Why Is LET’S PLAY So Huge? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios
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Why Is LET’S PLAY So Huge? | Game/Show | PBS Digital Studios

August 24, 2019

So if you didn’t
already know, who do you think has the most
subscribers on YouTube? Miley Sirus? Justin Bieber? Ray William Johnson? Nope, it’s this guy. Felix Arvid Ulf
Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie, is a 23-year-old Swede who is
the current king of YouTube with more than 12
million subscribers, and he makes “Let’s
Play Videos.” Part “Mystery Science
Theater,” part Ebert and Roper, “Let’s Play Videos” are
just recorded runthroughs of people playing games. They can be funny or
heartbreaking, long or short, kind, of downright nasty. He’s so cute! Aw, little bunny. Oh, no, little bunny! And if it was just PewDiePie,
that’d be one thing, right? But he’s not alone; “Let’s
Play Videos” are huge. Like, Super Bowl
plus World Cup huge. Like, I shouldn’t even have
to tell you how huge they are huge, but I will. Say it for me. Huge! So let’s look at the numbers. Well, there’s PewDiePie, with
over 12 million subscribers and over two billion views. Then there’s Hobie Games
and Captain Sparklez, Syndicate Project,
[INAUDIBLE], Nerd Cube, and the hundreds of other crazy
popular “Let’s Play” creators. Yes! It’s working! Oh, no. I’ve dropped it. That’s more subscribers
than Canada has people. Oh, well. I guess that’s all right. And most of these videos
aren’t exactly short, either. Most “Let’s Play Videos” run 10
to 30 minutes, and lots of them run several hours. But wait a second,
am I really saying that there are tens
of millions of people watching other people play
video games for hours at a time? Yes. Yes, I am. So I think it’s fair to
ask– why have “Let’s Play Videos” gotten so huge? Well, for starters,
there’s money. Video games, they’re
a pricey habit. And spending $60 at a clip
isn’t always an option. “Let’s Play Videos”
let you experience a game in an entertaining
way for free. You never seen a horse
ride a motorcycle before? And of course,
there’s strategy. Turning to others for advice
is a tradition as old as games themselves. Back in the day, we called
Nintendo Power for help, or we checked out IRC
channels or Game Facts. Now, with “Let’s
Play Videos,” you can watch someone struggle
through the entire game before you have to. And most importantly,
it’s pure entertainment. Put simply, the best
“Let’s Play” creators are just people you
want to hang out with. I believe I can fly! Put your hands in the air! Put your– what? Yeah, but still there’s
got to be something more. YouTube is the biggest thing
in pop culture right now, and “Let’s Play Videos” are
the biggest thing on YouTube. Why? Here’s what I think. Gamers have been a
lost and lonely breed for quite some time,
and now they can finally reconnect with each other. Think about it. When games first came
on the scene in arcades, it was a social experience. It was dark. It was dingy. But it was an inexpensive place
to hang out with other people. Gamers huddled around
Pac Man and Donkey Kong every night of the week,
and by the end of the ’80s there were over 10,000 arcades
across the United States. My local arcade even took report
cards in exchange for tokens. Thanks, challenges! But then consoles
came onto the scene, and by the end of the ’90s most
gaming was done in the home. Man, I think he’s
permanently attached. With the exception of “Street
Fighter” and “Mortal Combat,” most gamers were playing
in bedrooms and basements– most likely alone. This was the decade
of the lonely gamer. Games got better, but the
gaming experience got worse. As a brief aside, this
wasn’t true in Japan. Arcades continue to thrive. There’s a great book about
