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Vicarious play: Engaging the viewer in Let’s Play videos

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Over the years, the Let’s Play (LP) video phenomenon has gathered an audience of millions on video platforms like YouTube. Unlike machinima, the video form which also uses play performances in digital games as its mode of production, the aim with LP videos is not to create stories. LPs simply show captured gameplay sessions, the primary entertainment coming from the added, often humorous commentary by the player through audio or a picture-in-picture frame showing the player in action. This article draws connections with work on early film to explore the particular experience LP videos offers its viewers. These connections include modes of engagement associated with the cinema of attraction, but the focus is on how some early films presented characters onscreen – diegetic stand-ins which put something on display for the spectator. It is argued that LP creators have a similar, though more play-oriented function. Through ludic immersion, LP videos offer non-ludic engagement for its viewers: an experience of vicarious play.
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Keywords: Let’s Play videos; digital games; early film; machinima; play as performance; spectator engagement

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Utrecht University

Publication date: 01 January 2015

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  • Empedocles aims to provide a publication and discussion platform for those working at the interface of philosophy and the study of communication, in all its aspects. This Journal is published in cooperation with the Section for the Philosophy of Communication of ECREA, the European Communication Reserach and Education Association.
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