Let's watch Let's Plays!

Let's Plays are cool. At first, I wasn't really a fan for them because I just couldn't see the appeal - it seemed like one of those situations where it's fun to make the product, but not fun to use it (in this case; watch them). Lately, I've come to my senses and realized just how incredibly good these are for the gaming industry on so many different levels. Let me take you into my mind as I rant on about this and hope to make something coherent for todays blog post!

For those of you who have somehow steered clear of youtube for the past few years, allow me to enlighten you about what an LP actually is; In its basic form, a Let's Play is a video of someone playing a game. It may sound uninteresting to some, and that's because they're actually so much more than this. I'm going to try to document a few cases of what LPs actually are, and hope to make them sound a little more interesting than that bland description!

Let's Plays are... Fun to watch.

Quite simply, they just are. You're watching a funny person or persons play this game that you've likely already played before, and they're having fun and this makes you feel like you're having fun with them. They joke about the game, you laugh. They have a problem, you can actually help them for their next episode. It's like a fun TV show that allows you to talk to the presenters between the episodes; I guess that's because it actually is.

For some games, like Minecraft, you can just picture the LP being a show that just happens to be set in the game; it may not actually be about the game itself, as it's too much of a sandbox to have any strict "this is what we're going to do". They just jump in there, do what they want, talk about what they want, and that's it. They can set their own goals and it keeps things interesting because you have absolutely no clue what the next episode is going to be about - it's all new stuff, all the time.

For other games with more a real goal to them, they're fun to watch just to see how they went about solving the challenges in this game, and you also get an idea of what's going to happen next. If you've played the game they're playing now, it's really fun to compare what they're doing to what you've done previously; laugh at them as they make a big mistake, or worry if they're coming up to a part that you know is going to be hard but they foolishly haven't prepared for it yet.

Regardless of the game they're playing, LPs are always new content and no two LP will ever be the same. They can be compared to sports commentary; while you can play the sport or watch the sport and have an idea of what's going on, it's just so much more fun to listen to two professionals tell you while they joke about the situation.

Let's Plays are... The best gamedev tool since the debugger

One of the biggest issues from a game designing point of view is getting into the mindset of someone who wants to play the game for the first time. It's a critical subject, and can mean the life or death of a game. You need to know how people react to your game, what they're thinking while they're playing it, so that you can make it better for them. As a game designer, your own views can sometimes get too far away from the players perspective that it can mean chaos and undue frustration - it may be obvious to you that in order to kill that boss you need to destroy this barrel and use the gun you found on that fire extinguisher, but is it really obvious to the person who you're making this game for?

Generally, you'd bring in some individuals to play the game and watch how they do it, and ask them to tell you what's going through their mind as it happens. After that, you'd collect your feedback, make any required changes, and find a new person to test it for you. Once a person tries something and it doesn't work out the way they thought, you need a fresh new mind to try it after you change it because they're "tainted", they already have a level of expectation from your game and won't approach it like it's all new.

With Let's Plays... you have a potentially infinite pool of people who will not only gladly show you how they play the game, but they're actually going to tell you every small thing that goes through their mind as they do it. This is invaluable knowledge, and you'll have such a big insight into the players perspective which was virtually impossible to get before. Not only will you get all this great knowledge about what they expect to happen when they try stuff, but you also get a great source of bugs with evidence, steps to reproduce and an estimation on the state of the game as it happened. That too was very hard to get before!

Let's Plays are... Bloody good for the economy. No, seriously.

I'm seeing a lot of LPs from a younger crowd recently and I'm loving it. It's teaching them so many useful skills and at the same time providing future job opportunities for them; their channel could end up very successful and make more money than you'd initially believe, even at a young age.

I've seen a fair few LP authors start out so small ("Hey guys I'm going to give this a try and see anyone's interested") and later turn out so big (pumping out a new episode daily, buying lots of fancy equipment from the very same money that they're making from advertisers or donations). It surprises me that the audiences of all these many LPers are so vast and generous, that they support both the authors and the makers of the game at the same time.

I can't think of much more to say on this point, but just think about the potential that falls upon anyone who jumps in LPs. You pick up video editing skills, unlocking lots of job prospects. You pick up a big fanbase, helping secure future ventures. You build up a public library of existing works, very useful to show off on a resume or elsewhere. All in all, it's just such a great thing to do.

The best part? Anyone can do it. Regardless of how old you are, how good with computers you are, how good with the game in question you may be; anyone at all can just jump in and start working their way up.

Let's Plays are... The best reviews I can think of.

I'll be honest here; I do not trust any review site. I just don't. Whether this is for a game or a physical product, there's too many sketchy sites out there which puts me off them. However, enter Let's Plays!

You now have the ability to see people play the game that you want to play. You can see how much fun they're having, and how much you think you'll have. Do the graphics look okay to you? How about the game mechanics? See for yourself instead of trusting someone else.

