Different games different rules

Let’s Play is a video format that was created about ten years ago and today attracts millions of viewers in front of computer screens. Content of the partly highly professionally recorded and marketed YouTube films: A gamer, the so-called Let’s Player, plays and comments on a computer game.

The channel of Gronkh, one of the stars of the scene, has over 4.3 million subscribers. His videos total over two billion views. What fascinates so many people about this genre? Prof. Dr. Ute Barbara Schilly from the Institute for Translation and Multilingual Communication got to the bottom of the Let’s Plays in a teaching research project with students.

What did you study in your study?

Ute Barbara Schilly: In our teaching research project we have confined ourselves to a simple form of the media format: on Let’s Plays, in which only the game action is visible on the screen, the player is not. This can only be heard – next to the sound effects of the game. The communication thus takes place exclusively in monologue form on a linguistic level. Mimic does not matter. There is also no opportunity for recipients to influence events. Nevertheless, the protagonists tie millions of fans with videos that are sometimes over an hour long. The procedures used have fascinated me.

Which communication patterns did you notice?

Ute Barbara Schilly: Noteworthy is the large variety of richness: In addition to factual comments and information about the game there are jokes, puns, ironic remarks and the like. The Let’s Players switch between colloquial language, High German, the jargon of the gamer and other linguistic variants. The voice modulation is also very varied; this is sung and rhymed. Striking is also the almost incessant language flow: the gamer hardly pauses, but comment permanently. In games where less happens than the construction game Minecraft, the communication density is even higher than in a tension and action-packed horror game like Blackwell’s Asylum.

How can the Let’s Players succeed in captivating their viewers?

Ute Barbara Schilly: We observe two parallel levels in this format. On the one hand there is the game itself, which certainly fascinates many spectators. On the other hand, there is the flow of communication from the gamer to his audience. And although the audience is allegedly passive, let’s players manage to create a community on a linguistic level. They often speak of “we”, so “we do the best

first this mission “or” we are now attacking this opponent. “And they share in the experience of the game” up close “with what the single step in them triggers in. So the audience are taken, linguistically involved in the game and it creates a strong bond It feels like watching over a good friend playing games.

In which fields can your research results be applied?

Ute Barbara Schilly: Every Let’s Play is a kind of attention-grabbing lesson that should be expressed in likes, subscriptions or merchandising purchases on commercially-oriented channels. Here you can see important insights for media education, because it is important to know how such successful formats work. When children and adolescents are made aware of the methods and strategies used to attract people, it ultimately protects them from influencing and manipulating them.