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YouTube “Let's Play”s are preserving video game history(rockpapershotgun.com)

341 pointsdanso posted 10 days ago165 Comments
pmarreck said 10 days ago:

https://archive.org/ is preserving it by letting you play them right in the browser via emulators compiled to Emscripten.

For example here is the Macintosh version of Dark Castle, which I spent some number of hours winning at the time (circa 1986, digitized sound was still a brand-new thing) https://archive.org/details/mac_DarkCastle_1_2

If you hit "Options" you'll notice the familiar WASD keyboard control layout. Well, this is the earliest game I'm aware of that used that layout...

Here's The Dungeon Revealed, an early Mac dungeon-crawler I also spent a lot of time in: https://archive.org/details/TheDungeonRevealedMacintosh

Here's Crystal Quest, the first color Mac game (although the emulation is in black&white which was also supported): https://archive.org/details/CrystalQuest_2_2_5M

Here's NetTrek, one of the first LAN multiplayer games I ever played (was fun!): https://archive.org/details/NetTrekTheRealVersionMacintosh

And then there is Bolo, the one game I wish there was a modern-day version of that is remotely similar: https://archive.org/details/BoloMacintosh (Wish this was the color version, but anyway... It was a network tank battle game where you could capture points and build autotargeting defense turrets by harvesting trees via sending out your tank pilot (who was then vulnerable and could get killed, the respawn penalty was not trivial as I recall), it was INCREDIBLY fun at the time, literally hours in the computer lab with a group of other nerds)

It's amazing that I can even give other people a hands-on look at this stuff in their own browser. It's too bad that I can't show off the early network-gaming the same way (firing up Bolo or NetTrek in different browsers on the same LAN... It's probably possible to do, right?)

ta774477 said 10 days ago:

Used to love Bolo on the Apple II and went searching for some videos or screenshots to no avail. First time I'd encountered destructable bases.

I've been toying with Libgdx and have been thinking about a multiplayeror enhanced Bolo.

devindotcom said 10 days ago:

Oh my god. We spent hours and hours just playing on our own, then discovered it could be networked. What a game!

lathiat said 9 days ago:

With many modern games (even single player ones) requiring online servers (and in particular closed servers that are not released for download) this probably won’t translate well to current times.

A couple of very different examples are Super Mario Run (which is just stupid) and Fortnite (which at least makes sense because it’s purely multiplayer in battle Royale mode).

This seems driven by a combination of analytics and anti piracy.

TAForObvReasons said 10 days ago:

Emulators don't tell the whole story. Sometimes features depend on the physical game, as in the case of mario tennis and the n64 transfer pak https://youtu.be/QbRkBTMRxZQ?t=653

pmarreck said 10 days ago:

I know. But I don't see how watching a "Let's Play" is going to get you much closer to those experiences

gxqoz said 10 days ago:

For games that have online components or are updated over time, a Let's Play video can at least be a window into how things worked at the time. Seeing a video of someone playing an online match in a game where the publisher has shut down the server is better than not having this information.

CmdrKrool said 10 days ago:

Here's a nice example of someone playing Demon's Souls on PS3 a few days before Atlus shut down the server - a neophyte playing together with an old hand who explains lots about the game and why it was loved.

Gaming Jay: Demon's Souls (PS3) (feat. Matt) - Let's Play 1001 Games - Episode 272 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9x1mC1M0_Cs

EDIT: Adding the title of the video to go with the link, because one thing that's especially annoys me about bare YouTube links is that if the video was removed, YouTube doesn't even give you the former title so that you know what you missed.

dlp211 said 10 days ago:

Which is why I am a big fan of Analogue which is doing hardware level and accurate emulation via FPGAs. Hopefully they will be able to get through the PS1/N64/Saturn. After that, things become quite a bit more complicated due to increased complexity.

Also, there are quite a few really good emulators that do handle the vast majority of games and probably could be enhanced to cover the remaining incompatibility. The question is whether there is a enough incentive to do so.

Noos said 10 days ago:

I don't know if they are. Emulating games is not really preserving them in a sense, because it can't reproduce the hardware or experience as it actually was very well. Like you can play Ridge Racer type 4 in emulation, but part of that game's history was the special controller it was bundled with, which let you twist the middle of it to enable analog steering wheel control.

Like you can't emulate Boktai without the solar sensor on it, and also you don't get the sense of how dark the game boy advance's screen is. Or another example is Trace Memory for the Nintendo DS, which made use of the fact that the DS can close like a book (to simulate stamping on an ink pad) or that the screen is reflective when closed at an angle (to cause two screens to reflect into each other to make a single word.)

It works to show a boosted version of the original game, but something like sprite flicker or having to use passwords to continue gets dropped out. Or something like the dreamcast's VMU, which displays info on it as you play or can be used for minigames to boost the character in the main game.

The games kind of get divorced from the hardware and media they were played on, which reduces them some.

tasty_freeze said 10 days ago:

As someone who has spent thousands of hours archiving documents related to certain old computers and writing a few emulators, I have to admit your comment is irritating to me.

Of course, emulation is going to lose something compared to the original experience; nobody knows better than the person writing the emulator. But nobody is stepping up to build the exact reproduction that you are holding out for. Even if someone came along and built reproduction controllers and cabinets, would you be willing to spend the money for them?

It is far better to capture the ROMs and 90% of the experience than to let it all slip away because of purity issues.

