What's the Deal With Let's Plays: Analyzing The Phenomenon

Why do people enjoy watching Let's Plays? Are they a huge waste of time or are they online entertainment?

When I was a kid, I didn’t own a lot of video games. A Nintendo 64 was something I badly wanted but my parents couldn’t afford one at the time, so instead, I would go over to a friend’s house who owned one. We would then end up playing Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers, or Mario Party. Even if I couldn’t play it while my friend and her siblings took turns, I still enjoyed watching them play. At times, they were much better than me or hilariously worse to the point where their comments were entertaining to hear. Watching Let’s Plays on YouTube or Twitch garners that same nostalgic feeling for me.

I'm a bomb, very slow and out of lives. But I will find you, and I will destroy you. (Courtesy of HellfireComms)

So while YouTube is recovering over what has been dubbed the "adpocalyse," I think it's time to take a look at the "Let's Play" phenomena.

A Let's Play is essentially a series of videos in which gamers record themselves playing video games and provide their own commentary in the process, which regularly yields comedic results.

YouTube and Twitch have become staples in this form of online “Let’s Play” entertainment -- garnering both fans and critics alike. Usually, critics ask: “Why watch other people play video games? Why not buy them yourself?” That’s something I’m going to answer.

Aren’t They A Waste of Time?

A few opinion pieces and Reddit users have declared that Let's Plays are an enormous waste of time unless they are specified as walkthroughs.

Touche, random Reddit user.

So why not play the game yourself, instead of trying to play vicariously through a Let’s Player? Sometimes, that’s what I’m trying to figure out when watching a certain Let's Play; I’m deciding whether or not I want that game. Sure, I look through reviews or MetaCritic to aid that decision but when someone shows me the gameplay, it’s quicker and easier to reach the all important choice.

Waiting for game sales since 20XX.

In addition, games are expensive and as a poor college student, I need to know what’s worth an investment.

Games can also take a lot of time to play. As someone who loves story-heavy titles, they are a serious time sink. Then when I make my way into the real world of a nine-to-five job, I don’t have a lot of time to play them either. Let’s Plays give me some entertaining background sound while I’m working on my computer, especially since I didn't own a TV as a freshman.

But Aren’t They Annoying?

 So many Let's Players, so little time. (Image via Dorkly.)

Yes and no. With such a large variety of Let’s Players both on YouTube and Twitch, trying to find someone you enjoy watching can be difficult. For example, I don't like watching PewDiePie that much, but I enjoy watching Jacksepticeye -- even if I found him loud at first. I then started watching his videos almost religiously, realizing that he is in fact surprisingly down to earth. Being loud is a quirk he most definitely possesses, but it helps to energize his viewers, including myself. 

While that may not be your thing, there are amazing Minecraft Let’s Players, who give tutorials on how to build crazy contraptions, such as CaptainSparklez, who managed to build a working phone in the game. 

Seriously this is impressive, and this is coming from a person who doesn't play Minecraft.

It’s a Community

A lot of popular YouTubers – not only Let’s Players – maintain an interactive community through social media and regularly connect to their fans through the likes of Twitter. Some YouTubers even interact with "Reading Your Comments" videos like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye.

100th episode of Jacksepticeye's Reading Your Comments. Some silly and some serious.

Some Let's Players also create and cultivate positive communities on their platform. Whenever I go to their comments section, I rarely see Internet trolls, and I think to myself, "I must be on the nicer side of the Internet." Their videos and community create this friendly vibe that is completely polarized to what we know of the Internet today. It makes me feel part of something positive, especially when some of these personalities raise thousands of dollars for charity.

Not For Everyone

Now you can see why watching Let's Plays aren't a huge waste of time as originally believed. Let's Plays gave me a nostalgic community and a sense of entertainment that really helped me through a lonely time in my college years, so they can do just that for many others as well.

However, they may not be for everyone. Nonetheless, I'm proposing that you watch one and give it a chance. You never know the real face of a Let's Player until you see their community and the person behind all the profanities and frustration.

What are your thoughts on the Let's Play phenomenon? Are you even a Let's Player yourself? Join the conversation in the comments below!

 

Published Jun. 25th 2017

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