prototyping the “let’s play” shuffle; even a lack of engagement is useful feedback

 

Following up on my Digital Artefact pitch; After prototyping two live-streams on my Twitch channel, I’ve made a few changes to my format, though my concept remains intact. I’ve further developed my analytical framework using Clara Fernández-Vara’s book Introduction to Game Analysis’ as a guide. 

Unfortunately, my Twitch chat was entirely dead for both streams, and I peaked at 4 unique viewers. It seems despite already aggregating an audience for my channel, the drastic difference in content did not appeal to any of my 55 followers. I can’t say much about how effective sharing the event on my socials was either. I have decided the live-stream format won’t work for this ‘Let’s Play’ series. By attaching the episodes to a schedule and trying to encourage live discussion, I am also (inadvertently) discouraging engagement with the video after the broadcast as well. Many people will miss the live stream due to time zones or their own personal schedules, not all potential viewers will catch the Twitch VOD (video on demand), and having long sections of my streams without any commentary lessens the quality of the content when watching it ‘un-live’ on YouTube re-uploads.

Capture5.PNG
Screenshot from one stream. The large blank space to the right of the gameplay window was for two reasons; a) I didn’t want to stretch the resolution of the GameBoy emulator too much as the image would possibly be blurry or lower quality, b) the empty space was meant to be accommodating an embedded live chat, that did not get used at all 😔 meaning that on a YouTube video episode, this layout looks awkward and has too much negative space.

Initially I considered changing the format to an entirely different one, such as critical blog posts or a video essay series. However, a comment on my DA pitch prompted me to research further into the ‘Let’s Play’ subculture. I found an article by Burwell and Miller in the E-Learning and Digital Media journal that explores the ‘Let’s Play’ genre and its function as a gaming paratext. They argue that LP’s allow commentary and analysis that develops gaming literacy.

“In recent years, a great deal of scholarly work has been done to consider video games as productive sites for the development of creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaborative skills (e.g., Gee, 2003Hayes and Duncan, 2012Steinkuehler, 2007). This work has challenged the video game’s reputation as a mindless diversion, and has instead shown that games encourage thinking and learning, and play an important role in the production of cultural capital amongst young people. Much of this work explores games as a form of literacy.”

“Inherent in the Let’s Play video is an invitation to viewers to join in the game play; here, we invite the reader to see the complex meaning-making and social practices associated with this emerging paratext.”

– Burwell, C., & Miller, T. (2016).

After reading this article, I was assured that I would be able to effectively use the LP genre as my DA format when analysing and making meaning of the Final Fantasy games. I’ve decided that YouTube seems to be the most appropriate platform for an LP series as twitch channels often fall into either competitive or social streamer categories, the latter requiring lots of time to build-up an engaged and loyal viewership. I’ll be editing and cutting down my gameplay footage to make my commentary more consistent, reduce long periods of level grinding, and overall make the LP more abridged and cinematic. Finally, I’ve chosen to split the game into six episodes of three ‘acts’, with each ‘act’ being played as one of three different versions of the game.

 

References

Burwell, C., & Miller, T. (2016). Let’s Play: Exploring literacy practices in an emerging videogame paratext. E-Learning and Digital Media13(3–4), 109–125.

Fernández-Vara, C. (2015). Introduction to Game Analysis. 1st ed. New York, NY: Routledge. 

10 thoughts on “prototyping the “let’s play” shuffle; even a lack of engagement is useful feedback

  1. Hey Julia! I loved hearing about the iterations you made in response to your DA’s progress. Through the lack of engagement you realised the content was not appealing to your established base of followers. I liked how you mentioned the shift between your competitive pvp streams and the Final Fantasy LetsPlays. The shift between popular, mass appealing content and content appealing to a lesser visited niche obviously did not appease to everyone, and I liked how you mentioned this and attributed it as one of the reasons for your change in format. This, as well as the variation in follower habits based on unique circumstances (e.g. timezone) you cannot change.

    I liked hearing about your academic sources and how they influenced the course of your DA, as well as the illustration of the triangulation of your analysis and how you have/intend to go about it. Its straight forward, and is a great way of conceptualizing the analysis rather than just reading/hearing about it. Your analytical framework is solid, and relates directly the content expressed in the lecture.

    I’m glad my comment helped with informing your research on the Let’s Play subculture! Mersel’s ‘Viewing Let’s Plays: How Audiences Interpret The Commercial Role of Let’s Plays on Youtube’ might be useful for you as it offers an excellent insight into the way that Let’s Plays are received on YouTube, and the content bias that exists as a whole. This may show insights into ways you can hopefully gain greater engagement on your YouTube uploads!

    On the whole, you did an excellent job, however I would recommend speaking a tad slower. Otherwise awesome job, and can’t wait to see where else your DA leads!
    Hannah

    https://thesis.eur.nl/pub/46773/Mersel-Joanna.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Julia!

