Video Games from Playing to Watching Part 1: YouTube’s Gaming Debut

His face is on South Park. His fist is on your nephew’s shirt. His name is all over the internet, and odds are you’ve seen at least one of his videos on YouTube. You probably can’t pronounce his real name Felix Arvid Ulf Kejellberg, but everyone knows his alias, PewDiePie.

Further reading:
Part 2 on
Part 3 on eSports
Part 4 on Games as Art

YouTube has been a center for video game related content for years now, but it wasn’t always. The most popular videos on YouTube until 2011 were makeup tutorials and fashion vlogs.

Before the rise of the gaming community on YouTube, gamers used smaller more community driven sites like NewGrounds and Roosterteeth. Here users would upload their own video game inspired creations. This is where Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson started his flash animations, The Awesome Series. The only reason he made a YouTube channel was so that he could officially release his animations which were being ripped from NewGrounds and uploaded to YouTube.

Gameplay videos began to hit their stride not long after the release of Call of Duty Modern Warefare 2. Hutch, Seananners, Xcal, and countless others found success in making commentary videos. Where they would talk over their footage of the game. Eventually this developed into live-commentaries where the player would commentate while playing the game. This idea of reacting to the game in real-time launched what we know today as the “Let’s Play.”

For the five people that don’t know what I am referring to a Let’s Play is a gaming video where one or more people play a game and provide commentary. The commentary differs from channel to channel. Some seek to inform others seek to converse and way too many seek to entertain by overreacting for the camera.

The Let’s Play was a game changer because up until this point nothing else like it existed. YouTube’s gaming content was severely limited to reviews and the occasional animation. Reviews took time to write and capture footage for while animations took even more time and effort to create. Let’s Plays were simple and easy to produce. They paved the way for other popular forms of game-related entertainment.

Let’s Plays are of course incredibly popular because now you no longer need to buy or play a game to enjoy it. Instead you can watch your favorite internet personalities play that game and together you both experience the joys and frustrations that come along with it. 

Back in 2008 Roosterteeth started their “Drunk Tank” podcast. On it they shared everything form funny stories to the games that they were playing that week. After NPR got defunded they jumped to the number 1 podcast in the “Gaming” category.

RT is also responsible for producing the Red vs. Blue an animated series created inside the popular fps Halo. This type of animation is called “Machinima.”

Today Youtube is oversaturated with gaming content and unfortunately the vast majority of it is objectively terrible. However there are many gems out there if you’re willing to look. Join me next time for Part 2.



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