You Play, I Watch: Video Game Playthroughs

July 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

I first started writing this post two years ago when I was actually going through this phase. Back then, video game playthroughs (also called Let’s Plays) were niche. Nowadays, Pewdiepie is practically a household name, Twitch sold for $1 billion and the phenomenon even got its own South Park episode. What a time to be alive.

Why would you spend your time watching someone else play a video game? is the resounding question from the confused masses. Back in 2013, I told a friend about my newfound pastime and he unflinchingly called me a loser. LOL.

My main reasons were usually a combination of:
1. no money
2. no time
3. no skills/too lazy

But the bottom line is, once you find a YouTube personality that you like, it’s simply entertaining to watch his or her playthroughs. (I don’t watch the ones without narration.) Since I already watched other vloggers on YouTube, it was a natural leap to combine that kind of casual, friendly familiarity with a love of video games. For me, it only works for certain games that have a story worth watching, but with the right narrator, the experience can be just as fun or engrossing as a good movie. And all for free!

Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness

Two years ago, Pokémon XD was inadvertently the first playthrough I watched. I already subscribed to TheJWittz‘s channel and the series caught my interest because I had started but never finished the game myself. This can wholly be blamed on Yawen’s brother, who back in the day somehow managed to delete everything on our Gamecube memory card, thus wiping all my progress. I was too distraught (and lazy) to play through it again.

It was interesting to see the game played from someone else’s perspective and compare JWittz’s battle style with mine. More important, it opened my eyes to the world of playthroughs — no longer did I have to be deprived of experiencing games old or new just because I didn’t own the right console or couldn’t finish a game.

Unfortunately, JWittz got sidetracked by the Pokémon World Championships and Pokémon Rumble U (which I found dull), so he stopped uploading XD videos.

Journey

Weeks later on a particularly boring weeknight, I found myself lying around the apartment and looking up lists of the best recent indie games so I could check them out. I decided on Journey, a beautiful game that I never would’ve been able to play myself because I don’t own a PS3. It’s a short game, and the whole thing lasted about the length of a movie.

I liked GhostRobo’s upbeat narration. He seemed just as amazed with the gorgeous landscapes as I was; it was like we were journeying together!

Don’t Starve

The next indie title I settled on was Don’t Starve. I can’t even count how many of these videos I watched. (I suppose that’s what happens when you have a game that resets back to the beginning every time you die.) I could’ve played it myself on Steam, but didn’t have the patience and preferred to watch someone else try to survive inevitable death.

Plus, I didn’t want to risk becoming addicted to it! I already had a close brush with mobile games like The Sims FreePlay and Hello Kitty World (yes seriously LOL) and didn’t want to go back down that path.

ZackScottGamesplaythrough was absorbing for, like, the first 30 videos. But the dude was just not very good at the game and I got tired of watching him die and start over again and again. So I switched over to LordUg, who is a veritable expert on the game, from making delicious recipes to surviving 500+ days.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

After that, I was hungry for something with a rich story. Developed in partnership with Studio Ghibli, Ni no Kuni was a feast for the eyes and heart.

I started with StampyLongHead, who’s popular for his Minecraft videos. It tickled me that he sounded (to my ears) exactly like John Oliver, who was just blowing up that summer. (I was also immensely amused later that year when one of my professors told me that his Minecraft-obsessed son was a huge Stampy fan. Always glad to have something in common with a 9-year-old.)

But halfway through the game, I began to tire of Stampy’s lack of editing: If he ran five minutes in the wrong direction, we’d have to sit through five more minutes of him running back the other way instead of just cutting to the right place. Ain’t nobody got time for your mistakes! Do better!

So I jumped ship to Rackdar’s channel, whom I found to be much more efficient. His videos were also decidedly much less kid-friendly due to his cursing, but I enjoyed the change of pace and became a loyal fan despite the fact that Rackdar is far less well known than anyone else on this list.

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

File this one under No Skills…I’ve always been enamored with the art style of Wind Waker and a general fan of Legend of Zelda, but I’ve never actually finished any of the games LOL. I think I’m just not very good at dungeon games.

Wind Waker is the only LoZ game I’ve owned; I bought it used for $10 at Gamestop in high school and playing through ⅓ of it before it got too hard and I gave up for a while, which turned into forever. But I still wanted to experience the story! Luckily for me, Nintendo released an HD version for Wii U and Rackdar uploaded it.

In this case, I found it way more pleasant to watch someone else play the game than to have to do it myself!

Pokémon X & Y

I remember fans being extra excited about this release because of all its new features and updated graphics. Alas, even though I’ve longed for a Nintendo DS since high school, I still did not possess one more than five years later. But I was content to watch TheJWittz’s playthrough of Pokémon Y.

For reasons I don’t remember now, at some point I switched over to Dookieshed. What I enjoyed about both of their playthroughs was that they had WAY more Pokémon knowledge than me (I basically stopped keeping up after Gen 2).

Later when I finally got my hands on my own 3DS and a copy of Pokémon Omega Ruby, I had to keep looking up strengths, weaknesses and items because I didn’t know how any of the new stuff worked. Oops.

Sadly, I never managed to finish the game because of the Nintendo vs. Youtubers kerfuffle. Dookieshed stopped posting Pokémon X videos, and I forgot to go back to TheJWittz to watch the rest.

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

The last series I kept up with was the absurdly cute Captain Toad game. I wouldn’t normally opt to watch someone else play a platformer, but I wanted to see what the game was like, just not badly enough to play it myself. And it was just as adorable as promised.

My interest in playthroughs has waned in the past year because two of my motivations are now null. I now have a Wii U and 3DS to play the games I want, and I have even less time to keep up with playthroughs with a full-time job and boyfriend. But it was fun while it lasted!

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