More and more I feel gamers are basing their opinions on video games solely on their consumption of Let’s Plays. I think there is a lot one can learn about a game from watching such videos. However, I feel that opinions based entirely on Let’s Plays suffer from a few critical deficiencies, and today I want to discuss those. I am not saying that opinions based on Let’s Plays are devoid of merit. I am only saying they suffer from a lack of information that cannot be gained from simply watching another person play a video game over the Internet. So please try to refrain from flaming me all the way to ninth circle of Hell.
The Absence of ‘Feel’
When forming opinions about a game I believe a crucial element is the kinetic aspect, the responsiveness of the controls, the feedback that one feels from playing a game first-hand. When watching someone play a game I believe it’s impossible to see the complete picture about a game’s controls. At the very least it’s impossible to experience them.
Take for example any game which allows the player to move the camera around with an analog stick. Some games have cameras which pan around too quickly, too slowly, which do or do not offer fine-grain control based on the sensitivity of the input, or which feel constrained because the camera may suddenly zoom in when rotated in such a way that the viewpoint collides with world geometry. In a Let’s Play you can see this happening, but I do not believe it’s possible to accurately form an opinion on whether the result is good or bad because the viewer has no way to determine if said constraint is genuinely bad when factored together with the rest of the controls; if everything else is tight and responsive then sudden zooming in or out during camera rotation may be a non-issue. Let’s Plays rob the viewer of a way to fairly judge that kinetic aspect of a game.
And the ‘tightness’ of the controls, or lack thereof, are likewise impossible to judge. These things can be paramount for some genres such a racing games, fighting games, action role-playing games, platformers, and so on.
The Bias of Non-Personal Experience
Opinions formed based on Let’s Plays are to some degree inevitably influenced by the play-style of the Let’s Player. Or to put it another way, those opinions are robbed of a foundation rooted in the experiences of the person watching the Let’s Play. In the worst-case scenario this leads to people parroting the opinions of the Let’s Player in the same way I consistently hear critics of Dark Souls 2 regurgitate opinions from Matthew Matosis’s critique of the game. (I vehemently disagree with a lot of what he says about DS2, but that’s another post for another day…. To his credit, Matosis does a great deal of research, and I do recommend all his videos for his insight.)
In short, I believe opinions about games based on only watching Let’s Plays are diluted in the sense that the personal opinions of the viewer can be heavily influence by any opinions expressed by the Let’s Player. People who actually play the game for themselves can have their opinions suffer from just as much bias in other ways (e.g. by friends). But nonetheless I feel that’s an issue with opinions formed strictly from Let’s Plays
Try to play games for yourself whenever you can and form opinions from your own experiences. Games are an interactive medium. Let’s Plays remove that interactivity, removing what is perhaps the aspect of gaming which most importantly separates from other media like film and television.