract”. For example, check out Keith’s video on “Forms”, a terminology he uses to describe what constitutes and defines games as an interactive system.
What channel did you think most on the list? Are there any game design channels that you enjoy but are missing from this list? Let me know, and they shall be included as well. Hopefully, some of these videos sparked an interest in game design and development within you.
It’s actually pretty easy these days to download a free engine such as Unreal or Unity and whip up a simple game within weeks by following Youtube tutorials. In fact, some of the channels I’ve linked show you exactly how to do that. You can even try putting your game on the Android or iOS store and who knows, maybe people will actually download it.