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Episode 121: The Indoor Kids
Critiquing Criticism with…
The Indoor KidsThe Indoor Kids

The Indoor Kids #121: Critiquing Criticism with Tom Bissell

Today we welcome back one of our favorite guests, Tom Bissell, to discuss his new book about the making of The Room, how he plays games now versus how he played games 10 years ago, and much much more. Don’t worry, we still get real silly with it.

GTA V, BioShock Infinite, Journey, The Last of Us, Saint’s Rom 4, Assassin’s Creed 3, Call of Duty, Braid, Portal, Borderlands 2, The Room, Deadly Premonition, The Stanley Parable, Papers Please, Gears of War: Judgement, Madden, Halo, Batman Arkham Origins, The Room

The Room, Fordibben Zone, Ed Wood

The Beatles, Oingo Boingo

Read Tom’s articles on GTA V and The Last of Us and get his book!

Enter the Indoor Kids merch design contest!

Buy Indoor Kids merch!

Follow @matthewburnside on Twitter!

Follow @indoorkids, @kumailn, and @thegynomite on Twitter! And email us at [email protected]!

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  1. I’m gone to say to my little brother, that he should also go
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  2. Patrick says:

    This is why I keep listening to the indoor kids. I really liked hearing Tom’s take on games and why he’s getting out of games journalism, and I especially loved his comments about how the critics and the mainstream gaming audiences are starting to get misaligned. That happened years ago with movies and music – critical favorites are rarely the biggest sellers – but metacritic ratings are not as important to music and film. A critic who plays a bajillion games is going to get much sicker of standard types of games and gameplay than your average consumer who plays maybe ten games a year. As someone who thinks the majority of games journalism is not very good, it’s a bummer to know that one of the more thoughtful critics is getting out of games.

  3. Joshua Bryan Hammack says:

    I have no desire to see the film “The Room,” but I will read Bissell book on it. I have since purchased it. Well played Indoor Kids… well played.

  4. Johgn says:

    I’ll read anything Bissell writes, but it’s disappointing he won’ be writing about video games. The piece he wrote on GTA4 was one the best things I’ve ever read.

  5. Sir_D says:

    Emily and Kumail, talk about ALL the stuff! I’m an adult and love it when I hear adults with intelligent and humorous opinions go on about the things I like, the things I may not know about (can’t wait to get Wool), and even the things I may not care for. I have no interest in GTA V; yet, I’ll keep listening to The Indoor Kids because I love your interplay. Love the show and will continue to pimp it to my friends.

  6. Shaft says:

    One suggestion: PLEASE, PLEASE stop talking about movies. I download this podcast to hear you say interesting things about VIDEO GAMES. That’s all.

  7. Ron D. says:

    Ha! I am only now getting to the Harry Potter books with my kids and had no idea Snape kills Dumbledore! Oh well, if it mattered that much to me, I should’ve read them sooner.

    I’m surprised there are no disappointed comments about Bissell no longer writing about games. Was he just not read that much by this audience? For me he was about the only writer of video games that I read, so it looks like it’s time to start looking around for others.

    Great podcast as always! Thanks so much!

  8. phil medoc says:

    Jesus fucking christ, so much bitching and moaning about a free podcast. Don’t listen if you don’t like the way it’s evolved and changed over time.

    Kumail and Emily have always been up front about the fact that they’re not hardcore gamers. This is a podcast that is ostensibly about video games but also about the pop culture that goes along with being a gamer, along with getting into armchair sociology and psychology about video games. There’s unrelated tangents about other shit that you may or may not find interesting.

    If you want a pure video game podcast, go listen to Giant Bomb or something. I’d like to believe that the dissenting comments here are the vocal minority, because I love this show even when I get mildly annoyed when Kumail says Silent Hill 2 was on PS1 or whatever. I would gladly pay money for this podcast.

    Happy Halloween everyone!

    Darth Vader is Luke’s father.
    Samus is a woman.
    Aerith dies.
    Snape kills Dumbledore.
    Bruce Willis has been a ghost the whole movie.
    This podcast is an elaborate prank on nerds who don’t know when to chill the fuck out.

  9. frank says:


    I really like this format and the hosts, but they only ever talk about the same fucking games all the time. It gets so tired. Try and break out, or get people from other genre’s.

  10. Mark says:

    Devin Faraci followed by Tom Bissell? You spoil us!

  11. Xay says:

    Apologies in advance but there were some things that inspired an extra dose of bitchiness in me.

    If a spoiler is revealing something significant about a story past the story’s foundation, then there is no expiration. It will always be that. What expires is peoples’ sense of courtesy or obligation. How generation-centric. People are encountering things for the first time all the time, regardless of it’s time of creation. You’ve been there and done that, now just skip the lube. Just tour elementary schools and explain to them how life sucks and then you die, don’t forget to go into detail. You’ve earned it. You got in under the wire and now you can flip the finger to the people who came later. Romeo and Juliet? They XXXX XXX in the the end. Suck it, it was written a really long time ago. That’s a bit of sarcasm and hyperbole, but really, the opportunity to be born later or discover something for the first time isn’t going away. It might be tedious and you can be ‘that guy’ who doesn’t feel the need to warn people first(just as I am ‘that guy’ who would like some warning), but don’t expect people to give you a pass.

    Also, on the subject of defending games. Why can’t people just like the game? Why does it have to be a state of denial? A 2nd guess that it’s to protect some fantasy that it was better than it was. Even if(maybe especially) it’s popular. When something is really popular it is only logical that there’s going to be super-fans. I’m not saying it’s not annoying, but also not surprising.

