2020/11/13

"Definitive Playthrough": Behind-the-scenes Narratives in Let's Plays and Streaming Content by Video Game Voice Actors

The journal New Media & Society has published the article “Definitive Playthrough”: Behind-the-scenes Narratives in Let’s Plays and Streaming Content by Video Game Voice Actors, which I wrote together with Jaroslav Švelch. In this second article from our video game voice acting project, we explore how video game voice actors are picking up streaming and creating a new genre by combining variety streaming with behind-the-scenes narratives. We dub this new phenomenon "definitive playthrough video" based on the label used by Retro Replay. In these videos, actors Nolan North and Troy Baker play games in which they portrayed the main characters (the Uncharted series or The Last of Us). In the article, we present three case studies of YouTube and Twitch channels that create this type of video content: Dechart Games (hosted by Bryan Dechart and Amelia Rose Blaire), Retro Replay, and Strange Rebel Gaming (hosted by Briana White).

We provide a quantitative overview of these channels and their viewership numbers as well as qualitative analysis of their individual approaches to "definitive playthrough video". What distinguishes this new genre from general variety streaming is the exclusive access to production trivia and an authorial interpretation of games. Due to their involvement in game production, actors can claim to have a unique perspective that sets them apart from other content creators. While actors are adopting the formats and practices of streaming culture, they are using streaming to highlight their individual artistic achievements, and also to teach production literacy to their audiences. This requires a great deal of relational labor on the part of actors and balancing of multiple careers. Although "definitive playthrough videos" rarely challenge corporate behind-the-scenes narratives and the magic of game making and therefore serve as promotion, they give the actors the opportunity to advocate for the importance of their profession which can harnessed in labor disputes such as the SAG-AFTRA 2016-17 strike, which we explored in our previous article on voice acting Recasting Life Is Strange: Video Game Voice Acting during the 2016–2017 SAG-AFTRA Strike. Furthermore, streaming culture gives platform to actors whose position in the game industry is often seen as marginal compared to other game development roles.

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