2020/11/22

Definitive Playthrough Video: A Curated Playlist

In our recent New Media & Society article “Definitive Playthrough”: Behind-the-scenes Narratives in Let’s Plays and Streaming Content by Video Game Voice Actors, Jaroslav Švelch and myself have explored the genre of “definitive playthrough video” – let's plays and streams by actors who control the characters they had performed. To showcase the breadth and richness of this new phenomenon, we have put together a curated playlist focusing on key aspects, such as the role of behind-the-scenes narratives. You can find the full playlist below followed by descriptions of each of the eight videos.

Behind-the-Scenes Narratives

In the first episode of The Last of Us playthrough, Retro Replay's hosts Troy Baker (Joel) and Nolan North (David) are joined by Hana Hayes who plays the role of Joel's daughter Sarah. Together, they look back at the recording process of the game’s emotional opening scene. Baker and Hayes talk about having to reshoot the scene multiple times and about Neil Druckmann’s approach to directing. The viewers also learn about a disagreement between the developers and the publisher about the pacing of the game’s prologue.

 

In the second episode of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves playthrough, Nolan North and Emily Rose reminisce about the audition process and remember how they landed the roles of Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher. This exclusive piece of production trivia also allows the actors to claim ownership of their characters, which is further strengthened by the banter between North and Rose, which emulates the relationship of Nathan and Elena. 



War Stories

In the eighth episode of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves playthrough, the actor hosts Nolan North and Troy Baker and the game developer Taylor Kurosaki (ex-Naughty Dog, now Infinity Ward) reflect on the humble beginnings of the game studio Naughty Dog while playing the famous train sequence. This is an example of the specific genre of behind-the-scenes narratives the so-called war stories, which was previously explored in the context of film production by John Thornton Caldwell in his book Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television 

 

Facilitating Others’ Behind-the-scenes Narratives

Dechart Games’ (hosted by Amelia Rose Blaire and Bryan Dechart) playthrough of the full motion video thriller Erica features the game’s music composer Austin Wintory (e.g. Journey or Assassin's Creed Syndicate). While neither of the channel’s hosts performed in the game (Bryan Dechart is perhaps best known for his role as Connor in Detroit: Become Human; Amelia Rose Blaire appeared in recurring roles in several TV shows such as Scream or True Blood and played Traci in Detroit: Become Human), they facilitated access to production trivia to their viewers by inviting the game’s composer.

 

Reaction Videos

Video game actors can start creating "definitive playthrough-style" content long before a game’s launch. In a trailer reaction for Final Fantasy VII Remake, Briana White (Strange Rebel Gaming) approaches this fan culture genre from her position as both a voice actress for the character Aerith Gainsborough and a player of previous installments of the Final Fantasy series.

 

Repeated Playthroughs

Branching narratives of story-driven games like Detroit: Become Human give actors the opportunity for creating more definitive playthrough video content via repeated playthroughs. In the second playthrough, by Dechart Games, actors Amelia Rose Blaire and Bryan Dechart pursued a very specific path for Dechart’s character Connor, making exclusively non-empathetic story choices. Altogether, Dechart Games streamed three full playthroughs: 1. a no spoiler first playthrough (Blue Connor), 2. non-empathetic Red Connor playthrough, and 3. deviant Green Connor playthrough.


Fan Persona

Briana White (Strange Rebel Gaming) had been a successful video game content creator before she booked her first video game acting role as as Aerith Gainsborough in Final Fantasy VII Remake. This fan persona shows itself in the humility with which Briana White describes her professional achievements as a voice actress. It also distinguishes her from Dechart Games and Retro Replay started streaming only later in their careers.

Streamification

The last part of our playlist points to the convergence between “definitive playthrough” channels and other types of video game streaming content. In a recent collaboration, the actor Nolan North from Retro Replay revisited some scenes from The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II with the professional speedrunner Anthony "Caliber" Calabrese, who holds several world records for The Last of Us speedruns.

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