March 2015

Hello hello, my friends! Didn’t I just post the February Let’s Plays? How is already April? I guess time flies when you’ve got your head down watching content. Speaking of, you are in for some good content here on this March edition of  This Month in Let’s Plays!

Life is Strange

On of the more popular games to Let’s Play this month was Life is Strange.

On Errant Signal, Chris Franklin jumps into the realm of episodic games with Life is Strange. Franklin’s analysis of episode one notes that instead of decisions that feel immediate and weighty, the game is more about “exploring the possibility space of interaction,” and that this inversion makes every choice intentional. Because you can rewind choices, experiment, and move forward with whatever choice you find, you have more capacity for intentional action. Franklin also notes this difference helps make characters the focal point of the game.

Meanwhile, giving consideration to both episode one and two, Geek Remix provides a theory about the rewind mechanism and suggests the camera is an essential component toward supporting this theory.

Communal Play

There were lots of friends playing together this month too! For instance, Philip Kollar and Danielle Riendeau of Polygon venture into Let’s Play territory with Bloodborne. In Part 1 of this LP series, Kollar and Riendeau create the avatar Pickle Hedgehog and discuss various stats for the character as they do so.

On Four Play Show, Matt Albrecht sits down to play the as-yet-unreleased Extreme Exorcism with the game’s two developers.

Elsewhere, on Steam Friends, Soha Kareem and Kelsey play and take in the beauty of Raetikon. It’s enjoyable to hear just how responsive they are to the game’s aesthetic.

 

Quiet Comforts

Leigh Alexander debuted her Let’s Play series “Lo-Fi Let’s Play” on Offworld this month, starting with an LP of Loom. Alexander “gently revisits” this classic and discusses old design forms and choices, as situated within their historical moment, as she plays.

Elsewhere, in the first episode of Player/Knowledge, Critical Distance’s own Cameron Kunzelman quietly reflects on gamer memory and Grand Theft Auto III.  Kunzelman considers how the communal memory of a game can, at times, inhibit critical reflection and “allow us to create hierarchies of taste, of skill, of ability, and of privilege.” Kunzelman concludes with a call to action to further interrogate gamer memory.

 

Speaking of Memory…

While Alexander and Kunzelman bring a concerted critical focus to memory and nostalgia, there were also several LPs this month that revisited older games with a more lighthearted (though also not uncritical) spirit.

For instance, Game Informer’s Andrew Reiner, Tim Turi, Jeff Cork, and Ben Hanson revisit and reflect on the very creepy (pun?) Sneak King. Together, the team discuss the game’s and its developer’s history while asking the tough questions like “Why is the setting a Saw Mill?”

Meanwhile, having never played through the early Mario Bros games, Jackson Tyler Let’s Plays his first experiences with these earlier games. To provide the frame for his LP, Tyler states, “[Super Mario Bros has] begun to exist to a younger generation as more of a cultural icon and reference point than a tangible and known work of art in and of itself.” (Note: I have only watched episode one of this series though the embedded video below is for the whole series.)

In yet another first edition (so many great first episodes this month!) Squinky plays the game, Cubert Badbone, they developed 13 years ago when they was still in high school. Squinky remarks that the experience is much like looking back, years later, on one’s high school yearbook. Squinky discusses design choices made in the game and how the game reflects their thinking back then.

Elsewhere, Nate Ewert-Krocker revisits the games on the Playstation Interactive CD Sampler including Twisted Metal, Warhawk, Mortal Kombat 3, Loaded, Descent, NHL Faceoff, Wipeout, and more. As he plays, Ewert-Krocker notices things like “floaty controls,” how insufficient the d-pad is for navigating through 3-D space, and how many games in the demo feature the type of senseless violence that sold well in the 90’s.

Grab Bag of Critical Play

Innuendo Studios has started a new  series Let’s Plays posing questions about the adventure games genre – initially defined in the video  as “Games that tell stories using puzzles.” This first episode of the series considers “Why did the adventure game die?

Elsewhere, Matt Lees plays through a portion of Hotline Miami 2 and explains why he was disappointed in the game. Identifying two key reasons, Lees notes the game’s tonal shift and design shift from the previous release.

In recognition and celebration of International Women’s Day, Stephen Beirne looks at three games created by Sophie Houlden.

Brenden Keogh has started a Critical Let’s Play of Half-Life. Among other things (like the non-looping music) in this first episode, Keogh considers how the long and non-violent intro establishes the setting as an actual continuous space rather than segmented level spaces. (Note: I have only watched episode one of this series though the embedded video below is for the whole series.)

 

Final Thoughts

Thank you for joining me for another month of Let’s Plays. This has been such a pleasing venture for me, and I’m heartened to see how it’s already grown in three short months. Thanks for participating and remember to keep submitting the Let’s Plays you’d like to see curated here! Also, keep in mind, the LP’s don’t have to be video. We are broader thinkers here and welcome other styles of LPs you make and find. Send your submissions to us via Twitter using #LetsPlayCD to designate them for the Let’s Play Roundup, or you can always email us. Together, We’ll keep growing this into something great.

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