No, How About Let's Not Play!
Let’s Plays are big business in the games industry. At the time of writing YouTube’s most subscribed to channel is PewDiePie, whose whopping 36 million subscribers tune in to watch him play games. He regularly delves into the obscure and provides a skilfully delivered comedic commentary warranting him some popularity. His phenomenal success, however, has created a legion of copycats desperately vying for attention to the extent that the market is now oversaturated with these wannabe celebrities.
Putting aside it’s insane popularity, it’s difficult to fathom why this movement even exists.
Why would you want to watch someone else play when games are tremendously more fun if you’re playing yourself? If watching was as fun and satisfying as doing, surely we would incorporate it into other aspects of life. If we fancy a drink, we don’t just go to the bar and watch other people enjoying drinking instead. Of if we want a holiday, we don’t just borrow your neighbours holiday video. Why? Because watching an activity isn’t nearly as engaging as doing it yourself.
Older gamers will be familiar with the good old days of the one console, one TV predicament. The unwelcome solution was taking turns, awaiting the dreaded moment that heralded your sibling’s turn to play, reluctantly handing over the controller, and being forced to look on with disdain as they had fun and you were left as a mere spectator of their enjoyment. Watching a Let’s Play is pretty much the same thing.
Some people attribute their popularity to the fact potential buyers want to see what the game is like. That’s what trailers, press material and developer walkthroughs are for.
Plus, it’s a poor indication of what a game is really like as Let’s Players seem to make it their mission to destroy any sense of atmosphere the game has with their ‘look at me I’m playing a game, I’m so funny and entertaining!’ mentality. Also, if you’ve already seen someone explore every nook and cranny of a game, there’s no element of surprise should you decide to play it yourself.
With the constant wittering of their commentators, LPs often have very little to do with the actual game.
Let's Plays have become a self-indulgent outlet for people that want to be heard, but don’t really have anything worth saying. There’s zero insight here. Instead, the vast majority of LP content is simply attention seeking by badly feigned enthusiasm or just mindlessly boring drivel.
While popular YouTube personalities can provide mass exposure for relatively unknown titles, perhaps the biggest crime is that this practice overlooks the games creators in favour of those that play them. How many of The Diamond Minecart’s six million subscribers know who "Notch" Persson is? How many of the 31 million people who’ve watched Markiplier play Five Nights at Freddy's know the name of the game’s developer?
It’s unfair to say that everyone who watches Let’s Plays is ignorant of the wider industry, but it’s a regrettable situation wherein the people playing the games get so much more recognition and, in some cases, financial gain than the talent that’s actually behind those games. The people who pour all their creativity, skill, brainpower, and dedication to create these games are the real superstars. After all, anyone can sit in front of a camera and play a game while acting like a moron.