Besides, part of the TRS-80 experience was unreliable behavior. I'm quite glad that emulators don't attempt to reproduce it.

jimmaswell said 10 days ago:

How about a VR game where you play games on these emulators as if you're using their original consoles with a TV/etc appropriate for the time? Get a game off a virtual game shelf and put it in the NES/Atari/etc, maybe even emulating the cartridge not registering at first. Theoretically you could even emulate things like the crooked cartridge trick in N64 games (if you're unfamiliar: https://glitchcity.info/wiki/Nintendo_64_crooked_cartridge )

CmdrKrool said 10 days ago:

It's being worked on, see EmuVR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAqUos4MYmc

Not to disparage emulators (I use them all the time myself, and would be absolutely on this if I had a VR headset), but there is an amusing bottomlessness to the rabbit hole here, seeing the posters on the walls and so on. Now we only need to emulate having friends, parents that love you, etc...

scrollaway said 9 days ago:

No kidding. It's like trying to preserve Pokemon Go. Sure, you can get pretty far with it, but how do you intend to "preserve" experiences like this crazy thing?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLdWbwQJWI0

IgorPartola said 10 days ago:

Ready Player One this whole thing?

jonhohle said 10 days ago:

> which reduces them some

This is absolutely true, however, I favor availability over attempting to recreate the experience perfectly. There is, in fact, no perfect way to recreate the experience because everyone’s experience differs. I played 8- and 16- and even 32-bit systems over RF on a 19” Magnavox, recording gameplay to VHS. Others may have gotten Ridge Racer secondhand and never had the custom controller. A CRT was integral to my experience, but is impractical for most people.

I enjoy retro gaming and go through stupid lengths to get classic systems looking good on modern displays. It’s expensive, takes up a ton of space, and requires a depth of knowledge in broadcast standards and signal processing beyond what most are willing to dig into.

When I want to sit down and enjoy a favorite game with my kids, Virtual Console, Classic/Mini systems, or emulators (software or hardware) allow us to focus on having fun together. Cycle accurate reproduction doesn’t come into play.

MaxBarraclough said 10 days ago:

> Emulating games is not really preserving them in a sense, because it can't reproduce the hardware or experience as it actually was very well.

To a lesser extent, the same goes for cinema, but there's no question that we're preserving cinematic history by continuing to make Citizen Kane available.

aasasd said 10 days ago:

> having to use passwords to continue

Nothing like writing down forty Japanese hieroglyphs in ‘Captain Tsubasa.’

I don't have a remote knowledge of Japanese of any of Asian languages.

reificator said 10 days ago:

So you're saying that if I emulate I can not only play these older games, but I also don't have to deal with limiting hardware and annoying gimmicks? Count me in!

Narishma said 10 days ago:

I have a feeling only a relative handful of games would suffer from emulation the way you describe. Mainly those that came bundled with some kind of proprietary peripheral. The vast majority of games work just fine through emulation.

neetodavid said 10 days ago:

The article is about the value of youtube lets play videos as secondary documentation. There is no mention of emulation. Some lets play videos feature emulated games but some others capture from original hardware.

The article also raises a good point (that I think echos your sentiment) about how lets play videos include some amount of the context that the game was played in. Even with the exact artifact, something is lost when it is transplanted to Now.

Kiro said 10 days ago:

I've been a gamer for 30 years and I don't remember a single game where the controller or hardware matter so much that a "Let's Play" wouldn't do it justice.

kevingadd said 10 days ago:

I can think of maybe 2 or 3 games total with a meaningful gimmick that needed specific hardware or control schemes to really "work". Losing it diminishes the game but doesn't completely invalidate it, so it's sad but it's not really the case for the thousands of other games I've played. Better to have the original game archived as an LP, perhaps even an LP that tries to capture the essence of the gimmick for people who can't experience it. I think we're entering a space now where this is a concern for more games though - an LP or emulated gameplay for experimental VR games or games with custom controllers may not live up to the experience at all, which is unfortunate, but not really avoidable.

The most easily understood example is 999, a game for the Nintendo DS that utilized the two-screens quirk of the system for narrative purposes. It was later ported to mobile and those versions had to drop the twist since there was no way to express it on other platforms. (To briefly summarize, the two screens represented separate timelines and the DS's constraint of only allowing touch input on one screen meant that whatever you saw on that screen was the only thing you could actively participate in)

said 10 days ago:
NikkiA said 9 days ago:

The negcon wasn't bundled with RR4 though, at least not always, my copy only came with the RR4 and RR1-60fps remaster.

velcrovan said 10 days ago:

Does YouTube have any incentive to “preserve” anything once it costs them more money than it brings in? If not, maybe it's a little early to say they are actually preserving anything. (The article does kind of acknowledge this.) Maybe its real role is as a link in a chain that leads to /r/datahoarders

SkyBelow said 10 days ago:

Isn't this true of any entity? Even a Museum will eventually have to pay bills and have to decide to downsize or make changes. Even government funded preservation can have voters decide it isn't worth the costs and preservation can be dropped.

I do think private companies will be the ones most fastest to drop preservation and the ones least likely to look for external entity to swap preservation with, thus making YouTube worse than a museum.

nullandvoid said 10 days ago:

I don't think this is a fair comparison as a museum is normally opened with the sole desire of preserving history ( Profit is often desired but not the incentive for opening )

Do you think google bought YouTube originally to preserve history or to create a new line of profit and enhance its brand?

chillacy said 10 days ago:

Museums don’t own all of their collections though, and they too make decisions on what to display at any moment. Not all objects are worthy of display, some get rotated out back into some rich person’s attic.

chippy said 10 days ago:

Almost the entire collection of a museum is in storage or in archives if we consider number of objects as a whole. Only a very small proportion is on display and some of those on display will be from other museums.

orcdork said 10 days ago:

I'd be very interested to hear about any respectable museum that sends off items that are not displayed to be stored into some rich person's attic (or for display at a private residence as I assume you are implying).

bluGill said 10 days ago:

If you have a valuable artifact that you don't have on display, renting it for a large sum to someone is a reasonable thing to do. Of course it goes without saying that you ensure whoever gets it takes care of it. Better it be on display at a rich person's house where I might get an invite to see it than in the basement where nobody can see it.

As has been noted museums tend to be on the brink of financial insolvency. Getting a rich person to rent some art is a valid way to get enough money to stay solvent and continue to provide art to others. There is a lot more great art worth preserving than there are museums in the world.

Note, the above is not a comment on IF it is done. I have no idea if it is possible for someone to actually do this.

orcdork said 10 days ago:

Nothing like "loaning" out cultural heritage on the basis of who's the most solvent, museums or rich people.

bluGill said 10 days ago:

As opposed to letting it sit in a basement/attic unseen?

eru said 8 days ago:

> It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

nitwit005 said 10 days ago:

The big museums all have a warehouse somewhere: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smithsonian_Museum_Support_Cen...

