a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

my favorite LP

My favorite album is a double LP, and it's Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven by Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

But I've never owned a record player, nor do I have much interest in doing so,1 so my main association with the letters LP is "let's play", a genre of videos in which a person plays video games and talks. I like watching LPs, and I made them for over a decade. My favorite LP is Kay Plays Dark Souls:

One zombie girl. Hordes of demons. Don't panic. A blind, live commentary LP of Dark Souls. Recorded Dec 2013 - Mar 2014.

It's not a decade old quite yet, but something made me think of Dark Souls recently, and I thought it was high time for a rewatch. I've rewatched it before, but it's been several years. It still holds up tremendously. Kay's approach to this legendarily difficult game is thoughtful, methodical, patient, and experimental. She tries lots of things and figures out what does and doesn't work. She makes leaps of logic about the game's strategy and lore that I frankly still find incredible, and I've finished it twice. She gets frustrated, she gets in ruts of failure (which is going to happen to anyone playing the game who isn't following a guide religiously) but she never lets it bring down the mood of the videos. She takes breaks when she needs to and never loses her cool. She's effortlessly funny, and the joy she expresses at the game is contagious. Frankly, it inspired me to make my own videos more thoughtful and methodical.

This was around the time I switched mostly from prerecorded videos to live streams, which really discouraged me from playing games "blind" (i.e. with no prior experience) because it's impossible to avoid spoilers. You could be playing the most obscure video game with 0 watchers, and if you're playing blind, someone who's been the game's biggest fan since they were 9 will pop into your chat to tell you you're doing everything wrong and point out what you're missing. It's the most discouraging part of this hobby. But even playing games I knew so well that I couldn't be spoiled, I still wanted to be methodical and explain things thoughtfully, and go more in-depth about my processes and observations, and I think I became more successful at that as time went on.

Kay had a little bit of trouble with spoilers in the comments, but Dark Souls is a game with a fanbase who I think sees the value of experiencing the game through fresh eyes, and by and large commenters recognize how special this playthrough is and leave her to it. She says early on that she welcomes explanations of the game's often abstruse mechanics, but politely asked people not to spoil any of the game's secrets or story beats. Amazingly, her audience seemed very respectful of her request---but if her videos were getting millions of views instead of tens of thousands I'm sure it would've been impossible to look at the comments and have a good experience.

She also benefited by recording in batches and releasing the videos slowly; by the time commenters were able to comment on what she was doing, she was already well ahead of that point in real time. I think this is smart, and if I start doing videos again, I think I'll follow a similar strategy.

I've gone back and forth on whether it makes sense to impose artificial time constraints on videos---this is the internet, why should I split a 2.5 hour video up into 5 chunks and release it 30 minutes at a time? Just upload the whole thing and let people watch it at their own pace. This ain't TV. But for LPs, I think there's a good reason for doing it this way. Having a buffer takes some of the pressure off. When people leave feedback, whether it's good or bad, it's about something I did way in the past. I'm less emotionally connected to it. If someone spoils something, it might be something I already found, or it might be something I already missed; either way, I'm past the point where it can affect how I play. Ideally. It's much different than the immediate feedback and problems that a live chat audience brings. Don't get me wrong, live chat brings a lot of positives with it too, but the bad parts are so much worse when you have to deal with them now. I've had so many bad experiences that killed my enthusiasm for the rest of the stream. I've bailed on streams before I wanted to, and made myself continue after I felt like shit and had 0 energy.

Once justin.tv showed up and made live game streaming feasible, and especially after it turned into twitch, I felt like the old episodic LP was dead, that streaming was the future. And I was right. But, like many things that turned into the future, I'm more and more thinking that it was a bad call, and we should go back to the old thing. And watching Kay play Dark Souls is one of the reasons why. I'm having just as much fun re-watching it almost a decade later as I did when it was new, and how many stream archives can I say that about? Most of them have disappeared into Twitch's content hole, and most of the ones that are archived, in my opinion, don't always hold up to a rewatch. The energy of an LP is totally different. She's not having to interrupt her train of thought to interact with the chat. She's not having to ban people shouting spoilers (or, let's be real, misogynist abuse) at her every 5 minutes. She's not worried about dead air. She's taking all the time she needs. If I make a return to LPing, I think I'm going to take my time again 🦝


  1. then again, I've never owned an album of 45 or 78 RPM records either, and I still call them "albums", so it's not like calling them "LPs" would be less logical↩

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