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Why do people watch/love "Let's play..." videos?


Heijoushin

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So, as the title says: Why do people watch/love "Let's play..." videos?

Some of the guys at my work rave about them, and old PewDiePie keeps making the news for all his subscribers.

 

Now, just to be clear, I'm not here to hate on anyone, so if you're a PewDiePie fan, that's cool but... I don't get it.

 

If I have that kind of extra time, I'd rather play the game myself.

 

Is it like... playing video games with a buddy? Like having someone next to you to discuss the game with?

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There's some research being done on this at my faculty actually - and they are leaning towards it creating a feeling of community in much the same way a forum does. Lets Plays are often singleplayer games and often hosted by popular/beautiful people, so in short; watching it makes you feel like you're part of a popular activity. Which most of us need to feel - in a way multiplayer games do very directly, so its simply a way to create a feeling of togetherness around an, in essence, lonely experience.

Thats grossly simplifying it of course.

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There's some research being done on this at my faculty actually - and they are leaning towards it creating a feeling of community in much the same way a forum does. Lets Plays are often singleplayer games and often hosted by popular/beautiful people, so in short; watching it makes you feel like you're part of a popular activity. Which most of us need to feel - in a way multiplayer games do very directly, so its simply a way to create a feeling of togetherness around an, in essence, lonely experience.

Thats grossly simplifying it of course.

 

Haha, my company has also asked me to look into it, so I would love to read your research;)

 

That's more-or-less what I figured. A sense of doing your favorite activity with a beautiful/interesting "friend". And unlike multiplayer, its one-directional, so you can't flame each other;)

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It's just equivalent to watching TV, no? Just the delivery medium happens to be different. Incidentally, my TV antenna is loose and tends to turn itself the wrong way in a stiff breeze, so I haven't watched TV at all this year. I could fix it by climbing up and smacking the thing with a long broom, but I only really bother when there's something I really want to watch.

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My personal experience:

 

- Do people watch Let's Plays in their free time? I generally put them on when I'm doing something else. Sometimes I watch a Let's Play *while* I'm playing a game.

 

- Compared to playing the game yourself: It's generally not about the game but about the performer. Let's Plays started getting popular with horror games originally, where you could laugh at other people getting their pants scared off and it just grew into people attempting entertaining commentary.

 

- I watch Let's Plays mostly if the player has a different perspective (Jesse Cox gaming style is completely different to mine) or I find the player(s) funny (Game Grumps makes me laugh).

 

- The most popular LPers fit Rosbjerg's description like Pewdiepie and Markiplier but they're outliers more than anything. Those guys are totally based on a sense of community (Pewds with his bro army and Mark constantly adressing you, the watcher like you're his personal friend) - but, as far as I can tell their fanbase exists mostly out of 13 year olds - I think it's safe to assume that's not who your colleagues are watching. Out of the Lets Players I watch, only about one or two even have a face cam and very few pander to the community. It's also not all single player, most of the stuff I watch is multiple people.

 

- It's more entertaining than most stuff on TV. TV comedy seems to be almost entirely lost on me these days (other than Galavant, I can't think of a single comedy show that made me laugh in the past 3 months) but I can watch a 3 hour video of a bunch of Lets Players getting together and playing a board game through Board Game Simulator and I'll laugh until I cry.

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I think its supplement for a company really. When I was kid even when I played single player game there were usually some friends around and it was quite 'group play'. As we get older everyone have less and less time to do this gaming sessions so you supply it with someone else who is playing 'with you'. I often only watch lets plays of games I am currently playing or vice versa, I have bought few games that lets player is currently playing (mordheim, darkest dungeon)

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I do it to see the story of a game without playing it - either lack of interest or just not feeling like a replay. Can be somewhat handy to see how a game plays before buying, but is hit and miss as these streamers talk too much

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Basically what other people have said: *who* you're watching play is more about the player than the game. However, watching people you like play games can also give you a feel for those very games, and may make you interested in playing them yourself. People had been raving about Undertale for a while, and I look at it on Steam and just...wasn't very interested at all. Saw a relatively short video from someone I like who played like 20 minutes of it, and thought "that seems pretty cool", and made me get it and try it out. In a way, they're also an informal way of reviewing the game, and certainly at least complement the normal review process...as they're a perfect example of the "show, don't tell" ideal. The trick, then, is finding players who don't annoy the crap out of you...