If you constantly collect items, and never discard them, then your collection will just keep growing (as will your warehousing bills). There's far more than can be put on display at many locations.

capitol_ said 10 days ago:

The modern art museum here in stockholm often borrow items for their exhibitions, from other museums, artists or private collectors.

kortilla said 10 days ago:

Borrowing items to display is not the same as giving away your own when you’re bored with them.

pdpi said 10 days ago:

It’s kind of the opposite — lots of museum pieces are privately owned and loaned to museums.

thfuran said 10 days ago:

What else would a museum do with a piece on loan to them that they don't want anymore besides return it to the owner? That could be another museum or a private collection.

orcdork said 10 days ago:

That's neither what you said nor how museum loans work though.

Loaned items are specifically loaned to be displayed for a length of time, it's not like borrowing a grass trimmer off of facebook.

tzakrajs said 10 days ago:

Considering their mission statement about making the worlds information universally accessible and contemporary goals around literary archival it’s not a stretch to believe they had history on their mind.

perfmode said 10 days ago:


eru said 8 days ago:

What's that supposed to mean?

tzakrajs said 7 days ago:


airstrike said 10 days ago:

Furthermore, museums curate what they hold whereas YouTube probably has far more i can haz cheezburger videos than humanity will ever need

velcrovan said 10 days ago:

Nothing lasts forever, but I still keep my milk in a refrigerator that might stop working rather than leaving it on the counter.

SkyBelow said 10 days ago:

If you make it condensed milk you can store it on the counter for longer than it would've otherwise lasted in a fridge. Is maximizing longevity the only metric we can to optimize upon?

buzzert said 10 days ago:

I think you’re looking at it the wrong way. YouTube is not preserving video game history by providing a place to host these videos. Instead, they’re offering an incentive for people to create these videos that are currently hosted on YouTube but will eventually be archived somewhere else.

In other words, YouTube is somewhat responsible for the creation of this new content, but has no expectation or responsibility to maintain its legacy.

euske said 10 days ago:

And the same thing can be said for any type of videos, not just video games videos. YouTube gave an incentive (not necessarily monetary incentive) to preserve something to those who previously wouldn't if such a service didn't exist.

dpkonofa said 10 days ago:

I was going to say something similar. I actually think YouTube (as a hosting/sharing platform) is a net-negative for the internet because there are already millions of videos that were embedded in pages that are no longer working because YouTube removed them, the account was deleted, or any number of things. If the internet worked the way it was intended, these videos would have been hosted on the site rather than embedded and would be still working. If the video wasn't there anymore, that usually means the content isn't there anymore. It's almost worse than dead hyperlinks because it's almost always supplemental content that references a video that can't be accessed anymore. :(

That being said, it's a net-positive when it comes to content created. The internet wouldn't be as crazy without YouTube, so thanks for that.

criley2 said 10 days ago:

In nearly all of those cases, the content was removed because either the uploader wanted it removed, or the owner of the intellectual property in the video wanted it removed.

In both of those cases, I don't see how this is Youtube's fault or decentralized hosting would be better.

In the first case (uploader wants it gone) you have a sticky situation where loosely managed websites refuse (or can't) respond to requests to remove, which can start interfering with various laws in various places.

In the second case, where IP has been violated, those same loosely managed sites run significant legal risk of lawsuit by not responding.

From the perspective of a content owner or video creator, why would you want your work decentrally stored in places that you can't control it?

The other angles here have to do with monetization, too. When you use youtube, you can serve user aware ads and track who is watching your video as it spreads. If it is self-hosted, your content has been stolen and is enriching someone else illegally.

From a creators perspective I can't see how decentrally stored videos would be good.

Perhaps what we need is a Library of Congress type organization to begin a serious long-term archive of significant portions of this type of media.

dpkonofa said 10 days ago:

I would agree with you if thousands of videos and accounts weren't removed daily due to false "intellectual property" claims and automated reporting. YouTube's system is terrible because they're so large that they've had to try to automate a system that can't really be automated. A decentralized system would require those claims to actually be validated before they're processed because, otherwise, it would be a waste of time and money for the companies making the false claims.

I agree with you on the Library of Congress. We need a digital LoC.

criley2 said 9 days ago:

After thinking about it, a decentralized system of intellectual property theft would not work the way you think. The owners would stop contacting individual sites for individual confirmation and would send safe harbor / DMCA reports to the host who would nuke the content without spending ten seconds on it to preserve their business.

The only sites safe would be those self-hosting, and those wouldn't be able to serve a lot of bandwidth without having the means to be sued.

dpkonofa said 9 days ago:

Even in that case, you'd have to deal with every hosting provider which, at the very least, would require an actual legal DMCA request rather than an automated one and, since people would be able to self-host, a way to contact their ISP who would have to verify that the claim and request are even valid. With YouTube, the automation is what's killing content creators and the archival value of the platform.

philwelch said 10 days ago:

> I actually think YouTube (as a hosting/sharing platform) is a net-negative for the internet because there are already millions of videos that were embedded in pages that are no longer working because YouTube removed them, the account was deleted, or any number of things. If the internet worked the way it was intended, these videos would have been hosted on the site rather than embedded and would be still working.

If it wasn't for YouTube, most of those videos never would have been embedded in those pages in the first place. If the situation you describe was in any way feasible, people would have done that in the first place instead of using YouTube. You're asking for an imaginary free lunch type of situation.

dpkonofa said 9 days ago:

What? That's exactly how the internet worked before YouTube. YouTube became the standard because you could easily upload things for free since the content was no longer the product. YouTube is only free because they can sell the data surrounding the videos to advertisers. Without that, we'd have exactly the situation that I'm describing because that's exactly the situation that we did have before YouTube came around (and that YouTube helped before it became beholden to companies rather than creators).

philwelch said 9 days ago:

> What? That's exactly how the internet worked before YouTube.

Yeah--there weren't very many videos because most web hosting services didn't let you consume that much hard drive space.

dpkonofa said 8 days ago:

I don't think that HD space was the limiting factor. We'd still have gotten to the point of unlimited storage space like we have now.

cobookman said 10 days ago:

You overestimate the cost of storage at this scale.

It's totally worth them storing the data given the marginal cost.

A 10TiB HDD is only 150$ retail. These videos can likely be stored in less than 200MiB on average.

Storage has gotten cheaper YoY

duiker101 said 10 days ago:

Just a few days ago there was a discussion about how Google is now indexing less contented from a years ago[1].

If Google can't keep indexes which are relatively inexpensive why should they keep videos that are more expensive and possibly no one will watch? Especially as the length and number of videos is increasing faster than ever?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19762907

Already__Taken said 10 days ago:

You're not scanning through bulk storage like that all the time. Indexes have to be managed to be useful too which is another cost.

duiker101 said 10 days ago:

Videos still need to be indexed, why would Google keep the videos without indexing them?

chillacy said 10 days ago:

Let’s not confuse the videos with the index of the videos. Videos can be stored on the slowest and cheapest medium, indexes might be kept in memory or flash. Each video takes hundreds of mb compressed, an entry in the index could be constant per video

tbirrell said 10 days ago:

Indexing and storage are two different things. If something if not accessed regularly, then you don't want to index it. You can still access it, it just takes longer to find.

amelius said 10 days ago:

Okay, so the videos may become preserved but inaccessible.

ma2rten said 10 days ago:

Google might have thrown out some old pages, but the internet keeps growing exponentially. I highly doubt that Google is indexing less pages than a couple years ago.

the-rc said 10 days ago:

The Google indices are very expensive to create and serve. For one, they use a ton of memory.

YouTube has TPMs whose only focus is making storage very cheap.

kibwen said 10 days ago:

I'd like someone to do the math on that 200MiB estimate. YouTube stores every video at multiple resolutions, and has replicas in data centers all around the world.

Ayeceedee said 10 days ago:

Ah! Small note. There are methods of compression and encoding that allow for scalability. There's some fancy signal processing you can do to encode multiple <framerates / resolutions / compression qualities> into a single bitstream without necessarily storing redundant data.

But, I'm not in industry, and the last time I poked my head in I recall things being way uglier and more complicated than I had imagined. There was a good conference talk that was linked here once but I've lost it. Talked about the sort of awful, buggy things (formatting/file wise) that people try to upload that break everything.

chupasaurus said 10 days ago:

> Small note. There are methods of compression and encoding that allow for scalability. There's some fancy signal processing you can do to encode multiple <framerates / resolutions / compression qualities> into a single bitstream without necessarily storing redundant data.

A big note. All of this wasn't used by YT because they've always used a widely used standard codecs and media containers. All the lower qualities of videos they provide use storage nearly the same as the highest one (so 2x total), all bitrates are the same for all videos. As for download part, the players in auto quality would get first a maximum quality they can for current download speed, if there's a room or connection isn't stable - also 480p version, and if the speed was enough to download current and next chunk in lower quality it would download the best and switch to it over on completion (there were a times when player was downloading the whole video in the best quality after it had finished in an optimal).

> the sort of awful, buggy things (formatting/file wise) that people try to upload that break everything.

YT has very narrow list of formats allowed to upload with hard breaks in converting process, especially for the audio.

kibwen said 10 days ago:

Interesting, thanks! I'd love to read more about ways to encode video that allows streaming at a variety of resolutions with a minimum of redundancy, if anyone has any links.

Ayeceedee said 10 days ago:

For me, it came up in a course I took last term which used the textbook "Video Processing and Communications" by Y. Wang, J.Ostermann and Y-Q. Zhang.

It's a bit out of date (2002), but the core video encoder material was solid. It's a bit heavy in representing concepts using symbolic/equation notation. That, for me, made the jump from 1D signal processing to multidimensional signal processing tougher than it needed to be.

There are probably better resources so definitely don't just take my word for it! :)

(For scabilility, IIRC the terms "enhancement layer" and "base layer" are particularly important, as are the block diagrams that generate them.)

zegl said 10 days ago:

For low-traffic videos they likely only keep a copy in a single region.

netsharc said 10 days ago:

Interestingly they could also just keep the best resolution version of rare videos, and have really powerful encoders if anyone suddenly asked for a lowres version. Then they can deliver as well as cache the lowres version in case someone else wants to look at it an hour later, but maybe drop it after a week of no access.

jandrese said 10 days ago:

They don't even have to be all that powerful. GPU transcoding is fast as heck. You really just need to decide where the line is between the storage tradeoff and needing a bigger GPU farm to handle more frequent transcoding requests. I'm betting you could get away with having just one copy for 90-95% of Youtube's content. There is an ocean of video on Youtube that is accessed less than once a month or even once a year.

1f60c said 10 days ago:

That, and I’m sure they employ “cold storage” using slower (and cheaper) spinning disks.

chippy said 10 days ago:

You are correct about the cost of storage. However that is not the cost of storing these videos. When you set up a server you just buy a hard disk and some other hardware correct. But Youtube also has to buy staff to maintain, update and services and networks, offices for them, legal stuff, free food, insurance, electricity and every other thing a huge business needs of course.

Google after 2007 has been about doing things that make business sense. Just storing these videos is a cost. It's why there's been a glacial pace in new features, APIs and support in youtube for over a decade - it's not a financial priority.

cobookman said 8 days ago:

That was retail price. Most the operational aspects at google are somewhat fixed costs.

Power Cooling are per Server. However given the low load on longtail video content & ability for google to co-mingle high IOPs workloads with low IOPs workload.

Its not that simple...

TLDR, storage is fairly cheap in scheme of things. Even if having infinite video storage costs 100mil/year, google likely makes more from content monitization.

thoughtfunction said 10 days ago:

These videos are hours long, and unless your doing low quality 480p, which will make it hard to follow, would definitely not take 200MB.

adrianN said 10 days ago:

There is an incredibly long tail of videos that are (almost) never watched. All those 200mb videos add up to a lot of money.

cosarara said 10 days ago:

> A 10TiB HDD is only 150$ retail.

Where is that? I can't find anything so cheap.

cobookman said 10 days ago:
akhilcacharya said 10 days ago:

The bizarre thing is I can't find bare drives cheaper than that on Amazon - how are they making a profit on these?

dogecoinbase said 10 days ago:

Generally speaking the drives in external enclosures are from the bottom slice of the still-viable drive pool. You'll often find that they have shorter/less comprehensive warranties.

vatueil said 10 days ago:

Larger market of average, undemanding home users for external hard drives.

Smaller market of more demanding enthusiast users for internal drives. (Larger businesses aren't sourcing drives from Amazon or Newegg, unless the company is called Backblaze.)

Latter costs more to support and as niche users generally pay more. (The more price conscious resort to shucking external drives.)

At least, that's how it's been explained to me. I don't know if that's the entire story though it sounds reasonable enough.

jandrese said 10 days ago:

Maybe it's one of those drives that comes with a demo of the backup software and they're hoping you'll buy the full version?

said 10 days ago:
montag said 10 days ago:

How many megabytes of storage are subsidized by, say, 100 views per year?

RandomInteger4 said 10 days ago:

Maybe I'm mistaken, but my understanding is that YouTube has been operating at a loss for its entire existence.

RandomInteger4 said 10 days ago:





While there's nothing concrete concerning how much YouTube costs and brings in, it seems to be generally understood that YouTube is an investment that hasn't reached profitability yet and only exists in its current state due to the fact that Google is willing to lose money on it in the mean time.

cabalamat said 10 days ago:

> Does YouTube have any incentive to “preserve” anything once it costs them more money than it brings in?

They clearly have little incentive to do so.

If there was a law that prevented websites from using technical or legal means to stop people scraping user-generated content, then I would agree that YouTube has not such obligation.

But since they make it hard for people to make archives of their content, then I think they do have a moral obligation to keep it up.

TrainedMonkey said 10 days ago:

It is a ponzi scheme right now. As long as cost of storage is falling exponentially, they can afford to keep the old stuff.

GuB-42 said 10 days ago:

That the cost of storage is falling exponentially certainly helps but it isn't necessary if we want to keep the old stuff.

In fact most of the exponential increase in storage space is used to cover the even more exponential increase in video file size.

But there is a limit on how big video can get. Our perception is limited and passed a certain point, we won't notice the improvement. Audio has been "perfect" for quite a while now, and with 4k video, we are getting there too. There is also a limit on the amount of content users can produce before people do nothing but film themselves.

We may find ourselves running out of stuff to store before we need to delete the old stuff.

TrainedMonkey said 10 days ago:

You are thinking only about quality of video increases. I agree that is essentially finite if we ignore upcoming technologies such as 360 video and eventually VR ready video (fully 3d, any perspective).

My argument was primarily based on the number of videos uploaded (see https://tubularinsights.com/hours-minute-uploaded-youtube/). Looking at the area under the curve, supporting the historic videos is a fraction of what it takes to store the most recent ones.

I am arguing as long as the youtube continues to be able to support to store the recent videos, storing the historic ones is not that much more expensive.

edit: also, running out of stuff to store is not going to be a thing ever. Amount of cameras in the world is increasing and people will keep shooting more videos.

cabaalis said 10 days ago:

Non-techies that are my age don't get the value of let's plays.

When I was a kid, it was NES and then Sega. You'd go over to your friend's house and would take turns playing Mario, Ninja Gaiden, Contra, etc.

When you weren't playing, you were watching your friend play. Sure, some games were multi-player, but not all of them.

Let's plays capture that same feeling of watching your friend play the game.

ASalazarMX said 10 days ago:

If your statement was accurate there would be no thriving game streaming services like Twitch, UStream, etc.

Watching people play is like watching sports: it's enjoyable the better the player is; it's boring if they're just fooling around with the controls. Also, like sports, the enjoyment improves the more you know about the game being played.

Kiro said 10 days ago:

I disagree. Many of the top streamers (Forsen, Sodapoppin etc) are not good gamers. They are fun to watch for other reasons. Some others are decent (Lirik) but far from pro gamers. They are a different category but just as popular as watching the pros.

myself248 said 10 days ago:

Sometimes watching a terrible gamer struggle, and listening to their exasperation, is more entertaining than watching some ace just zip through the challenges.

WorldMaker said 9 days ago:

It's a similar community thing to that "watching a friend play at their house". So many of the biggest streamers may or may not be "good" at the games they play, but certainly work their tails off trying to seem the most like "a friend", their channels the most like a friendly community or even "their house". You want to see them succeed because they are a friend, you enjoy watching them suffer sometimes for the same reason. The social nature of Twitch chat shouldn't be easily dismissed. It's easy to laugh at the "rituals" that have developed where almost every streamer is constantly interrupting themselves to "thank" chat users for random things that matter on the platforms but not really outside of that (follows, likes, "sparks", what have you), but those are absolutely social interactions evolved (tough to say designed in some of these cases) to try to make "friends" visit "your house".

degenerate said 10 days ago:

I second your opinion. Watching my friend play NES was sometimes frustrating because he played so poorly. I wanted to nab the controller and help him so many times.

Twitch wouldn't be fun to watch if everyone sucked. If I am watching someone on twitch who I think is the best at the game, and I found out some other gamer X is better, I will watch that better player if all other factors are equal.

brootstrap said 10 days ago:

Yeah this is a great point. I spent hours watching my buddies play and vice versa. My dad asked me this weekend , as i half jokingly put on the Overwatch tournament on tv, how can you watch someone play video games it's boring. I said well dad how can you watch golf on TV it's boring. We both agree, yes we watch it but really we want to play. but sometimes you cant play.

The lets plays are fun for me , same with twitch. Sometimes i cant fully get into a game so i hop onto twitch, or i'll start up a lets play series. Watch 30 minutes everyday on lunch break and after a few weeks/months you are done.

I mainly do lets play to relive my first experience in dark souls & bloodborne haha.

JohnJamesRambo said 10 days ago:

Should I point out the obvious that you aren't friends with the youtuber doing the Let's Play? You can't form a real two-way bond with one another, and that is the foundation of friendship. Real friendship could bloom in many other ways and you guys could go get a pizza, go climb Everest, help them work on their car, etc.

In a nutshell, that describes my fears and reservations about the way the current age is going. It's all watching and commenting and not enough back and forth interaction and doing.

ryanstorm said 10 days ago:

There's a concept called Parasocial interaction that describes the relationship between an audience and a media personality (originally observed for tv personalities, but more recently YouTube and internet ones apply too).

"Viewers or listeners come to feel and consider media personalities almost as friends."


shereadsthenews said 10 days ago:

You're not friends with the cast of a TV show either. Game streaming can be much more interactive. I follow a player on YouTube who plays XCOM 2. His followers build the characters, write their biographies and so forth. Then the characters appear in the game and their authors contribute diaries about what happens to the characters in-game ... and since XCOM 2 has a "bond" mechanic, and since it takes 100+ hours to play through, and since unlike other games it's very common for characters to get killed in-game, the experiences can be pretty rich. It's just a bunch of self-organized randos on the internet, not friendship or community, but as far as what you can get out of staring at screens it's near the top in terms of interactivity.

Tehnix said 10 days ago:

It’s different but similar. Streamers usually build a community around their streams, and this is the part that is equivalent to the friendship part in the “physical let’s play”.

zrobotics said 10 days ago:

One way to look at these communities is that in many ways they are similar to IRC, except the interactions take place in twitch chat and discord. For example, the one game streamer I follow I certainly wouldn't consider a friend, but I do have some friends I have found through the community (in the same loose internet friend sense as some of the people i met through IRC and still talk to). Just like IRC channels were formed around a common theme/topic, these communities are formed around a 'personality' and shared videos.

For a technical equivalent to this, look at the EEVBlog forums. It's arguably the premiere forum online for hobby electronics discussion, but a lot of it also revolves around the EEVBlog YouTube videos. There are some people who don't watch, but they are in the minority.

jimcsharp said 10 days ago:

I wonder if async forum communication / semi-interactive celebrities can adequately replace the 'piece' of human interaction that makes prisoners go insane in solitary confinement. I'm sure we'll find out soon.

killingMisuse said 10 days ago:

I can tell you it does not adequately replace any such thing.

But more importantly, let's suppose it did. Knowing that nature often chooses the path of least resistance, what do you think would come of such a discovery?

1. A larger quantity of half-assed pseudosocial forum interactions replacing what was previously face to face interactions, because we can squish more people into ever more meager lives, netting a greater wealth inequality than ever before imagined, if more people lock themselves in their rooms and live at the edge of sanity, barking garbage text messages at each other over the internet.

2. An ambient increase rich lives that experience meaningful face to face socialization with healthy peers who genuinely enjoy each other's company.

From where I sit, the odds seem promising that there is only one thing coming our way.

falcolas said 10 days ago:

You may not be their friend, but they are (frequently) interacting with you.

jordigh said 10 days ago:

Call me old-fashioned, but I often prefer screenshot-based LPs. LParchive is a great resource for those.

I did enjoy Void Burger's video LP of Silent Hill but I liked that she used subtitles for commentary instead of her voice (I think the only time she spoke was to grumble after a particularly frustrating game over).

surye said 10 days ago:

This makes me think, YouTube could really use multiple audio tracks that can be selected by the end user for commentary in general, not just LPs.

frosted-flakes said 10 days ago:

This is something I've always wished for. That way, I could turn off the annoying background music that makes it hard to hear what's being said, or if there's a copyright strike against some music, only the music track gets deleted.

jplayer01 said 10 days ago:

I don't understand why this isn't already a thing. The audio is already separate from the video on their end.

ru999gol said 10 days ago:

Unfortunately disk space is still expensive and rather limited, its unfeasible to really preserve YouTube in any meaningful sense. Maybe someday, like Google Video, YouTube videos will disappear forever.

nullandvoid said 10 days ago:

Perhaps we may have a data revolution before the point of having to delete this old content arrives. I remember watching something on the possibility of storing data within DNA ( the long-term storage possibilities looked very promising not that long ago ).

Is there any other exciting tech which may be on the horizon / advancements in this field?

said 10 days ago:
said 10 days ago:
nostalgk said 10 days ago:

Owing to that I simply no longer have space or money to repair my older consoles, I've often turned to these let's plays to relive some of my favorite video games.

With every new console generation, backwards compatibility is discussed as one of the main points of contention, yet continually it is shelved. Because of this, I am skeptical of the rumors of the supposed universal compatibility that the Playstation 5 may have.

I will note, as someone who hasn't played since the 360, that Xbox appears to be taking steps in the right direction. I hope that continues to put pressure on Sony to allow their own games to be compatible with the new consoles, and maybe Nintendo as well to offer better virtual console offerings (a long shot, I'm sure).

jon-wood said 10 days ago:

The XBox One's emulation is fantastic in the odd occasion I've used it to play a 360 game - other than the shape of the controller you'd be hard pressed to tell that you're not in fact using an XBox 360.

stordoff said 10 days ago:

Actually in a lot of cases, the games run better on Xbox One[1], and an increasing number are enhanced for the Xbox One X, which means that by default they run at a 9x higher resolution (so 720p -> 4K; 3x vertical, 3x horizontal).

You can see here[2] some comparisons for Forza Horizon and the difference is quite striking.

[1] https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2016-vs-xb...

[2] https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-2018-forza...

nostalgk said 9 days ago:

This is especially striking and a huge step in the right direction, in my opinion. Oftentimes these days I've turned to emulation to older games due to the resolution on, say, PSX games being very low, but often easily scalable through an emulator.

I do hope the industry trends towards this.

gallerdude said 10 days ago:

I love Let's Plays, I basically grew up watching them. As a kid a little interested in video games, they gave me a lot of context of how games changed overtime (how the transition to 3D affect Mario, Sonic, and Zelda), which gradually lead me into Computer Science.

