Let's Plays and Why I Watch Them
I admit it, I am guilty of watching Let's Play videos on YouTube. I never really thought much of it until I was clicking around and watching a few other random videos and heard the opinions of a few other video makers on Let's Play videos, their content, and the people who enjoy watching them. All of which made me wonder, what is it about watching other people play video games that I like, and what is it about that situation that these other people are not understanding? Could I help them to understand what I love about watching other people play?
Well honestly, all signs point to 'no' on this one. But maybe you guys will enjoy this list anyway.
Here are the top reasons I love watching Let's Plays!
Agent JR plays Silent Hill Director's Cut
Knowing the Backstory
The video above, by Agent JR, is a playlist of the first Resident Evil game. Having been more of a Silent Hill fan, I never really got into the RE games until the movies, which my best friend loved. So then I felt the need to learn the original story, and started searching YouTube for videos.
This is also an example of how watching a video series can promote actual game sales. After watching the first few videos I found RE on the Playstation store, and have since played the first game all the way through, and started on the second.
Reason 1: I'm a sucker for knowing the backstory
Unless you have spent the last 20 years playing every game in existence, there is a really good chance you have missed a few popular games through the decades. Even with a good 80% of those games having stories of "go there kill enemies" and that's about it, there is still a good chance that a few games with really interesting stories have passed you by. With recent developers scrambling around for inspiration many of them are turning to old classics and updating them.
Now I know that you do not necessarily have to know the backstory to be able to enjoy the new games, as long as they are decent of course. But this does not stop me from wanting to know where the game came from, if I can. But do I really want to go out and buy all these games just so I can play them to learn the back story? And that is even if I can get my hands on a system that can play them.
Not that you can find every game on YouTube, but the collection is always growing.
theRadBrad plays Bioshock Infinite
How is that game?
The Let's Player I chose above, theRadBrad, is fairly famous for his videos. I daresay that he doesn't really need any exposure this page might gain him, however he is a perfect example of introducing games to viewers well. He plays many very highly anticipated games, and smaller niche games also. In both of these cases he tends to do one thing in particular very well, he gives you a first glimpse of a game and how it plays, and allows you to get a really good first look at a game to see if you wish to stop watching him, and go play it yourself.
Yes I watch his videos for his personality, his easy-going manner and slightly goofy,sometimes slightly self-deprecating laugh make listening to his ideas about the game and the gameplay as interesting as the games themselves. If I am ever truly undecided on whether to spend my hard-earned money on a certain game in particular, I'll often check to see if Brad is making a video on it before I decide.
Reason 2: I want to hear other's opinions on the game
Remember those days when you used to take your favorite games with you to a friend's house so they could get a chance to play it so you'd have an excuse to talk about it with them? Or just lent them a game their parents wouldn't buy them that you just knew they would love?
Of course if you were a girl growing up twenty years ago, finding friends who could and would discuss video games with you was a rare treat, lucky for me that I had cousins and an uncle who were into games. I used to go over to their houses and watch them play, the very first time I was ever introduced to Link. I used to be scared to fight monsters, so I'd ask my uncle to kill all the monsters off for me if I couldn't just avoid them, until he taught me the trick of killing all but one in any area and told me I was on my own from then on. That, my friends, is how you teach a small child that they can do things on their own.
But what do you do for that same experience when you have grown up and all your grown up friends just look at you oddly when you talk about your new game?
Why YouTube Let's Play video makers love to talk about the video game they are playing while they are playing them! Want to hear their opinion on a certain level of specific boss monster? Just watch the playthrough, by golly! Of course what is missing from this is the ability to comment back, unless of course you leave a comment in the comment section! You can often even get replies from other people if your comment caught their attention.
YOGSCAST Sips plays Don't Starve
You died from what?
Sips is part of a larger conglomerate of video game playing videographers, who go by the company name of Yogscast. I'll admit that I generally stay away from the conglomerates, in favor of the solo fliers, when looking for let's players to watch, however at the time I found Sips I had just found the game of Don't Starve, and was looking for some tips due to the fact that I was dying so often.
Sips actually played through two characters for this game, and did fairly well the first time before dying in the video above. He taught me a lot about surviving in the game. Then he made me feel a bit better about dying so often with this episode.
If you choose to watch Sips to gain a good base knowledge about how to play Don't Starve please bear in mind that Sips started playing this a while ago, the game has been updated a considerable amount since this playthrough. Also, you may just want to start with his Willow playthrough.
Reason 3: I love to see that someone else had trouble with a certain area or game
Picture this, you've had your sights on a game since it was announced. You've been dying to play it, enjoyed all the hype and you get the game, play happily away, and get stuck on a certain level. What do you do, you don't want to spoil the game for yourself, so you just keep trying and trying until you finally make it through, or give up. Finally, you turn to YouTube and watch a play through to see how someone else handled the area. And laugh as they fail the same section just as badly as you did, or maybe even worse.