it by Brian Ashcraft. There’s a link for it
in the description. But that didn’t mean
that gamers didn’t want to connect with each other. When broadband
became more common in the early 2000s,
social play flourished. And when YouTube
came on the scene, there was an easy, inexpensive
place to enjoy games together. “Let’s Play” channels that
early arcade atmosphere and creates a real
community for gamers. We subscribe to our
favorite channels, we engage in discussions
with other gamers, and we share moments
of terror and joy with millions of other people. And that’s why “Let’s
Play” is so huge. Gamers spent a
decade in isolation, and “Let’s Play Videos”
have reinvigorated that sense of community. So what do you think? Why are “Let’s Play
Videos” so huge? Hash it out in the comments. And if you like what you
saw, please subscribe. I’ll be here every week. Last week we talked about
Mario, Link and Sonic. Let’s see what you had to say. Some of you astutely
noticed that we accidentally replaced Marcus Phoenix with Dom
and Solid Snake with Big Boss. Our apologies. First episode. We’re still working
out the kinks. Theimporter points out
that Sonic, Link and Mario are actually more like
mascots, like Mickey Mouse. I mean, who’s watched a
Mickey Mouse cartoon lately? We may not even need to make
games with them anymore. It’s a great, great point. So Samg2000 points out that
more recent games like Skyrim and Journey follow the hero’s
journey to a T. First of all, those games sold well. So, coincidence? I don’t think so. And second of all, meet me in
100 years and we’ll find out. Iseethenights makes
a bid for Pokemon. I think that that’s a
great, great suggestion. It might be a
generational thing though. But yeah, again,
great suggestion. Thanks so much for the comment. My favorite comment
of the week comes from KaChiKaChak who points
out that characters maybe on the way out
are being replaced by things like avatars, where
you customize them and make them yourself. It’s a great, great observation. I don’t think that the
hero’s journey as a concept is going to disappear, but I
do think its expression might change over time. So to Spam Bot, my love,
the Tony, and thanks so much for loving my ironical video. PdrLaguna thinks that
Mario doesn’t fit. Bold, bold claim, my friend. Well, Joseph Campbell didn’t
say that every single story has to fit the model myth to a T,
so there might be parts of it that Mario doesn’t
necessarily fit. But I do think there’s
a really strong case to be made that you’ll find
all those elements there. You got to remember also that
these are video games, right? So elements of the model myth
might be something that you do. So you might take
on the [INAUDIBLE]. It just makes things a
little bit different. Mike Rugnetta from Idea Channel. Great show. You should check it out. Nice to meet you, Mike. Mike writes in, he
thinks that part of the reason that these
characters survived, as opposed to other ones,
is the fact that video games were targeting young
boys during that time period. It’s no big secret that video
games during its early life targeted young boys. And I think you’re
totally right. And in fact, that might
be part of the reason why characters like Samus,
who do fit the hero’s journey, didn’t endure the same
that those characters do. So I think it’s an
excellent point. Obviously, demographics often
play into these decisions. But the hope is over time that
the values of these characters will sort of transcend
gender and be something that everybody likes to play. And finally, tiago
silva wants a cookie. You got it, boss,
we’re here to please. Send a self-addressed, stamped
envelope to this address.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I think the reason is:
    a) personalities
    b) chance to see games you wouldn't get to play