 

I don't generally watch entire Let's Plays of games, though, personally - I prefer just seeing relatively short "slices" of a game.

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Like with any medium, there's no one size fits all answer.  Different people watch Let's Plays for different reasons.  For me, personally, there are 3 reasons I generally watch Let's Plays (sometimes the reasons overlap):

 

  1. I am interested, but undecided, in a game and I watch some Let's Plays as research to help me decide whether this is a game I want to purchase for myself.  In this case, I'll usually only watch the first video or two of each LP, especially if it's a story driven game, so as to not spoil it for myself.
  2. It's a game I'm interested in but it's on a platform I don't own and the prospects of it ever coming to a platform I own are slim.  This way, I still get to experience a game, to a lesser degree, that I would not have been able to experience otherwise.  For example:  I'll probably never get to play Until Dawn because I don't own a PS4 and have no plans on getting one, but this way I can still experience the story.
  3. It's a game I'm not interested in playing.  I'm mainly watching because I like the YouTuber and I find his/her personality entertaining.  For example:  I watch Jesse Cox's Dragon Age: Inquisition LP.  I would never consider putting myself through the dozens and dozens of hours of picking elfroot and doing MMO-esque quests that are that game, but Jesse's personality makes watching him go through it entertaining for me.
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Me personaly watching LPs mostly as an edutainment. When I want to learn more in depth mechanics of the game. I spent countless hours watching people play various Paradox Grand Strategies and Hearthstone. The saddest thing is, that starring at map how the figures move slowly and the maps changes colors is most of the time more entertaining, than what is shown in our TV stations... even without commentary..

 

Sometimes I just like to watch speedruns of games, which I've already beaten.

 

But yes, the one of the biggest reasons to watch it, is the feel of socializing, especially if the person you watch has similar personality, like you do. Lot of people like me grew here visiting netcaffes and LANcaffes where one person played and 2-10 people watched them to play and we talked about it, helped each other to evercome obstacles. It was fun, and I am really missing that stuffm that's why I have lately moved back to tabletop gaming again as well.

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Haha, Jesse plays games so differently to me. His OCD run of Dragon Age is hilarious, but I also enjoy how half his Witcher 3 videos are him playing Gwent.

Yeah, his OCD DA:I run is is quite entertaining.  The internal struggle you get to experience as you see him look on a map, see the insane amount of markers he has yet to visit in that area, you could almost audibly hear his heart sink.  But then you know he won't be able to just tunnel vision and do the main stuff only, he's going to go to every marker, do every meaningless quest, and pick up every bag of useless loot out there, because he can't help himself.  It also helps that Jesse is very good at reading out loud, which probably comes from being a teacher before becoming a YouTuber.  I haven't watched his The Witcher 3 or Firewatch LPs because those are both games I plan to play eventually (TW3 when it comes to Linux, assuming it still will at some point, and Firewatch when the price drops, as I don't want to pay $20 for a 3 hour game).

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Like with any medium, there's no one size fits all answer. Different people watch Let's Plays for different reasons. For me, personally, there are 3 reasons I generally watch Let's Plays (sometimes the reasons overlap):

 

  • I am interested, but undecided, in a game and I watch some Let's Plays as research to help me decide whether this is a game I want to purchase for myself. In this case, I'll usually only watch the first video or two of each LP, especially if it's a story driven game, so as to not spoil it for myself.

This. I don't often watch more than a few episodes of a Let's Play because I'm usually looking for a game to buy and I don't want any huge spoilers.