    Your topic was thoroughly researched, and I found the use of supporting academic sources with each release beneficial to understand the topic as a whole further.
    I strongly believe that your DA success is supported through your analytical framework triangulation. Each topic clearly works well with each other and directly relates to each release of the game. It’s evident that this triangulation did not come easy and there was an extensive amount of research that supported your findings and work, highlighted through the reference of Fernandez’s book to determine this.

    Due to knowing a minimal amount about video games, let alone ‘final fantasy let’s play’, I found through viewing your pitch and engaging with your hyperlinks beneficial to my own understanding. Furthermore, the use of these hyperlinks shows that you are also reaching out to a wider audience if someone who is not in the BCM215 course was interested by your post. Overall, I really liked your blog and especially how you comment on how the specific academic articles have influenced your DAs progression.

    I also think a major factor of your DA has been the feedback failure as you mention when live streaming to your twitch channel and you further determine the reasoning as to why this did not work as hoped. Furthermore, your future progression of posting the videos to YouTube and then posting them in relevant subreddits will help gain traction and interest of those who are primarily interested in the game.

    You may find this beneficial in regard to posting in subreddits to gain feedback on your DA https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-market-reddit-guide-businesses/

    Overall, great work and looking forward to seeing how your blog progresses in the posts to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Julia!
    First off, I liked the presentation of your video. It was very neatly presented with lots of academic referencing, and a nice little TL;DR/TL;DW at the bottom to give an outline of what you’re talking about at any given point in time. I have also taken note of your own analytical framework as I lacked a clear and distinct one in my own beta.
    I think the idea of integrating different remasters and remakes of a single game into one playthrough to be a very cool idea. The execution of it remains to be seen, but I’m sure you’ll do just fine!
    I also thought you did a good job of addressing and responding to feedback (or in your case unfortunately, the lack thereof) which, considering it’s a major part of the assessment criteria, is definitely a good thing to include. You also included an excerpt of your livestream as part of showcasing an example or prototype of your original idea. The section was quite short though and ended rather suddenly. Next time, if at all possible, fade out your audio and make the video ‘dip to black’. It will give the video a much cleaner end as opposed to the abrupt cut. Also, while you included a few academic references, I would recommend popular media sources like the LP Archive (https://lparchive.org/) and the Something Awful Let’s Play Forums (https://forums.somethingawful.com/forumdisplay.php?forumid=191). Your mileage may vary on how abrasive or offensive you find the humour and/or content to be (for me, I don’t find anything about it to be that bad at all), but they’re both good sources for interesting and unique let’s play content.
    I think this DA has the potential to be something special, and you’ve certainly given me ideas on how to improve my own. I would say good luck, but I think that’s over-said and you don’t need it anyways!
    (As a small side note, you said that you didn’t want to make the emulator window any bigger as you thought it would result in a loss of graphical fidelity. However, in most emulators, you can set the video filter to something like ‘Nearest Neighbour’. This makes the graphics more pixellated, but also means the windowed/fullscreen resolution can be scaled up without muddying the look of the game too drastically. In some cases, you can also increase the internal resolution of the game itself depending on what’s being emulated. But considering you’re playing what looks like to be a 2D sprite-based GBA game, it’s unlikely that you would be able to do that)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I considered downloading some save states from significant parts of each game to help me with the game-switching, but decided that this would probably cause mismatched levels and character configurations. So instead, I’m planning to just play through the game up to the point I need for each version. It sounds pretty rough, but I guess I know this game like the back of my hand so it can’t be too difficult! Especially because most emulators have the handy fast-forward button. But yeah, still might be tricky to execute D:
      I actually went through my emulator settings after your suggestion and found exactly what I needed to fix that issue, so thanks for your help Tim. Also, I watched your prototype for Crunchy Bytes, and since I didn’t get assigned your blog for the feedback I’ll tell you here that I thought it was edited and put together very nicely, and I like that you’ve chosen to focus on one console. Good stuff.

      Like

  4. Hello!
Straight up, this was a very intellectual beta post! The research and effort for this DA is unmistakable, and it was good to be able to follow along to your beta video. There was a lot of information within your video, but you set it out in a way that was pretty easy to follow.
    As a person who knows very little about the gaming culture, I must admit it was a bit difficult to understand. Maybe that’s just me and my lack of knowledge on this subject? I’m not sure. However it was interesting to learn about the ‘Let’s Play’ culture and subculture. I like how you used Twitch to engage with your audience – no matter what the outcome was – followed by uploading it to YouTube. At least when uploading it to YouTube it can stay there for as long as you like, plus you’ve gained a larger audience. I myself don’t particularly use Twitch. I have it, but I use it no where near as much as YouTube. Even though you received a lack of feedback and audience engagement, your address to this made it quite interesting, however it also allows room for further improvement of audience engagement, which I hope they will be!
    Like I mentioned earlier, I know almost nothing about the gaming culture, let alone the games you had live-streamed. However I found a source that may be beneficial to help gain viewers for your live-streams in this particular topic. https://gamestreamingcentral.com/guides/how-to-grow-part1/
    You most likely already know how, but there might be some useful information.
    Hope it all goes well and that you get some good engagement!

    Liked by 1 person

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