I’m not particularly good at video games. It’s something I’ve learned to accept after a few shots to the ego, namely my last-place record on Mario Kart and my win-loss ratio on Mortal Kombat XI. (One of my earliest gaming memories was going head-to-head with a cousin on Counter Strike and being bewildered most of the time.)
You’d think that with my incompetence I would’ve given up on the medium altogether. In a sense, that was true — I eventually resigned myself to a life where the only games I could win were the odd cellphone game. Despite this, I still find myself spending a free day lying on a couch, opening YouTube to watch a random Let’s Play video.
I’m obsessed with Let’s Plays. Granted, I learned about the concept through — apologies in advance — PewDiePie during the early days of his popularity. When I watch a Let’s Play video, I don’t watch it so much for the game itself. I watch it for the commentary, and the player’s method of playing. If not for either of those reasons, I either look for a speedrunner (players who’ve mastered the nuances of a game that they’re able to beat it in a fraction of the total play time), or a playthrough without commentary.
In hindsight, my love for Let’s Plays might have started a little earlier. Somewhere between the late ‘90s to early ‘00s, our family bought a PlayStation One. Gaming days became part of our gatherings as much as lively family dinners, and visiting the latest theme parks.
Those days were almost ceremonial in a way. We’d fix the living room with enough cushions, food, and drinks to sustain us through hours of gameplay before calling everyone in to gather. Afterwards, we’d turn on the PlayStation, and I would find myself entranced as I watched the screen hum to life.
Prior to the arrival of the PS1, movie nights used to be our family’s biggest thing. And that event was a riot on its own; I loved it more than a trip to the cinema. Knowing the people I was watching with lent a sense of comfort during the tougher scenes. And really, half the fun was watching their reactions. There is something comforting about screaming with your titas during a chase scene or death-defying feat; to know you aren’t alone in that feeling. And because I could talk to my titas about the movies, the emotional comfort felt all the more amplified.
Video games hit a whole different level. Unlike in movies, in video games you can, to some extent, control the fate of the hero. After all, you are the hero, and whatever you did directly affected the outcome. If we cheered for a protagonist during harrowing movie scenes, with video games we cheered on each other to make sure we won. In fighting games, you’d cheer for whoever was facing the CPU. In action games, you’d pray that you never encountered a death screen. You could say video games brought us closer, whether you were the player or not. And because video games were a family affair, it felt like we got through it together.
Watching a Let’s Play is sort of akin to these experiences with my family and seeing their reactions. While the chances of being actual friends with a Let’s Player might be slim, you somehow felt bonded because of your mutual reactions to a medium. That bond and shared humor, to me, is what makes it so enjoyable. Some of my favorite Let’s Plays are from John Wolfe (the tired uncle who’s no longer fazed by horror games), CallMeKevin (who plays games the wrong way on purpose, often with horrifically hilarious results), and CoryxKenshin (who has a distinct editing style that heightens humorous moments).
My family doesn’t really have these video game get-togethers anymore, what with some of my titas out of the country and everyone having their own lives to attend to. But I still do discuss games with my younger cousins when we have the chance, and I still have Let’s Plays to keep me company. Sure, it’s different from huddling together to figure out a puzzle, but there’s still that familiar feeling of going through a game together, rocking on my seat as the next jumpscare draws near.
Header image taken from Call Me Kevin
Pam Musni used to write on the backs of old books as a child. She now writes both professionally and freelance, with works featured on Young STAR, Purveyr, Breakfast Magazine, and other outlets. You can find her articles at pammusni.tumblr.com.
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