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There's some research being done on this at my faculty actually - and they are leaning towards it creating a feeling of community in much the same way a forum does. Lets Plays are often singleplayer games and often hosted by popular/beautiful people, so in short; watching it makes you feel like you're part of a popular activity. Which most of us need to feel - in a way multiplayer games do very directly, so its simply a way to create a feeling of togetherness around an, in essence, lonely experience.

Thats grossly simplifying it of course.

 

It's rude and ignorant to poop on somebody else's research without knowing all the details, so I won't do that, but it's always difficult to figure these kinds of things out. Sometimes research of this kind ends up getting a Disney finding despite best practices because (1) there's a self-selecting bias on the type of people who agree to be, say, interviewed about video LPs, i.e. they are pretty passionate; (2) there's a self-rationalising process going on when people talk about what they do which can sometimes be very different from what they were motivated by when they really did it. This isn't to say the community aspect is wrong, I'm sure it plays a role, but I'd be curious to know to what extent these videos sometimes are treated like television by couch-youtube-surfers and how LPs that focus almost entirely on the game and not the presenter works.

 

I don't watch video LPs because 99% of presenters are either nauseous annoying HAR HAR goblins, but I enjoy text/image LPs because they're avenues for telling stories that really are independent. Paradox forum LPs being a good example - they're basically a form of historical fan fiction with the game serving as a visual simulator. 

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I don't watch video LPs because 99% of presenters are either nauseous annoying HAR HAR goblins

 

 

Ditto.

 

Tried a few some time ago, but couldn't keep listening to it past a couple videos. There were a few without the presenters narration that seemed more watchable, though.

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I don't watch video LPs because 99% of presenters are either nauseous annoying HAR HAR goblins, but I enjoy text/image LPs because they're avenues for telling stories that really are independent. Paradox forum LPs being a good example - they're basically a form of historical fan fiction with the game serving as a visual simulator. 

 

Well, but there is a different term for using a game (engine) to tell a story: Machinima. I wouldn't count those as Let's Plays videos in the same way speedruns, reviews or dedicated video guides aren't. Or YouTube news coverage or commentary on games (I can heartly recommend "When Cheese Fails" for everyone who played a bit of Starcraft 2).

 

Near as I can tell the HAR HAR goblin presentation is the core aspect of video LPs, which is why I don't like them, and most likely never will. :)

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I only watch a few of them, but generally I enjoy the commentary/different point of view of the player(s). And the ability to see a game in action I don't have the chance to play or I'm not sure is a good investment yet.

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I'm surprised by how popular they are, but my kids seem to love to watch some of them.  I think it is generational.  

we would rather french kiss a light socket than watch some yutz play a video game.

 

...

 

have somebody who looked like stephanie seymour circa the 1990 sports illustrated swimsuit issue host the "let's play" and we might be momentarily curious... 'cause Gromnir IS a guy.  however, once ms. seymour's lookalike actual started playing the game in question, am certain we couldn't maintain interest for long.

 

HA! Good Fun!

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I'm surprised by how popular they are, but my kids seem to love to watch some of them. I think it is generational.

we would rather french kiss a light socket than watch some yutz play a video game.

 

...

 

have somebody who looked like stephanie seymour circa the 1990 sports illustrated swimsuit issue host the "let's play" and we might be momentarily curious... 'cause Gromnir IS a guy. however, once ms. seymour's lookalike actual started playing the game in question, am certain we couldn't maintain interest for long.

 

HA! Good Fun!

Queuing the Stephanie Seymour Life Partner Simulator Let's Play:

 

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For me it comprise several factors:

 

1) it is the game i am interested in

2) it is something that I can learn from and adapt to my gameplay

3) the quality of video is good

4) there is some added entertainment value, which hits my sense of humor/entertainment (for example Beaglerush and his XCOM videos)

5) I am to tired to play myself at that time or have time constrains which would affect my personal play. (hey you can watch it on your phone!)

 

I prefer more live experience, for example twitch streams than watching youtube vids. Streams are a different beast, because i like watching esports streams (Dota2 is my main fix)

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