6 Times the Replay Value of Performance Gaming

9 May 02017 (5 months ago)4 minutes of your time

In the Ninth Edition of my “Week of Lists” I tackle the high level topic: Offline versus Online Parenting, exploring the collision of ideas parents face when seeking to participate and bridge gaps between themselves and other parents… while avoiding ruining their kids lives by oversharing or mild exploitation. I’ve been dad-blogging for ten years in various forms, so I’ve thought about many of the pros and cons, like…

3 vs 3 Reasons Why Let’s Play Videos are Epic (or Awful)

I read somewhere recently that sports broadcasting is struggling. Fewer people are watching other people play sports these days.

On the other hand, I look at what occupies The Girl’s screen time for any given week, and were I to represent her viewing habits in the form of a cake, sliced into eight pieces, as much as three or four of those pieces would be her watching other people play video games.

Let’s Play is the online equivalent of perpetually waiting for your turn at the arcade, of sitting on your friends house when there’s three of you fighting over a two player game. And it’s huge.

I would say I don’t get it but then two points: (a) it’s the TSN of video gaming and (b) I watch it too, so figure that out. But are Let’s Play videos actually pretty epic… or just plain awful?

Epic #1: There is a Low Barrier to Participation

To start, anyone can do it.

Sure, the skills to put together a Let’s Play video or channel worth watching are still skills that need to be trained and honed and practiced.

But have you got a computer? Have you got an internet connection? Like playing a certain game and talking aloud as you do it?

You’re in.

Awful #1: There is Culture of Oppressing Outsiders

Well… almost in. You still need to get followers. You still need to find an audience. If you build it they might come… but they also might completely ignore you, or worse, decide that you are an outsider worthy of derision and hate. As a dad who is a male, I can’t genuinely speak to some of the hate I’ve witnessed against girls who attempt to push into this culture, but as a dad who has a daughter who has keenly wanted to participate, I am myself keenly aware that she is going to face some opposition if she were to try, and not opposition that either fair or free of raw sexism or entitlement.

Epic #2: All Those So-Called Anti-Social Gamers Are Now Performers

Back in the eighties and nineties, I recall growing up and being sternly informed that no one ever makes money playing video games. Of course, any parent who says that now would be laughed have, perhaps having never heard of the multi-million dollar incomes generated from the ad or subscription revenue of some of the most popular Let’s Play channels on YouTube or Twitch.

The era of the geek hidden away in his or her basement playing solo has been replaced with the era of the geek performing her video gaming prowess to a million people. And through this video gamers have become creators of culture and makers of entertainment, shaping and reshaping what we consider to be worthy of spending our entertainment time watching.

Awful #2: It Drives a Shallow Celebrity Mindset

On the other hand it seems as though every kid now dreams of being famous. Everyone is a YouTube star in waiting. Everyone is a Let’s Play god lurking in the shadows. Everyone could get discovered and be the next big thing.

Epic #3: It’s Driving Technology Growth That Has Overlapping Benefits

And the best of these people are going to be motivated to find an untapped niche market. Some of the best Let’s Play video channels I’ve watched have little to nothing to do with gaming. I remember the day I discovered that DeadMau5, the Canadian music producer and progressive house recording artist, will sometimes compose his newest work live on a Twitch stream.

If that sentence made no sense to you let me rephrase: a Canadian musician is writing music live on a self-broadcast video using the technology that most people are using to broadcast themselves playing video games.

Similarly, I’ve found channels of artists drawing or writing code. We’re toeing the line of educational programming here.

Awful #3: It’s Still Just Mostly Watching

Yet at the end of the day I can’t help notice that for every person embracing the technology and becoming a creator, there are dozens, hundreds, or hundreds of thousands of others just watching. Staring vacantly into a screen. And that part is kinda lame.

Maybe The Girl and I will just start a new channel: Let’s Bike. Let’s Hike. Let’s Playground.


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Brad is stuck in the nineties with you.

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