YouTube’s gaming scene has exploded in the last few years, and it seems like you can’t go read a list of most popular channels on the platform without finding more than one channel from the once fairly niche community. Some of the most high performing channels are game related, including the most subscribed channel on the platform. The most popular manifestation for gaming videos seems to be the ‘Let’s Play’ where viewers are taken through gameplay whilst the presenter provides some (hopefully) humorous commentary and insight into the game itself. With so many youtubers aiming to be the next PewDiePie, exploring the video games community on YouTube can feel a bit like falling into a ‘Let’s Play’ warp spiral. However, there exists a gaming channel that is slightly different, a breath of air in a slightly dusty cartridge: Games as Literature.
The channel Games as Literature describes itself as ‘an endeavor that hopes to advance the study of videogames as an art form, both in culture at large and specifically in the academic world.’ A lofty goal but a worthwhile one, and the channel itself instigates some very interesting and insightful discussion. In the first video, there’s a syllabus laid out for the viewer which is worth checking out if you feel like you’d like to see the format for your education rather than pick and choose what you want to know as it’s released.
Every 4 weeks there’s a video dedicated to the literary analysis of one specific game (I point you to the Portal episode below for an excellent example). In the weeks between these larger episodes there are smaller videos which go over various storytelling conventions and narrative theories, or tropes such as the Damsel in Distress. Don’t worry though, it’s not all dry as the wasteland; there are also streams of gameplay from classic games and other more obscure games found across the net, although these are certainly not the highlight feature of the channel and do have room for improvement.
Though the first video is a bit awkward, as time goes on the presenter clearly becomes more comfortable. He quickly establishes himself as well-spoken, knowledgeable, and generally enjoyable to listen to, particularly as he regularly chooses interesting topics to discuss and regularly engages in conversation with his viewers. Perhaps most refreshingly, the presenter’s level-headed attitude is reflected in the comments on his videos.
On this channel you need not fear pressing the down arrow too long and finding yourself thrust into the land where sentence structure and reasoned discussion go to die. Rather, the comments is a place where users take up points from the videos to contest or agree with in a way that does not involve their forehead being slammed against the caps lock key as they engage ‘rage mode.’ It’s all pretty civilised, which is a good argument in itself for the channel’s project proving as it does that video games have a wide audience beyond the stereotypical ‘angry shoot-em-up player’, and that this diverse audience believes their hobby to be an art form worthy of analysis.
Sitting at just over 1000 subscribers the channel is already garnering interest, but it surely deserves more. If you’re interested in gaming as a unique storytelling platform, or if you think the idea is crazy and you’re dying to see how someone could possibly argue the case, Games as Literature is a channel you should take a peek at.