Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let’s Play: walkthrough on a new level

Before we go to the meat of this blog I would like to introduce myself:
My name is Steffen Lund. I hail from the frozen north of the Vikings (i.e. Denmark). I do not consider myself a gamer at all; I would rather say that I am game interested. Many of my friends game about 3-5 hours per day, whereas I am lucky to barely cover that quota in a couple of months. This is both due to me taking my bachelor’s degree in political science, but just as much (if not mostly) my quite picky taste in games.

So why do I even read A Capital Wasteland, let alone get to write here? Well, Mr. Shapiro was so kind to ask me whether I wanted to do a sort of Scandinavian take on the Wasteland (a Scandinavia correspondent, if you will). In time, if this all works out, I would be delighted to look more into Scandinavian titles, but for now it is all about my more recent experience with games: Let’s Play.

So, let us get on with it, shall we?
One of my main problems with games today: the larger companies keep putting out new titles. I simply cannot keep up with the pace.
Now, I could just go pick up a game magazine once every month if I wanted to keep a finger on the pulse – heck, I could grab one for free in Denmark! But again, the problem here is probably me. I am too lazy. I want entertainment (dare I say need?). This is where Let’s Play-videos fit in the picture.

The concept of Let’s Play

Rooster Teeth's Achievement Hunters about to play Mari0.
Let’s Play are videos of gamers (or non-gamers), well, recording themselves playing games. The concept, of course, did not start out as a video concept (this would be a great moment to refer to the Let’s Play archive:, and of course the grand old let’s players from Something Awful).
Anyway, the video type has various purposes:


It is my personal opinion that Let’s Play-videos set out to entertain the masses. The goal is mainly to catch the funny/scary/you-name-it moments ‘on tape’. This offers YouTubers, such as Irish madman, oneyNG to take a break from their ‘regular’ jobs with animations and so forth, and still be entertaining, but Let’s Play also serve as a platform for a new audience. Swedish multi-voiced, bro-fisting eccentric, PewDiePie is a good example for a YouTuber who is actually making a living on screaming his lungs out during various horror games.

Play-through/walkthrough – educational/reviews

You may consider this a somewhat less interactive, but at the same time the more entertaining way of demoing a game. Walkthroughs are nothing new in the gaming world. Back in the good old days when we were not able to film ourselves playing games to show our audience through various games, we would instead write the so-called walkthroughs – this type, of course, is still used, but whether the videos has exceeded in popularity compared to text-based walkthroughs over these last couple of years, I leave for you to decide or even research upon (depending on your scientific interest on the subject).
A personal favourite in walkthrough videos is Rooster Teeth’s Achievement Hunter section. With branches covering both reviews type walkthrough, such as their own Let’s Play series, and the more entertaining, forever angry Michael’s Rage Quit.

Genres of Let’s Play

Now, I do not want you readers out there to think that I consider you imbeciles who do not know a thing about Let’s Play – on the contrary you probably know a lot more about it than I! This article is mainly for testing my (English!) writing skills, and to write, as much as possible, an objective (naturally, this is not possible) article on this phenomenon, so please bear with me on this one.
So, what types of Let’s Play-videos can we find on the old world wide web? It would be utterly banal to just list all genres being played in Let’s Plays since we would assume that all genres in video/iOS/PC/und so weiter-games are found here, so for now I am only going to talk about the particular genres I watch:


“To see others suffer does one good […] without cruelty there is no festival.” So are the words of one Friedrich Nietzsche.
He also said this planet is filled with humans “who inflict as much pain on themselves as they possibly can out of pleasure in inflicting pain which is probably their only pleasure.”

These two sentences pretty much narrow down the concept and success of horror-themed Let’s Plays; earlier I mentioned PewDiePie, who has made a career out of playing various games. Some of his more famous work is with playing horror games such as Slender and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Here we have come to meet many new friends: Stephano, the French golden statue, Mr. Chair, the always passive, but loving leveller, in Homer Simpson's words, but also we have made new enemies such as the evil, scheming barrels (BARRELS! Sorry, I just had to do that).
The main agenda of Pewd’s horror Let’s Plays are screaming, and horrible, gut-wrecking moments. Now, we could all claim that videos of others playing scary games do not scare us, but come on. That, simply, is not the truth. My point here, leading back to Nietzsche, is that horror Let’s Plays both hold the pleasure of us getting to watch someone having the living crap scared out of them, and at the same time getting a slight jolt of our own. Thus, horror Let’s Plays appeal to both the sadistic and masochistic side in us all.

Building, creating and puzzles

Limbo, a popular title among Let's Players.
Puzzle games is something that has been out there for aeons, but it would be completely irrelevant for anyone to make a walkthrough of Tetris (though I suppose there would be some kind of entertainment value in Rage Quit playing it). Since non-linear building games like Minecraft and Terraria, and puzzle games like Portals, and more resent titles Mari0 and Catherine (big ‘thank you’s go out to Jake and Achievement Hunter for directing my attention towards the last title), and let us not forget a personal favourite, Limbo (it is a little patriotic of me, I know, but do forgive me) came out, it has been made more easy to make good reviews and achievement hunting (no lame pun intended) videos for these genres.
The main goal for these videos is simply walkthrough with a slightly more entertaining angle apart from their text-based older sister.
Achievement Hunter from Rooster Teeth is, in my opinion, the very best in making entertaining walkthroughs with these games. Mainly, as an Xbox user I have been most pleased with their work, introducing new titles as well as showing us how to attain certain achievements.

My only concern with Achievement Hunter is their obvious focus on the more famous titles, which does not present me with any opportunities of discovering indie games, though they have done so on some occasions. This is where YouTubers like PewDiePie once again come in. Private individuals sitting in the comfort of their homes have a much larger freedom with what games to play in their videos, and so they may ones in a while come to play unknown (to the wider publics) titles, thus teaching me of new games I would not otherwise have known about (Slender, Amnesia, Lucius and many other titles come to mind here – again, I am not in any way "in the loop" when it comes to games, and ones again I must thank A Capital Wasteland for helping me out on this one).

In conclusion (if there is such) Let’s Play is a fun, entertaining way of gaining new knowledge from old titles as well as learning of new games. It can also purely be for entertainment purposes, a time killer, but by the end of the day, still, we would have learning something from these videos – well, at least we now know what it takes to intimidate us or how much fun Happy Wheels really is.

So why not try it on your own? Go grab your best camcorder, plug a game in the ol’ drive, and let us join you in the rollercoaster of horror and creative skills that await us out there in the world of Let’s Play.

Lastly I will say this: I am no wiz in the area of gaming (at least not anymore), but here is an opportunity for me to get back on the horse. If you, the reader, have anything to add to this blog (do not go gently on me, I am pachydermatous) please do not feel hesitant to write a few words in the comments.

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