Hey everyone! As you know, Screenanigans is a place to talk about film and television. Frequent readers will have noticed, however, that I’ve recently begun to talk about video games as well, since I think there’s much to talk about and because I’ve heard fans say they’d like to see more video games related content. Which is why I’m officially adding “video games” to the Screenanigans tagline! From now on, Screenanigans will frequently feature video games related content, as a third ‘subject’, apart from film and television. I’m excited for the future and I hope you are too!
In a previous post, I talked about how video games “work” in the modern age of YouTube, where video games are increasingly becoming a large subculture that can be interesting and important for creators of online media content. I’ve since done some more research into the matter, and as it turns out, the “genre” of the video game video is the 4th most popular kind of YouTube videos, and approximately 15% of all YouTube videos are estimated to be gaming related. That’s a lot, and in that respect it definitely seems worthwhile to devote a little more time to how these videos appear on the medium. So for this post, let’s go over some of the many different types of gaming videos on YouTube!
- Gameplay videos
First off, you have your average gameplay video. Gameplay videos focus on, well, the gameplay, and tend to show large and faithful portions of a given game. Subgenres are the let’s play, where a gamer picks up a game seemingly randomly and hopes for the best, or the walkthrough, which more or less involves the gamer playing through the entirety of a game. The gamer can talk to the audience to provide a more engaging viewing experience, but isn’t obliged to. The main goal of these videos seems to be a more or less dry and non-embellished reproduction of the gaming experience, though the gamer always reserves the right to provide commentary or use insider language and terminology to spice things up. An example, from RainmakerHD‘s walkthrough of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (2011, Naughty Dog):
As far as the production side is concerned, gameplay videos tend to need minimal editing (compared to the different kinds of videos below, at least). They are often used to give the audience a sense of the game, and developers show short gameplay videos of new and upcoming games at big events like E3.
Gameplay videos can also focus on multiplayer, like a video depicting an entire match (or chunks of it) of Call of Duty, for example. Multiplayer gameplay videos are often more aware of the YouTube audience and make more use of gamer commentary than the walkthrough video above. An example is Got Drums, who gained fame with his improvised autotune songs while playing popular multiplayer games. Look at this video that he made while playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012, Treyarch, Activision):
When gameplay videos consist more of singular occasions edited together for the sake of displaying epic, triumphant moments, the video becomes a montage. Montages tend to use more special effects (emphasis on colour grading, slow motion, levels of focus etc.) and to underscore the epicness of what’s going on on screen, montages also resort to great orchestral music. Montages tend to require a lot of gaming time and a high level of gaming skill to provide for the moments of glory. Look, for example, at this gem of a montage created by xHoHo who’s just rekking everyone in Battlefield 4 (2013, EA DICE):
A subgenre is the fail montage, where the tone gets humoristic: we see a series of dumb moments of sheer bad fortune (or lack of skill), to which the editing process might add cartoony sound effects. Fail videos are of course not exclusively gaming related, but they do comprise a large part of the YouTube gaming video landscape.
Sometimes, YouTubers use video games to create cinematic or videographic productions. Instead of having to hire actors or to scout real-life locations, artists can use the game engines and in-game characters or worlds to create a short film, while oftentimes hiding the fact that the visuals stem from a video game by adding sound effects and voice-over narration. They are called “machinimas” (from “machine cinema”) and quickly take the form of sketches, which might rely on audience knowledge of the used video game and its rules to convey some of its humor. One of the most famous examples is FRANKIEonPC‘s highly succesful Arma 2 DayZ machinima series (see also below). One of my favorite (and most nostalgic) series, however, was TehNoobWorld‘s “Runescape Gods Exposed” series (released on the YouTube account of a company called Machinima), where he told an original story about the fictional in-game RuneScape (2001, Jagex) gods Saradomin, Zamorak and Guthix. Watch the first episode here:
- Live streams
Following the success of such platforms like Twitch, YouTube quickly adopted the gaming live stream formula and made it its own. Live streaming is used for more than gaming, of course: other examples are radio stations or music labels using online live streams (e.g. the Monstercat Instinct and Uncaged streams), or big YouTube personalities streaming to engage with their fanbase. Gaming live streams are often focused on multiplayer, and force the streamer to pay simultaneous attention to both the game and the chat box where fans interact with each other and with the events of the game itself. The video form is highly fan oriented, as fans are able to directly engage with their idols. Even a couple of days ago, I was able to catch a Totally Accurate Battlegrounds (2018, Landfall) Facebook live stream by Lasercorn (currently a part of the Toaster Ghost channel), and it’s just a lot of fun to see the personalities you enjoy watching interact with their fanbase. Video games that frequently pop up in live streams (in past or present) are League of Legends (2009, Riot Games), Minecraft (2009, Mojang), Garry’s Mod (2014, Garry Newman) or Fortnite (2017, Epic Games, People Can Fly). For a long time, live streams seemed a typical characteristic of the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre (like League of Legends), but recently the tide seems to be shifting to the battle royale genre (like Fortnite or Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (2017, PUBG Corporation)) and even party games (like Quiplash (2015, Jackbox Games)). Since live streams are basically forms of broadcast entertainment, people need to check in at the right time to be a part of it, although the streams themselves are quite often released on YouTube after they finish, like this Fortnite stream by Typical Gamer:
