What Is a “Let’s Play,” and Why Are They so Popular?

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If you’ve spent any time browsing the gaming section of YouTube or Twitch, you’ve probably seen the term “let’s play.” Let’s plays have become synonymous with gaming content as streamers have gained more popularity, and this type of video is one of the simplest ways for gamers to produce content. If you’re not yet familiar with let’s plays, here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Let’s Play?

While some people play video games competitively, let’s play creators are usually much more casual gamers. The point of a let’s play is not to demonstrate skill, but rather to simply have fun playing. Often the commentary is as important as the game footage itself. Let’s play creators usually attempt to be funny or insightful to help draw people to their videos.

While games like League of Legends dominate competitions, simpler games like Minecraft are popular for let’s plays. In fact, there are currently more than 1.2 million Minecraft let’s play videos on YouTube, twice as many as the next most popular game. Grand Theft Auto and Fortnite are the distant second and third most played games respectively, but let’s play videos for both usually highlight the fun aspect over the competitive side.

Some of the best examples, fittingly, come from the LetsPlay channel on YouTube. The channel, owned by entertainment company Rooster Teeth, features a collection of popular YouTube gamers and its videos could best be described as comedy through gaming.

The second most-watched video from the channel is a three-hour-long Uno let’s play, where four personalities struggled for hours to get through one round of the classic card game. Watching three hours of Uno isn’t entertaining, so this is a great example of how commenters carry a let’s play.

One of the channel descriptions for LetsPlay calls it, “a revolving cast of Rooster Teeth employees play video games extremely poorly,” which summarizes how let’s plays can work in general. It’s not about how good you are at the game, it’s about how engaging you can be while playing.

What Makes Let’s Plays Popular?

Watching other people play video games badly may not seem entertaining. Still, let’s play videos draw millions of viewers every single day. Let’s plays are more like a freeform comedy than they are strict gameplay videos. Most viewers care less about what game is being played than they care whose playing it.

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PewDiePie is the most popular gamer on YouTube with nearly 100 million subscribers, but at a glance, it’s hard to describe what his channel is. He rarely repeats games, and many videos hardly involve gameplay footage at all. His personality is what made his channel grow and is what keeps dedicated fans coming back to his videos.

Twitch streaming has added a new level to this, as streamers can broadcast themselves playing a game while fans actively watch and comment along. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that let’s plays are some of the most-watched gaming content out there.