Leigh Alexander's Patreon for Lo-Fi Let's Play

September 19th, 2016 1:54 PM
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Two-and-a-half years ago, I pointed Apple II Bits readers to the YouTube videos of Leigh Alexander. This renown and accomplished journalist in the video games industry was creating Let's Play videos of classic Apple II games, recording her gameplay experiences combined with her personal commentary. It was a fun and original look at one player's history with her childhood computer.

A lot has happened to gaming and to Alexander since that April 2014 blog post. In August 2014, GamerGate broke. In December 2014, Juiced.GS reviewed Alexander's e-book, Breathing Machine. In April 2015, Alexander became editor-in-chief of Offworld, a BoingBoing-run video game journalism website with a focus on publishing marginalized voices. In February 2016, Alexander departed Offworld and the gaming industry entirely.

I was concerned we'd heard the last of this powerful and important voice — so I was delighted this month when she launched a Patreon to support her latest initiative: the return of her Lo-Fi Let's Play video series.

"What started as a fun outlet for me to recapture some of the sense of mystery and wonder I once felt about games became much more popular than I expected," writes Alexander:

Rediscovering and sharing these charming old works was a great source of comfort and joy toward the end of my time in the game industry. They had a sort of innocence I had missed, and a pioneer spirit I felt warmly toward, and they reminded me in an essential way why playing computer games was once a source of uncomplicated joy and imagination for me. The simplicity of their infrastructure, the severity of their limitations, and their earnestness in the face of those limitations is still a touchstone of inspiration for me in the age of modern high-end hardware and noisy social media. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that there are folks out there that share these feelings with me.

Alexander is asking for contributions on a per-video basis of an amount of your choosing. At $5, you get a newsletter with behind-the-scenes storytelling; at $20 and $200, Alexander sacrifices some degree of editorial control to let you help pick what games she plays next.

You may wonder why one should contribute anything; after all, "Thanks to the magic of emulation and the tireless work of archivists, the videos cost me nothing but time and love to make, and they are and will always be ad-free and available to all on YouTube," acknowledges Alexander. "But sadly, life as a freelancer means that the things I get paid for need to come first, leaving passion projects to languish."

I don't tend to watch Let's Play videos myself, but I acknowledge their value and importance in capturing the experience the Apple II invokes. I'm contributing to Alexander's campaign and encourage you to do so, too — but even if you don't, I hope you'll check out her videos and share in her joy for the gaming heritage of the Apple II.

If this is your first Patreon, don't let it be your last — these other Apple II creators are also seeking your support:

Let's Play Death in the Caribbean

April 7th, 2014 11:39 AM
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This winter, I launched a Google+ page for my YouTube gaming channel. As I began exploring the gaming communities on this social network, I discovered Leigh Alexander, a Gamasutra editor with a large following. She is an accomplished fiction author and columnist, and I've now enjoyed her writing for some time. But when she chose to expand into video, I was pleasantly surprised by the subject that a journalist on the cutting edge of technology would choose for her YouTube debut.

Alexander's first foray into video is a Let's Play of the Apple II game, Death in the Caribbean:

A "Let's Play" is a video game walkthrough with commentary that focuses on the player's experience, instead being a tutorial that provides strategy (though it can do that, too). Alexander follows through with that promise, having grown up playing this game with her father. On a recent return to her parents' home in Massachusetts (hey, that's where I live!), she recorded this video that reflects not only on how the game expanded her vocabulary with words such as "crevasse" and "brazier", but on other lessons: "[Death in the Caribbean] taught me from an early age that disaster can happen anywhere, at anytime. Even if the whole world sprawls out in front of you like a beautiful place ready to be explored — you can die, just by being a little bit wrong" — something you're never too young to learn.

The launch of Apple II Bits in 2010 coincided with my discovery of Let's Plays, at which time the genre was relatively unknown. I imagined myself being one of the first to bring this video format to the Apple II. While I've since recorded dozens of Let's Play videos of Nintendo games, I've never executed on the idea to apply that experience to my favorite retrocomputer.

