Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rise of the Let's Plays

With the advent of inexpensive easy to use video capture software and technology mixed with websites like YouTube it's increasingly easy to find someone’s playthrough of an entire video game floating around on the internet. I suspect that these clips severed as a kind of visual FAQ at first to help other gamers defeat a particularly difficulty boss or overcome a vexing puzzle, but now they have become a form of entertainment in unto themselves.

In some cases the player is content to remain silent and simply let the viewer watch the game play out as intended. I actually enjoy watching these kinds of "Let's Play" videos since I spent a lot of time growing up passing the controller around with friends and family. Hence, the idea of watching someone else play is second nature to me. I've heard some voices on message boards complain that they don't see the appeal, they want to play the game not watch it being played. I can see where they're coming from, but then again playing costs money while watching is free.

Adding to the easy of accessibility and lack of cost is the type of "Let's Play-er" who injects their own personality into the gaming experience. Mangaminx, Nanosuit Ninja and DSP Gaming are just a few YouTube channels were viewers can get an often times extremely amusing commentary in conjunction with video game footage. Some of these "Let's Play" personalities come off more garish than fun to listen to, but for the gamer on a budget and plenty of time to spare I suspect these videos hold a lot of appeal.

There's also the simple fact that there are a huge number of titles coming out on a weekly basis which many gamers cannot realistically hope to play. However, harkening back to my previous blog post there is still that strong social pressure to be in the know, so for those individuals who can’t stand being left out of the conversion I think "Let's Play" videos allow them to absorb a kind of abridged version of the titles they can't take on first hand.

Even now we're seeing major gaming media websites more and more embrace the idea of a spoiler free “Let's Play” sessions that serves as a short glimpse of how the minute-by-minute gameplay works.  In the years to come I suspect that these videos will increasingly overshadow more traditional systems of influencing gamer purchasing decisions such as screenshots, trailers, reviews and even the highly overrated Metacritic score.

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