Nintendo has recently started to claim ad revenue from Let’s Play videos on YouTube. Is this a good thing for them to do? Or is it a bad thing for them to do? Luckily I managed to avoid thinking about it too hard, as my question was answered within the pages of a torn diary dated 20XX that I stumbled upon on my way to work.
Two years in and it sickens me how normal everyone seems to be. How everyone has just taken to this new way of life like it was nothing at all. Some people call this a utopia. I have no doubt in my mind that when those around me look out the window of the L.A. monorail they see a prosperous place – white shiny buildings, large holo-ads for the latest Nintendo game. But can they really not see through this façade? Can they not see the filth that is in the cracks?
I get off at 26th and walk the couple of blocks to my apartment. I have lived there for a year, having to move out of my old house due to financial issues. There was a day I made enough money living my dream to pay for all of the luxuries I could have wanted, but that time is over.
I grab my 4DS and step into a cool shower. Habitually I play with the capture toggle on. When I step out my PDA flashes with the uploaded video files. I highlight the footage and flick it into the recycle bin. What’s the point anymore?
I try to relax on the sofa with a few games of the new Mario Kart. But it’s just not the same as it used to be, so halfway through a race I return to the game’s lobby and fall into a restless sleep as the music loops. I wake up hours later covered in drool, and just about have enough time to freshen up before work.
This cycle continues.
Two weeks after this is when XXSniper_PwnedXX contacts me for the first time since the incident. My PDA flashes blue on my lunch break and I can see it’s him. The relief that flooded me after finding out he wasn’t dead is replaced by irritation and nausea remembering the old days. The free days. The message:
XXSniper_PwnedXX: tryin to organise an lp again – a big one – biggest in a while
Me: a come back?
XXSniper_PwnedXX: or maybe a big finale lol – u in chap?
I minimize the chat window and return to work. He messages me again that evening, interrupting me organizing my NES library alphabetically. I sigh and reply: “u kno I am”.
Four of us arrange to meet, including Sniper and I. AkiKatsumeSan and CharlieBear12 also. The place is in the old metro tunnels. Sniper found the place while exploring, and managed to hook up a couple of old desktops, headsets, webcams and the whole set-up to the internet from down there. The game? Super Mario World, of course.
Heads down we each meet under the awning of a theatre on 9th, posters outside display various video game covers. Admission is cheap but I’ve never been. The voice commentating over the playthroughs inside used to be old comrades, who either disappeared or sold out after the takeover. Of course, the ones that didn’t fall in line don’t see a dime from their work anymore. It goes straight into the pockets of Nintendo — the grand overseers.
After sombre greetings we trudge down beneath the streets where we will be unseen and forgotten. We strap on headsets, and sit around a screen. Sniper has not pre-recorded any footage. He will have to play live. We will talk unedited. Rough and ready, just like the old days. His hands fly over the keyboard as he sends a website he’s had in the wings live. It is covered in ads, and will allow people to watch us LP live, and then host it for people to watch when we’re done. They won’t have to pay a dime to see us talk over Nintendo’s game, enrichening it with our humanity, but the ad payers will pay for the attention. That is, until we get noticed.
Things go fine for a while. We talk about how we’ve been doing, about internet jokes. We joke about the game. Aki makes a particularly humorous quip about how the sprites make it look like Mario is humping Yoshi. For a moment I am lost in time, lost in my friends, lost in the joy of the game. For a moment I let myself hope, that nobody will notice the ads, that things can be right again, that we can do this for a living. But then Sniper gets to world 4-2 and it all goes to hell.
The first signs come from the chat. Out of some sense of fraternal love they see fit to warn us as early as possible. A leak on the social networks made it clear that Nintendo knows something is wrong. I take time out from quipping and flip through the net on my PDA. It’s definitely true. Nintendo are accusing “rogues” of “stealing” and “devaluing” their content. Fools. Can’t they see we’re helping to spread their very own messages? It’s free advertising. But then after having made it so clear two years ago why would I think they’d relax their harsh rules now?
“Guys, it’s over. We can still probably get some of the money out of the temp accounts before it’s seized. Maybe we should scarper?” I say.
“No,” states Sniper, without turning. Charlie just looks away, while Aki looks between Sniper and I. “No, we stay,” he repeats.
“But…” I start, not sure what to say.
Sniper hands the controller to Charlie, who continues to jump between platforms without missing a beat. He takes his headset off, and I do the same. He looks me in the eye and I see the passion lying there – the pure love for the game.
“If we stop now it will have all been for nothing. Tell me, have you been happy this last two years? Has any of your life since then even meant anything?”
I didn’t answer. What he said rang true.
“You can go if you want. Go back to answering phones for a living. But I’m going to stay here, play games and make jokes – overreact for the camera. Because I can’t do different. This is just the way it has to be for me. Sure when they get us they won’t let us keep the money, but the very fact it’s coming in is enough. I am entitled to it, and I will earn it.”
“I… I see now.” It was all I could say.
Twenty minutes later we hear them, crashing into the tunnels, the crackled voices of their communicators making it clear they were moving and searching meticulously and methodically, searching for our set-up.
But still we play on. Clearing stage after stage. Earning cent after cent.
Finally, Sniper reaches the last fight with Bowser. It’s then the agents kick down the door and burst in.
“Stop playing!” they shout. Each of the five team members has an assault rifle. Each of them is faceless, nameless, hiding behind armour and helmets. After a pause, where Sniper continues to fight, the leader of the group reiterates the demand: “Stop playing and nobody has to die tonight.”
Sniper isn’t close enough to victory. But he will not stop. I know what I have to do. I stand up, blocking their line of sight to Sniper.
The bullets tear into me like I’ve cut myself shaving, deeply, all over my body. All of them body shots, but none in my heart.
I am going to bleed out, I realise.
But this doesn’t worry me, and as I fall I angle myself so I can see Sniper play.
As Bowser is defeated he makes a goofy face into the webcam, and shouts “owned!”. As he does this Aki, covered in my blood, falls to the ground, her own spurting out behind her. Charlie is screaming as Sniper, grin locked in place, falls forward onto the keyboard – into a pool of his own blood. I am not sure if he died instantly or drowned in himself.
Then I am lost to the darkness.
It’s all about the frog and the stove. Throw it in boiling water and it will jump out, as I’m sure you would if you found yourself in Sniper’s position. But turn it up and up slowly and… well… Whatever you think about Let’s Play and whatever you think about Let’s Plays that one fact is true: frogs jump out of things. Has Nintendo ruined Let’s Play by claiming the ad revenue of work made derivatively from their own original work? That might be something only time can tell for sure.