My stance on Let’s Plays

In reference to this:

I like Let’s Plays. But when a game only sells 15,000 copies and its Let’s Play videos on Youtube have millions of hits, and youtubers make a profit off of that while the developers get nothing, there’s an imbalance.

Yes, there is fair use. An honest review would be fair use of the developer’s content because both parties get something out of it. You take something, and you give something back. However, putting large amounts of content on Youtube with very little effort spent on commentary by the youtuber, or just trashing someone’s content in a derogatory way for effect, to amuse your audience, is a bit much, especially if the youtuber makes good money off of it.

It has to meet a certain level of fairness. The question is, then, where the line should be drawn.

Look at the term “fair use.” See, there’s the word “fair” in it. Could we use that as a guideline to determine when we’re going too far?

When you’re a youtuber whose videos regularly get millions of hits, or you have millions of subscribers, and the maker of the game is an individual or a small indie developer who sells a couple thousand copies at most (and no, this is not “easy to accomplish” for an indie game), then you’re in a much stronger position. You’ll typically use other people’s content to become even more famous and make even more money. You’ll even trash that developer’s game just because your viewers love to see you do that. It might not even be about the content, it’s probably about you, the youtube celebrity, and your career, and your army of subscribers, and your expensive shampoo, for fuck’s sake.

That stretches the “fair use” thing a little, especially if the other guy spent five years making that game in a dirty cellar eating mouldy bread and then didn’t see a penny for it because his investor, his publisher and Steam took it all. You know, that even makes me a little angry.

And it doesn’t matter what kind of game content it is. An exploration game is not worse than a shooter or a strategy game or an MMO. Exploration IS a game mechanic. It is not somehow “more OK” to rip off a “walking simulator” or a “casual game.” That would be sitting on a very high horse. Content is content. Fair is fair.

I would be OK with a treshold-based model. Giving a cut (10%?) of game video profits (ad revenue) to the content maker if the youtuber has more than 100,000 subscribers or the video gets more than 250,000 hits. Something like that. And put a mandatory link to the game’s website in the description out of fairness. This would allow hobbyists to “fly under the radar” while taxing those pampered youtube celebrities just a little.

Fair? I think so.


3 responses to “My stance on Let’s Plays

  • Shelby "Falcon509" Steiner

    I agree that the Let’s Play vs. Developer issue is a problem, much like how piracy is a problem. In a way, developers are running into largely the same issues; people are getting the experience of the game without needing to actually pay for said experience.

    The unfortunate thing is that there really isn’t much that can be done without overturning the apple cart. Somebody is going to get bent out of shape. Either the industry keeps the status quo, or the way things operate gets changed and Let’s Play videos end up making some sort of concession to creators (Nintendo’s “Creator’s Program” comes to mind).

    It’s cool to me that you’re trying to figure out a solution. It seems too many are willing to let things slide. Especially when they’re internet idol would be affected.

  • thatguy

    The term “fair use” refers to the legal concept of “fair” not the colloquial use of it. Similar to how the term “Fair dealing” refers to the legal ownership of a copywrite work by the creator.

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