Seven Steps to a Terrible Let's Play - Article

By Jesse Harness, April 1, 2014
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If you don’t know what a Let’s Play video is, you’re well on your way towards making a terrible one, but I’ll tell you anyway. A Let’s Play video is a video in which a person plays a video game… and that’s it! Usually there’s some accompanying critique or commentary, but you know the basics now. But how can you use this information in your ongoing quest to become the worst human being imaginable? We’re so glad you asked.

You need a YouTube account, a rudimentary video capture device, and a passing interest in video games. The next step is an obvious one: you’re going to make a Let’s Play (LP) video. And good lord, is it going to suck. You don’t so much want a seventh video for that YouTube account you’ve had since junior high — you want a great big steaming pile of waste to accompany your two video diaries and those possibly-alcohol-driven political rants. We have here seven rules that you need to know if you’re going to make the worst LP you possibly can.

 

            #1. Remember: Editing is for Jerks and Losers

You’re playing South Park: Stick of Truth. You have your pockets or backpack or whatever it is kids in Colorado use stuffed to the brim with 35 pieces of equipment. You know what your audience really wants to see? Fifteen minutes of your flipping between various pieces of equipment to optimize your character. No, really. That giant vibrator hits twice for 55-85 damage, and that broken broomstick hits once for 120-155… go ahead and agonize over that one. Break out the calculator, in fact! Let us know what twisted version of “mathematics” you’re using to justify your decision to swing a giant surrogate schlong around, and fifteen minutes later, we’ll be sad to see your progressing through the story. Now, you’ve decided to eschew the fast-travel service, right? Of course you have — making encounter-free treks from one side of South Park to another is what the game is all about! Keep working on these skills, and you just might manage to hit the 10-hour upload limit without actually getting anything done. We’re rooting for you.

 

            #2. Overreact and Pander

Whoa whoa whoa, there, calm down! I know what you’re thinking! “But the most popular YouTuber does this all the time! I thought you were going to teach me how to be terrible! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” First of all, save those dated Firefly quotes for the LP, Sparky. Secondly, I told you I’d teach you how to be terrible, not unpopular (If you thought “Bazinga!” after reading that last line, you’re going to go far in making terrible videos; I can just feel it). Now that I can assume you’re securely on board with me here, let me explain. If you’re looking to truly pander and overreact like a pro, we strongly suggest you do an LP of a survival-horror game. Amnesia: The Dark Descent? Perfect. We don’t want to see your genuine reaction to the monstrosities lurking the halls. We don’t want to hear you actually panic when you have to hide. We want to hear you scream your bloody head off at every single flickering pixel. We’re not here to see a personality interact with a game — oh no. We’re here to watch the circus that is you perform in front of the backdrop of a video game.

 

            #3. Never Stop Talking  

         

Sure, you’re going to tell us about what you’re doing and what you think of the game as you’re playing. You might even explain some of your decisions in order to help your audience understand what is going on in your head so that we can feel more a part of the process than a total outsider. But hell, even a good LP player does that stuff. You, however, know that nothing can pass without comment. There must never be a lull of sound from your mic. If I hear even a bit of dialogue from the game, I will be immensely disappointed in you. “But that sounds awfully hard! How am I supposed to constantly find new things to say about a game?” Well, I’ve already considered this, and I’ve got good news for you.

 

            #4. Tell Us about that Weird Thing on Your Foot       

     

Of course I'm speaking metonymically here — you probably don’t actually have a thing on your foot (or if you do, please stay away from me; feet freak me out. Why am I writing about them?!). The point is that you shouldn’t be talking about the game you’re playing; nobody likes a Relevance Randy. This isn’t so much a separate rule that needs its own definition, but rather a natural result of rules #2 and #3. Remember that we’re here to watch you flail about and assault us with a barrage of words, so naturally you’re going to get off the topic of the game you’re playing. How’s your sister? No really, let us know. Pretend we’re watching your video walkthrough of Earthbound because we care about her recent foot surgery (seriously, what’s with the feet today?).

 

            #5. Play Other Music over the Game Sound  

          

This one’s pretty simple. Trust your instincts here. You know that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is missing something, and you know what it is: Metallica. You’re a visionary. You’ve got moxy. We like you. However, you do need to remember to obnoxiously let your audience know that you did not, in fact, secure the rights to “Enter Sandman,” otherwise what’s-his-face-who-sued-Napster will have your genitals in a vice faster than you can say “fair use.” What’s that you say? You don’t know how to do that? Well, I’ve got a two-birds-with-one-stone situation for you here.

 

            #6. Comment Box ALL THE THINGS         

   

Listen, we all know that video games are best viewed through a scrim of semi-translucent, multicolored rectangles, but how do we get those? That’s easy: Comment boxes. A judicious LP player will use these boxes to occasionally make a note of something they missed when they initially made the video, or to correct an error in speech. But you know better. Are we coming back to this area later? Let us know with a comment box. Did something funny happen on screen? Point it out with a comment box and a “Lolz” or “ROFLMAO.” Are you looking for a locked door that you accidentally passed by? Point it out in retrospect with a comment box. Did you sneeze? Comment box. Feel like you haven’t been involved in the last four seconds? Comment box. The ultimate use of the comment box, however, can be seen below. ***IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT IS, THEN*** go take a long walk on a short pier. It’s spoilers.

 

#7. Spoiler Alert, Schmoiler Alert

A reasonable person might say that someone watching an LP obviously can’t be concerned with spoilers, which is true, if you choose not to think about it at all. People often watch LPs for the story that they, for whatever reason, cannot experience themselves. So it’s basically like watching a movie, and this means it’s not cool to say “Alright, this guy is going to kidnap our kids about halfway through the game, and although there’s nothing you can do to save the boy, we’re going to save the girl this playthrough and get some petty revenge on the kidnapper.” And since that’s a really terrible thing to do, you should make every effort to spoil the story as you go. The more frequent and more immediately the event comes to pass, the better. Don’t just tell us how the game ends, tell us what is going to happen in two minutes, and continue to do so every two minutes for the duration of your video. It’s like we’re living in a really shitty time machine!

 

Anyway, now that I’ve got enough sarcasm out of my system to bring me down to safe levels for another few weeks, I hope you’ve gotten the point. If you’re going to make an LP, don’t forget about what they’re all about. If you’re ever in doubt of what to do, just remember to ask yourself why someone might want to watch an LP of whatever game you’re playing, and go from there. Or do the opposite and join me in the ranks of Truly Terrible Persons - you’re cute, so I wouldn’t mind having you aboard.

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