Screening embodiment: let's play videos and observable play experiences

Zariko, Z 2016, Screening embodiment: let's play videos and observable play experiences, Masters by Research, Media and Communication, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Screening embodiment: let's play videos and observable play experiences
Author(s) Zariko, Z
Year 2016
Abstract Let’s Play videos are the practice whereby a videogame player records their experience to share with a future audience. They are an emergent form of cultural activity that has been relatively overlooked within the field of game studies. This thesis seeks to ask: how can access to videogame play moments (and performativity) provide insights into the understanding the dynamics of videogame play experience?

This thesis approaches Let’s Play videos as a way in which to expand our understandings of videogame research. To this end, this thesis explores how footage of videogame play experiences-as-experienced offers access to specific play experiences and, in turn, how play can take on various forms of embodiment, gestures, affect and performance. Focusing upon a phenomenological approach to embodiment within the context of the emotional and affective genre of survival-horror, I utilise case studies of the Let’s Play videos created by Markiplier and ChristopherOdd as they play the survival-horror, first-person games Alien: Isolation (Creative Assembly 2014) and Outlast (Red Barrels 2013).

The two Let’s Play creators were chosen in part due to the size of their audience followings. Markiplier is indicative of a more mainstream YouTube personality with several million subscribers (over ten million), while ChristopherOdd represents a more subcultural following (under two hundred thousand). However, importantly, in a search for ‘Let’s Play Outlast’ on YouTube, both content creators appeared on the first page of results. Moreover, their videos showcase two different but popular play styles—Markiplier is energetic, excitable, and entertainment-oriented in his videos, whereas ChristopherOdd is focused on presenting the game as the focus of the entertainment, rather than his own commentary. Both channels have their own following, with an audience that creates fan art, engages with them in social media regularly, and speaks with familiarity in their comment section, and are representational of the results of a search on YouTube for a particular Let’s Play video series.

Unfortunately, at the time of this study (2013/2014), female player representation of both Outlast and Alien: Isolation were difficult to find, and I could not find a channel that had both games featured within the timeframe (this has changed within recent months). As such, the selection process and videogames resulted in two male players. Indeed, the politics of the gender of Let’s Players is a very important topic which undoubtedly informs the types of game play, performativity and their affect. However, within the horror genre, male Let’s Players dominated the genre, which, in turn, reinforces the gendered genre of horror which can be traced in film and TV studies (Clover 1992). These gendered issues will become increasingly prevalent in future studies into Let’s Play. My focus upon horror—as an extreme genre predicated upon eliciting affect from the player—in this thesis is to provide preliminary research into the role embodiment and performativity have in this emergent field of videogame play.

Throughout this thesis I treat each Let’s Play video as a contained narrative videogame play experience, a game-story as told by the author of the narrative, the player. This form of authorship has a unique influence and creates idiosyncratic play-story. This research serves as a preliminary examination into what proves to be an extensive and rich form of cultural expression, how it can assist into gaining further access to videogame play experiences-as-experienced and what that might mean for future videogame play analysis.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Keyword(s) Let's Play
video games
player culture
observable video game play
videogame play experience as experienced
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Created: Thu, 29 Sep 2016, 10:18:12 EST by Denise Paciocco
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