Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Let's Talk About Let's Play

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 8 Mar 2011 12:00
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There's a rather vast and inherent flaw with my job, and the jobs of many professional game journalists, that results in all of us suffering sleepless nights in fear of our editors figuring it out. As respected authorities on gaming as a culture (shut up, we are) we have to play all the games, I myself only being able to devote a week to each one, and even then only a few hours in the afternoon and evening, less if I want to follow the advice they keep giving in game manuals to take a fifteen minute break every hour (which nobody does.) But there are a lot of games that require a lot more commitment, and many that considerably benefit from analysis after long term play.

Obviously there're massive RPGs like Two Worlds 2 or Fallout: New Vegas and indeed most MMOs that have an awful lot of content that you need to set aside quite a few gaming sessions to get the most out of, but even a simpler game can gain new depths if it's the only one you play for months on end. The average, non-game-reviewing player gains new games on a rare basis, especially kids, their acquisitions often restricted to Christmas, birthdays or whenever they've saved up enough paper route money. Many will have inordinately positive memories of merely average games that were all they had to play.

I lived unemployed for a while waiting for my Australian permanent residence to be cleared with a small collection of games including Silent Hill 2 and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time on PS2 and Zelda Wind Waker and Spiderman 2 on Gamecube, and I'm often haunted by the thought that perhaps my high esteem for these titles lie merely in having played them all over and over again. Then again, I also had Red Faction at the time.

But what's the solution? I definitely can't conjure myself more free time. What I need to do is find a way to view games through the perspective of someone who did have enough time to put the hours in. But that would require, say, watching them play the entire game giving a running commentary throughout, and nobody does that. Well, actually, people do. Quite a few people do. It's called Let's Play.

Graham and Paul of Unskippable have a feature on this very website called Let's Play Legends of Legaia, but the concept of Let's Play (or LP) goes back quite a few years. Unskippable's take on it sums up the concept pretty well - it's commentary over games and gameplay, not just cinematics, delivered by the player and optionally one or more co-commentators to keep the banter flowing. Basically they play the game, record the entire experience in video (or screenshots if the game is less animated and text-heavy) and post the videos serial-style. And I've got to admit, I am a certified Let's Play addict. I like to have them on in the background while I work. Even as I write this I have on a video of someone playing American McGee's Scrapland. It actually seems like it might have been quite fun with a little more design discipline.

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