The Doc Speaks: Let’s Play the Let’s Play Game

A couple months ago, that silly South Park finale with popular youtube personality, “Pewdiepie” got me thinking about some things.  And no, this isn’t some elaborate shitposting thread dedicated to “how Youtube users like Pewdiepie are polluting the site” or whatever.  To be honest, I don’t really care about Pewdiepie or others like him.  Now, I’m sure Felix and whatever other popular examples out there are fine people and I hold no grudges against them.    But, today I’m here to ponder about what makes these videos so enjoyable.  More jumbled thoughts and random rambling after the jump!

For the outsider, there’s a lot for one to scratch their head about.  You see this dude with a heavy accent butchering English words and squawking like a bird at the camera.  For many, it’s a pretty surreal sight to behold.  One could argue, Generation Y’s first forays into the information age wielded all sorts of idiotic internet memes and phenomena.  Whether it’s a man poorly lip syncing and dancing to a song by Moldovan pop group “O-Zone” to the poorly translated “Engrish” opening to the early 1990s video game “Zero Wing”, there’s been plenty of absurd and somewhat stupid things floating around.  And to be fair, countless viewers who bash these current youtube stars probably indulged in these weird yet harmless internet fads.  Now, is that to say that these modern stars are just getting 15 minutes of fame?  Is this mix of gaming walk-through, commentary podcast, and whatnot just a passing craze?  There’s certainly no way to be completely sure.  Now, specific channels and people will likely be just the memes of today, only to be another page in the history of online culture.  But, as for this new medium in the digital age, I wouldn’t be too sure.  So, if the concept itself is loosely considered a meme, what’s the point?

To start off, there is indeed the meme aspect discussed above.  All the Pewdiepies of the world get their brief fame by clowning around and having a good time as well.  To pick on Felix some more, a lot of his videos are driven by absurdest humor, loud and frantic outbursts, vulgar jokes, among other things.  Sure, this wouldn’t appeal to most people my age.  But, think of younger viewers and the kind of garbage we viewed when we were there age!  Whether it was stuffing our eyes with images of portly kids pretending to be in Star Wars among other bits of viral nonsense.  In a sense, it’s no different and it’s usually harmless.  Many of us get worked up over all of these people making “talentless” and “bland” videos, when it’s just the cycle repeating.  It’s good mindless fun without much required to enjoy it.  It’s the randomness, flashes of light, and wackiness that we all loved.  But now, it comes in a different form.  It comes in the form of people falling off swivel chairs whenever The Amnesia Grunt, Freddy Fazbear, or any other assorted jump scare horror tackles the character on the main screen.

Now, beyond chuckling at people screaming about barrels, one of the positive aspects of “LPers” who dabble into the horror genre is it shows the audience that it’s not horrible to be afraid of something.  In fact, it can be kind of fun!  For example, after a run through of Silent Hills Playable Trailer, it was a blast to see other people on the web having similar experiences to my own.  Just like the joys of seeing a great horror film with friends, you share in that really terrifying moment that had you on the edge of your seat.  Having that experience within a network and throughout the rest of the world creates more potential for open discussions on these types of things.  After all, isn’t this age of rampant data and quick information all about bringing everyone together in new and innovative ways?

As I’ve mentioned above, I’m not a huge fan of most of these youtubers.  I’ll admit I have a few exceptions.  For example, I find the GameGrumps to be occasionally amusing.  Granted, the format on their show differs from a lot of the stereotypical youtube stars.  To me, The Grumps have more of a podcast feel and I’ve subscribed and listened to countless geek culture podcasts over the years; whether to hear someone’s input/reviews, check out updates in various communities, and just listen to a good story within a fandom or what have you. And just like countless podcasts, it can be said that these youtubers like Pewdie, the Grumps, Markiplier, and countless others are great inspirations to others.  This can be as a means of cheering someone up after an awful day or being the creative push one needs to pursue their dreams.  In fact, countless video creators have reached out to their community, in support of those who have become inspired to do great things.

On the subject above, this opens new ways for us as a massive and diverse fandom to come together on what we love.  These videos allow us to share the games we’re passionate about, while allowing us to vent about games that aren’t exactly in our tops lists.  It allows us to rave about the best known games, while highlight a couple gems we might have ignored over the years.  In a sense, these things aren’t exactly new sensations, but just a newer means of celebrating the media we love.  As even the LP Community begins to branch out into new ideas and new concepts, it still remains a playground for people to create and express.  It allows to be a venue for people to escape and enjoy themselves.  So, I don’t come here to condemn the concept of the Let’s Play, but to celebrate it!

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