I used to play a lot of computer games, and 12-y-o Junior loves them. His gaming experience is of course different from mine back in the day, not only because the games look much better now, but also because of on-line interactivity. There are a couple of developments that surprise me a great deal.
One is the Let’s Play film clip. These are clips on video sharing sites where someone plays a computer game while commenting on it, and they’re really popular with kids. You don’t have to be extremely good at the game or record clips of hidden or hard-to-reach areas. You don’t have to say anything terribly interesting or witty. Just record yourself playing the first couple of areas in a popular newish game, and loads of kids will watch the clip.
And this brings us to the next step: live Let’s Plays. For his birthday, Junior wished for only one thing: a video grabber with cables. While before he could record only games played on the PC, the grabber now allows him to capture the output from his Wii console. And it has streaming video capability. Yesterday Junior streamed over twelve hours of live video from that console (we sent him out to bounce on the trampoline every now and then for exercise). Over that period, 400 people checked in to watch the stream and listen to his banter. At most, 28 people watched at the same time. And the returning audience members converse with him on Skype while he does this. He has buddies all over the US and UK! It’s like a crowd of kids in front of a gaming console and a TV set, lounging in the living room and watching one kid play a game — only they’re all on different continents. Mind-boggling!