How do you know if that game you’ve been hearing so much about is actually any good? As with any form of modern popular art, every newly released product is highly anticipated and quickly reviewed after it’s come out. In the modern era of popular culture, where fans quickly become self-proclaimed knowledgeable experts in the subjects of their interests, gaming reviews can be published by both the lone, particular gamer as well as big media companies like IGN or GameSpot. Since gaming reviews are highly conventionalized (in that they frequently follow the same formula), some channels (like Hot Pepper Gaming or AngryJoeShow) try to be more creative by throwing in the element of comedy. For an idea of a conventional review, look at this IGN review of the new God of War (2018, Sony Interactive Entertainment Santa Monica):
- Challenge videos
Challenge videos are all over YouTube. I already mentioned the Habanero Pepper hype, but different challenges (like the Try Not To Laugh Challenge, for example) abound. They also made their way to gaming, and an early example of this video format is the subgenre of the speedrun, where a gamer tries to complete a specific goal (like 100% game completion) in a record-breaking amount of time. You could compare speedrun videos to playing video games in an arcade hall, where players also tried to beat each other’s records. A current example of popular challenge videos is Kwebbelkop‘s series of Grand Theft Auto V (2013, Rockstar Games) racing challenges, where he and his friends try to complete practically impossible race tracks. This video serves as an example:
- Fan videos
Fan videos are created by the community, and could take the form of internet memes or more obscure or niche audience oriented video practices like music videos. In fact, you could argue that gaming music videos could be considered a subgenre of the machinima genre because of their reliance on special effects and use of in-game mechanics. There’s definitely something to that, but I still think that these fan videos are a type of video in their own right. I first came into contact with videos like these years ago, and this video by Luckybucket, who created a RuneScape music video (a genre in its own right, called RSMV) for Linkin Park’s In The End, is a good example:
Not every game is that self-explanatory. More knowledgeable veterans sometimes create gaming tutorials to help rookies pull off that one difficult heist, get that insane trophy/achievement, or craft that special kind of tool you will need to mine that special ore. This conventionally implies simultaneous voice-over narration or post-production commentary, where the audience is directly addressed. An example is Flabaliki‘s tutorial on how to use redstone in Minecraft:
- News videos
Gaming is an industry. Video games are created by large companies, which regularly release gaming news or hold press conferences at big conventions like E3. Some YouTube channels have also taken it upon themselves to report that news, while frequently commenting and speculating at the same time. The following is an example of LevelCapGaming‘s list of what he thought were the best thing about this year’s E3:
- Video essays
This final form is an example of a recently emerging YouTube trend, i.e. the format of the video essay. Screenanigans has often relied on big video essay names (Nerdwriter, Lessons from the Screenplay, etc.) for certain posts about film or television, but it should be noted that every day more and more video essays are released about video games as well. Video essays are basically independent research papers with an audiovisual dimension, that present and discuss a particular topic. They can range from a couple of minutes to even hours of content, and are quite a rich video format. A very good video essay is Ruskie‘s (you might know him from his other channel, The Closer Look) essay on the FRANKIEonPC’s Arma 2 DayZ machinima series that I mentioned above, that talks about the enormous effort Frankie put into his series and why it is one of the best machinimas out there:
As with any discussion of genres, the types I summed up can be used more creatively than their general description above might imply, or a single video might combine multiple genres, and so on. Smosh Games‘s old Backseat Gaming show, for example (click here for an illustration involving The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011, Bethesda)), had two members of their combined cast play a game, where one of them would command the other to do what he or she wanted. The other player had to follow those commands to the letter. If the player was fed up with the ridiculous commands, he or she could yell “Switch!”, which would inverse the roles. This kind of video would mostly fall under the gameplay video category, but also takes much from the challenge video genre (the Skyrim example includes a challenge to hit incoming arrows with your two-handed sword). These gaming videos can also become branded and/or serialized, which are two other important developments of YouTube gaming videos, but I will perhaps save the discussion of those for a later time.
We’ve quickly glossed over some of the most important types of gaming videos of YouTube. Are there any sorts of videos that I missed? What is your favorite kind of gaming video, and what do you look for when you’re in the mood to watch gaming videos? Let me know in the comments below!