Thoughts on the Creation of Let’s Plays


I’ve talked about the concept on this blog plenty of times, but it wasn’t until creating my own Let’s Play of Star Trek: The Next Generation – Echoes from the Past that I really understood some aspects of the process, even some things I thought I understood beforehand.

It was, over all, a fun experience, one I definitely hope to go through again—but it wasn’t without its “learning curve”.  Some things were common sense, but one doesn’t always fully appreciate the value of certain realizations until living through them.

For example, dead air is a mighty foe indeed.  Unless you’ve played a game backward and forward and thus know it well enough to play it blindfolded, you’ll be devoting a good portion of your attention to playing the game—which makes trying to talk about the game somewhat difficult.  This can lead to floundering around in-game while you talk to the viewer, or dead air while you try and not die in the game.  Either way, it’s a near-constant battle—but a surprisingly enjoyable one.

Then you have Murphy’s Law.  Now, most people know it and its numerous corollaries.  Anything that can go wrong, will—especially at the most inopportune times.  One really has to expect this.  I’d thought that I expected this going into it, but I still wasn’t quite prepared.  If it wasn’t software refusing to work properly after an upgrade, it was trying to figure out how to get the software to do what I wanted it to do, or trying to fix a problem I wasn’t aware of until it was too late to fix it “properly”.  That actually leads into the next point—don’t post videos immediately after creating them.

Now, there are plenty of wonderful Let’s Players who can make a video and edit it in a snap, and have it posted to YouTube or wherever else in no time, confident in their ability to get all their videos posted.  That takes experience.  I knew I didn’t have experience, so I resolved to not post any videos (or even mention it here on the blog) until I was done—and it’s a good thing I’d done it that way.

Software issues meant I couldn’t make videos for a few weeks straight, so if I’d been posting videos after making each one, there’d have been a gap of weeks in an otherwise timely schedule.  Thankfully, then, this is one of the few issues I’d accounted for, so it didn’t impact the entire thing too badly.  Small favors, indeed.

Speaking of the actual process of video-creation, I realized that test videos were even more important than I’d expected.  Especially true for a newer Let’s Player, you can set up settings on software all you like, but you can never really know how the video is going to turn out until all is said and done and you have a finished product.  It’s easy to fall into thinking that it’s all fine, but until you have a video ready to be published, you can’t really know if the video looks alright, if the sound is fine, or anything else.  Though that leads into the next point—knowing when to stop editing.

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to fix a video.  You do, after all, want your final product to be stellar, you want it to be the finest production ever in the history of anything.  The problem with that is it’s an unrealistic expectation, especially if you’re a new Let’s Player.

Your first attempt will hopefully be passable, but you have to expect it to not be fantastically wonderful.  That comes through experience, which comes with accepting that your first attempt won’t be exactly superb and refining your efforts over time, applying things you learn to each production.  You have to do what you can, of course, since you don’t want barely-recognizable trash to be what you put out there for the world to see—but you have to accept that you won’t exactly be putting out Webby-level material at first.

All in all, I came away from the ordeal with a new, deeper appreciation for it.  I may never be as accomplished as, say, Proton Jon or AuZZie Gamer, to name just two of the scads of wonderfully and marvelously adept Let’s Players, but if nothing else—if absolutely nothing else—results from my dabbling in the sub-section of the gaming hobby, I gain an ever-deepening understanding and, thus, respect for the sub-section and those in it.  I now understand a bit better why so many people do it: It’s exciting.

It really is exciting, you see, to not only talk about games, but show them off, too.  As I’ve said before, Let’s Plays aren’t walkthroughs or guides or even game play videos—they’re gamers playing a game and sharing the experience of playing.  The Let’s Play ideal is closer to “hey, this is fun and I want to share that fun with you” than anything else—and in that sharing of fun, it helps bring gamers together.  On top of that, it can expose gamers to games they might not otherwise experience.  Because a Let’s Player they enjoy does a series on a game, gamers might check it out—and a game that seemed unappealing from the box blurbs and commercials can be made more interesting b watching a Let’s Player play through a game and listening to them talk about it.

Bringing gamers together through discussion and sharing of experiences, and getting gamers to play games they might not have otherwise touched—two lofty, laudable goals, and two goals that the entire concept of a Let’s Play strives to reach just by existing.  Not bad for a semi-new aspect to the hobby, eh?

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