On "Let's Play"

Posted by Jack on 2013-06-23 at 15:57
Tagged: gaming

I'm stuck in an age where I prefer my information to be conveyed in text. That's just the way I feel. 90% of the instructional videos on the internet are twenty minutes too long and executed by kids that stumble over their words, get confused, and even waste time figuring out what I'm trying to learn. Minecraft videos are the perfect example. It's a perfect storm of complexity and the fact that the players are pre-pubescent. Most of the time a simple blueprint or a set of screenshots would do just fine and would let you examine what you're looking at without fiddling with a Youtube scrubber.

Recently, I started playing Crusader Kings II, which is a very engrossing but very complex game, and for the first time I found benefit in a Let's Play. I was scouring Reddit, Google, the CK2 wiki, and there was a lot of information and I learned quite a bit, but I still wasn't really grasping the game. Partially because it's got a huge amount of DLC that's vastly changed the game since it was released so there's a lot of conflicting or half right information out there. There are a few hundred buttons in the interface, a lot of game mechanics in play, and even though there's (now) a tutorial, it just wasn't clicking. There are so many different scenarios and little hidden pieces of information that it was hard to just read and put it together.

That's why watching a Let's Play on Youtube was so enlightening. I feel like I had all of this information packed into my brain over the last two days, but hardly any information about how to really put it to use. What parts of the game were important, and what parts can be ignored for awhile, etc. Actually watching someone that had a lot more experience than I do use the information I already had was awesome.

So here's my new position: Let's Plays are great when

  1. The person doing them already knows (mostly) what they're doing
  2. They don't waste your time covering extreme basics (unless that's what you're looking for)
  3. When you have a lot of information that needs to be tied together into action OR
  4. When you want to know the thought process behind decisions made

In other words, deep strategy games are perfect for Let's Plays because you can watch and listen as a more experienced player gets himself into situations you wouldn't know how to handle. If nothing else, it saves you a lot of trial and error (or save and load).

I can't even imagine how different my gaming life would be if I could've watched them when I was learning Civilization II for the first time. In fact, next time I want to fire up Civ V I'll probably watch some deity level players Let's Play before I even open Steam.

EDIT: Just as a shout out. I formed this opinion while watching a number of videos on Youtube, but quill18 was the one that made the new Norse raiding mechanic make sense to me. Thanks.