The “let’s Play” video is a genre of entertainment native to the 21st century. It sits at an intersection of pop-culture, uniting video games, the internet, TV, and celebrity culture in one video. If you’re wondering why some Let’s Players are inking book deals, or getting their own action figures, you need to understand that YouTube stars are essentially the next big celebrity figures of tomorrow.
Variety reports that some YouTubers are even more popular than “traditional” celebrities, like actors or authors. If you’re a fan of Let’s Plays, you already understand the appeal of watching charismatic entertainers run through your favorite games. If you’re new to these kinds of videos, then it’s best to start with video personalities that run through horror games, since they popularized Let’s Plays in the first place. Here are a handful of the most popular Let’s Players producing videos.
PewDiePie (44,740,485 subscribers)
Swedish Video host PewDiePie was born Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg. He is, arguably, the biggest name on YouTube today. Boasting one of the largest subscriber bases on the site, PewDiePie quickly rose to fame through his videos, in which he played horror games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
Though he’s been routinely criticized for his use of offensive language as humor, PewDiePie is looking to transition into a full media icon. He’s recently disavowed his earlier remarks as “childish”. He is currently starring in an original YouTube Red video series called Scare PewDiePie with The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman serving as executive producer. Kjellberg’s videos may not be for everyone, but if you intend on understanding Let’s Plays, it’s good to start with its biggest star.
Game Grumps (3,319,596 subscribers)
Game Grumps is primarily hosted by the duo of Arin Hanson and Leigh Daniel Avidan. The YouTube channel also features several other co-hosts who star in other videos under the Game Grumps name, though the actual Grumps are Hanson and Avidan. Originally started by animator and musician Arin Hanson along with Jon Jafari, Jafari left to host his own show, JonTron on YouTube. He was replaced by musician and Ninja Sex Party frontman, Avidan.
The charm of Game Grumps lies in the comedic rapport of its two hosts, with Hanson as the more experienced video gamer of the two. The YouTube channel actually hosts a variety of content, including board-game parties and animations. As opposed to single host shows, Game Grumps applies a team approach to online video production, contrasting host shows like PewDiePie’s.
Markiplier (13,095,473 subscribers)
Mark Edward Fischbach, popularly known as Markiplier, is one of the other big names in YouTube gaming. Like Kjellberg, he gained prominence through his Let’s Plays of survival horror and indie games. His “style” is that of a very emotive host, often yelling or screaming during game events. Sometimes even crying.
Backward Compatible (1,947 subscribers)
Jenny and Allison comprise the duo known as Backward Compatible. Like the Game Grumps, their videos feature the two as co-hosts as they play through a game, typically a horror or indie title.
What makes Backward Compatible so compelling is the same reason that makes any entertainment duo compelling, namely the back-and-forth between the hosts. It’s also refreshing that Backward Compatible often chooses eclectic or off-kilter games to play for their videos, making their channel home to a variety of different Let’s Play games.
Press Heart To Continue (764,952 subscribers)
Video Game news, original videos, anime impressions, and Let’s Plays, Press Heart To Continue has it all. Press Heart is representative of the steady evolution of Let’s Plays from single videos of video game play-throughs, to become all-in-one media hubs. Video host Dodger is the site’s main MC, hosting the channel’s news program, Let’s Plays, and reviews.
This is another trend in which popular channel hosts become news anchors, critics, and game show personalities to a whole generation of viewers who were too young to remember that much of the same content used to be offered on channels like G4 and Spike TV.
Bro Team Pill (181,349 subscribers)
Bro Team Pill describes itself as a review show, but that’s fairly inaccurate. Instead, Bro Team Pill’s videos are often short (fewer than 10 minutes) videos that involve satirical and absurd commentaries on myriad video games. While the host does stream games on his Twitch channel, his most popular videos are often his theatrical narrations on the latest video game releases. Pill’s commentary runs at breakneck speed and is often littered with profanity, but he’s certainly one of the more entertaining personalities on YouTube, and not someone who is afraid to lampoon the medium, either.
The Sticky Paddle (224,372 subscribers)
Led by Mullet Mike, The Sticky Paddle is a video network that houses the series, “Creepy Gaming”. The Sticky Paddle offers polished videos, fan theories on video games, and in-depth analysis. The Sticky Paddle is not the only channel to unearth video game theories, but they do specifically tackle horror games in their analyses, which is always a welcome bit of entertainment.
The Game Theorists (6,346,412 subscribers)
The Game Theorists are led by actor Matthew Patrick (or MatPat). Rather than play video games on its channel, Game Theory comments on the scientific accuracy and logistics of video games. Game Theory is one of the most popular channels for this kind of in-depth, analytical content (like The Sticky Paddle’s Creepy Gaming series).
While not a Let’s Player per se, The Game Theorists act as a sort of Mythbusters for video games, and is part of a rising trend of video game YouTube channels playing around with the sort of content the audience is willing to tune into. Some of these channels, like Press Heart, evolve to become full fledged media sites, while channels like Game Grumps become more like a variety show channel. There are even other video game channels out there that focus on DIY arts and craft, and cosplay tutorials.
What began as a series of videos where hosts would visibly react to their playthrough of a video game, Let’s Plays spawned entire media networks and internet celebrities. It’s only a matter of time before these YouTubers become the most important leaders of a new generation in video entertainment.