Recently I’ve been browsing YouTube for some examples of JRPG combat mechanics. This little search led me to a low-level, initial equipment playthrough of Final Fantasy IV (Advance). It was a pretty interesting watch, and it reminded me of just how much varied content exists on the site. Sure, you have your usual gameplay footage, corporate trailers and fan reviews, but there’s a lot more beyond that.
1). The Tributes.
These are usually trailers created by diehard fans. A lot of them are filled with blurry text and horribly incongruous music, but there’s some really good ones too.
There aren’t any specific channels or playlists for tributes, but there’s still plenty of them on YouTube. Just search for your favourite game and the word “tribute,” and you’ll probably find at least a couple of ’em.
2). The Playthroughs.
The “Let’s Play” phenomenon originated on the Something Awful forums where individuals posted threads about playing through their favourite games. These posts were accompanied by screenshots and/or video clips, as well as personal commentary on various facets of the game. This trend proved so popular that YouTube “Let’s Play” videos soon started popping up. The idea of documenting a video playthrough isn’t completely new, though, and there are various terms such as “I Played a Thing” that wield similar results.
With playthroughs, it’s important to note that they can be rather lengthy, and that the individuals who compile them are usually very enthusiastic fans. Playthroughs tend to explore every nook and cranny of a game from start to finish, often with some commentary thrown in. This is perfectly understandable, although not always beneficial.
There’s actually a plethora of “Let’s Play” videos on YouTube, so chances are if you type in your favourite game, you’ll find a match. If you just want to browse, though, this is a good start, as is the Let’s Play Archive.
3). The Speedruns.
In many ways, speedruns really popularized video playthroughs. The idea behind speedruns is to complete an entire game as quickly as possible, utilizing any shortcuts, glitches, and (at times) software tools to assist with the challenge. These still require an amazing amount of skill, though, which you can see below.
4). The Skills.
Sometimes a speedrun is not the best way to showcase one’s abilities at a specific game. Whether it’s a particular combo, a unique tactic in a strategy game, a boss-dismantling, or any other impressive feat, these videos tend to be one-offs. That doesn’t make them any less impressive, but it does mean that they’re isolated clips without a specific channel/playlist.
5). The Cutscenes.
Whether it’s an amazing game intro or ending, or just a particularly memorable cinematic, chances are it’s on YouTube in all its spoiler glory.
Of course that’s not nearly everything. You still have the machinimas (which were largely popularized by Red vs. Blue), music showcases (MechWarrior 2’s soundtrack in particular is too often overlooked) and brand new music videos, glitches, commercials, and much, much more.
The videos are all fun time-sinks, like most content on YouTube, but they can also be a great resource for game developers. They provide user commentary, showcases of skills (and frustrations), entire playthroughs that are easy to browse, tributes to the most memorable scenes, etc. This is an enormous amount of content to analyze and learn from, and I’m a little surprised that no one in the development world has yet to champion it.