Let’s Talk, Let’s Watch, Let’s Play

I used to play video games all the time.

I still do play the occasional game, but the fact is that I have two kids and no time. I’ve got a family. I’ve got a full time job as a web guy for a public library. I’ve got a series of videos I’m working on. I’ve got websites to update. As much as I’d like to spend two hours on a game, like I used to, I just can’t. Now, I grant you, one of the reasons I can’t is because my PS3 is hooked to the family room TV. That’s not going to work because if anyone wants to watch TV or use the PC connected to the same TV, there’s going to be conflict. So I’ll move it off that TV here soon.

But it won’t free up my time.

Back in the day, I used to play games with my friends and I found that I like watching them play games almost as much as I like playing them myself. It was an interactive TV experience where I could watch someone do something cool and we’d talk about it while it was going on.

So it’s little wonder that I got into a type of video that’s all over YouTube — the “Let’s Play” variety.

Defining Let’s Play style videos is simple. Commonly abbreviated as LP, Let’s Play videos are little more than watching someone, or someones, play a video game while they talk about it. In other words, it’s exactly what my friends and I used to do. The difference is that, with an LP video, I’ve never met the gamer. Still, the real question you might ask is “Why would you want to watch someone play a video game and talk about it?”

Well, that’s easy too. Why do people watch cookery shows? Why do people watch shows where some guys build a motorcycle or a car? Why would you want to watch a show where some guy paints landscapes? The implied question from all of those queries is “Why don’t you cook something yourself, or build something yourself, or paint your own landscape?” Well, it could be that I’m picking up tips and hints on how to cook something, which I have through cooking programmes. I haven’t a clue how to build a car, but I’ve worked on my own motorscooters before, so I’ve learned things from watching people build motorcycles on TV. I already know how to paint, at least kind of, but let’s face it, watching Bob Ross paint a landscape is only part of the fun. Sure, you’re watching a master painter at work, but you’re enjoying his personality too.

Giada De Laurentiis
Let’s play with Giada.

In other words, it’s not just the action performed, it’s the performer. That’s not too surprising, really. You can watch anyone cook. They might even be a really good cook too, but unless they have a personality like Giada De Laurentiis or they’re entertaining like Alton Brown or they’re funny and wise like Anthony Bourdain, then that show isn’t going to last too long.

Speaking of Bob Ross, that’s kind of what steered me into LP videos to begin with. Someone posted on Reddit about how this guy named Coe, who had a Minecraft LP series called Coe’s Quest, sounded like Bob Ross. Well, I’ve been a fan of Ross for a long time, so I wanted to see if Coe really did sound like Bob Ross. I clicked the link and soon enough there was a video playing with some guy playing Minecraft and sounding a helluva lot like Bob Ross. So I finished the video, which wasn’t even the first in the series, and I knew I was hooked. I hadn’t played Minecraft at that point, so it was nice to see how the game worked. I brought up episode one of Coe’s Quest and it became, for me, the best TV show that wasn’t on TV. To this day, even though he’s done with the quest, I still go back and watch it. It’s entertaining, and Coe is entertaining.

From there on out, I had to find other LP videos, so I want to turn you on to a couple of others I really like. Both are very different in their own ways even when they’re playing the same game. Maybe that, in itself, is a part of my adoration for these things, the fact that three people are playing the same game and yet they’re seeing, experiencing, and talking about different things.

So what you need to do is check-out Spumwack, formerly The Minecraft Muse. I got into his Quest for the Golden Apple series soon after finishing Coe’s Quest. As it happens, QGA turned out to be the first in a long running trilogy of series. First was QGA, then Muse Farms, and lastly Facing the End. He’s got other videos and you should totally check them out. When he decided to go a different route with YouTube videos, he created a new account called Spumwack. He’s even more involved in the games on that side of things and plays a wider variety. He’s involved with Terra Firma, a Minecraft mod that, while not changing a lot of the Minecraft look, still manages to totally alter the nature of the game. Then there’s Terraria, which is a little like Minecraft, but a side-scroller. It’s okay, and it’s not a game I’d want to play, but watching him play it is really fun. Finally, there’s Waking Up With Spum and he’s currently playing Black Mesa, the Source conversion of the original Half-Life.

Spumwack
Spumwack.

He’s fun, he’s hilarious, and he’s even insightful at times.

Finally, there’s TobyGames. Toby also plays Minecraft and Black Mesa along with several other games as well. Still, he’s completely different than Coe or Spum because of his loud, boisterous personality. He spontaneously breaks into song. He speaks in this weird sort of southern drawl mixed with Cali-surfer dude accent. He’s weird and that’s what makes him so damn fun to watch. He’s got a lot going on so you’ll rarely wait long for a new video and he’s well worth watching just for the “Whaaaaaat?” factor.

In the end, it’s all about the niche audiences you can reach on YouTube and online. There are certain criteria you have to meet in order to enjoy any of these shows. First, you have to like video games. Second, you have to like watching others play video games. Third, you have to enjoy watching online videos. Fourth, you’d have to enjoy watching online videos of someone you don’t know playing video games. That’s a heck of a niche, and yet it’s out there and it would’ve never been served by television.

It’s yet another reason I live online.

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