Watching other people play

edited June 2012 in Story Games
Sounds dirty, doesn't it?

So, the other day, I played Mythender with the excellent Quinn Murphy via Google Hangouts. We did a Hangouts-on-Air thing, and a few people watched. It's now on YouTube, because Hangouts-on-Air does that.

Is that the sort of thing anyone's interested in watching? For some of my research, when I was still in grad school, I went through a few hours of recorded play, and I found it insanely boring post-hoc. I think it's really an in-the-moment kind of thing. But there are probably folks who disagree, and do find it interesting!

I'm thinking that it might be worthwhile to do some live examples-of-play for games that I like or am making at some point, in addition, of course, to participatory playtests with varied-and-far-flung folks. Would that tickle anyone's fancy?

Comments

  • It takes a group with a good flow and not too much ooc chatter to be interesting.
  • I think watching play, i.e. being tied to some place with a screen and giving it my undivided attention, would be rough. I do enjoy AP podcasts, though, because I can listen to them while I do routine activities like taking long walks. I usually find them entertaining (if the group has good chemistry) and informative in that it lets me observe different people's approaches to games, what does and doesn't seem to work in the game, etc. I find that AP podcasts based on things like Skype play are usually the easiest to absorb, because while they're playing they need to make sure all of the relevant stuff gets communicated verbally to each other (which also means the audience hears it) and don't rely on nonverbal stuff (facial expressions, pointing at maps, etc.) which doesn't work well on radio.
  • I think Dan puts his finger on the difference in approaches/audiences for different materials. I also enjoy Actual Play podcasts, but only in that context. If I'm focused on them, they're kind of boring. If I'm doing something else, downtime/development time/people doing things I don't really care about are features, not bugs, because I can use that time to focus on what I'm doing/make decisions about it. Like, I've had a lot of suggestions that we should make Out of Character an actual play podcast. That doesn't seem interesting to me and the person editing it would have a nightmare in making it a focused production - but focus is itself not a desirable thing when you're on a hour long hike. You'd trip over too much stuff.
  • edited June 2012
    .....how did that triplepost?!
  • I'd rather eat my own skin than listen to other people play a game. I think if somebody wanted to do the tedious work of extracting teachable moments, that'd be cool. Like "Here is a five minute lesson on how escalation is supposed to work in Dogs, pulled from a real game". And that would, in turn, probably require some commentary and context on either end. But listening for fun? No. I totally don't get it.
  • edited June 2012
    Ordinarily, I'd be right there with kobutsu and Jason Morningstar in finding recorded play to be insanely boring.

    Except that I've been watching Wil Wheaton's Tabletop series on YouTube and enjoying it*, which leads me to believe that the way to make watching other people sit around a table and play a game interesting takes a lot of effort and a lot more planning. Besides good lighting, microphones, and editing, you also need to make sure that everyone at the table is not only comfortable in front of a camera/microphone, but also entertaining to an audience.

    This might mean that you can't just use the folks who show up to your weekly game. (Okay, it almost certainly means you can't do that, but who knows? Maybe you game with unusually photogenic, charismatic people.) And it means someone's going to have to put a lot of money into getting the equipment, and a lot of time into setting things up right. And then, because you're not Internet Famous or whatever, no one will watch it anyway. Man, it's hard to catch a break in this mean ol' world.


    *Mind you, their Fiasco episode has yet to go up, so I don't know how interesting/sensible an RPG session would be in that format. Boardgames and card game seem to do okay, because an audience doesn't have to care about every move and you can just cut straight to the good bits. Having that narrative element in there seems like it would complicate that, but I guess we'll see.
  • edited June 2012
    Tabletop is going to do pretty much exactly what I suggest above - we won't see the entire game from beginning to end, with the diversions, interruptions, and rabbit trails. And they are professionals, doing professional-level work.
  • From my perspective, the specific event Kit talks about was only interesting to me because it was useful to me as a designer. I wouldn't have stayed watching it for the first 2+ hours if not for that -- because I was not just passively engaged. I took notes and chimed in when I saw some errors in play (and then took more notes on that).

    That said, I know a lot of AP podcasters who get good hits. There are people who use that either to learn, to get their "fix" in when they can't for whatever reason game themselves, or to kill time. But like Dan & Jason say, there's a difference to being tied to a screen and wandering around with your MP3 player or using it to pass the time on a long commute.

    I've thought hard about tutorial videos for Mythender, but I don't have the time to produce them. They wouldn't be spontaneous play, but an illustrative, scripted example. Different beast, but like with Tabletop, the one that serves a particular goal that random AP shows don't really do.

