3,000 people pack the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. Home of the Academy Awards, cameras line the mezzanine and balcony seating, and backstage you will find the best that technology has to offer in terms of broadcasting and production quality. The theater has seen countless concerts, broadway shows and other forms of entertainment. As thousands line up for another event at the Dolby, it’s just another night at the theater…or is it?
The line wrapped through the mall, down sets of stairs with thousands of people eagerly awaiting showtime. What’s brought so many people together at such a reputable establishment? As it turns out: the most recent showing of Let’s Play Live. Alternatively described as watching a bunch of guys (and girls) play video games, curse each other out and otherwise engage in shenanigans.
If you’re familiar with YouTube, you have more than likely heard of or seen a “Let’s Play” video. Gamers showcase their skill (sometimes their lack thereof) while offering commentary or otherwise engage their viewers. Within the Let’s Play universe, Achievement Hunter is one of the most successful channels on YouTube with millions of monthly subscribers and nearly 1.5 billion views. Created by Geoff Ramsey and Jack Patillo back in 2008, Achievement Hunters follows them as they seek out the toughest achievements on the latest consoles, often capturing some hilarious moments along the way.
In this age of internet stardom, it makes sense that people would want to meet the stars that they watch on a daily basis, and that’s where Let’s Play Live comes in. Premiering last year in Austin, it provides an opportunity for fans to witness the same sort of mayhem and comedy they often watch through their unfeeling computer screens as they laugh, cheer, boo and otherwise engage with the players as they play various games. You wouldn’t think that would draw out 3,000 people, would you?
— Greg Miller (@GameOverGreggy) June 18, 2016
When I first heard about this concept it struck me as a bit odd. “Why go see a show and pay $50 when you can watch it online for free?” The format seemed like it would be a bit difficult to execute live as well – multiple screens and players could easily lead to confusion for the viewer. Yet, it works surprisingly well. Competitive gameplay inspires the same level of excitement that you would experience at a boxing match. The variety performances helped round out the show and as I mentioned earlier, the audience interaction/participation is on a whole different level.
When I went to the show last night, even though I felt a bit like an old man (conventions tend to do that to me as well from time to time…) I couldn’t help but feel the excitement that these fans had at the opportunity to see their favorite internet entertainers live. I also developed a newfound appreciation for the streamers as well: while Geoff and the Rooster Teeth gang are no strangers to interacting with crowds, they host RTX after all, their medium is largely based on creating content for viewers to consume online. Despite this, many of the streamers seemed comfortable engaging their audience, which was a pleasant surprise.
The advent of the internet has transformed our world in so many ways, and of course the entertainment industry wouldn’t come out of it unscathed. We see it in our day to day lives already. Music has gone online. Movies and TV shows are streamed. Celebrities aren’t found in Los Angeles or New York, they beam their talent around the world for millions to see from the comfort of their home. As the ways in which entertainment is delivered and consumed has evolved, so too has the ways in which we find our latest talent.
The question is: will this live format be able to survive? There are certainly some challenges that have yet to be ironed out completely – technical difficulties, including lag on local networks, can severely damper a Let’s Play experience. Running multiple screens sometimes confuses audience members as they’re not sure who’s doing what. Finally, and this is arguably the most important, selling 3,000 seats for an event like this is certainly not standard. Achievement Hunter, and on a larger scale, Rooster Teeth, has been a cornerstone of online entertainment for 13 years now since Red Vs Blue first debuted. Even still, they partnered with 5 other stream-teams to help drive attendance. A singular team attempting to do this could very well meet with far less success.
Still, despite the challenges, it seems like the next logical step in the age of internet entertainers. Personally, I look forward to attending more shows like this one, if for no other reason than to watch grown men loose a flurry of expletives that would make a sailor blush when they fall into a lava trap for the 5th time.
All this leading to a very important lesson. Remember kids: if you procrastinate enough, and play lots of video games…you too could fill the Dolby Theater so people can watch you die in Mario Maker.