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

 

An Open Letter to X (davidr64): "For the Money? Not So Fast!"



Last night I opened my youtube subscriptions to see that one of my favorite youtube commentators has uploaded a video … then I see IT’S FREAKING DONKEY KONG COUNTRY! Could X really be commentating on one of my favorite (if not my favorite) video games of all time? It’s even numbered – could that mean he’ll even finish it?

NO WAY.

NO. F*CKING. WAY.

*Nerdstalgiagasm*

1 minute, 30 seconds into the video I suddenly realized the cake was a lie. Let me explain: 

First off I want to say that I LOVE watching you. Livestreams, youtube, it doesn’t matter – I’ve actually watched every one of your youtube videos all the way through (albeit over a long period of time).  I love your casual outlook on gaming, your quirky sense of humor, and the fact that you don’t always follow the path that is expected of you. Before you think that I mean any of this in a disparaging manner please reconsider. I have nothing but the utmost respect for what you have done and I think that this respect is further magnified because I am walking down a similar path.

Also, I’d like to say that EVERYONE who uploads any content to youtube (or anything similar) is doing so to SHARE that content. It doesn’t matter if it’s me uploading a Capsized episode or Seananners uploading another COD commentary, we are all doing it so that other people can watch it. Now, whether or not it is moral to have viewer and subscriber counts as your focus is up for debate but I wanted to establish this fact before I moved on.

In short, I totally agree with you David. I wholeheartedly believe that people uploading video game content should be doing so for the love of doing it. More importantly, I think that people should upload because they want to share an experience. Anyone who’s uploading youtube content with the SOLE intent to make money or to simply garner “internet fame” is doing it wrong. Fortunately these people are pretty transparent and are easy to spot. I also agree that this attitude has recently become more prevalent and ultimately has a negative impact on the youtube gaming community as a whole.

But each time you get on this rant you start saying that you’ve never had to market your content and people who do so these days are doing it for the wrong reasons. I’ve heard your rant twice now and both times I have left feeling frustrated because it makes me believe that you don’t understand how things have changed.

You started doing youtube at a time when the game commentary scene was relatively young. There weren’t many people doing it and thus not much competing content. You produced videos that were of good audio, video, and commentary quality making it relatively easy for your content to rise to the top without any additional marketing effort. Plus the early Machinima contract, your connection with Seananners, and the fact you were one of the first to produce videos on what would become the biggest Indie games of our time didn’t hurt right? ;p  Anyway, you produced quality content and everything else fell into place.

The same can’t be said today. Just look at the sheer number of different Minecraft commentators there are. I mean really look. (0.o) I know what you’re thinking, “But you need to do something original. Fill a void somewhere.” Yeah … good luck with that. I’m not saying that opportunities for original content don’t exist (as I think I’ve found a few niches for myself in the last few months) but think about all the other people trying to find the same thing. Sure someone can get lucky and make a few connections with huge names or get an early start on another Minecraft and really blow up. Realistically neither of those situations are very likely. The truth is that for someone to have any sort of “youtube success” (and thus do the whole sharing experiences thing I talked about before) in any reasonable amount of time they have to have the following things:

  • quality content (audio, video, editing, and commentary)
  • consistency (video uploads, quality, etc.)
  • original content (new or niche games, innovative ideas on the medium)
  • nonabrasive marketing (participatory forum posts, social media, collaborations)

Let me give you some real world examples of this in action:

therecidivistdork
http://www.youtube.com/user/therecidivistdork


I LOVE Recidivist Dork. She and I started about the same time and with the same game. Overall, her videos have the quality you would expect from someone much more “popular”. She may not have the original content but she sure does bring a lot to the table in terms of quality. Unfortunately she was forced to stop making videos due to personal reasons.
End result: 38 subscribers and 707 total upload views

verbalprocessing
http://www.youtube.com/user/verbalprocessing

Ian surprises the hell out of me on a daily basis. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a good friend of his since meeting through our youtube channels in April. Regardless, I’m sure that his many fans would agree that he produces some of the best videos on youtube. His videos have amazing quality (and editing), he consistently uploads, produces original content from new and interesting games (Terraria motion comics I’m looking at you!) and has marketed himself well through several different methods including a forum in which he is an active poster. He works hard on what he does – sometimes as much as 30-40 hours on a single one minute video. I know from conversations with him that he’s doing this for all the right reasons … he just wants his hard work to be appreciated. He realizes that in order for that to happen he needs a bit of help along the way.