It's like playing a demo, but saves time and still exist. (Sorry game demos, I love you, please come back! I didn't mean those things I said!)

Let's Plays are... A great source of advertisement. But only if you deserve it.

Consider for a moment that there's this big popular LPer who puts out a video a day. He has lots of people following him and they're all eager for his next video. Now consider what would happen if he were to do a video about a small obscure game. Assuming the game is good and the LP was not in a bad tone, sales of this game would in theory go up. People would like how fun the game looked, and try it themselves. It's a fantastic way to learn about new games for the audience too.

Of course, there's also the point of normal advertisements on videos; however, I personally feel like youtube video ads regress us back to the days of popups, so I won't talk on this too much. Suffice it to say, things are okay and stuff.

Let's Plays are... More than that!

I don't want to rant for so long, so let me finish this up here. Lets plays are awesome. So here's what I want everyone to do: Game devs: Embrace and start using them. They're an invaluable insight, even (especially?) the ones that don't look professional. LPers: Keep doing what you're doing, because you all do it so very well. Everyone else: Consider watching (more) LPs. They're just so much fun! :D

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Comments

  1. PhobicBus

    # PhobicBus on 09/28/2012 4:33 p.m.

    This blog was actually really interesting to read. You should do more blogs like this.

  2. TinfoilChef

    # TinfoilChef on 09/28/2012 4:37 p.m.

    This is the first I've seen from game devs actually acknowledging that they're good for gaming, good for developers and good for would-be customers.

    I only wish that the larger, bigger name game producers would see this particular light and start officially allowing people to do Let's pLay videos with their games. They'd get tons of free feedback and probably sell more games as well.

    I'm tempted to plug my own LP's here but I'll be nice and let my link do that for me. *grin*

  3. Tom

    # Tom on 09/28/2012 4:37 p.m.

    it is great to hear and see your support for LP's ! :)

    PS. minecraft lp's in my channel if anyone cares :D

  4. Jonah

    # Jonah on 09/28/2012 4:40 p.m.

    I wish people weren't so worried about 'light voices'. Me and my brothers want to start a LP together, and we don't really want to spend money preparing for something people will probably hate...
    But we've decided we are going to give it a try. Who cares what the haters think!

  5. Anistuffs

    # Anistuffs on 09/28/2012 4:42 p.m.

    Thanks a lot. I've been an LPer for over 2 years & nothing, absolutely NOTHING, is more satisfying to an LPer than a game developer praising their hobby.

    Thank you so much. Keep being awesome :D

  6. Jonah

    # Jonah on 09/28/2012 4:46 p.m.

    By the way, forgot to add:
    I can't get Twitter because my parents don't want me on there yet, so I'll just say it here.
    You should add more stuff to multiplayer!
    Like under the player's name that floats above the head, add a life bar so you can see you friend's life. It's only visible when you have a clear line of sight.

  7. Von

    # Von on 09/28/2012 4:57 p.m.

    This was pretty informative, and interesting to read.
    Slightly in the motivating column, too.
    Cool beans.

  8. Birk

    # Birk on 09/28/2012 4:58 p.m.

    Great post! This should be on the minecraft web page or something. Truly a great job indeed, of course :D

  9. Avidya

    # Avidya on 09/28/2012 4:59 p.m.

    Phew.. I thought you were going to be mad about my rant Dinner :P We LPrs love you too! ?

  10. Kryllyk

    # Kryllyk on 09/28/2012 5:12 p.m.

    We Let's Play people love what you guys do for the game and the communication you have with the community is part of the key to making Minecraft Let's Play that much better. I Still wish there was a way to get a little more publicity for my channel and alot of other channels out there.

    It really is a fantastic system.

  11. Kawa

    # Kawa on 09/28/2012 5:14 p.m.

    Thank you for this, Dinnerbone. You explained my love for this hobby/industry/whatever-you-want-to-call-it far better than I ever could and shared your support with the masses. <3 Love ya!

  12. Crontab9

    # Crontab9 on 09/28/2012 5:31 p.m.

    Very informative and well written especially the part about reviews. It's nice to know that yourself, as well as Mojang for that matter, actually care about LPers and take what we all have to say into consideration when developing (and don't flag our videos for copyright violations on YouTube). Although it's just a form of entertainment for myself, it's nice to know that the content produced could possibly directly affect future development, which is certainly a unique scenario as you don't see other game development companies doing that very often.

  13. Adam

    # Adam on 09/28/2012 5:47 p.m.

    Well said. Makes me want to get out there and start making LP's again.

  14. Thungon

    # Thungon on 09/28/2012 6:01 p.m.

    I especially liked the bit where you compared us to sports commentators! And the skills learned from video editing and compression, as well as all the other bits of knowledge picked up will certainly stick with me if I ever do stop doing those things for LP videos. Thanks for the support dinnerbone!