    I don't watch Let's Play videos, but my brother is obsessed with them. He started because we have a 360 and he was interested in Last of Us, so watched a complete walkthrough of the game…

  2. Lets play videos encourage us to have more screens so we can watch them and game and watch another movie…  🙂

  3. I think voyeurism plays into it.  Remember when MTV was an acronym for Music Television?  Reality TV is no longer a fad, it's on all 900 channels of your Dish/Cable/whatever.  I think Let's Play does, in part, feed into our voyeuristic cravings.

  4. I got into LPs because I wanted to see a speedrun of Mega Man 2.
    I found NintendoCaprisun.
    The rest is history.
    I continue to follow LPs because a) I like seeing other people play a game I may want to play/don't want to play, but want to see played; b) it reminds me of the days I used to go over to my neighbor's and watch him play games. c) I just like the personalities of many LPers. The Game Grumps alone give me oodles of giggles, to say the least.

  5. One of my favorite channels is nerdcubed, and the reason for that is he sort of shows of brand new games, I have bought several games just because i have seen him play them (Driver San Francisco, red faction guerrilla, surgeon simulator…) And also for the fact that his videos are just… Funny, Really i enjoy watching funny people play games and make jokes about it, which is why pewdiepie is so popular. 

  6. I like to leave lets play videos playing in the back while I do other stuff….

    I don't why… I guess I just like the noise

  7. Let's play channels are popular mainly because the people making them are funny. Channels such as game grumps, the creatures, yogscast, Robbaz, penguinz0  and so on, usually have pretty funny commentary on what's going on in the game. Things like fanimations and remixesare made of people's favorite parts of episodes, ex. gamegrumps' "pauseballs" the creatures' " YOU BROKE THE RULES" and yogscast's "diggy diggy hole"

  8. he said toby games comes after pewdiepie in popularity but its the yogscast main channle.
    who was checking there facts

  9. As a young kid, I've always loved watching people play games. Why? I honestly have no clue… Maybe I'm just crazy or something. I like seeing people overcome difficult parts I wouldn't be able to or just watch their reactions to different scenarios in the game… I dunno. I'm just weird like that..

  10. I watch LPs because Im too lazy to go and play the game. I feel like too much effort when I play but watching someone play is exciting.

  11. I run a Pokemon LP and I love it, I always hope people have as much fun watching as I do playing it. As well as humor, I think fans secretly like imagining the feelings of the person and how they live. My favorite part is knowing that people will see this thing I'm producing. I wish I'd feel the whole Comments section goodness, but my comments are few but I love every one.

  12. Dear God. I can't escape the Fucillo Volkswagon guy
    On the tv, in the car, at work. I thought the internet was safe but I was wrong.
    He's in my damn dreams and he is HUGEEEE

  13. I dont think it's because of the social aspect- there was always local multiplayer. But I do agree that it is because of money. I personally watch letsplays of games I know I dont have the money to play, or if its not on one of my consoles (PC and Wii U- so no GTA or Destiny…I know)

  14. I've tried watching a few PewDiePie videos and there's just too much random screaming.  I tend to like the PaulSoaresJr style more.  Maybe it's a generation gap thing, as I'm closer to 40 than 20, so there's beginning to be such a thing as 'too loud'.

  15. Pewdiepie is a amusing. ^^;; I enjoy him. He makes it easier for me to watch horror genre video games these days. I used to have my brother play them while I watched but I don't have anyone to watch play them and live vicariously through their gameplay anymore. lol Horror movies are no problem for me but games freak me out, so I don't play them. 😛 I think it's the whole 'being in control' aspect and the vibration the controllers use + the sound nowadays. Pewdiepie it is!!! ^^;;

  16. Late 70's Gaming Begins. Atari
    Early 80's Kids come together and thrive in Arcades. Atari, Colecovision
    Late 80's Joystick home systems begin Atari, NES
    Early 90's Consoles cause single player games to leave people to sit alone for hours at a time, Atari, SNES
    Late 90's Split screen makes gaming less lonely and Handhelds get people together at their school to give each other rips. Nintendo 64, Playstation 1
    Early 2000's Split screen, Broad Band online gaming, and Steam on PC bring thousands of gamers together. Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox
    Late 2000's Gamers have Playstation Network, Xbox Live, Game Center, Nintendo Network, and Steam to connect. PS3, Xbox 361, Wii
    Early 2010's Let's plays, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, OUYA, Steam Box Piston PC, and iPad's come in. What is yet to come

  17. I've watched a few Let's Plays. Mostly to see what a game was about before buying. The only one I actually finished though was The Last of Us, and that was simply because I wanted to see how someone else reacted to it.

  18. Don't forget that lets play and review videos are fair use ways to post copyrighted video game footage on YouTube.

  19. I think some lets play can all so be used for hints when your stuck and or a lot better then reading a 100 word destruction on how to do it and getting no place

  20. When I "watch" Let's Plays, I mostly just have them running in the background, sort of like how TV used to be. It's interesting to see how someone else's experience of a game you've played was… But I very rarely actively watch Let's Plays anymore…

  21. It's just fun to watch other people play. Not sure why. I watch LPs both of games I don't own and games I do. It gives you almost as much satisfaction to watch someone else play as it does to play yourself and it's far less work! Lol.

  22. I generally only watch Let's Play's if I find a particular person to have a really good voice, but for the most part I don't personally understand the craze. I have trouble laughing at most Let's Play's because I can only think about how it would be more fun in person.  

