by Alex Kephart
YouTube. The biggest video sharing website in the world. It has become so big that 100 hours of video content are uploaded to the site every minute. This content ranges from scientific discussions, to lifestyle videos, to some random guy making his cat dance to dubstep. In recent years, there has been a surge in a specific type of video. Colloquially called “Let’s Plays,” these videos involve one or more people playing a game while providing some form of commentary over the gameplay. So why are these videos so widespread? What is the reason that these videos are so popular?
For starters, viewers flock to these videos for the personality and commentary. They watch these videos day in, day out, because the people playing the game are entertaining in some way. Some people watch Game Grumps, hosted by Arin Hanson and Dan Avidan, because of their raunchy humor and numerous life stories. Others go to Felix Kjellberg, a.k.a. PewDiePie, for his general wackiness and his facecam that allows the viewers to see his reaction while playing the games. This is most effective during a playthrough of a horror game, such as Amnesia and Slender, that cause Felix to jump from his chair and scream at an abnormally high pitch. These differing styles of play, with a regular episode schedule either daily or weekly, entertain on levels comparable to AAA TV shows like The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad. And, with YouTube’s mobile apps, a viewer can watch their shows anywhere, anytime.
There are others, however, who go to these Let’s Plays specifically for the game. Some people either can not afford to pay $60 per video game, or $400 or more for the console to play a first party game, or they simply do not have the time to play them. To compromise, they watch these YouTubers to experience the games they want while still being able to multitask their work. Michael Jones, an employee of the Achievement Hunter branch of Rooster Teeth Productions LLC., hosts a series called Full Play, where he picks a game specifically to play it to completion. This series is an adaptation of the Let’s Plays that he made on his own YouTube channel, including games such as Banjo-Kazooie, Resident Evil 4, and the first two games of the Dead Space series of action-horror games. With this series, Jones gives his viewers the experience of the stories of these games at a more convenient time, without the restriction of the fixed position of a home console or PC.
What these Let’s Plays show is that while video games can be fun, the ability to personally experience them is limited. The player needs the $50-60 game, then the $400-500 game console or the $1000+ gaming PC, then the time to go home and actually sit down for an hour or two and really play the game. Gaming is an expensive hobby, but YouTube is not. Not only that, but it is far more mobile than any Xbox or Playstation, since it is available on almost any device. Let’s Plays allow the not as devoted gamers to experience their favorite video games whenever and wherever they want, with a side of entertaining commentary to go with it.
Alex Kephart is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition