Video games. They are one of the fastest developing industries of our time, covering a vast field of different themes, satisfying the demand of a greatly diverse audience. The growth of the industry isn’t simply economical. In cultural terms, video games gain an increasingly larger amount of our time, adding new thoughts, words and interests in our daily lives.
Video game commentary, also known as “Let’s play”, is one of the gaming community’s biggest occupations. Why is that? In my opinion, it provides fans with the thing they have always wanted -the ability to experience, talk and share information about video games without any middle men.
To be honest, I am not a big fan of most playthroughs. But ManlyBadassHero, a commentator who focuses mainly on the adventure and horror genres, is among the few people whose commentary truly interests me. From ib to Alien Isolation and from The Crooked Man to Outlast, the titles that he picks up and the way he takes the viewer into the game is incredible. This is why I wanted to interview him for our blog and, thankfully, he was more than happy to participate.
Neko-chii (N): Introduce us to yourself.
ManlyBadassHero (M): I am ManlyBadassHero, also known as full title ManlyBadassHeroofJusticeWeeaboo. I am some dude who plays video games and records them.
(N): How long have you been into gaming and what got you into it?
(M): I don’t remember exactly when but I probably started playing video games at the start of the 1990s. I remember not being in America that long and playing Centipede & Ms. Pac-Man arcade machines at Sony Pictures Studios while waiting for my father to finish up his business. Not long after that they got me a NES and video games never left my life.
(N): How did you start doing video game commentary?
(M): A few months before Amnesia was first released (Sep 2010) I started to stream horror games for friends. This was really just practice for streaming Amnesia because I was gifted the game and in exchange I told them I’d stream it. Despite only linking the stream to a few people the link was apparently spread around and my stream capped out which inspired me to make it a nightly thing.
After about two years or so I burned out and stopped so to have backups of my streams for memories sake I uploaded them to youtube. One of these was my ib playthrough which at the time was one of the only full playthroughs of the game. It sat there ignored for a little while until ib‘s popularity blew up when the big youtube channels played it and I got flooded with comments. Most of them were positive but I also got a lot of flack for the videos being unedited which kind of fired me up to release quality content. I released a few more videos then went dead for almost a year till I was able to afford a decent computer that didn’t take 24 hours to render a video.
If you notice the first few videos of Book of Shadows have sound errors and overall lower quality, the point when it fixes is when I get the new computer. Also if I had to point out a specific playthrough The Crooked Man is my first Let’s Play that I put real effort into and took serious.
(N): Describe your creative process, from picking up a title to what happens until the video is released.
(M): I generally aim for interesting or story based games. Then I play a little and research it and decide if I feel like it benefits from commentary and if I should take a serious or laid back approach to it. If a story wants to be respected then I like to present it in a way that the creators probably intended without being too hipster or serious about it. I’ve actually cut commentary or jokes from some of my videos when I feel like it would ruin the mood or be inappropriate.
As far as editing goals I go through my entire sound recording cleaning out things like key clicks, chair noises and balancing out yells or screams. If I’m narrating and I’m into a scene I’ll also change my recording position, raise the condenser mic, memorize the dialogue and read while standing. Beforehand I may do some things to maintain character like carry on dialogues as I make lunch or clean the house, specifically I did this for Cheshire and Sal. It’s really Chuuni like.
Video editing wise I cut things so the video maintains a movie like pace which includes long item or secret hunts, grinding, pauses from taking a drink of water or any visits to save or pause menus.
(N): What feedback have you received so far?
(M): When I first started the feedback was positive but I did get 10-20% or so negative comments about editing and me using goofy voices for characters. I switched to speaking in more natural voices and went back and watched my favorite SA Let’s Plays along with lurking 4chan LP threads. I paid close attention to comments on videos over time and using that fine tuned my editing. For the most part almost all feedback I get is real positive now and I also get some very touching personal messages. I do get occasional complaints when I narrate but since most of my viewers prefer it and I do actually enjoy reading it’s here to stay for certain playthroughs.
(N): Has your experience online changed the way you see gaming?
(M): Not really, I’m probably easier on grading and viewing some games now that I actually talk directly to their developers but for the most part my perception of gaming hasn’t changed.
(N): What is the thing you enjoy the most in doing video game commentary?
(M): I like the emotional stories and sense of sharing it with others like one would invite friends over to watch a movie. When I played Wadanohara and reading the comments of people along for the ride you just get this feel of being connected, ya know. Sometimes though I do get tired of the serious stuff and just want to cut loose with a game where I can be a snarky edgemaster. Yanderella which I played recently was really fun for me even though as a VN or game it’s mediocre. Since I’m passionate about both video games and anime you get this feeling inside where you just want to mock the tropes and games like that let you do that.