  23. Some of my favourite gaming I enjoy is watching others playing single player, now we have lets play videos I can do this alone at home as well as sitting with someone and cheering them on lol its win-win 🙂

  24. Watching LPs is part of my regular going to sleep schedule. Unless I'm really tired I usually watch them with the sound on low for about 30 minutes before rolling over and going to sleep.

  25. I generally don't like commentary if I'm watching a walkthrough, but I do like GhostRobo every now and then (he's not annoying like pewdiepie)…and if I want to laugh I might watch Markiplier

  26. I like to watch let's play videos. If i see a game that I don't want to pay for but still want to see played, or if I just want to listen to funny commentary on my favorite games.

  27.  Solo Lets Plays Are actually really dumb because its just someone forcing themselves to talk, making it sound fake. That's why the best Lets Players play together like Inside Gaming and 2 Best Friends Play.

  28. The Game Theory Channel actually explains this phenomenon very well and a large reason for their success is the way Youtube prioritises it's channels. channels with a lot of total view time will appear higher in people's feeds and while channels like this one spend hours and days researching, writing and creating their 5-10 minute videos Let's Play channels can release much longer videos on a daily basis.

    I actually find it quite disappointing that Pewdiepie is number 1, I'm not saying his videos are bad but less work does go into them. He's not even the one generating much of the entertainment, the game is doing that. I've seen comedic shorts which are well shot, well written and well acted get less than 1000 views and it just doesn't seem fair that someone who isn't very special is number 1 on Youtube. 

  29. Well, i don't know why their popular, but i know that i watch them because i like to see other people's reactions and hear about their opinions towards games i've already played… 

    I find other human beings, rather interesting and intriguing at times.

    And i also think that it's not any more weird than watching someone else play football or baseball… and at least there's a story involved. 

  30. I'll never forget the frustrating Mario mod. That's classic. I think it may be about the personality or relating to someone at an emotional scene of a game.

  31. I just created a new gaming channel so check it out. I only have one video up right now but I plan on uploading Let's Plays, Reviews, Guides, and more. Hop on over and check it out, also follow me on Twitter. I take suggestions from fellow gamers on what games they would like to see. Thanks. -Murphy.

  32. Awesome video just made me sub I recently just started to make let's play videos right now doing walking dead and watchdogs and this is what led me to your channel to try and get more of a feel of why let's play videos became so popular I know they are fun as hell to make but I am definitely seeing why it's fun to watch even if you already played the game. It's actually very similar as to showing a friend a game just to see their reaction to it.

  33. Idk about others, but I enjoy watching Let's Play videos because well, for one, I can't afford a lot of games so I watch others who play in humorous and entertaining way. Another reason I like to watch let's plays is, the commenters doing the lets play, they add more humor into games that I can't get enough of

  34. Lets plays are the disco of are generation,more and more people are doing lets plays and less quality content until we having nothing left but lets plays,like disco we will have to kill it off.

  35. Just looking at steam currently, and I noticed shovel knight was on sale. However, I had already watched the Game Grumps play threw the entire game. Which led me to an interesting point, while I am not denying the benefits mentioned in this video, I would like to talk about a deficit of Lets Plays. This idea may have been touched on before (in the Should All Videogames Be Free To Play? video). Experiencing a game vicariously threw Lets Plays can affect it's sales, especially if it's both a somewhat short game and is posted on a popular channel. So, considering the info from the above mentioned video, discount sales can have a similar effect on gaming.

  36. I still don't understand the dislike of Let's Plays. They are the primary thing a gamer can do if they wish to record a game. That's why Lets plays are so popular. What, are gamers going to just record themselves staring at a wall because people despise lets plays and never really knowing that most of what they watch are, in fact, lets plays without being labeled as such?

  37. I just don’t understand the phenomenon of Let's Plays, and I likely never will. I just don't see the point of watching some foppish young lad scream and make noises  at a videogame. I understand that with games being so expensive, it’s nice to see what game looks like before buying it, but let face it watching someone playing someone playing the game it doesn't mean it will give you the same experience once you play the game for yourself.

    For me let's Plays are stupid and pointless if I want to find a strategy I will find it on a strategy video resolvers puzzle, where to go next and on how to defeat a bosses because they are simple and quick to explain it. Let's play take forever to explain a simple thing and they are playing the game blinding.

