Let's Plays don't ruin Story-based games!

So as we all know by now, there is a growing question over Video Game content on the web and about what constitutes fair use (especially in the wake of some recent YouTube controversies). Anyway, this isn't about that. This is my retort to an argument I see brought up a lot in relation to this: that Let's Plays ruin the stories of story-centric games (some even going so far as to be the catalyst that means future AAA franchises cannot survive with single player narratives alone). I hear often how Let's Play series on mechanics-heavy games (like, say, Minecraft) don't ruin games because of the inherent interactivity and personalisation of play-style. But I rarely hear people mention how even the non-personalisation of a linear story won't be hindered if the story is so good it outclasses the Let's Play themselves.

I'm obviously going to be talking from my own perspective and not expecting others to think/act the same way I do; but as a player of games who believes the story is paramount to the point of being the driving force of me playing a game, I'm going to be speaking as if I am the typical person (at least in so much as to be the kind of gamer whose purchasing decisions will be based on what I do and do not know about a games narrative).

When I watch a Let's Play series, there are a couple possible actions I make:

  1. I stop watching the series because I find the game and commentator incredibly boring. (This is not related to the story whatsoever - this is to do with a bad Let's Play above anything else).
  2. I watch the series to the end because I enjoy the series and most importantly, I enjoy the personality of the person doing the Let's Play. (This means I haven't been enthralled by the story enough to want to experience it in the best way possible - it isn't interesting enough to be worth my money, but the Let's Player is interesting enough to make the series watch-able. In my eyes, the game's story is bad.)
  3. I get enthralled with the story and stop watching the Let's Play as I go and buy the game to play it for myself before returning to the Let's Play. (This means the story is good and I care about it...)

Option 2 is the most common, but that's because I go to a Let's Play originally for the personality of the person doing it. And also because most video game stories are bad.

It's option 3 that people think doesn't happen. The story is so good, I'm enthralled and want to find out what happens next. BUT, in this case the Let's Player is actually hindering the story. If I care about it, why would I want to watch it with someone talking over it? That's like going to a movie Theatre (for a film that you're invested in the story already) with people you know will talk throughout the entire film just because they are paying for your tickets. Even if they don't speak during it, purely by the set-up of the medium, watching a Let's Play means being at the whims of the series' editing. Is a really interesting arc in the game reaching its climax? Doesn't matter, this episode is ending now and you have to wait X-days to find out what happens next (or maybe they'll spend the entire next episode doing side quests, in which case you have to wait even longer).

If the story is enthralling, then I will want to experience it myself on my own terms without distraction.

Here, however, is where people bring up cut-scenes as "lazy story telling" and how the experience of the story is exactly the same for every play and thus, viewing the cut-scenes online is a perfect substitute... No. Just because the plot points might be told completely by cut-scene, doesn't mean that's the entire story. This is where the art of pacing comes in. I could watch a playlist of all the scenes: maybe there's a shot of the characters entering an area, and in the next we see a boss appear and die at the end of the area. I just saw the main plot points. But I didn't experience that area. The story of that environment was told in the art assets. And critically, it's told in the act of playing the gameplay itself. They are not mutually exclusive unless the game is specifically badly structured. In that example, the narrative of me personally achieving success over the boss is just as pertinent in the story as the scene of them dying. Without that, the scene is meaningless.

See, when I do go and look up a scene on YouTube it's because I no longer believe the story is worth the act of achieving those moments. Either the game has become too difficult, or tedious or the scenes themselves have lost there appeal (i.e. the game has degenerated in either: pacing, game-design or story).

Ultimately, I think it's a fallacy that some make that simply because cut-scenes use the same techniques of film, they are one-and-the-same. This is untrue. A film has to represent everything (story, setting, characters and pacing) within this one structure. A game does not. In a well-designed/written game, the gameplay moments will space out the plot moments in a way as to create a fluid narrative. In a Kingdom Hearts game for example (a game which relies heavily on representing all plot points via cut-scene), it's only relative to personally being able to move about - play, fight and explore within - the different worlds that I care about the characters within them. Without that, the scenes in these worlds will feel like filler - like moments specifically put in to hold the overall arc back. Yet, were I to watch a Let's Play, despite the story cut-scenes being my driving reason for caring at all about the game, it would be incredibly jarring to see another player be within this world - taking control of Sora and acting in a way that seems totally opposite to what the character should be doing in my eyes (like ignoring treasure boxes, or maybe being overly-invested in finding every single one).

