The Brains Behind Volunteer Video Game WalkthroughsBy Justin Massoud
The last thing most gamers do when they get home, rip the cellophane off a brand new game, pop it in and press ‘start’ is think to themselves, ‘I’m going to play this game multiple times until I discover the best possible course through it and then share the info with strangers on the Internet.’ For amateur video game videographers like Zach Sharpe and Mathieu Brunelle, it’s par for the course.
These unsung heroes put in countless hours for no pay and little fame just so we have some original, entertaining content that also spells out how to defeat that one boss we’re stuck on, or exactly where to find that last golden widget in the haunted forest. Though companies like Prima and BradyGames are still putting out print strategy guides and bigger game sites dedicate endless resources to crafting their own walkthroughs, Sharpe and Brunelle are just two of hundreds giving them a run for their money.
We reached out to both to find out how much work goes into their video guides and why they do what they do.
Sharpe, whose “Let’s Play” video series can be seen at Viddler, believes creating user-generated content is its own reward. “I’ll be the first to admit that the average view count on my videos is pitiful, but it’s very endearing to see even one or two people hassle me about it and say, ‘dude, when are you getting back to [the game]?’” Sharpe said. “It’s these people , few though they may be, that genuinely enjoy watching me play that make it worth it.”
Sharpe, who is 20-years-old, wants his viewers to have a good time above all, but he does have an ulterior motive for making videos: it’s good practice. He’s currently pursuing a degree in education and wants to teach overseas. “Them learning from the videos is the icing on the cake,” Sharp said.
“For me , the central motivation for a ‘Let’s Play’ is to teach,” Sharpe said. To ensure he’s able to teach properly, he selects games he’s very familiar with; teaching an unfamiliar game via video would be akin to explaining a foreign language with just index cards.
“I ask myself, ‘Do I know the game well enough to teach it?’ Not just to the degree of solving a puzzle or boss encounter for the viewer, but to show them subtle nuances about the game many people may not be aware of,” Sharpe said. “I think a big draw for Let’s Plays is that it’s usually very fun to watch people play a game that they are clearly passionate about and very skilled at.”
Outside of the time-consuming process of producing Let’s Play videos he manages to find time to hang out with friends, read, and write. He also attends Sakura Con, a video game and anime convention held in Seattle, where he’s cosplayed as the Merchant from “Resident Evil 4.” Next year he promises to rock the convention as the Red Engineer from “Team Fortress 2.”
Contrary to Let’s Play, which allows the player some more leeway to ramble or inject personal thoughts, are the more traditional video guides that focus mainly on getting gamers through a game — a style that YouTube regular Mathieu Brunelle (AKA Misty or Chronexia) has utilized on over a dozen complete walkthroughs.
Brunelle, a French-Canadian currently residing in Montreal, just turned 22-years-old but he’s been working with video for years. “I started doing this kind of stuff when I was 14 or 15-years-old,” he says. “Plus I studied movie making after high school, which makes me really professional in my work.” Despite his nearly 10 years of experience he has a surprising take on making walkthroughs “Video filming and editing isn’t a passion. However, it’s something I’m really good at.”
Considering the amount of time that goes into a video walkthrough, being good only helps so much. Ignoring the time it takes to actually film a game walkthrough (which is nebulous, thanks to varying game lengths and possible replays of tough spots), Brunelle says that it takes upwards of 2 hours to render a 10-minute video file. “This is 2 hours where I have to wait and sit back while my computer can compress the file video and audio.” Add in edits (“nine parts per recording is almost 20 hours of editing”) and it’s easy to see why Brunelle himself half-jokingly admits, “Yes, I do need a life!”
Despite the large amount of time he’s dedicated to video walkthroughs, Brunelle is busy with an even bigger project: “I’m working on a trilogy of books that I’ll be sending to publishers next September.”
A tip of our Mario hats to Sharpe, Brunelle, and everyone else out there spending countless hours to help us get through those rough spots.