    The other reason I hate let's play is that it's overdone… like seriously YouTube is flood by let's play. I have tried to watch so many Youtube videos for games I like but they all ruined by an annoying voice-over. I prefer watch a gameplay video without commentaries in other word I like professional made walkthrough, but they are overshadow by let's play to the point that it's hard to find a professional walkthrough.

    Let's play that have annoying person talking like not end for every single moment. I like few let's play one of them is Markaplier when he made quick and simple let's play and not as those who going on forever. Also I feel many let's play copy each others, I mean when one person make a let's play for a game for example a Call of Duty game and then everyone want to do it too like they all are wannabe for each others.

  38. really.. to me is simple, I mean its like watching sport. its fun and its feels like playing the game, yea but this guys knows what's up. at least he doesn't put a stupid complain like "ugh… why are they make so much money… ughhh I'm jaleous!"

  39. This is a Game Theory rip off video dude, sorry to say but Game Theory did this like a year ago! :/

  40. The only reason Let's Plays are so popular is because Youtube's "superior algorithm system" made it impossible for anyone to make money by making any other kind of video. If you want to rake in that Youtube monayyy, you'd better get yourself a webcam and get ready to sell yourself out. You'll be able to make a dickload of cash with zero effort; while actual original content creators, like animators and sketch comedians, fall under the radar because Youtube doesn't care about original content.

  41. Great video! I really like the editing you've done, quick and short video. Perfect for a question answered like this.
    I watched this because I actually just started creating a channel, for mainly let's plays and maybe in the future more! So this was good to watch. I got here because of the 10 year anniversary of YouTube playlists. Checkout my channel 🙂 it might be fun for anyone who likes let's plays.

  42. Even though it sounds stupid when you say it out loud, you gotta give people respect for getting this far.

    And to be honest football players a LOT more money then the average youtuber.

  43. There is a huge, HUGE misconception about Lets Players to the outside world that needs to be addressed. Not all LPers scream and make noises at their games. There are quite a few (albeit most of them unpopular) LPers who, well, do the genre justice. You've got your Pewdiepies and your Tobuscuses (Tobusci?) that just say things in weird voices and pee themselves over the jumpscare fest that is Five Nights at Freddy's, but there's more to Let's Players than that. The only LPers I enjoy watching are people who play the game for fun and low a lot about the game, so they share they're knowledge with you, cracking a few jokes and giving their opinions on the game in question along the way. Those are what I consider "Let's Players" I will give an example that +ProtoMario gave in a video of his talking about the subject: say let's playing were to ever fail for people like "Pewds", Tobuscus and the Game Grumpa" and you had to apply for a job. You'd put Let's Playing on your resum, of course. You could draw people in by creating content that the general mass of gamers enjoys, but how did you reel your fans in? Cussing, sounding like a drunk and penis jokes. Boob jokes, too, but mainly penis jokes. I don't wanna rat on these guys, but if you step back and look at it, that's what it is. So, in conclusion, I guess, Lets Players are big because the top percentage with the most subscribers are immature. And you know the sad truth? Our society has come to like and feed off of that. The little guys on the LP spectrum who have a real passion for these games and want to give people the good, entertaining experience they have playing the game to more people… Those guys don't get recognized because the top of the spectrum provides the stupidity that our society loves so.

  44. I think you're right about the social aspect of Let's Plays being why they're so popular. Although, personally to me one of the most appealing things about gaming is that I could do it alone. I always opt out of the social aspects of online games and only play games where you can also do solo runs. I find gaming an ideal time to just zone out and not socialize. But I'm an introvert and most of my other hobbies are solitary too, so obviously I'm biased.

  45. I loathe Pew die pie.
    And I hate that YouTube decided to get into making shows, beginning with making one staring him.
    Don't get me wrong… I can admit that I'm a bit jealous that he can live off of playing video games. But all the same, I find his annoying and his voice tears at my nerves. Ugh! Can't wait for his show to flop and fail, and for him to have to actually get a real job.

  46. I think this question got all the more important now that there is such a thing as the EU making article 13. Because now I think we should try and find the words to describe what all of this means to us. So that we can throw it at their faces after they took it away from us.

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