Four years later, Let's Plays are booming, with no less prestigious an outlet than The Atlantic giving the issue coverage, detailing how PewDiePie, the most popular channel on YouTube, makes millions of dollars a year producing Let's Play videos. If you're baffled why Let's Plays are so popular, Jamin Warren of PBS Digital Studios explains the appeal of Let's Play videos:

Between the proliferation of Let's Plays and the age of the Apple II, you might think, what more remains to be said about our favorite games? Plenty, reminded one of my YouTube followers. "I hate it when people who LP an older game and say 'I have nothing original to contribute'," commented Gaming Media. "YES YOU DO! If you grew up with the game, you have stories about the game that no one else has."

Even those who didn't grow up with a game can still provide unique commentary. As Alexander did, Gaming Media recently turned to Virtual Apple ][ and recorded a Let's Play of Oregon Trail, a game that came out decades before he did:

(Skip to 4:52 into the first video for a fun blatant plug!)

Neither of these recent videos is the first Let's Play to come from the Apple II: Jesse Hamm recorded his own playthrough of Death in the Caribbean three years ago; Brian Picchi has recorded reviews of games like Gold Rush! that could be considered Let's Plays; and I in turn recorded a similar hybrid video of Picchi's Retro Fever, a year after unboxing and playing Zéphyr.

There indeed remains much to be preserved, shared, and experienced of the Apple II on YouTube. I hope that Alexander, Gaming Media, Picchi, and I continue to find the time and enthusiasm to explore this fun intersection of old and new media. What games would you like to see us play next?

Unboxing Zéphyr

May 13th, 2013 9:53 AM
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Back in November, with no scripting and little forethought, I shot an unboxing video. Those outside the tech world may be unfamiliar with the genre, which is essentially a step-by-step documentary of the opening and unpacking of a new product. My product was the Nintendo Wii U, a video game system released on November 18. Much to my surprise, viewers were enthralled with the product and my stream-of-consciousness narration — that, or I had really good SEO. Either way, the video is now nearing a staggering one million views. Despite being only 1.4% of the videos on my YouTube channel, this single video accounts for 78% of my channel's total views.

Not that popularity makes me an expert, but I decided to revisit the genre when I purchased Zéphyr, a new, physical game for the Apple II. Once my copy arrived via international mail from Brutal Deluxe, I touted it, my Canon Rebel T2i DSLR, and my tripod to my office, where resides my Apple IIGS, and recorded my experience with the game. The camera is good for only ten minutes of consecutive video, which was more than enough for the six cuts I shot, which when edited together happened to add up to exactly ten minutes.

It'd be disingenuous for me to not acknowledge the influence of Brian Picchi, aka TanRu Nomad, who has produced dozens of excellent video reviews of Apple II hardware and software. His reviews are more stylish and edited than my "start rolling and see what happens" approach, so there really is no comparison between the two — otherwise, I'd lose! (Horribly.) But the idea that one could produce a video about the Apple II and have fun doing it was enough of a precedent for me to try. (Now if only I could get the hundreds of views he does!)

Although the Zéphyr video was openly posted to YouTube, it was primarily promoted on Facebook, where users were invited to "like" Juiced.GS's Facebook page to view the video. I don't know if anyone found that "fan gate" cumbersome or pretentious, but I received no complaints. Nonetheless, I figured two weeks later, the promotion has run its course, and I won't be cutting into the page's appeal by sharing the video here.

There aren't many opportunities to shoot unboxing videos of new Apple II products, especially one of a sort that aligns with my YouTube channel's other gaming content. I enjoyed this experience, even if there won't be another one like it. I hope the Internet enjoyed it, too!

Bill Budge & John Romero on the 6502

March 19th, 2012 9:10 AM
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Bill Budge has been a programmer extraordinaire, from the early days of his Pinball Construction Set to his more recent work with Sony and Google. Now he gets to pontificate upon those experiences to Jason Scott as part of 6502: The Documentary.

This preview joins the previous footage of Joe Grand, as well as this video of KansasFest 2012 keynote speaker John Romero:

Jason the documentarian explains:

These are untouched clips … right out of the camera and rendered out for you. I will probably tweak, push and pull for the final works, but I wanted you to see, clearly, the quality of image and sound you helped me achieve, and maybe even start to see how these subjects might play out. I have a very long way to go, but it's happening, for real, and you're seeing it. Thanks so much.

Did you not preorder your copy of 6502? Jason will be at KansasFest 2012; maybe he'll take your money then… or just put you in front of the camera for his next film!