Let's Play (genre)
|Machinima, Pewdiepie (#2 most subbed on YouTube as of 2020 and a LPer), YouTube, Something Awful, YouTube RPF
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A Let's Play (LP) involves video games paired with player commentary. Those who create let's plays are called "Let's Players," and more broadly, if a let's player utilizes YouTube, may also be called a "YouTuber." For example, Markiplier is a popular let's player YouTuber. Let's players usually go by their usernames and not their real names, but may allow their full names to be public.
LPs show a videogame being played while the player talks about what he is doing in commentary with video, screenshots or both. Generally the playthroughs are spread over several segments of play (varying in time). Rarely some action is done "off screen" or speeded up to not get too repetitive, but in most cases the playthrough is a complete run of the game including all "Game Overs" and deaths, done in informative or humorous style so as to keep your attention. 
The phenomena originated on the forum Something Awful, where users documented their playthroughs in forum threads. They would post screenshots of their gameplay with text commentary. The first let's play that used video is considered to be a let's play of "The Immortal" for the NES by a player named slowbeef. According to comments on the re-uploaded YouTube video, this first let's play was uploaded to the Something Awful forums in 2007 before its re-upload to YouTube by slowbeef.
Slowbeef said of the video:
If you've ever seen a DVD, you know how they do directors commentary and stuff? Well imagine if some jackass who was not involved in the creation of the movie at all decided to just comment on what he thought just watching the movie would be like.
slowbeef, on the first video let's play
Even though this is considered to be the first modern let's play of the 2000s, some Reddit users suggested the practice of let's play videos went even further.
I used to have an old VHS of how to play games. It was Airwolf, Ninja Gaiden, and a couple other games. I think one of them was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This was in either the late 80s or early 90s.
Let's players often form fandoms around them, resulting in real people fandoms based solely on their videos. They are usually considered popular YouTube personalities, and influence an abundance of fanart, fanfiction, and even shipping, where fans ship different let's players together. A good example is Markiplier/Jacksepticeye, or "Septiplier."
A specific branch of YouTube RPF is Minecraft RPF. This branch of YouTube RPF is called Minecraft YouTube, abbreviated to mcyt. While it can refer to any Minecraft YouTubers, there is a particular focus on some of the more popular Minecraft YouTubers, such as Dream (and his server Dream SMP), Ph1LzA, and GeorgeNotFound.
LPs and "real" game fans
I am getting into a new fandom - the first video game I've been fannish about in a way that has led me to seek out fic. It's plotty and full of worldbuilding, which is what attracts me. Unfortunately, it's a genre of game I'm intensely bad at. I've played it a bit, but I suck enough that I know I will never beat it. So I've gotten into it by watching a good, detailed let's play, the kind that includes the cutscenes and the grind-y weapons upgrading sessions and occasional long series of faily deaths. As much time and squee as I've poured into watching the game, I'm worried that I'm somehow a less complete fan because I haven't and can't play the whole game through. Video game nonnies, what are your feelings on fans who get into games this way and then make fanworks? Should I keep my LP-watching ways quiet?
One nonnie responded:
I've always rolled my eyes at the fans who insist that you HAVE to play the game YOURSELF because having a controller in your hand makes it an entirely different experience and you can never TRULY understand the game or care about any of its elements until you've experienced it... There are some people out there who will say that, definitely. It's a load of crock. Especially for games which have characters, plot, and worldbuilding, it's entirely possible to be a fan and really care about all of those elements even if you don't play it yourself. If you watch a good, detailed Let's Play or watch a friend play it through, and don't just try to get all your info off Wiki and/or GameFaqs (I've seen this, too, and it's the only method I'd call questionable), you're good.
Another nonnie said:
I don't think it's a terrible thing, or you're doing it wrong, but I do think you're getting only a partial experience. Video games are games, they're meant to be played - even annoying deaths and mind-numbing grinding are as much a part of the experience as the plot and characters and world. Depending on what game it is, the gameplay could change how you feel about it entirely. To me, it's like watching a (not silent obviously) movie without sound - you can still appreciate and I wouldn't say you don't understand it, but you're possibly missing a very important part. And tbh some games are only redeemable because they're fun to play and for no other reason, but I'm guessing this isn't one of those games, lol. If you're having fun I don't mean to harsh your squee or anything, I'm glad you're enjoying it... though I'd keep quiet about it because video game fandom can be harsh. 
In 2013, Nintendo decided to claim copyright ownership over LPs posted on Youtube; the videos wouldn't be kicked off Youtube, but Nintendo would receive all ad revenue generated by the videos that formerly went to the users. See BoingBoing and Game Front.
|Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.
- Hatoful Boyfriend + The Search for Fat Bird's Good End (Hatoful Boyfriend), by Angie Gallant
- Let's Play Silent Hill [BLIND] (Silent Hill), by L0rdVega
- Starting the LARGEST Pool Party In Mabinogi by Mabi Nerd
- The Let's Play Archive
- YouTube (search "let's play [game title]")
- Fail Fandom Anon has LP rec threads, such as this one.
- Let's Play Collection on Archive.org
- Frequently Asked Questions - The Let's Play Archive (Accessed Sept. 23, 2012)
- Does Anyone Know the History of Let's Plays, Reddit, Sept 30, 2018 (Accessed 12/23/2020)
- Immortal Level 1 (with commentary), YouTube, re-uploaded circa 2011. (Accessed 12/23/2020)
- New Fandom Angst. Thread started 2012-10-09. Last accessed 2012-10-09.