No, How About Let's Not Play!

Let's Plays are awful, here's why.

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.


Games Journalism and PR student at Staffordshire University. Loves gaming, cats and collecting all manner of Tomb Raider memorabilia. Yes, I do own Lara Croft socks...

Published May. 21st 2015
  • Durinn McFurren
    The premise that doing a thing is more fun than watching a thing is, in some cases, not really true for many people. Consider the immense popularity of watching sports and of colour commentary.
    I personally don't watch sports, and I don't watch LPs generally either, though, basically for the reasons mentioned in the article.
    A related phenomenon is the popularity of streamers who receive large numbers of viewers while streaming, say, MMO raids.
  • OrganisedDinosaur
    I am afraid I disagree. Pewdiepie screaming like a fool at jump scares is not a let's play. It is entertainment for a certain type of person. Let's plays can indeed be walkthroughs although unless extremely well categorised and itemised would not be very useful.
    However, intelligent and interesting people sharing their experience of a game is a worthwhile thing. ChristopherOdd is a superb Let's Player who I thoroughly enjoy. I watch him play games that I have played to see the experience from a fresh perspective. It's like having someone read a book aloud to you that you have read before. How often have you watched reviews of games that you already played just because you like the game and want to enjoy people praising it. We all do it. I have a feeling that people watch reviews of things after playing them more often than before. Proper let's plays have a great justification for existence.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    While I understand your sentiment, I feel you're putting a lot of what's currently happening as the only factors, whereas the entire situation didn't happen over night.

    Walkthroughs, for people trying to get through games, have existed for a fairly long while. Before Pewd' showed up and started turning playing a game into it's own kind of spontaneous comedy skit, people watched playthroughs for tips or help. For you or me, they might only be necessary for the hardest of games, but I've met plenty of gamers who use them for various reasons. They can't beat Sen's Fortress. They can't figure out where a key item is. It's easier for them just to look it up and take someone else's solution to get through it.

    And to go from that point -- a lot of the most popular YouTube LPers are liked for their personalities, styles of comedy, and their subsequent pro-community attitudes. A few people might watch their videos for the game itself, but most aren't really there for the game in of itself.

    Yes, it's sad thousands of Minecraft fans have no idea who Notch is -- but that's been the case long before Let's Plays became a thing. I bet you only about a couple thousand people remember that Steve Papoutsis was another key mind behind Dead Space besides the guys now at Sledgehammer. That isn't going to change by stopping Let's Plays though.

    Which brings me to my main confusion with your article: I'm not really sure what point you are trying to make. Let's Plays are overhyped and way too common at the moment? Yeah, and there are tons of Flappy Bird clones in the AppStore. They're just fads, that only the dedicate will continue to do after a time.

    The extra surge of interest in games on YouTube has benefitted the sub-layer of game critics and thinkers. Matt Lees, Ggman, Total Biscuit, Pushing Up Roses -- these are the people we get out of the bargain of having to put up with excessive Let's Plays. You can be a game critic on YouTube, and actually gain a following now.

    The trail was blazed with goofy accents and Five Nights at Freddy's, but I'd say that was worth it, because the conversation on games has become a lot more diverse as a result.
  • Ashley K
    I've watched Markiplier's Lets Plays because for me I like his personality and what he's also doing is giving everyone entertainment and always his fans to always strive for the things they want in their lives no matter what. Plus I laugh my butt off when I see some of his vids.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    I would say that people watch Let's Plays for the personalities. They do nothing for me, and the only reason I've watched Let's Plays are the reason that Jenna (another commenter mentioned) and in that case I usually prefer no-audio walkthroughs if they're available.
  • GameSkinny Staff
    There are some pretty excellent screenshot-only LPs for the old Infinity Engine cRPGs. The Icewind Dale ones on LP Archive are pretty hilarious if you ever have the time to check 'em out.
  • Jenna_6854
    I can't believe no one is considering the number 1 reason that I watch Let's Plays. Some of us watch them to get clues as to how to solve a puzzle, win a battle, find a location or a non-player character, or anything else that has us stumped in our own playthroughs. Obviously, I would rather play the game, but if I'm stuck on a level, and one of these people's video can help me move on, then more power to them. And if they happen to be funny while doing it, well that's a bonus. Although I'm just as happy with the playthroughs without commentaries. Hope this enlightens some of you.
  • Featured Contributor
    Featured Contributor
    I agree with this article on pretty much everything. LPs and the people behind them, I feel, are pretty pointless now. It's honestly so surprising that LPs are still popular within the community (or just with people in general). I can't sit down and watch one without being bored or annoyed within the first two minutes. It's just like... "What's the point of this? Why am I even watching this when I could be doing something else?"
  • GameSkinny Staff
    Well-written article, but I have to slightly disagree here. I think there are two kinds of Let's Plays: documentary LPs and personality LPs. Docu-style, which mostly have gone the way of the Dodo, are much more informative and historical-minded. The origin of LPs was really in providing a record for a game for reference, since you can't scan a game in the same way you can scan a movie or book. There's actually the LP Archive, which has a ton of great informative LPs!

    Personality LPs are certainly not my cup of tea, but I can appreciate the noble intentions of the original movement... even if the movement is now dominated by jump-scare cams :/

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