End result: 4,115 subscribers and 497,487 total upload views

lordsevein
http://www.youtube.com/user/lordsevein

Of course this letter wouldn’t be complete without throwing my own name into the hat. Now I started the whole youtube thing partly because I had exhausted all of the content on your channel as well as Seananners and thought, “Eh, it can’t be hard amirite?” Yeah … about that. I had no idea how difficult and time consuming it is to produce a video on youtube let alone with any consistency. I also had to learn everything from scratch and it is sometimes painfully obvious when you take a look at my earlier videos. Fast forward three months and I think that I produce videos of comparable quality to many of the “big names” (not to blow my own horn or anything).

End result: 1,207 subscribers and 122,222 total upload views

In your video you specifically mention requests collaborations and dual commentaries as a source of frustration on your end. Personally, I believe that dual commentaries are some of the best ways for new commentators to showcase talent. Take, for example, my Terraria dual commentary with Ian from verbalprocessing: The Legend of Blackbeard’s Castle:

IMHO this whole series is amazing. I’m sorry. I know I’m not being too humble but really. I challenge you to find another series (other than the Totalbiscuit and Jesse Cox LP obviously) that meets the above criteria and is better quality. Each episode takes planning, hours of editing, and of course the requisite uploading – all told probably 10ish hours. Ian and I pull MAYBE 2k views per episode. Even this is a fair sight better than my average solo video views of ~500 or so.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. Really I’m not. But it all goes back to the fact that people like Ian and I are trying very hard to share experiences with the viewer. At the end of the day you should know exactly what it’s like to upload a video and wonder how it’s going to do. To wonder if people are going to watch it or even like it and thus share in the experience you are trying to create. You know the amount of work – the sheer number of hours it takes to create even one single video. So can you really blame the honest and genuine people for wanting to gain even a fraction of the same viewership as you enjoy yourself? Sure there are some (or these days more like many) people who seem to have the wrong motivations in mind when making videos. That’s going to happen any time money – even extremely unlikely money – is involved. 

Yes – telling people that they should be worried about the quality of their content is important. Yes – some people have come to youtube with the wrong motivations and are negatively impacting the youtube community. But is marketing your content wrong? NO! In today’s competitive youtube scene effective marketing is essential to getting people to see you in the first place.

Finally, I’d like to encourage you the same way that I tried to encourage Seananners before my comment was swallowed by the void that is, “MOAR MINECRAFT!” (please forgive the cliche quote – it was late):
“With great power comes great responsibility … You are a key member of this community and as such you hold quite a bit of power in your hands. Please don’t allow the negativity of the vocal minority keep you from posting videos. In a time when the youtube gaming community is balancing on the knife’s edge between becoming the conduit through with gaming becomes mainstream or devolving into a cesspool of self promoting bullshit your participation is absolutely paramount. Stand as an example to every aspiring youtuber so that he might use you as an example. Failure to do so only helps ensure that the morally corrupt win out in the end.
If you read any of this, I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from and that I still have the utmost respect for what you’ve done. I’m still going to tune in to every possible stream, watch every video, and even squeal like a girl if you play Donkey Kong Country again. (In before MOAR DKC!) I just wanted to address this in hopes that I could convince you to go a little easier on the new guys and continue to be a positive presence in the community. I hope you continue doing what you do and I wish you all the best.
Sandy
(lord sevein)