Let’s Play!

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When you&rsquo;re a movie nut, people ask you what movies to watch. When you&rsquo;re into games, people ask you what game system they should buy, or ever more simply, how do I get into games? Honestly, the answer could just be watching someone play a game.</p>

One of the latest guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie, who’s become one of the prominent creators of “Let’s Play.” Put simply, it’s a genre of video where you are watching someone else play a video game. 

When I’m playing games around friends who don’t play games, they often say that they like watching people playing games, even more than actually playing them. 

And honestly, if you’re looking to get into games but have a lack of access to games and a surplus of free Wi-Fi, it’s an ideal way for a student to experience some of the great games of 2015. 

The funny thing about the Let’s Play is that it reveals the theatricality of playing a game with an audience. Playing a game is a performance. You can show off your skills, and you can screw up. 

Intimacy is a key appeal, at least for myself. Colbert remarked that television was “run by schemes” — YouTube has a greater capacity for more down-to-earth media. Let’s Play is less corporate-designed entertainment and more personal conversation not out of place in any given student’s dorm. 

Personality really comes out with  Let’s Play. My first experience with the genre was the Game Grumps, and while they clearly put on a goofy persona for the sake of entertainment, these are people who already have hilarious personalities. Egoraptor has his offbeat, often cartoonish sense of humour. Jontron has a tendency to burst into song. He was later replaced by Danny “Sexbang”Avidan, who may not know as much about games as Jon, but makes up for it with plenty of offbeat personal experiences.

My personal favourite Let’s Plays are by Montreal natives Two Best Friends Play. It’s like a little piece of male camaraderie streamed into your ears every day. Pat’s insightful comments coupled with his short temper. Matt’s constant Simpsons quotes. Woollie’s eagerness, as well as the brotherly way he deals with younger member Liam, the naive Young Neil of the group. It really adds to my experience, even for games I’ve already played. 

It would be important to note that the language of the Internet is often entirely honest and personal, so there is plenty of swearing in videos like this. Colbert and PewDiePie actually joked about this, with the Swede teaching Colbert some Swedish obscenities. But like conversational tones with close friends, you’ll use language that isn’t always acceptable in the general public.

One recent favourite is their excitement during the intense opening moments of Metal Gear Solid V. Their experiences with previous games in that series really clarified what makes that game another great entry, and their enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve never seen people applauding a title screen before. 

A fun place to start, with us drawing close to the horror-filled holiday, is watching a Let’s Play of Until Dawn. Imagine sitting with some people watching your typical slasher movie — young teens in a cabin in the woods. But this time, the people you’re watching it with are making the choices the characters make. Not only do the Let’s Players add the typical riffs and opinions on how the plot is progressing, but they are actively changing the movie as they make decisions. It’s a thoroughly unique and fun experience. I watched the Two Best Friends Play version, but there are plenty of versions out there for many tastes.

Video games are interesting in this way. Uploading your gameplay is not a violation of copyright — it’s a legitimately original performance of what the game creators have made. Whether it’s by your own hand or by watching others play and react, there is more than one way to play a game, even if it’s just watching it online.

From the popular Let’s Players such as PewDiePie, to my mentioned favourites, to the multitude of others like Markiplier or PeanutButterGamer, there’s an alternative performance of a game that is sure to make you understand why I keep banging on about the medium of video games.

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