In Defense of Let’s Play Channels

Creating videos for YouTube on a regular basis is hard work.  As much fun and rewarding as it can be, it’s easy to become worn out and resort to shorter or easier videos to produce.  In some cases, content creators will opt to do short and easy videos right out of the gate, so they can quickly edit and release videos at a very fast pace.  The result is often what the  YouTube community refers to as a Let’s Play.  Let’s Plays are videos where a content creator will play through a video game and comment on the action going on within the game, or attempt to.  Let’s Play videos are often criticized for a number of reasons:

1. They are incredibly easy to produce and don’t require a ton of creativity on the creator’s part.

2. There are a ton of Let’s Play YouTubers already out there, and there doesn’t need to be any more.

3. A lot of Let’s Play channels try and fail to emulate the Game Grumps or PewDiePie, two insanely popular channels.

4. Most Let’s Play channels are boring or not entertaining to watch.

5. Commentators don’t stick to the material they are playing, and just talk about whatever.

Sure, there may be more, but these are some of the common criticisms.  I’ll be completely honest: I don’t watch a lot of these types of videos.  I do have a few channels I watch pretty regularly, however, and I really enjoy their content.  That’s not to say that I think ill of Let’s Play channels, because I really don’t.  I think in a lot of instances, people either don’t understand the kind of work that goes into a good Let’s Play channel, or Let’s Plays just aren’t their cup of tea, so they immediately write them off as crap.

To defend the first point above, I don’t think people realize the work that goes into creating a good Let’s Play channel or series.  I’ve attempted to do this several times, and honestly, it’s a lot more work than I’m willing to do.  Unless you have a natural gift of gab, which I don’t feel like I do, you’re going to have a hard time with the initial recording of the video.  Having a second or third person definitely helps, but when you watch some of the better Let’s Play channels out there, you’ll notice that they will commentate during the ENTIRE game.  That’a LOT of talking.  A lot of these content creators will do two or three games a night! It’s hard enough coming up with stuff to talk about, let alone the strain your voice goes through from talking that long.  That’s just the recording process.  Want to add in notes, zoom in on portions of the gameplay that prove a particular point or make a funny statement? You have to wade through a LOT of footage to get to it.  This part alone turns me off to the whole process.  Sure, you could just half-ass it and have a sub-par product, but that’s not how I do things, and that’s not how GOOD channels of any type do things.  I’m sure that creators who have been creating Let’s Plays for a long time have the process down after a few series, but it takes time to get to that point, time I don’t have the patience to use.

The second common criticism is that there are too many Let’s Play channels out there.  I don’t really get this.  Unless you actually create Let’s Plays, this makes it better for the viewer.  Viewers have more choices to make.  It’s a buyers market out there!  It’s not like you HAVE to watch every single Let’s Play of a particular game you want to watch.  Stick to known quantities if you’d like, or branch out and try a new channel that you aren’t familiar with.  It doesn’t take long to realize whether or not you are going to enjoy that Let’s Player’s style.  As for Let’s Play creators: if you market yourself smartly, you can differentiate yourself from the multitude of lower quality channels out there pretty easily.  Sure, you may not end up making thousands of dollars on advertising revenue like the huge channels out there, but you can gather yourself a pretty modest following.

There isn’t a problem with trying to emulate a popular channel’s success, unless that emulation involves blatant plagiarism.  I like watching Game Grumps.  I like watching other channels that have their own take on a similar Game Grumps style formula.  I’m not a Pew Die Pie fan, but some people like him, and there is no harm in trying to mimic his success.  If you don’t like it, find something else to watch.  If you don’t like it, and you are a content creator, you don’t have to create the same thing.  If you’re just mad because those types of channels and humor are popular, and you aren’t getting the hits you want, you may be looking at blaming the wrong people.  Take an honest look at your own content and improve where necessary.

The forth point is pretty easy to talk about.  If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.  Or do watch it, find out what their flaws are, and maybe CONSTRUCTIVELY offer criticism.  Or take what you didn’t like about their channel and apply fixes to your own accordingly.  They may have flaws that make them boring, but it can be a learning experience for YOU too.

The fifth point on my list that I heard from a few people on Twitter is that commentators don’t stick to the action happening on screen.  I honestly don’t see this as a problem, myself.  I watch a particular Let’s Play channel pretty regularly that very often strays from the material they are playing.  Their comments are often loosely related to or stem from the game they are playing.  I like this.  I don’t want to hear a play by play of what is happening on screen.  I have eyes and can see what’s going on.  Additionally, not every game is going to have so many nuances and so much backstory that commentators can use to talk exclusively about the game for the entire playthrough.  I just don’t see a problem with this either.

My point is live and let live here.  If you don’t like Let’s Play channels, be constructive with that dislike.  Use it to help others improve, if you wish, but don’t be a dick about it.  Or you can use that dislike to learn what works and what doesn’t, and create something of your own.  Quit hating on stuff just because YOU don’t like it.  Thousands of views and viewers tend to disagree with you.



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