Added Value in Let’s Plays

I like Totalbiscuit. I mean a lot. I respect a lot of the work he does because I respect his morality when it comes to covering video games. He really does approach things in a way that honors the integrity of his journalist apporach. I think this is a good reason why so many people respect his opinion when he waxes philosophical on games and, in particular, people covering games. All this said however, I have to disagree with what I think he was trying to explain in his latest VLOG video: I do no think that Let’s Play content is lazy or a lesser form of entertainment IF it’s approached the correct way.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally know where he’s coming from. Hell, I get messages and comments from people advertising their LP content on my channel and I have only the smallest fraction of the viewer base that Total has. He is probably inundated with messages, comments, and twitter mentions either asking his opinion or straight up advertising their videos. I can also see that the vast majority of LP content on YouTube is … for lack of a nicer way to say this … really really bad. I don’t mean to sound elitist or mean – I have been in the same boat – but what some people try to pass off as content is exactly what Total described in his Vlog … or worse!

Does this mean that all LP content can be lumped into this same lazy category? Certainly not! Ian (Verbal Processing) and I have talked many long hours about the value of LP content as a method of channel growth and audience entertainment. We’ve both concluded that straight LP content (the kind where you press play in Fraps and then slap it on youtube) is exactly what Total is describing in the video above – LAZY. However, if one works to elevate the genre beyond the lowest common denominator, LP’s can become not just entertaining but quality videos that you can be proud of putting up on your channel.

So what can you do to elevate the genre? In my opinion the following can help:

  • Add an intro/outro – I’m not just talking about a user name splash screen or network moniker … I’m talking about a legit intro that encapsulates the whole series in 10-20 seconds. This gets the new viewer interested in your content right off the bat and reminds the repeat viewer where they’re heading. Changing the intro/outro slightly during a particularly long playthrough can help keep things fresh.
  • Cut repetitive parts – This is vital in keeping the overall pacing of the episode intact. No one wants to see you cut the same damn tree down over and over. I think I am still very guilty of leaving in parts of videos that detract from the overall quality.
  • Add a second commentator – I hate to pull the Yogscast card … but adding a second person to your commentary takes any video to the next level. It’s just so much more entertaining to listen to two or more people talk than just one.
  • Use editing effectively – Adding sound effects, music (with permission of course), and video effects to an episode can take a run of the mill video to the next level … just don’t overdo it.
  • Involve the audience – I’m guilty of not doing this as it can be quite difficult to implement naturally. Doing things like answering questions and selecting comments to be shown during the video can help involve the audience in new ways.
  • Finish your LPs – I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. I have several LP’s that, for various reasons, have been abandoned or I am no longer able to complete. However if you are able to complete a LP there is a good chance you will retain your audience throughout. I am now starting to advocate playing through the entire game (or portion of the game) before uploading any videos as this ensures that you will have consistent content production. This, in turn, builds viewer confidence.
  • Start with quality sources – this is pretty much a gimmie but having good video, audio, and commentary quality are all essential. No one wants to hear a microphone pop for 20 minutes and no one wants to listen to someone scream for 20 minutes either.
Of course no blog post would be complete without shamelessly plugging my own content … but I think that I am on the right track regarding the above points. Particularly my Jurassic Park: The Game, Terraria HARDCORE, and The Legend of Blackbeard’s Castle are all excellent examples of elevating the LP genre IMO. Here are some examples:
Jurassic Park: The Game

Terraria HARDCORE:

Blackbeard’s Castle:

Of course I am in no way the authority on LPing … in fact I am still experimenting with different things to take my LP videos to the next level. However, I think many people would agree that using some of the above techniques can elevate the genre beyond what you usually see.

Now to answer Totalbiscuit’s question: YES! Please do more LP content on your channel. Once you set up a workflow for a series it becomes fairly easy to produce high quality and entertaining content in a reasonable amount of time. You can use this efficiency to post daily or semidaily videos that can be very popular with your regular viewers and generate a new angle of entertainment on your channel. If you are worried about meeting your quality standards then you, more so than most, should have the resources to raise the bar in terms of added value. LP’s (and Youtube in general) can be a lot like retail: it’s all about how much added value the salesperson (Youtuber) can bring to the customer (viewer) over the competition. You have the potential to blow the competition out of the water IMO.

Oh and one more thing: You and Jessie totally stole the Terraria split screen thing from Ian and I.  ;p