  15. Bart

    # Bart on 09/28/2012 6:14 p.m.

    I love that the developers of Minecraft actually listen to the fans and let's players. That makes Minecraft such a good game. Thanks Mojang :D

  16. B00rz

    # B00rz on 09/28/2012 6:19 p.m.

    When are you starting your own LP Dinnerbone =D

  17. Loki Darkfire

    # Loki Darkfire on 09/28/2012 6:32 p.m.

    wish more people would think like this, few bother watching mine, dont get me wrong the 7 or so fans i do have claim to love my work which is why i keep it up, just wish a few more would get in there and join me, specially in my current lets play of amnesia, its lonely....

  18. Shazamzow

    # Shazamzow on 09/28/2012 6:58 p.m.

    I love them. I no longer watch TV, I watch LPs.

  19. rayman

    # rayman on 09/28/2012 8:09 p.m.

    FINALLY a game developer who gets it! Many companies will try the "well what if the LP is bad or puts our game in a bad light" card. I tell them: if the LPer is bad, the people will know and their argument gets weaker. If the LPer is good, then your product probably DOES need work!

    It is very angering when you want to play a game and the developer is so hard set on "NO" when it comes to LPs (some are outright mean about it).

    As an LPer myself, I can't count how many messages I get from viewers stating "I bought this game *because* I saw your LP and it was fun to watch". Not only is the company getting my sale, they are getting more sales via proxy. Heck, I wouldn't go to far as to suggest that companies reach out to LPers and give them a copy of a game for this reason alone!

    Now, my rant over... I am going to retweet this! Thanks!

  20. phedran

    # phedran on 09/28/2012 8:21 p.m.

    I started making Let's Play videos of Minecraft because at the time I was spending so much time watching them and they made me happy. I thought, they look like so much fun, I could totally do that!

    I worried that no one would watch them, I worried that I would be typecast because I am a girl, and I worried more than anything that I would fail miserably.

    The reason that I make Minecraft videos is BECAUSE I am scared of screwing up. Because I am forcing myself to try, just try anything, and be happy with myself regardless of the outcome. I make videos because I have no social life and I'm trying to connect with like minds and get outside of my comfort zone. I am reaching out to the community, and at the same time trying to become an active and positive part of it. But most importantly, I make Minecraft videos because I love playing the game, and love sharing that with others who feel the same.

    Thank you for your love and support of the community Dinnerbone, the feeling is mutual. <3

    Phedran

  21. last_username

    # last_username on 09/28/2012 8:33 p.m.

    IKR!? We're totally the future of entertainment. I can tell you want to start your own LP. Come do it on the Nativ server and you can move into Jeb's old place :D

  22. AaronE215

    # AaronE215 on 09/28/2012 9:12 p.m.

    "IKR!? We're totally the future of entertainment. I can tell you want to start your own LP. Come do it on the Nativ server and you can move into Jeb's old place :D"

    I second the motion.

    All in favor?

  23. MrCheeze

    # MrCheeze on 09/28/2012 9:38 p.m.

    You do realize that advertisements are what gives Youtubers a reason to make their videos, right?

  24. phillips1012

    # phillips1012 on 09/28/2012 9:44 p.m.

    Minecraft let's plays are much better than LPs for other games. Things like fps lets plays are not interesting because it is just repetitive.

    Minecraft lets plays are more interesting because new things are happening, and it takes a long while to get bored of.

  25. Daegon1O

    # Daegon1O on 09/28/2012 11:32 p.m.

    I love how you are supporting let's players and as one myself I am just happy that a developer finally realized how we can help just by doing our hobby

  26. Mal

    # Mal on 09/29/2012 1:29 a.m.

    One downside of let's plays is that they only show forms of play that lend themselves well to let's plays.

  27. SuperminerSMT

    # SuperminerSMT on 09/29/2012 5:02 a.m.

    Let's plays, especially Minecraft LPs, are just so awesome, especially when done by funny people.
    Dinnerbone, you also forgot to mention how good they are as Tutorials! They provide help for players stuck on hard challenges or puzzles in games. Especially for Minecraft, there is no formal tutorial for the computer version of the game at all; without watching an LP, new players really have no idea how to play

  28. itripped

    # itripped on 09/29/2012 5:10 a.m.

    I'm relatively new to the Let's Play scene but have found that it somehow amplifies my enjoyment of playing the game - even if I don't have many viewers. Just the act of recording - knowing that I need to be speaking to an audience WHILE playing a game - increases the challenge.

    I have linked to my latest LP (see the URL for my user) - a little more than 7 hours of footage broken into 30 min episodes, done on last week's snapshot. Clearly I need to start learning video editing, to cut that down some. :)

    Dinnerbone, thanks for the recognition to us little guys.

