Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Let's Play!

In the realm of video game journalism, the trend of “Let’s Play” narratives have picked up within the last year and a half. While it is debatable that they function as true “journalism,” LP’s, as they are commonly referred to, are a generally informative means of judging the content of a game, as well as gaining insight into others’ reactions to said game.

For those who do not know what an LP is, it is basically a chronicled playing of a game. It is done in two formats: a written narrative accompanied by screenshots, or a video of the gameplay accompanied by audio commentary of the player. 

Unfortunately, due to the nature of an LP, it is certain that the plot will eventually be spoiled to the reader. However, many written LP’s refrain from giving away future events in the game, instead letting the reader find out as they go. 

Instead of functioning as a traditional arts critique, the narratives give a more raw representation of what one might expect from playing that game. Especially in the video area of presentation, where inflection and surprise reactions can be displayed, it shows the viewer firsthand what that particular player experienced.

This has its drawbacks, as it does give away plot as it progresses, but it serves another purpose that traditional video game journalism does not. While reviews give the reader a basic summary of what they would expect from buying and playing a game, LP’s provide a much more visceral and unmasked sense of going through each game. 

In addition to this, many LP’s are rife with humor, as the player interjects his own thoughts on what takes place during his/her experience. Whether this be their screaming at terrifying parts or just plain amusement at bugs or other occurrences, it is usually a pretty accurate perception of what the game experience is like.

While the plot giveaway is detrimental to traditional journalism, it can also function in a positive way to those who do not have access to the game, especially in foreign titles. Many LP-ers will translate foreign dialogue as they go along, providing viewers with the means to access content that they would not normally be able to. 

The “Let’s Play Archive” claims that the first LP came about in 2006, but it has only picked up in popularity within the last year-and-a-half, mostly due to the accessibility and ease of video commentary. Many written LP’s are truly an endeavor to read through, as they cover the entirety of the game, including dialogue, screenshots, and commentary. Depending on the speed of the reader, this can make it a much longer experience as compared to the video format, which provides information in real-time. 

Either way, it is a very interesting trend that has picked up in popularity, and while it may not function as proper journalism, it is an insightful practice that can provide those with limited access to the game a similar experience, or at the very least, an opinion of what they could expect. 

Whether or not this trend continues is hard to predict, but the sheer entertainment value alone should help it stay around for quite a while.


  1. This is a good write-up, and knowing nothing about video games, it was helpful rather than alienating. If I knew a little bit more about this, I might question its ability to count as journalism, even citizen's journalism (the phrasing of which I would poke at too, probably, if someone asked me to) ... wondering what your own thoughts are.

  2. Good question! Honestly, I think it has characteristics of journalism, but it more serves as educative entertainment. There are plenty of things that you can learn about the game through the viewing of an LP, but the nature of the presentations are so varied that it's really hard to put into one definitive category.

    Anywho, while I think it is extremely informative, it just doesn't line up with the type of criticism that we have been examining. Like I mentioned, one of the huge differences is plot summary. LP's very generally contain lots of spoilers, as it quite literally works its way through the game, although some text LP's will highlight over potential spoilers for later in the game.