I, like most in my generation and those thereafter, have enjoyed playing a variety of video games. Pokemon, for instance, claimed a significant portion of my childhood. As I got older, other priorities began phasing out my interest in spending time working through a game, yet I still wanted to experience the strides being made in storytelling through this medium. 'The Last of Us' illustrates this progress of the medium magnificently.
Although the combat, scavenging and crafting segments can drag, the story and cinematic style kept me engaged despite these factors. The characters' complexity and interactions made me emotionally invested in their plight, stunning visuals adding depth and realism to the post-apocalyptic backdrop. Some of my affection for the game lies in the fact that I am fascinated by abandoned spaces which have been reclaimed by nature. This, combined with the moral ambiguity and deeply human questions of what's worth living for, make it a timeless and meaningful game. I still go back and re-watch some of my favourite sections.
Since finishing 'The Last of Us' I have sought out other Let's Plays, hoping to find ones as engaging and well told. It can take some time to discover, not only a game worth watching, but also players you enjoy. The style of play, attitude of the player and even their voice are important elements when choosing which to watch. Games with a cinematic style and intriguing story are my favourite, although I also enjoy the occasional installment in a Strategy genre.
It's true that watching a Let's Play can mean a significant time dedication, anywhere from 10-15 hours on average, but here again is where the type of player conducting the Let's Play is important. Talented players will quickly grasp the techniques of a game, making the play-through efficient and interesting as they discover the twists and surprises alongside you.
The role of player between you and direct experience of the game is what makes this particular type of entertainment interesting, The shared experience adds a social aspect absent from film and television, as well as an emotional buffer. Unlike the person controlling the character(s), the viewer has nothing to lose. If the player's character(s) dies they must deal with the consequences. The viewer experiences the drama without the risk. I suspect the phenomenon is most closely related to the thrill of watching horror movies where the viewer's physiologically invested but safe from any real harm.
The first video game developers likely never suspected that someday games would be as much fun to watch as play. I never would have imagined that people could make their livings playing games that strangers, many of whom they'd never interact with, pay to watch. It's a fascinating development that, as games continue to become more complex and story-driven, will continue evolving. I am thrilled to see great stories told in new and interesting ways. Perhaps one day, I might even have the opportunity to help write for a game. With the diverse avenues opening to writers in an interconnected age, sometimes the possibilities seem endless.
Games and Let's Players I'd recommend are below.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Bioshock 1 and 2
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Syberia 1 and 2
The Last of Us
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter