For life-long gamers, there were times in our youth when we were hopeless but to enlist the help of others, whether we ever wanted to get past the Hammer Bros. in World 1-3 or simply wanted to see Mega Man leap around a utopian landscape without having to press the buttons that made him go. In time, most of us probably grew away from this notion, but the inherent appeal never diminished. That is: it can be quite fun, too, to watch someone else play.
Fortunately, we’ll never need another reminder, thanks to Let’s Plays, a fan-made phenomenon from out of the boards at SomethingAwful.com — and a welcome contribution to gaming culture.
[[image:nn_080912_leovinus_01.gif:Also,”Kiros! Hi! What the hell are you wearing?”:right:0]]The anatomy is simple: one person plays a game, taking screenshots along the way, and then presents them with witty running commentary. It’s so simple, in fact, it was being done long before it was standardized; Slow Beef’s “strategy guide” for Metal Gear 2, written mostly in 2004, remains one of the best examples of the format. But one significant advantage of the modern LP is the message board setting, where its audience can offer feedback and even steer the course of the game.
In many cases, it’s long-form MSTing at its finest; thanks to the efforts of Leovinus, for example, I’ll never have to suffer Final Fantasy VIII in non-annotated form again. Some are more affectionate, educating the populace on lost gems dear to their hearts. Others even take games with no narrative to speak of and give them one.
Since LPs have gained visibility outside of SA, other communities have continued to nurture them. Even our own Talking Time has an ever-expanding forum dedicated to the things. So if you’re still oblivious, let’s play, already!