I only had a few friends as interested in video games as I was, so it was huge to see these people who knew everything about their favorite games. And most importantly, Let's Plays are really casual, the people who commentate are funny, and it feels like hanging out on someone's couch. I remember when I accompanied my mom to her spin class, I was reminded a lot of Let's Plays - the instructor would give some commentary to a shared enjoyed activity.

minimaxir said 10 days ago:

It's worth noting that video game LPs as a format in general have been on a downtown lately, likely because streaming (a la Twitch) has been on the rise, is more profitable, and requires substantially less post-production work. The implosion of the Something Awful forums which incentivized the creation of high production-value LPs didn't help.

greiskul said 10 days ago:

True. And one extremely sad thing for conservation, is that Twitch does NOT save all streams forever, it only keeps vods around that have been marked (I think by the creator?) as interesting. In one of those speedrun history videos, there was actually a case of a world record in a game, that was streamed, had many people witness it, but was not saved, and deleted by Twitch, and now we are not exactly sure how the run was actually performed, we just have the time for it. Luckily I think the record I mention was broken, but I can imagine that there are similar important moments out there that will be lost before anyone notices their value.

Imagine if we only had Twitch Vods of PT, and nobody actually saved them cause at the time there was no point to it, and they were all lost now.

Qwertystop said 10 days ago:

What happened to SA?

nindalf said 10 days ago:

> If you rip out all the pages of existential angst and whining from Hamlet and jump straight to him stabbing motherfuckers, you lose the understanding of the full experience.

Thought this use of "motherfuckers" was unnecessary, but then I remembered the plot of Hamlet.

devoply said 10 days ago:

I see what you did there, Oedipus.

pretendscholar said 10 days ago:

Eye see what you did

d33 said 10 days ago:

You can only talk about preservation if you actually can pull the content out. It's not like Google doesn't shut down a handful of projects early - at some point they might decide to wipe unprofitable videos as well and we might end up with no preservation whatsoever.

danso said 10 days ago:

Hopefully fans are archiving dedicated channels, like speedrunning groups, e.g. AGDQ, which is easy with youtube-dl's playlist command-line option. I'm probably being naive but deleting unprofitable videos seems like a remote risk compared to DMCA takedowns. But even without legal issues, YT seems to be finding more and more ways to stuff ads into the normal video viewing experience.

thatannoyingguy said 10 days ago:

But there are people who are constantly downloading the let's plays of those youtubers, so there will nearly alway be a copy of a video if it isn't on youtube and it might end up on archive.org later on

ru999gol said 10 days ago:

Are there really? I do watch a lot of let's plays and sometimes download them in bulk, but I don't keep them around for long. 1080p60 takes a lot of space and recently a lot are even in 4k.

zrobotics said 10 days ago:

You just need to visit r/datahoarders to verify this claim. No, I don't understand it either, but it is definitely something people do.

nostalgk said 10 days ago:

Are there any concerted efforts to archive these videos currently?

shmerl said 10 days ago:

What you need to preserve it are games sold on GOG and other DRM-free stores.

drbawb said 10 days ago:

Completely agree. There's no "preserving" a game that requires online-services to run. As an example: I can play CS 1.6 as long as I have binaries for the client & server. (As well as an OS to run them.) Overwatch, on the other hand, I can only play for as long as Activision/Blizzard continue to operate the servers. They won't do that indefinitely: running dedicated servers in regional datacenters dotted across the globe isn't free. Once OW stops being profitable those servers will go dark. The same holds for any number of games that rely on DRM & proprietary online services to run.

Videos of the game being played on YouTube may be preserving _one person's experience_ of the game, but it's not preservation of the game. In my opinion a "video game preservation effort" looks more like the communities producing server emulators for now-defunct MMORPGs, and less like people recording their screen in OBS for their ten minutes of fame.

clarry said 10 days ago:

Nah, you need pirates. You need something like what what.cd was, an archive built by enthusiasts driven by quality and the desire to have untampered original copies. (Plus patches & cracks when needed). You need abandonware sites.

GOG and other DRM-free stores are subject to the whims of publishers & developers and random rightsholders. They are not in the business of archiving games. They will host censored versions, patched versions that differ from original releases, you don't get original ISOs and you don't get to choose your patch level, you don't get to reject tweaks that break compatibility with the systems the said games were originally supported on, etcetra. And then games get pulled from stores, for any number of reasons.

If you want an archive, don't leave it to a commercial entity who aren't and couldn't be in the archival business even if they wanted to. GOG doesn't want it, what they want is a curated storefront and it's notoriously hard to get your game on GOG, because they don't want it. You know all this, I know you do.

shmerl said 10 days ago:

GOG is surely quite curated, but for older games they usually don't have many objections. There is also itch.io where there is almost no curation at all.

As for preserving in other ways - I agree, you can't expect any specific store to be around in the future.

Internet Archive also work on preserving old games.

ErikAugust said 10 days ago:

What Archive.org does to preserve actual games (ROMs) should be talked about. YouTube does not have the right motives in place to thought as reliable in this regard.

plibither8 said 10 days ago:

Could the story be renamed to 'How YouTube's "Let's Play"s are Preserving Video Game History'?

danso said 10 days ago:

Good suggestion, and done.

(I originally submitted it with the headline as formatted in the article, How YouTube let's plays are preserving video game history)

Yajirobe said 10 days ago:


baud147258 said 10 days ago:

In addition to video let's play, I've also read a lot of image Let's play on forums. On one hand, you have the issue of link rot, with LPs which relied on Dropbox and Imageshack becoming lost. On the other hand, it's way better for interaction between the player and the reader, with the writer able to offer the reader to choose on different in-game choices. Of course such things are possible with video, but I don't think it's as easier on a forum than on YT.

Image Let's play are also superior for text-heavy games, it's way easier to skim a text on a series of pictures (or typed if the author has taken the time to do so) than in a video.

HHalvi said 10 days ago:

I find myself hearing about weird titles & demos in a lot of places (IRC's, Comments on Gaming Forums and Other places) and search for their videos all the time. And I do go back from time to time to appreciate how far gaming has come and for the memorabilia of childhood games by watching the gameplay/trailers of the same. Someone needs to step in and do a Gameplay/Letsplay database of sorts for future reference maybe?

Nition said 10 days ago:

The article is written as if YouTube started the trend of "Let's Plays", and that it's the only place you'll find them. As far as I know it really started with the "Let's Play!" subforum on forums.somethingawful.com, many of which are now archived outside of the forums at lparchive.org.

simonebrunozzi said 10 days ago:

On this topic: I'm sure there are a few "epic" let's plays that have left a mark in history, for most games. You need to be a gamer to know, though.