    - Ryan
  • edited June 2012
    (cross-posted)

    I'm hoping that Tabletop's pieces-to-camera are going to provide a good way of compressing the Fiasco episode's narrative together, linking the fun 'play out the scene' bits together by watching funny people/awesome writers summarise what happened in between those moments.

    That 'summarising' technique (which provides the commentary and context that Jason just mentioned) could be part of a good way to present Actual Play.
  • It totally would be, but time spend producing polished stuff from hours of raw audio is not small. :/

    - Ryan
  • OK, so next question:

    I think a lot about sets-of-binaries defining a space (blame Chomsky and Halle, The Sound Patterns of English). So one of the sets-of-binaries I think about is in media: interactive/audience-based, verbal/visual, episodic/singleton, edited/improvisational. That last one is relevant here.

    RPGs are improvisational, and I think that a lot of what I'm seeing in the responses—and feeling in my own response to the idea of watching play—is that if we're going to sit through something, and not take part in the creation, we'd rather it be edited.

    And yet, I can enjoy watching theatrical improv (though it doesn't hold a candle to actually doing it). So do you think it's possible to make an RPG session be as fun to watch as that? I mean, sure, Who's Line is it Anyway is actually edited (but also arguably not very good), but I'm thinking like local improv seen live.
  • I'd rather eat my own skin than watch improv on video.

    Most of the same constraints apply, and a professionally-edited two camera piece could probably be great, but without those resources you get this, which is pretty harsh. Much love guys, but I don't want to watch that at a remove. You strip out all the energy, the ambiance, the realness of being there and being a part of it, even as a spectator.
  • If anyone is curious about the "curated snippets of actual play, with discussion" concept, that's the format of Mel White's Virtual Play podcast (audio, not video), although it's not usually about summarizing the story but picking a few minutes of play that he thinks are interesting or illustrative of some concept.

    I might be wrong, but I think in the context of other media people have said that audio gives a greater sense of intimacy than video, because the "voice in your head" feeling gives you less chance to separate yourself from the experience. That might be another reason that I prefer audio to video for observing recorded RPG play.
  • What about something like bite-sized AP meets One-Cool-Thing, some sort of AP clip-show? I'd love to hear some audio replays of my favorite games by interesting people as well...
  • I might be wrong, but I think in the context of other media people have said that audio gives a greater sense of intimacy than video,
    I agree. In audio, there's the illusion that the speaker is speaking to you, in some sense. That's easily dispelled in poorly-produced video.

    - Ryan
  • edited June 2012
    And yet, I can enjoy watching theatrical improv (though it doesn't hold a candle to actually doing it). So do you think it's possible to make an RPG session be as fun to watch as that?
    One critical difference that you'd have to deal with immediately is that theatrical improv is performed for the benefit of an audience, by actors who (hopefully) are interested in and know how to entertain an audience. RPG sessions aren't, and consequently they're even worse on video than improv.

  • Not to mention, live audiences are born loving what they're watching, and Internet audiences are born hating what they're watching.
  • edited June 2012
    I'd rather eat my own skin than listen to other people play a game.
    I'd rather eat my own skin than watch improv on video.
    Occam's Razor says that Jason might just be really into eating his own skin. It explains everything.
  • One critical difference that you'd have to deal with immediately is that theatrical improv is performed for the benefit of an audience, by actors who (hopefully) are interested in and know how to entertain an audience. RPG sessions aren't, and consequently they're even worse on video than improv.
    Yup, quite so. That's a very important difference—the direction of audience orientation!
  • edited June 2012
    I didn't know it had come out!

    But I'd also very much rather be playing a game than watching someone else play it.
  • To be honest, even professional rehearsed (i.e. non-improv) theatrical performances are difficult to watch on video. I've quite happily sat through six performances of the same show on consecutive evenings, but would struggle to watch it off tape without zoning out. (It's all part of what keeps live theatre in business)

    Anything on video, especially on the web, needs to be fast-paced and visually interesting. Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation springs to mind as someone successfully pushing that to the extreme.

    The one, largely static, story-based tv show that I recall is Jackanory, which did what it did well (again with the provisio of professionals working under professional conditions). Episodes were only 15 mins though and relied on a smooth flow of story-telling which doesn't happen under gaming conditions (though it might be an interesting way to do an AR) and also, by not having much happening visually, allowed it to be treated like radio.

    As commented above, short, snappy and visually interesting examples of rules and game concepts are probably the best use of video.
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