Video Game Commentary: A Manifesto

Children of the digital age,

Let me share with you the gospel of video game commentary.

We have come far, from the pixelated dirt of the Oregon Trail to the battlefields of Halo 3.

Adhere to these commandments, and I promise that you will find a welcoming home in the red and white of youtube’s archives

 

For the Let’s Play producer:

Thou shalt cut out parts where you get stuck in the game

Thou shalt not use your commentary to talk about real life problems without a warning to your viewers

Thou shalt warn viewers of spoiling the plot of games

Thou shalt be spontaneous and keep the video entertaining

 

For the competitive play commentator:

Thou shalt provide in depth analysis of the meta-game

Thou shalt have a firm understanding of the game you are commentating on, unless you are producing satire

Explain the intricacies of the game so new players can learn from those with more experience

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_x62_d7DZA

 

For the comedic gameplay commentator:

Thou shalt use text to its full humorous potential: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYjCXjIeNJk

Thou should play with a friend to create more humorous conversations: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuGsRmEEx6s

 

And general rules for all to follow:

Thou shalt provide high quality videos in 720p resolution or higher

Thou shalt use a decent microphone to speak into.

 

Video game commentary is a huge part of the youtube community, and as technology spreads and improves, so will this genre. It is important that the new generations of content producers understand that the future is in their hands, and for the genre to grow in the best way possible, they must adhere to these rules, or be forever damned to the fiery reddish hell of having a large number of dislikes on their videos.

The Future of Video Game Commentary

There are a lot of good things happening in the genre of video game commentary right now. The live streaming site Twitch is finicky, especially when large audience congregate on one live stream, but constant advancements in computer technology will surely allow commentary via live streams an increasingly viable option for more and more people to both produce and watch. Additionally, the production value and effort put into E-sports and video game commentary is becoming better and better all the time.

 

Here is a video showing a Korean Dota 2 tournament with some amazing production quality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx7Fz4xzuO0

 

Here is an article talking about the U.S. government recognizing League of Legends as a sport, which adds legitimacy to esports and contributes to the health of the commentary genre: http://www.scpr.org/blogs/newmedia/2013/07/15/14255/us-government-recognizes-league-of-legends-video-g/

 

This article talks about a South Korean Starcraft player being given an athlete Visa: http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/12/15/250793493/u-s-recognizes-a-south-korean-starcraft-player-as-an-athlete

 

However, it is not all news is good news in the world of video game commentary. For the large majority of commentators that rely on youtube as their video hosting site. In recent months, youtube has implemented a strict and volatile new system that makes it very stressful for commentators and Let’s Play producers. The new Content ID system requires that many youtube commentators must submit their video to be scanned for copyright material before it is uploaded. If they do not do this, they risk getting a copyright strike against their channel, which can cause them to lose their partner status (ability to make money from advertisements).

 

Additionally, there is a new system that allows people to file copyright claims against other people and claim ad revenue from the videos in question until the claim is resolved. This has led to many people impersonating game companies on youtube and making copyright claims in order to steal ad revenue from videos. The most blatant example of this is when a copyright imposter by the name of “TombRaider” filed a copyright claim on videos released by the channel for the developers of the Tomb Raider video games. Not only did youtube take a very long time to work out the solution, even with the developers themselves providing proof that the claim was false, but the fake name was allowed to steal ad revenue from the developers for the duration of the claim.

 

Here is a great video by a video game youtuber “NerdCubed” explaining his thoughts about youtube’s new system: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1f4q17UDr0

 

Personally, I think video game commentary will survive even the strictest of youtube copyright crackdowns. Even if video game commentary did not evolve for a while, it would still retain audiences because there will always be new games and tournaments for people to commentate on. As streaming technology increases, video game commentary will only get better and bigger. Also, E-sports in general are becoming a huge hit across the world. During the grand finals of the last International Dota 2 championship, Valve (developers of Dota 2) reported over 1 million concurrent viewers, and next year should be even bigger. Personally, I think that video game commentary is on a great track right now. The only thing that could get better in my opinion is that Let’s Play producers sometimes put too little effort into their videos, and leave in parts where they get stuck in the game for long periods of time, or fail to warn about spoilers for the plot of the game they play. Other than that, I am excited to see just how big this genre can get!

Video Game Commentary: A Short History

Like other genres of videos, video game commentary has its own history that makes it unique. Video game commentary for E-Sports (Electronic Sports) treat video games just like any real-world sport, so the commentators for competitive games share the style of sports announcers that you might find in football or soccer. Many of the mannerisms you might find in sports casters are mirrored in video game commentators for big tournaments.