  29. CouponmanTDK

    # CouponmanTDK on 09/29/2012 9:09 a.m.

    I love lets plays! I've watched so many just while going to bed or when I have spare time, its just cool getting to know a person and watching games.

    P.S I have a lets play channel link in this post. I just started a couple weeks ago and so far its going well!

  30. Ethan Cherry

    # Ethan Cherry on 09/30/2012 7:45 a.m.

    I don't know if this is the correct place to be posting this, but I wasn't sure how else to get you to read this:

    You are awesome! You have a great job in making Minecraft a more complex, and customizable game, and in a way for only those who understand how to access and utilize these otherwise hidden features. By that, I mean all of your contributions with spawner and potion customization, and most of the things that MCEdit can be used with, as well as the unique mobs you have added.

    I guess that primarily, I would just like to thank you.

    With these newly added features, I have utilized resources like YouTube and Reddit to gain knowledge about MCEdit, and how the role that your additions to the game have within this program in creating something that I am very proud of; I am in the finalizing process of creating a PvP Minecraft Minigame...

    I would like to think of it as a combination between Hypixel and Sethbling's "Team Fortress 2", and Rixiot's game "Nail". I feel like it's a medium between the two in the sense of redstone usage, player freedom, and complexity. The game takes place on a strip of custom build terrain, and the basic premise is that there are two teams; defenders and attackers. The defenders are trying to defend a priest villager that is held in the lower level of a desert temple, while the attackers are trying to kill the priest. The game takes place in 20 minutes, and players are given roles to choose from, with their benefits and disadvantages, and various resources to complete their task as best as they can.

    I am incredibly proud of this map, in that it has taken me a very long time to build. Since I am done with mostly everything, at this point I am doing two things... waiting for the official release of 1.4, and looking for people to help me play-test it for bugs, redstone, fairness, aesthetics, etc. Since I have never really been dedicated to a particular group of people in the Minecraft community, and also because none of my friends in real like play the way that I do, it is difficult for me to play-test it. I have been trying to reach out to people on various IRC's and such, but they consider me as practically spam.

    I know that you are incredibly busy, because you are involved with Reddit, a very active Youtube community, and in developing the game itself, so I am only asking you this out of sheer naivety. Would you ever consider coming onto my server for a bit to play-test my map, and give me any suggestions? Not only would I love to have anyone come do this with me, but you of all people!

    Like I said, I know it is completely naive of me to ask this of you, but I thought that I might as well, since I am having trouble asking anyone else. For all I know, you might now even check these comments. :P

    Anyway, if you actually even read this, I really appreciate it. Let me know, if you'd like.

    Thanks again,
    Ethan

  31. Reptileus

    # Reptileus on 10/11/2012 9:32 p.m.

    I have a Minecraft question: In the Future, will there be a way Link specific Nether portals to one another? I'm hoping to create a Nether Station with Portals that lead all over the overworld.

  32. Jax

    # Jax on 10/16/2012 5:30 a.m.

    I still dislike LP's. I don't get the point. I understand watching someone play a game if it's a tutorial or walkthrough, but I don't understand watching someone play a game for fun. Even if the commentary is good, I still don't enjoy it. I can just go play the game myself.

  33. Ap

    # Ap on 10/31/2012 2:36 a.m.

    imho pokecapn and his crew's LP of Sonic 2006 is the epitome of what a LP can be.

  34. SteveSpitter

    # SteveSpitter on 11/04/2012 2:48 p.m.

    Please Dinnerbone! add the new world withertopia! the teleport to them are be maded:
    Soulsand S
    Skulls K
    Ender stone E
    s s s
    s E s
    s s s
    on the soulsand are skulls of the normal skeleton. to the activate:
    on the ender stone use the flint and stell and jump into fire.withertopia are made by black stone: the blacky clearstone from the black stone are drop the wither cobblestone (the blacky cobble)
    In there are skeletons wither skeletons and... WITHER!
    ps please delete the skeleton and wither skeletons from the Nether these mobs are been spawned in the withertopia no in the Nether.
    in the withertopia are been lava and soulsand beachs.please add this in the new snapshot! :)
    My english is wery bad

  35. LittleMissTux

    # LittleMissTux on 11/16/2012 7:39 a.m.

    I love making my new Let's Play series. With some help I've managed to record it, get it edited and up on YouTube's. Love it, thanks for such a great game.

  36. Eric

    # Eric on 05/18/2013 12:07 a.m.

    Whether you agree with it or not, Let's Play videos have changed the video game industry and o matter what happens there's no turning back. It's much easier for a couple of seasoned writers, video game journalists or simply people who enjoy games to sit down and play games than to write, edit and post them. Personally, I don't watch that many let's play videos (I love reading traditional reviews,)but I still enjoy them from time to time.

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