Why we made Unbearable Gaming


Unbearable Gaming was an exercise in making something unfamiliar out of something familiar. This is, in a lot a ways, one of the big secret hidden goals of Henshin Media — we want to make things that are somehow distinctly different from the things they are like. It’s a delicate balance between writing to a genre but avoiding the tropes while staying recognisable.

Recognition is the important word there. It’ll come up again.

Let’s Plays are a thing of immense revenue. We would be lying if we said that was not part of the attraction. Honesty and transparency are the things that compel the writing of this statement, so to avert them so glaringly would be impolite: we wanted to make Unbearable Gaming because we thought it would be fun and we thought it would be easy money. We were naïvely cynical: we hoped that easy money would come easy and we could divert that intake of funds directly into further production.

We were mistaken in our naïveté and we were punished for our cynicism.

Let’s Plays are very popular, we knew this going in, but there are a lot of them. An awful lot of them. We knew that going in, too. But knowing and understanding aren’t always the same thing.

We wanted to make Unbearable Gaming, don’t misunderstand that. We wanted to make it and we wanted to make something new, and unique, and great. It’s why the show is so rough at first. It’s why it looks like some Frankensteinian mismatch of ideas - but that visual incoherence was important to us.

So many Let’s Play features are designed to either focus on the talent, or focus on the games themselves. There’s room and audiences for both, and both end up being very different product, but we felt there wasn’t enough in the middle. We wanted to share the focus of the show between the talent and the game.

It’s why early on we focussed on showcases, and visual gags, and scaring Tim, and skits, and production design. We were trying to stand out from the pack. We were trying to show that we valued games, that we valued the show we were trying to make, and that we valued our audience.

But, it wasn’t working, and money and time investments were quickly outweighing the financial and temporal returns.

We started to reduce the show, control the show — seasons of five or ten games, each game being played for five or ten episodes of ten or fifteen minute intervals. No more on-screen talent - just on-speaker talent.

It took a little while for us to realise, but before long Unbearable Gaming was no longer recognisable (see? I told you it would come up again). It wasn’t the show we wanted to make anymore, and that’s why it didn’t succeed.

And I mean that emotionally, intellectually, personally. We could measure success by profit, or by viewers, but that’s almost unfair when it comes to the online landscape. The show failed the moment it stopped being what we wanted it to be; the show failed when it stopped being the unique product we always thought it deserved to be.

That’s not to say that we think the show is bad. That’s important too. We truly think we made a good show. A Let’s Play is supposed to be light, fun, funny, and real — but it’s also supposed to be a performance. The talent we put in front of the camera here was raw, or at least undercooked. For us, behind the scenes, it’s an interesting case study in the development of on-screens personas, and the dichotomy between that are real life personalities. And those are really interesting discussions to be had.

But for you? For you, honestly, it’s just a case study for the end result of what happens when you get four assholes together to play video games in front of a camera.

Hopefully it makes you laugh.