    The internet: where everyone has a front-row podium.

  12. onReload says:


    Yeah that reminds me of the whole “Press X to not die” joke.

    It also reminds me about Spec Ops: The Line a bit. I liked the game because it makes it seem like you *have* to kill – because enemies are trying to kill you, not just because it’s part of a story. Made it feel more ambiguous; like “Do I really have to do this? Should I really even be here?”

    But there was a part earlier on, the bit about white phosphorous, where you just trigger it on unsuspecting people…Didn’t make me feel like I had a choice, or that there was anything ambiguous about it…just an attempt at getting a rise out of the player.

  13. GuanoLad says:

    Re: Dealing with spoilers (for games, books, etc), here’s how I think movie trailers should deal with spoilers.

    Any plot that happens in the first third, or first 30 minutes, of the movie can be shown; imagery from the second third, or next 45 minutes, can also be shown as long as it doesn’t give away plot twists; but nothing at all from the last third, or final 30 minutes, should ever be shown anywhere, including released images and clips – those should only be from the first half of the film and not give away any twist.

    So if those guidelines can be applied to games and books, including with watercooler talk amongst friends, that would work okay for me.

  14. Alec says:

    @The Metal Pigeon
    Scroll down to the bottom of the Indoor Kids main page and click on the “1” button to get to the most recent episodes.


    About the episode:

    The Stanley Parable reminds me of a I read review for one of those Modern Military Manshooter type games, where the reviewer was aggravated that the first bit of gameplay you had to do was to slit an unsuspecting soldier’s throat. No chance of a non-lethal takedown, no stealth, no interrogation, not even the chance of a failure state. “Press Buttan for Special Kill Animation”

  15. Well I’d agree that those Jordan Morris, Burnside, etc episodes are a lot looser and “fun”, and that’s primary because of the reason you identified —- when you have a writer like Bissell on you go ahead and spend time talking about the man’s work as a writer and critic. To spend an hour with him talking about nothing but randomized stuff maybe isn’t getting the most of their guest. Besides, its not like there won’t be more of the former kind of episodes in the future. Be reasonable.

  16. ninjafide says:

    Man I feel like this show has got way to pretentious and less fun. I don’t care that people have opinions on things, but I felt like the show used to be about having a good time with the guests.

    I feel like the show is only enjoyable when they have their good friends like Jordan Morris on. Bring back talking bullshit about cats, and having fun playing games. I don’t care about how Tom Bissell was published in Harper, or what Film Critic Hulk has to complain about.

    Anyway I’ll just tune in when D.C Pierson or Jordan Morris show up and Kumail and Emily relax.

  17. Ken says:

    Every time I’ve played GTA V Online, my heart drooped. People playing with headsets spouting “come get me faggot, you little bitch”. It would be different if it where said to close friends, but you can be heard by every player and they know it. It’s to the point where I’ve spent more time muting players, than playing the game.

    Yes, I would love to see Kumail play Arkham Origins with Tom commenting on thug dialogue.

  18. Anyone notice that when you click on the Podcasts/Indoor Kids from the main page of the Nerdist website it shows that the latest Indoor Kids episode is from August? I have to click the direct link from FB or Twitter to get here. Someone should fix that I’d think, unless I’m missing something.

  19. The one thing I’ve always hated about game reviews is the ratings system. Very few outlets have a rating system that is as subjective as the reviews themselves. Rating all games on a scale of 1-10 alone totally misses the mark.

    Think of any Pokemon game being rated on the same scale/frame of reference as Last of Us. Those are 2 fundamentally different experiences that are tied together in our minds as the concept of a “game,” and share little else meaningful. Each had objectives and concepts they tried to achieve in different ways, with varying degrees of success. Experiencing these two games leaves you with two completely different feelings which may or not be what was intended in each, but rating these experiences on the same scale and pretending that one deserves a 10 in relation to the other only garnering an 8 is an endeavor that devalues the efforts of both sets of developers. And rating the game on this scale completely disregards any player’s ability to get sucked into a story and gameplay that has the potential to speak to them personally. It’s like rating Picasso a 10 and Pollack a 4, you’ve missed the point entirely.

    From a AAA title developer standpoint, metacritic is the double edged sword of death/life. Publishers use these scores to screw over the very people making their games, using bad scores to justify laying people off and continuing to keep development costs as low as possible while at the same time bribing reviewers to give good reviews for sales purposes.

    In short, kill the 10 point scale. Buy, Rent, Borrow, Burn should be as complex as it should get.

  20. NotMF says:

    The first DLC for Bioshock Infinite is a like horde mode with waves of enemies, but it’s only single player and you get a break to change your setup after each wave. In the second DLC you’ll still only be Booker, but Burial at Sea Part 2 is where you get to be Elizabeth.

  21. Nick says:

    Am I the only one feeling like this podcast and its guests have recently become very contemptuous towards gamers?

  22. Nichole says:

    omg I can’t believe he wrote the book with “Mark”!!

    How does one get into writing for games? I would love to do that

  23. Nick says:

    Why are you not pimping T-shirts yet? It’s time to monetize this nerd-beast. Sell me a clever T-shirt you beautiful babies!!!1

  24. LevelledUp says:

    I think people would love a youtube video of Kumail playing Arkham Origins. Like those youtube videos where you see the gameplay and the person comments over top of it.

  25. RG says:

    Please don’t change the typo in “Fordibben Zone,” it’s just too adorable. 😀