When I look through my flat’s grease-stained front window at the grey cityscape outside, all I see is islamophobia, sectarianism, misogyny, transphobia, selfishness and greed. Maybe I should move house, or at least wipe down my window, but I’d rather cleanse all this hatred from the world by celebrating the goodness in it – the little things like the Tanis podcast, Hyper Light Drifter, Constantine and Mark Hamill. Things that this
week include Let’s Plays or, more specifically, Cool Ghosts and their series of Subterfuge diaries.
The biggest obstacle to celebrating any Let’s Play is usually… umm… that it’s a Let’s Play. It seems like YouTube is marinating in videos of wacky personalities screaming their wacky commentary over playthroughs of wacky games (not how Wikipedia defines a Let’s Play, but pretty close), to the point that it’s hard to believe there’s anything there worth acknowledging as interesting, or important or even just a little bit good. But saying on this basis that every Let’s Play is bad is like watching a video of an old woman putting a cat in a bin and pronouncing that all old women are evil and should be exterminated. Some old ladies are great, and the Subterfuge diaries sure are a terrific bunch of ladies.
The diaries follow a bunch of game journalists for 10 days while they play Subterfuge, a game of underwater diplomacy and warfare in which a single move can take hours or even days. They’re a nigh-perfect utilization of the Let’s Play format, mixing straight to camera reports from the players with game footage and dramatic re-enactments of varying inventiveness and stuffed animalness.
We witness hapless politicking, schemes that would crack even the hardiest of pots, backstabbings, sidestabbings, frontstabbings and attempts at all of the above that are followed by periods of extreme remorse, paranoia and depression. The Subterfuge diaries are 50% expert critique of their game’s mechanics, 50% an exposé of the void that endures within the souls of humanity. They may as well be called schadenfreude: the game: the video series. They’re joyous.
So I guess that’s my antidote to the maladies of the world: a video series documenting crumbling friendships, deteriorating mental health and questionable ethical choices. The first installment of the Subterfuge diaries can be found on the Cool Ghosts website, and the game itself can be picked up from the App Store or Google Play. If, like me, you now love Let’s Plays and see no hope for a future in which they are not revered in our universities, museums and churches, you might also like to check out the wonderfully curated Let’s Play Archive.
Next week: videos of cats on skateboards and why they’re the most valuable cultural artifacts since whatever your religious scribblings of choice are.