Of course it can be even more frustrating if the videos you find all have people who easily breezed through those sections, but then you can either ignore those people in the future, or watch them for game tips. Most of the time the people who do well in a playthrough have beaten the game in the past and know their way around the game. If you are watching people who do blind playthroughs, then that basically means they haven't played the game before and know little to nothing about the game or how it plays. They may advertise it as such or they may just generally play blind and don't feel the need to say so. Other people prefer to record games they have played before and have down so as not to waste too much of the time of viewers from messing up, or trying to edit a long video because they got lost or died a few times. Each type of videographer has its good points and bad, but I do personally tend to prefer players who are honest about the difficulties they may have had with a game, for my own personal satisfaction.
Warning, before you watch, have you played Season 1 of The Walking Dead?
If you haven't played Season 1 of The Walking Dead:
The video above is a compilation of different Let's Players and their reaction to the ending of Season 1 of The Walking Dead. DO NOT watch it if you do not know already what the ending is, unless you truly don't mind spoiling a truly great story. Instead, why not play it yourself, or at least watch Antastic Games play it through here: https://youtu.be/hoBr4iwGPNk?list=PLQMtPAEhadAhnjArGpbeI5B6q3N5_FsJ- .
I love this series so much when I played it I actually went through and watched the playthroughs of all of my favorite YouTubers who were playing the game. The range of reactions just showcases what makes this a unique game. This is why I chose for the video example above a compilation video, rather than any single person's walkthrough.
Reason 4: I enjoy experiencing the emotional reactions of others in certain games
Lets face it, as games get more complex to create and more realistic game developers are getting far more sophisticated and complicated games produced and distributed out to us. This means more emotional impact and more thought-provoking stories. Sometimes, as with the story in Bioshock Infinite, there are too many twists in the story itself to work through what happened all on our own. Sometimes, as with the Walking Dead series, the overwhelming emotional impact of the games drives us to seek out others who have experienced the game to find out if they had the same response we did, to see if the game left the same impression in their soul as it did in ours. Unless you are one of the rare ones that didn't quite have the same experience.
If you don't have any close friends who are playing those games what are you to do to find out if someone else had a similar reaction to the game? Why you turn to the internet discussion boards, of course! But I can do you one better. Why not find a YouTube Let's Player who has played your game and recorded their reactions, and actually hear their responses for yourself, first hand!
If there is one thing a Let's Play video can do better than any other method of discussing games over the internet, it is to let you hear for yourself the raw emotional reaction of a person while they are playing a game. Discussing it afterwards is all fine and dandy, and excellent for tearing apart your experience and analyzing the details, why you felt that way, what the developers did right, or wrong. However the voice itself can convey so much emotion that you simply cannot get from text, if you played a game that you loved enough to carry on a discussion about it online somewhere, I really feel the need to challenge you to find a Let's Play with commentary, and truly listen to the voice of the Let's Player when they are commentating on the action.
VengefulKBM plays Half Life
Fear becomes you
One of my all time favorite Let's Player, KBM, has an overwhelming fear of fish for some unknown reason. When he encounters a game where he has to confront his fear of fish it can leave him paralyzed, for a time.
The video in my example above is a follow-up video after he has figured out that he is shortly going to be confronted with fighting a huge monster fish in Half Life. You can still hear the terror in his voice, though he is bravely pushing through his fear and conquering the fishy anyway. If you wish to hear his insane terror feel free to watch his full playthrough of this series.
For an example of someone who has control over his fear during a horror game playthrough, see Agent JR playing Resident Evil, the first video suggested on this page. He knows the game, makes funny comments about what is going on, and has very good control over his reactions even when he does, on occasion, make a mistake.
Bonus Reason: Occasionally it is very evilly satisfying to hear the screams of someone else's terror
This is a bonus reason because really it is part of Reason 5 above, emotional reactions. However in terms of impact on the viewer it deserves its own mention.
Horror movie fans can easily relate to the thought that when you have a friend watch one of your favorite horror movies for the first time and they get scared out of their minds, watching your friend can be as entertaining as the movie itself. Well, this is basically the same thing, only you don't actually have to be a horror game fan to get the enjoyment out of it. All you need is a curiosity about a horror game, and a good YouTuber to watch. There are two reasons this works, depending on whether you are a horror fan or not.
- If you love horror games and movies yourself then hearing the reactions of a YouTuber playing a horror game for the first time can be funny as heck. Even a YouTuber who controls their reactions well will often have a bit of trouble keeping the fear completely out of their voice.
- If you are not a horror fan at all but you can't seem to get away from your brother, sister, mother, co-worker discussing their favorite game with you, there might just be no help for it but to just bite the bullet... and watch someone else play the game. In this case it would probably be helpful for you to watch a Let's Player who has played the game before, because they will probably throw a few jokes in now and then which can ease the tension and make it absolutely possible for you to get through the Let's Play, over a series of a few videos, with a good break between them to watch My Little Pony or something.
So there you have it, my 5 main reasons for watching videographers play video games. If you aren't a fan of these types of videos I hardly expect that I have changed your mind, but perhaps I have left you slightly less confused on what the appeal is for people like myself. And for anyone else, if I have introduced you to a new Let's Player through my examples I am all for the people I have mentioned getting a new fan or two.
Have a Let's Player you believe deserves some attention? Please feel free to drop their name in the comments below. Don't agree with my reasons? I'd truly love to hear your opinion!
Thank you, and I hope you enjoyed reading!