I wrote a couple of articles for Novus last year about beginnings and endings. One was about RimWorld, and the challenge of saying goodbye to a simulated community you’ve built over many hours. The other was about Europa Universalis IV, and fighting for an achievement. After each article, I started a new run of their respective games. My RimWorld colony at the time was dying a slow death, and I couldn’t get the EU4 achievement I wanted with the country I was playing. And, while starting those new games, I started something else as well: let’s plays.
Now, I don’t really have the equipment for an actual, recorded let’s play. I could pretty easily get a mic, but it would be a kind for singing, not really for talking. And I don’t have access to a pop filter, but…meh, unless I really got into it I really got into it, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. The hardest (and most expensive) part of course, would be a recording device, and a decent editing program. Now, there are free editing programs out there that have screen capture, but they are free, so of course not amazing. And it would be a challenge to try to sync them up with separately recorded audio, at least more of a challenge than I would want for I would really want for something I was just doing on the side. So, I tried it by just telling a story.
This wasn’t the first time I’d done a story-based let’s play, a few years ago I did some in Civilization V, one with a challenge from the Civ subreddit, and another with a really OP Santa civ. I’d play for a bit, take screenshots throughout the game, and then post them together on Imgur, broken up into different albums like episodes on a normal let’s play. It was fun…but it never really hooked me, and I didn’t have all that much desire to do it again, or to do some more basic let’s plays of my own creation. I set it down for quite a while–these were four years ago– and completely forgot about it. Then, came my RimWorld article.
Since RimWorld is a game about building a community, I thought, why have random characters? Why not build that community, and that community’s story, with real people? Twitter was a great place to do this, I could tag real people in the LP, and they could watch in real-ish time. Not only that, if they were online while I was playing, they could help me make choices on random events. It wouldn’t just be my story, it would be our story. And, right from the beginning, it was fun as hell. The original article was about loving fake characters, but real characters? That’s even better. So much so that I when my EU4 article came out, I wanted to try it again. That run of the game was also about a story, fighting as either Vijayanagar or Bahmanis to destroy the other, and gain the “A Tale of two Families” achievement. I had planned to stop after the achievement, but I was just having too much fun, so I continued. Due to some medical problems keeping me away from my gaming computer for a long time, I’m still continuing, and still having lots of fun. Bahmanis is long gone, but now I’m fighting for the new goal of forming Bharat, effectively the land of modern India. Europa Universalis IV is getting its 1.30 update in less than a week as I write this, which is pretty big and will almost certainly ruin my save. But I’m going to roll it back to 1.29 so I can continue playing; maybe to the end, maybe until Bharat exists.
Even though I’ve felt a connection to my RimWorld characters in the past, I’ve never felt one like this before. In my current run (the original let’s play was ruined with the release of RimWorld: Royalty) all my characters are male. But the female real-life character I still refer to as her–both in my head and in the let’s play. I’ve also progressed a lot slower in both runs than I would in a normal play-through of the game, especially for things like static defenses. It’s a lot more fun to see the real people fighting for their base. Not only that, but I try to keep the bases small, with only the real people in the game. I find it more fun that way, but fewer people of course means slower growth.
As for Europa Universalis, I probably would have quit by now. It’s a game that lasts nearly 400 years, but the community as a whole generally quits within 150-200 years. I was able to defeat Bahmanis in only about 90 years, and if I were playing regularly, I most likely have stopped there. I’d gotten the achievement I wanted, and that was the point of the run. But I continued on, just for the fun of it. After a bit more playing, I decided on the target of forming Bharat, which re-oiled the chains of the let’s play. I’m in the 1650s right now, just over 200 years past the starting date of 1444. Way over the 90 years my original goal had taken. And it’s not going to be an easy task, I have to capture a lot more land to form Bharat. Some from Delhi, who I let get way too big, and even some from my (current) allies. It’s going to be hard, and it’s going to be time-consuming. Without the let’s play, I’m sure I would have just let 1.30 bust my run, if I were even still playing.
Something that just started out as a little way to connect with friends quickly grew into two let’s plays, and then three. A few weeks ago, I started another let’s play with Civilization VI. I even made a hashtag for my de facto Twitter let’s plays: CarrsTweetPlays. Telling these stories has been some of the most fun I’ve had gaming in a long time. I don’t think anyone but me even looks at the EU4 or Civ ones, but they’re still awesome to do. And it makes sense–I’ve kind of done a similar thing with Crusader Kings 2. While I didn’t do a let’s play, my previous run I played with the shattered worlds mechanic, where every single county is its own country at game start. Crusader Kings is meant to be a game about telling your story, and telling my story of growth from being as weak and tiny as everyone else in the world made it a lot more fun. Will I ever get a real let’s play set-up? Probably not. I don’t really have the time to go full-on Youtube gamer, so I’ll keep the hardest part being choosing what game to play. But I can tell you that I’ll be continuing to tell my stories–others’ stories–through tweets, and I’ll definitely continue to have fun with it.