I was one of the lucky few to win a Teen Tech Week grant this year! I am excited, but I have to say, my teens are even more excited than I am. Why? Because we’re starting a Let’s Play club!
‘Let’s Play’ is a web video genre in which people record themselves playing video games, and then post their creations online for others to view. Our teens will be involved in, and in many cases, in charge of, every aspect of the process – channel branding, game selection, set-up, digital and audio editing, uploading, creating metadata and captions, and social media marketing.
There are a lot of people creating Let’s Plays, and a lot of variety within the genre. Some use face-cams, others are just voice-over narration and commentary. Some play retro games, while others showcase games long before they’re released. Some play anything a fan will send in, while others ‘speed-run’ by taking advantage of glitches and expertise to finish a game as quickly as possible. Many Let’s Players also livestream for hours on Twitch.tv to live audiences of followers and paid subscribers, posting these to Youtube in addition to their normal content.
Below are some Let’s Players to check out if you’d like to learn more about this ever-growing genre of online video!
Felicia Day’s Co-Optitude was my introduction to Let’s Plays. Hosted on Geek & Sundry, Felicia plays mostly retro and indie games with her brother Ryon, generally very badly and to much hilarity. The production value is high – the set is remarkable and there is a lot of editing involved, including clever use of video game sounds to bleep any mature language.
Zach Drapala is GhostRobo, a Let’s Player who often gets early access to a variety of highly sought after games. His full walk-throughs are full of gratitude for his viewers, and he often gives away copies of the games he’s playing to lucky subscribers. His second channel, GhostRoboJr, focuses on games specifically for kids.
Holly Conrad is a professional cosplayer and special effects artist, appearing on the short-lived Syfy documentary series ‘Heroes of Cosplay’. As Commander Holly, her infectious sweetness seeps through as she plays a variety of games with friends. She also plays a lot of World of Warcraft, and posts the occasional real-life video featuring her cosplay and other creations.
The hankgames Youtube channel is the Let’s Play home of bestselling teen fiction author John Green. Once upon a time, his brother Hank created this channel and played a variety of games, with John occassionally joining him. In 2011, John began playing the yearly FIFA (a soccer league) game, and since that time, the channel has mostly featured this (Hank has an occasionally-updated channel now called GamesWithHank) Ever the storyteller, John has back stories for most of the players and continues to update viewers on their news, from the arrival of babies to marriages and more. He also answers a variety of questions, often passed on from donors to the annual Project for Awesome. Although originally he played as the Swindon Town ‘Swoodilypoopers,’ in 2014 he was ‘fired’ as their ‘manager’ and instead began playing as the AFC Wimbledon ‘Wimbly-Womblys’ (neither of these names are accurate). It’s a long and hilarious story (you can read more here), but John’s love of the actual AFC Wimbledon team in England has inspired him to give the proceeds of this Let’s Play channel to the team, most of which supports the youth team. There is now a Nerdfighteria billboard in the AFC Wimbledon stadium, and the Nerdfighteria logo is on the official team uniform.
Minecraft Let’s Players
As the audience for Minecraft tends to be younger, the majority of Let’s Players who play Minecraft tend to keep their channels clean of any mature language. These folks often have some of the largest audiences, with subscribers in the many millions.
Welcome to the Sky Army! Adam Dahlberg, otherwise known as Sky, specializes in Minecraft roleplay, creating and playing in specially created Minecraft environments (also known as ‘mods’) that look like superheroes, other video games, etc.
Dan Middleton is a British Let’s Player who also focuses on mods and other mini-games and challenges. In 2015 he received a Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award.
Joseph Garrett is a Let’s Player from the UK who uploads “a bunch of different games, including a new Minecraft video, every single day.” Known mostly as Stampy, he often works with Let’s Player iBallisticSquid and recently published his first book, Stampy’s Lovely Book.
David Spencer, also from the UK, posts Minecraft Let’s Plays from both the XBox and PC versions. He often attempts to complete challenges created by his best friend, Stampy. Together they have a joint channel, Magical Animal Club, where they post a variety of content including a series of videos on tough topics such as bullying, confidence, and online safety.
Jordan Maron, otherwise known as Captain Sparklez, plays a variety of games but mostly focuses on Minecraft and is well-known for his animated Minecraft videos that parody popular music. Minecraft Style was featured in a variety of tech publications. He also maintains a second channel where he posts his Minecraft livestreams.
You can’t really talk about Let’s Players without mentioning the big names: Rooster Teeth’s Achievement Hunter (their show Rage Quit is the epitome of what it’s like to be frustrated with games, and a personal favorite), Markiplier, PewDiePie, Dodger, Best Friends Play, and Game Grumps, to name just a few. Your teens are watching at least some of these gamers (and will probably debate the merits of their favorites), but I must stress that these are not channels you can watch as a group in a library setting. They are important names to know, but remember: the average age of a gamer is 35. These are adults creating things for themselves and mostly for other adults. If swearing in all cases and a lot of mature language and situations in most are not things you are comfortable with, stick with the channels I’ve highlighted above.
Sarah Amazing is the teen librarian at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library. She blogs at zen-teen.com and falls asleep almost every night to the sounds of Danny and Arin’s colorful commentary on Game Grumps.