YouTube and Twitch changed video games forever with their respective launches in 2004 and 2011. Within a decade, each website would become a haven for gamers across the globe. Play for Views covers video games since the dawn of these new gaming horizons and the personal side of content creation from the creators themselves. Directed by YouTuber and video game connoisseur George Anderson, the documentary looks at the massive industry of “playing for views” or “Let’s Play channels.”
The film stars a friend group reflecting on their journey from avid gamers to content creators. As gaming content continues to make up the most visited portion of YouTube, Anderson hopes to shed light on the future of streaming through the stories of his closest online friends. Friends brought together by a love of video games and the connective power of the internet provide an intimate look at the world of gaming for an audience. Anderson highlights Kevin/Mankalor, Ellie/Ellietendo, John/Red Guy, Derrick/DJX5000, and himself (Gnator8t4) as the central gamers for this inside look. The documentary allows the YouTubers to tell their stories and struggles. Those familiar with YouTube history will recognize odes to early YouTube creators such as Smosh, Irate Gamer, and Angry Video Game Nerd as the film dives deep into the history of gaming commentary as an art form.
“…looks at the massive industry of ‘playing for views‘…”
Anderson’s approach quickly separates Play for Views from many gaming documentaries. By allowing each person to tell their own story, paired with their gaming footage, the film feels like an authentic look at YouTubing from those who helped build the website. Pairing each streamer with archival footage from their streams is a great touch and gives further insight into each interview (along with some excellent gameplay footage). At the film’s conclusion, you know these gamers. You’ve heard their setbacks, witnessed their passion, and seen the community they built. The director putting his friends at the cornerstone allows the film to triumph in the stories of each gamer’s success and learn from their perspective on the future of content creation.
The gaming footage of Mankalor, Ellietendo, Red Guy, DJX5000, and Gnator8t4 provides tons of fun visuals and blends fluidly with each interview. Said interviews are edited for maximum impact and to avoid any lulls. Still, Play for Views struggles with structure in a few moments and could benefit from more bite-sized chapters rather than longer broad topics to organize the narrative. However, themes of community and creativity are powerful throughout each talking head.
Those unfamiliar with gaming or YouTube may feel alienated by such a ground-level look at online communities. However, those raised on the internet or immersed in modern gaming will find solace in the stories of like-minded gamers. Anderson puts a face to the many people who make up YouTube’s Let’s Play content. Most of all, the director puts a face to those who made Let’s Play the most popular content on the internet. Play for Views is a documentary made explicitly for modern gamers and future content creators across the globe.
"…a documentary made explicitly for modern gamers and future content creators..."