(N): One of the reasons I started following your channel is that, near the end of the Mermaid Swamp playthrough, you mentioned the movie “Mermaid in a Manhole” as an influence to the game. In general how much of the knowledge you have on your other interests -i.e. anime, films, etc.- do you use in your playthroughs?
(M): Probably a lot but I try to keep it in check unless it’s very relevant. I don’t want the commentary to get too off track and devolve into Family Guy reference humour so I try to just bring things up if I think they apply at the time. When I first started making videos I wanted to drop some info and talk about things but I didn’t want it to annoy people so that’s why I started doing the post game or post video commentary and wrap up ending videos.
(N): Most of the games on your list have been great or at least decent. I must confess though that it was incredibly entertaining watching you play something as painfully bad as Michigan: Report from Hell. Is there any chance of you picking up at least one horrible title in the future, just for the fun of it?
(M): All signs point to yes, what it’d be though would be a surprise.
(N) Do you watch playthroughs made by other commentators? If so, are there any names you’d like to mention?
(M): When I first started I had no idea Let’s Playing had even become a big thing or who any of these channels were. I used to watch (or read) SA Let’s Plays and streams, that was about it. When I was streaming I think Vinesauce was still on Livestream so I’d stop by and watch. I recently started watching his streams again and I saw he moved to twitch and is doing well for himself which is nice. Aside from that I watch playthroughs made by people I’ve become friends and partnered up with and I’ve watched one time or another Cr1TiKaL, Classic Game Room, Super Best Friends, Chip & Ironicus, Giant Bomb and 4playerpodcast.
(N): Has there been a game that influenced you as a person -your character, belief system, etc.-?
(M): I think game heroes as a whole usually go through a lot of suffering whether it’s through their journey and story or just you dying to the same pitfall. As a kid when I saw that I used to think if video game characters go through this stuff, even if they’re not real I should keep trying whenever I fail or get hurt in life.
Hopefully I remembered to put in the x99 lives code before I respawned.
(N): What are the things you like about modern gaming on any given field (gameplay, graphics, music, the gaming community, etc.)? Are we in living a golden age of gaming or do you think there is room for improvement?
(M): I think the ability for games to present over the top situations and have the graphical fidelity and pace to properly give you the feeling it wants to evoke has improved. Things like the scenes in games like Metal Gear Rising or God of War for example. As far as maturing and refining gameplay it still has a way to go. Right now there’s two camps of thinking which I don’t like, one is the lowering of gameplay depth in order to make a fancy AAA high reward experience and the other is the glorified movie which hides its flaws with presentation. Both of them weaken the game part of videogame which would be fine if they weren’t becoming a standard. To sum up my gripe I think the core of videogames should be experiences with depth, gameplay, complexity and immersion while interactive stories should be the side meal you enjoy to get a break from the former.
Ideally I’d like both in one package though.
(N): Let’s imagine that tomorrow you’ve suddenly gotten incredibly rich and you can pay a team of developers/designers/etc. to create the perfect game for you. What would that title be like?
(M): If it was a dream scenario then I’d probably make a immersive action rpg set in an unusual or non fantasy world with the design goal of having everything detailed and immersive. Fleshed out large cities rather than smokes and mirror quest hubs, no fetch quests and writing from 90s through early 2000s era western rpgs. It’s not required but I’d like it to take full advantage of VR tech just so we can get closer to .hack.
I also wouldn’t mind making a similar type of game set in a just bananas LSD Dream Simulator like world based off my dreams but I think everyone would get annoyed.
(N): What is a talent or skill most people would be surprised to learn you possess?
(M): It’s hard for me to say since I think a lot of them wouldn’t be surprising. Years ago I used to draw a lot and want to be an animator, I also played the piano at one time but both of those things I think can be typical for geeky people. I do go shooting at gun ranges and I’m decent with a revolver (THE RUSH OF RELOADING) which might surprise some. I was also outdoorsy at one time and climbed the Sierra Mountains.
(N): What is a bigger challenge: fighting a Kotori Obake sized pigeon or a hundred pigeon sized Kotori Obakes?
(M): Small enemies are more annoying so a hundred pigeon sized Kotori Obakes would be like fighting the Flea Men and Medusa Heads from Castlevania at the same time.
It’d be bad enough I’d have to use a IRL Game Genie.
(N): Thank you for this great interview. Any last thing you wish to share with our readers?
(M): I hope everyone out there has a bright, fun day filled with moe~ moe~ hijinks.