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A Let’s Play thread, or LP, is a thread in which a person or group plays through a video game and chronicles their progress by posting videos, screenshots with accompanying text, or a mixture of both. Let’s Plays are usually accompanied by the player’s commentary, though sometimes the accompanying commentary can be a narrative from the main character’s perspective or the like. Unlike a game walkthrough, which explains how to complete a video game, a Let’s Play’s commentary usually is more for comedic purposes, though many Let’s Plays are highly informative despite (or in addition to) this. Popular video hosts for Let’s Plays include Blip.tv, Viddler, Baldurdash, and YouTube.
Let’s Plays as they are known now began on the Something Awful forums in 2006, when some goons created threads about Oregon Trail in the Games subforum. These threads acted as the template for the screenshot Let’s Plays that followed, these being screenshots of the playthroughs accompanied by text. On January 19th 2007, the first video LP was created by slowbeef, a playthrough of Super Metroid for the SNES. Its formula proved popular and ended up changing the face of Let’s Play forever. In 2007, Something Awful gave the Let’s Players their own sub-forum. On the 2nd of Febuary, 2007, the LP Archive was created by Something Awful goons to preserve older Let’s Plays from Something Awful.
Since its humble beginnings as a single thread in a forum, Let’s Playing has become increasingly more popular, and has since spread outside of SomethingAwful. After the initial spread outside of Something Awful, more and more other sites with forums have had Let’s Plays run inside their forums. There is also a forum devoted exclusively to Let’s Playing, The Let’s Play Forum, which has managed to gain about two thousand members since its startup. Some individual Let’s Players have managed to gain enough popularity to start their own forums and websites. Of course, not all Let’s Plays are run from a forum; in fact, there are a significant number of YouTube-exclusive Let’s Players out there, for better or for worse. One practice that has arisen as a result of some of these Let’s Plays of dubious quality is Retsupurae, where yet another layer of commentary is added to the video, usually mocking the original Let’s Player. The most well known Retsupurae purveyor is the team of slowbeef and Diabetus, two veteran Let’s Players from SomethingAwful. Their videos can be found here on YouTube. The other main Retsupurae duo is ChipCheezum and General Ironicus, another pair of LP veterans from Something Awful. Most of their videos can be found on ChipCheezum’s YouTube channel.
Examples of completed SomethingAwful LPs
Let’s Play Metroid Prime (Archived)
Let’s Play Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (Archived)
Let’s Play Saiyuki: Journey West (Archived)
Let’s Play Spore (SA)
Notable SomethingAwful Let’s Players
Slowbeef is the head moderator of the Let’s Play subforum on SomethingAwful. He is well-known for his part in bringing about the video LP, and his having started the first Retsupurae channel along with Diabetus. Much of the time, he is accompanied in his LPs by Diabetus, another veteran SA LPer.
Diabetus is known for being the other half of the original Retsupurae duo, as well as his LPs of Battletoads and the Second Quest of Parallel Worlds.
Popular Let’s Players on YouTube
Chuggaaconroy, a.k.a. Emile, also joined YouTube in 2006, but he didn’t start his first LP, EarthBound, until 2008. Since then, Chuggaaconroy became the most subscribed Youtube Let’s Player, with over 350,000 subscribers and over 290 million total video views by 2010. (He lost the title of most-subscribed YouTube LP’er sometime in 2011 or 2012.) Chuggaaconroy suffered the same fate as NintendoCapriSun when his account was closed by the same person who shut down NCS’s. Chuggaaconroy also received support from other YouTubers until his account was also reactivated a month or so later. Chuggaaconroy has so far completed a total of 22 Let’s Plays, and is currently working on The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Super Mario 64 DS. He is currently partnered with TheGameStation.
NintendoCapriSun, a.k.a. Timothy Bishop, joined YouTube in 2007. By 2010, NCS has gained over 150,000 subscribers and over 85 million total video views. Outside of his LPing, NCS is also a vlogger who posts videos on his other account, BreakingNCS.
In the summer of 2010, NintendoCapriSun had his account closed due to false DMCA claims. Accounts like SavingNCS were created in support of NCS. After about a month, the NintendoCapriSun account was reactivated. NCS has completed about 59 projects, according to his page on TV Tropes, and is currently working on his 60th. His ongoing project as of this writing is Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. He is currently partnered with TheGameStation.
ProtonJonSA joined Youtube in 2007. He gained fame through his various Super Mario World ROMhack reviews and in particular, Mario’s Wacky World and Kaizo, a very hard Japanese-made SMW hack.
However, ProtonJon is known well for updating once in a blue moon, almost as well as he is known for the famous phrase “Move Faster Pokey!!!” from one of his Kaizo videos. In his years on YouTube after Something Awful, from which the “SA” in his name is taken, ProtonJon has gained over 95,000 subscribers and over 24 million total video views. It is unknown how many LP’s Jon has completed, though it is estimated around 5, not counting ROMhacks, other than Mario’s Wacky World. He is much more active on TheRunawayGuys. His current solo projects are Superman 64 (which will be updated whenever a new part is ready) and Resident Evil 5 (which will be updated every Thursday, and is actually a collaborative project with SuperJeenius). He is currently partnered by Machinima.
SlimKirby a.k.a. Rob joined YouTube in 2006. Slim started his account by posting Super Smash Brothers Brawl custom stage reviews and Mario Kart Wifi races until he posted his first LP, Donkey Kong 64. Since that LP, SlimKirby has gained fame from his Simpsons Hit and Run Let’s Play and Mario Party Board Playthroughs. SlimKirby has gained over 55,000 subscribers and over 33 million total upload views. It is unknown how many LP’s Slim has completed, though it is estimated around 30 or so projects. He is currently working on Pokemon Blue and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble. He is currently partnered with TheGameStation..
JoshJepson made his YouTube account on January 3rd, 2008. As of late 2011, he has over 45,000 subscribers and over 6 million total views. He began his first solo LP of Twilight Princess on December 9th, 2009. He was previously involved with a Let’s Playing group known as “FriendCodesSuck”, which unfortunately died. On his JoshJepson account, he has completed 20 projects. He is currently working on The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Quantum Conundrum. He is currently partnered with TheGameStation.
Other notable Let’s Players include PewDiePie, ClementJ642, and Electrical Beast. (More details to be included later.)
Let’s Play Groups
The Runaway Guys
It is useful to note that many people are a part of the LP community, though these three are those who associate with the name most. chuggaaconroy, NintendoCapriSun, and ProtonJon are the producers of a YouTube channel dubbed TheRunawayGuys, likely spawning from the group of singers in EarthBound, the Runaway Five. They have had LP’er "JoshJepson":www.youtube.com/joshjepson as a guest for their second LP, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and Lucahjin as a guest player for their sixth LP, Little Big Planet. This group channel has a total of over 90,000 subscribers and 15.5 million total views. So far, they have completed 7 LP’s – Mario Party 1, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Party 2, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, Little Big Planet, and Wii Party. Their current project is New Super Mario Bros. U.