So overall, I just wanted to say that if watching a Let's Play is enough to not want the viewer to experience it themselves - this is due to the game not being being enough to deserve it. Even if the game's only driving force is a linear cut-scene-heavy story, if the story is of the high enough standard, even a Let's Play won't ruin it (especially since it just has to be good enough that watching it will make you care about it more than the people talking over it). And all of this isn't even taking in context games where the story branches or changes depending on playthrough. I think it's less about us expecting a Let's Play to not reveal all the spoilers for game, but about improving game stories to the point that finding out those spoilers ourselves is more rewarding than seeing someone else show us them all.

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Ryan's passing hit me hard: I'll hit my future harder.

Right now is a weird time for me. I'm currently at sixth form studying my A levels (for those outside the UK, that's usually ages 16-18) and due to many health issues, that I'm not going into, I wasn't able to complete my GCSE's at the same time as everyone else as so am having to do my A levels over 3 years. I'm at the end of my 2nd year now (my last day of this school year is Friday) which means most of the people the same age as me are leaving (technically they finished weeks ago). So I'm in an awkward transition. I've watched my friends go through University applications and life decisions while at the same time being in classes with those a year younger who hadn't yet become used to the idea of being outside of forced education and moving onto their own specialised interests. I've been stuck in the middle watching my closest friends grow more distant and start facing up to real life while watching others go through realising they can't just coax through any more.

I just said goodbye to some of my closest friends and am having to face up to watching another group of people go through the same wake-up-call. Let's just say, I wasn't in the emotional state to really deal with the shock of Ryan's death announced earlier this week.

But that's just it: I can't stop it affecting me, so I'm going to make sure it's positive. From this moment on, I'm going to focus on the things that I'm interested in and want to possibly pursue. Currently they lie in four fields: Politics, Scientific Experimentation, Music and Art and Video Game Design. I want to figure out where I fit in them, and hopefully I find something that I fit so perfectly in as Ryan did to journalism.

He's been a big role model to me, along with the rest of the Giantbomb crew. No one ever fully understands their life and where they stand. But of everyone, these guys seem the closest to have done that. So damn close. They might not be able to see it, but having such a balanced view on serious topics as well as truly dumb shit is a rare trait to have.

Rest in peace Ryan.

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What do you think of my logo? Edit--- Header.

I am using it for the header of my Tumblr: dixavd.tumblr.com

I am using it along with the background I made to go along with it for both my Tumblr and my Giantbomb profile page. I made it completely in photoshop (I didn't use a template either, drew o

ut the diamond and rhombus shapes, then drew in lines to break up the inside into colours before arranging them and using the Curves tool to affect the different colours of the parts). What do you think of it? (If you want to tell me what you think of my current Tumblr page, I only just started it - hoping to grow it into my thoughts on possibly going into politics).

The aim of them was to look bright and hopeful as well as to seem to have some depth in it with a consistent pattern but without using just one colour so as not to affiliate myself with any specific idea of a political party/movement. I took some asthetic influence from the look of Final Fantasy 13 images and Assassin's Creed's Animus.

It was also suppossed to show off my photoshop and design skills without seeming unproffessional (it is my first time going really in depth with Photoshop, I usually draw something and scan it in to then slightly edit in photoshop or use After Effects to create an image, so I am still learning tricks for it).

----Edit---

I should also probably point out I guess I meant a Header rather than a Logo - my bad.

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After some great feedback I have gone back and changed how I did the font; what about this?:

The tex is much shaper and I changed the font, and took out the idea of making the centre the same as the background white so you can see the pattern behind it.

---Edit---

After some more input I decided to re-set the way the font edges were (going individually for each letter). Version 3 is this:

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I won something.

I hardly win things. The last thing I remember winning was when I was probably around age 10 I entered my schools raffle and won that, but I wasn't there to recieve it and it was given to someone else. It doesn't really bother me when I don't win since I am so used to it and I never expect to win. So much so that I only enter competitions that I would enjoy doing whatever the entry requirement is (like having to create something).

Well IGN just did a competition over Easter using the 3DS Nintendo LetterBox (Swapnote in the US) app. You had to send in videogame-related images set around Easter. I entered just because I like drawing odd things on my 3DS and liked the idea of doing it for something. Now that it is nearly a week later I got a reply - I was one of the 6 winners!.

You can see all of them here (mine was the Kirby one). Now there were very few entries (it wasn't really promoted on the site) but I am still stoked I won. Although, now begins over half a decade wait to win something again...

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I won a 3DS e-shop voucher

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