To the gamers on HN: can you post your favorite "let's play", specify which game and year it is, and maybe why you like it so much?

hnick said 9 days ago:

I watch them mostly for self-indulgent reasons, so I don't think a non-gamer would enjoy many. The main reasons are to preview a new game before buying, to relive a childhood game, see the end of games I remember not completing, or to watch someone go through a game I've finished and see how they react to various situations. Depending on the game and streamer this can be entertaining for different reasons, such as their personality or skill level.

On the last point a recent one I enjoyed was Joseph Anderson's Undertale blind playthrough. The game is notorious for throwing unexpected meta-narrative about games, gamers, and even stream viewers, and seeing a critic encounter that where he didn't expect it was entertaining. It also has a very difficult boss as "punishment" for certain choices you make on a typical third playthrough, and he definitely proved himself as a competent gamer when it only took him a few hours to beat that encounter. I could hear the change in tone as he got quiet and entered the zone and knew it wouldn't be long.

Like all Let's Plays though it is long and probably best viewed while you are doing something else.

wingerlang said 9 days ago:

I'd guess the opposite, that there is not a single video/series that have left any impact. I think they are quite internal to specific communities.

Maaaaaaybe Freemans Mind, but that's more of a comedy "series".

roryokane said 8 days ago:

There are Let’s Plays that I think are better than others, but I don’t think any of them, even the best of them, are popular enough to be part of gamer culture.

However, the gameplay video that I think comes closest to leaving “a mark in history” is this single video by pannenkoek2012: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpk2tdsPh0A “SM64 - Watch for Rolling Rocks - 0.5x A Presses (Commentated)”. That’s the only video I’ve seen referenced in comments on videos of completely different games. The references are to “parallel universes” and “0.5 A-presses”, terms that are explained in this video. I don’t know if you could call this video a Let’s Play, though, since the commentary is recorded after the gameplay, it’s not part of a larger playthrough of the whole game, and the video has custom-made animations to aid in explaining the game, not just raw gameplay footage. It’s quite interesting, though, especially to a programmer.

Among popular Let’s Play series, one I recommend is the Achievement Hunter Minecraft Let’s Play series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA689F118656DB852. (Yup, they snagged the username “LetsPlay”.) In each episode, members of the Achievement Hunter group of players play some custom-made activity together in Minecraft. I don’t like the personalities of the players/commentators that much, but the immense creativity of the challenges and the players’ occasional funniness make it worth it. After 100 episodes it started getting repetitive though.

A few other lesser-known Let’s Plays I recommend:

• Cryaotic’s Undertale playthrough, Pacifist route: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwPDQB0EVbY&list=PLeqwXTaiY-.... He is generally calm and empathic, which means he isn’t distracting and he roleplays a pacifist character well.

• After that, NateWantsToBattle and Brett Ultimus’s Undertale playthrough, Genocide route: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6kpGtgy3bQ&list=PL_IirJiXdc.... They add a sarcastic “don’t-care” layer of commentary on top of everything that makes the violence easier to enjoy without feeling bad for the characters who are killed.

• CarlSagan42’s playthroughs of online levels in Super Mario Maker: https://www.youtube.com/user/CarlSagan42/videos. He is better at the game than me, so he can beat levels that I couldn’t, and when he does a hard trick or glitch that is necessary to beat the level, he explains it for the watchers. Also, when a level does something interesting with the limited objects that can be used, he goes into the level editor and figures out how it works. He doesn’t throw a tantrum when he fails, and his video-end responses to watcher questions about science are often interesting, as well. The downsides of his channel are occasional Twitch subscriber banners interrupting the video, and Carl sometimes missing the obvious solution, which viewers call “Carl Blind”.

There are more Let’s Play series I have watched and enjoyed, but this list is big enough already.

SimeVidas said 10 days ago:

Until something happens to Google, and youtube.com goes down (^_^;). Can we consider any website to be permanent?

said 10 days ago:
pcpie said 10 days ago:

Can we consider electricity to be permanent?

mrob said 10 days ago:

Seeing as electricity is a commodity, made by many different suppliers, we can consider it much closer to "permanent" than a website existing at the whim of a single company.

Narishma said 10 days ago:

You don't even need to go that far. They can just decide to remove the video for any reason, or block it in some parts of the world. This happens all the time.

unixhero said 10 days ago:

XBoxAhoy aka Ahoy is the best retro-documentary channel I've ever seen: https://www.youtube.com/user/XboxAhoy Highly recommended!

myself248 said 10 days ago:

I wish we had a "let's play" for mundane stuff like logging into WinCIM and AOL back in the day. Nobody would've thought to commit those things to VHS.

asyncanup said 10 days ago:

Couldn't agree more. But how will YouTube itself will be preserved beyond Google's economic interests?

godelski said 10 days ago:

> It’s a long-observed fact that the phenomenon of the YouTube let’s play has benefits beyond just entertaining viewers and gradually introducing teenagers to neo-Nazism via YouTube’s algorithm.

This is really poor wording. Maybe s/benefits/affects? Because I don't think anyone (well maybe neo-Nazis) think "introducing teenagers to neo-Nazism via YouTube's algorithm" is a benefit.

Noumenon72 said 9 days ago:

That's why it's funny -- because no one would say that seriously, so there's a contrast between the serious tone and the content. Rock Paper Shotgun is a funny site, and manages to gently editorialize like this without seeming strident.

linuxftw said 10 days ago:

At this point, saving video games seems like saving examples of drinking glasses from you local discount store.

Humanity simply can't save a copy of everything from all time. We should let more go. By preserving everything, we're decreasing signal to noise, IMO.

stordoff said 10 days ago:

Incidentally, a point raised in Metal Gear Solid 2 (2001):

> But in the current, digitized world, trivial information is accumulating every second, preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible.[...]All this junk data preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate.

> an overabundance of digital information -- the world will drown in the coming flood of information

JohnFen said 10 days ago:

YouTube is not a good place to preserve anything, though...

ccnafr said 10 days ago:

Depends on the "Let's Play" quality. Most I've seen are just garbage. Only a handful of channels are actually playing these games without curse words or social commentary