In what could be considered the first major example of popularized video game commentary in North America, the USA television network televised MLG (Major League Gaming) tournaments for the first time in 2006. This included commentary for the games “Super Smash Bros” and “Halo 2”. At this stage in its history, game commentary was not yet accessible enough for the average gamer to produce, so MLG had a bit of a monopoly over the genre for some time. This was also the only time anyone could ever view commentary as well, and because it was televised, only the most dedicated gamers could watch it. Professional Halo 2 matches were some of the most popular and well-remembered, and it was in these early years of MLG that Halo as a franchise enjoyed its competitive heyday. Initially, MLG only had commentary for Super Smash Bros. because the Halo 2 players yelling strategy to their teammates was enough to satisfy fans.

Korea was also a place that competitive gaming, and therefore, video game commentary, owes a lot of its history to. Since the early 2000’s, Korea has embraced gaming as more than a hobby. Korea was the first place to have an audience for video game competition and commentary so large that it was a viable way to earn a living. In the DotA (Defense of the Ancients) community, DotaAllstars served as a precursor for all the competitive DotA tournaments we have today. The first big tournaments were held in Malaysia and Singapore in 2005.

As far as the “Let’s Play” style of video game commentary goes, the term originated from the “Something Awful” forum website, in which someone posted their screenshots of them playing the famous Oregon Trail video game. However, as Youtube grew in popularity and new technology emerged, people could later make videos of themselves playing the games with their own audio commentary spliced in. Today, anyone with the Fraps screen recording program can record themselves playing a computer game, and simply dub over their own voice and upload it to Youtube. Today, the Youtube Let’s Player “PewDiePie” has over 20 million subscribers, which is the most subscribed channel on Youtube.

Here is footage from MLG Las Vegas 2006, with Halo 2 and Super Smash Bros. (with commentary)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGgYko5Kn0U

This is a National Geographic Documentary about the early days of professional gaming in Korea (skip to 24 minutes to hear commentary)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kc0Pgm8lWRw

Other Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_the_Ancients

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let%27s_Play_%28video_gaming%29

 

Video Game Commentary

The past decade has seen many new developments involving video games and the culture surrounding them. Like sports, movies, and other popular cultural subjects, commentary on video games has become an important part of video game culture. From the big-budget production quality of the Dota 2 world championships, to some friends recording their silly in-game adventures, video game commentary has garnered a huge foothold in the Youtube scene and on internet live streaming sites such as Twitch.

It is important to note that there are many different subgenres that make up video game commentary. One example is in commentary on games that are particularly competitive in nature. There are high-skill competitive games like Dota 2 which features the massive annual tournament, “The International”, in which every move is scrutinized by announcers who analyze the game like any other sport. There are gameplay videos, or “Let’s Play” videos, in which a personality might try to entertain viewers while playing the game themselves, sometimes by creating challenges for themselves to complete in the game. There are comedic videos in which players try to “break” the game by causing glitches or creating funny situations. Lastly, there is also commentary and discussion on strategy for the many competitive games that are on the market.

One of the unique aspects of video game commentary is why viewers watch it. While video games are the common thread that holds the genre together, in the example of “Let’s Play” and similar videos, the personality commentating is what drives the content to be truly successful. For example, in the Dota 2 world, there is a Youtuber who goes by the screen-name “Purge” who is successful because of his skill and knowledge about the game. When players want to get better at playing a certain “hero” (in-game character) they might watch one of his replay videos in which he commentates on strategy and how to play well. In the case of the Youtube channel “Birgirpall”, two friends with contagious laughter get themselves into hilarious in-game situations and go down a more comedic path. Another reason why people watch others play games is so that the viewers can form some impressions about the game before they make the decision to buy it.

The following are some great examples of youtube video game commentary videos.

“NerdCubed” playing “Kerbal Space Program” in a comedic manner:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFX5kZMulu0

 

In this video, “Purge”, a highly-respected contributor to the Dota 2 commentary scene, takes the comedic route and commentates on a game filled with very low-skill players:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOmcaqEqyYo

 

Here, “Birgirpall”, plays the hilarious “Surgeon Simulator 2013” to make viewers laugh.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYjCXjIeNJk

 

This video is of the final match of the Dota 2 world championships, “The International”, with Swedish team Alliance vs. Ukrainian team Natus Vincere, complete with the best announcers out there:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_x62_d7DZA

 

Here, Youtuber “Purge” does a more serious “first impressions” video of an update to Dota 2 which brought major changes to the game, and he speculates on what the strategies will be best in the future:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f3DXy1vK34