Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Now I suppose I should preface this by saying that this is all personal preference. I for one don’t enjoy Let’s Plays as much as other people, so after sitting down and thinking about it I think I worked out the reason why. So without further ado let me elaborate.
Firstly, watching someone playing a video game does is, in my opinion, not the best thing in the world. That’s like just watching a movie with the sound off, or just seeing the sound bars on a song. Sure you can, but you’re missing part of the key experience. Could you truly appreciate a piece of music if you just read it on the paper and assembled it in your head? Could you truly appreciate Shakespeare’s wit and charm if you read “The Annotated Guide to King Lear” that details every little thing and explains the jokes in full?
It’s one of the grips I have with my Shakespeare English paper. I keep pointing out that just reading the play is like just reading a film script; and then claiming to know everything about the film. A play is meant to be performed, ergo different scenes have different performances that radically change the meaning of them. You can’t just read Shakespeare any more than you can read Inception or The Dark Knight or whatever. If you don’t watch it, you don’t get the full experience. Ergo I argue the same for a video game. Sure you can watch it and enjoy the scenery of the game, but without you physically controlling the game (which is what makes gaming unique) then it’s not the equivalent.
â€œBut,â€ I here you ask, â€œwhat if I wanted to focus on the story or the visuals of the game without having to focus on staying alive at the same time. Surly it’s okay to watch someone play a video game, since it’s nothing more than a tool for storytelling?â€
In that case let us propose that this argument is true. That a video game is merely a way of getting from one section of the story to the next. Now there are a lot of people that’d argue against this (me included), but for now we are taking this as a true premise.
The question we have to ask is: what separates video games from any other form of entertainment? You flip pages to read a book, you watched 24 frames a second assembled together rapidly to watch a movie, your brain reorganizes noise to make them into music. While it’s true that video games are a tool to tell stories, everything is a tool to tell stories. And those stories can only be interpreted via understanding that is gained through consciousness.
Thus if we accept that premise as true, then video games are no different to any other form of storytelling. But if that were to be true, then why would they need to exist? Why would we need to move past the simple eras of black and white movies that have no sound, when we are seeing what we need to see? Why would we need to write stuff down when telling things is good enough? Why would we need art at all if all we’re doing is making them a tool.
So by making video games a “tool”, you are potentially downgrading not only their unique impact as a form of storytelling, but your downgrading art in general. While all stories are pre-determined, video games allow one a unique amount of control over what happens.
Sure you still have to follow the story. Sure you can stop reading a book or turn off a movie the same way you turn off a video game. That is the only real “Choice” you have when it comes to it (a sad metaphor for suicide when you stop and think about it really). But in a book, you can’t control the character. In a movie you can’t tell the order small, minuscule events happen in which order I.e. which mook henchmen gets killed first. You are the passive audience, unable to affect anything that is happening in the world. Whereas in video games you can actively control what is happening. Sure you’re part of a grander scheme you have no way of escaping from, but you still have some small measure of free will. So would you want to rid video games the one thing that make them so much more different from other forms of art?
So what does this have to do with Let’s Plays? I feel that it’s the same problem. Just watching someone play a game robs the very experience a game is trying to create. Why Let’s Plays and not video game footage in general? Because the footage is merely a representation of the game. It merely shows what the game is about. On the other hand a Let’s Play is actually about someone playing (and occasionally dying) in a video game. We are not watching the video game, but a player’s experience of playing that video game. Now while that is all find and good, that’s not something that appeals to my personal taste.
So there you have it. I don’t like Let’s Plays because I feel they defeat the purpose of gaming and I find it dull to watch someone else play a game. That doesn’t mean I hate Let’s Plays or Let’s Players, just that it isn’t my cup of tea that I was interested in sharing. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.