Electron Dance
24Dec/175

Side by Side: Feedback Request

A request for feedback on the third series of Side by Side. The third series offered five feature-length episodes on the following local multiplayer games: Cryptark, The Unholy War, Sumer, Johann Sebastian Joust, and N++.

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  1. Hi Joel! Merry Christmas. :)

    1) Length. I prefer shorter videos, though I watched the majority of S3 all the way through. Pretty sure I skipped one entire video as it landed at a busy time. :(

    I do watch a lot of these videos at work and longer, meandering discussions are difficult to follow when your main focus is elsewhere, so that’s a factor.

    Also – I don’t know how you prepare these videos but I feel that the discussion / breakdown is recorded soon after you play. So it’s got a hot take feel, and I am unconvinced about how well that lends itself to longer form discussion and deeper dives, which I think are better sustained when there’s a discursive through-line or clearly identifiable points of discussion. Structure, basically, which can emerge in conversation or via editing, but both of those are hard work when stacked against the vagaries and tangential tendencies of human conversation (or comments! Hello!).

    2) Age (vintage?). The decision to focus on the new makes sense. Old esoterica like The Unholy War is interesting but the barrier to play it is harder. How many people want to watch a deep dive on a largely forgotten game that is difficult to actually play?

    I’m not surprised that Joust didn’t command much attention – it’s a fantastic game but how much is there to say? I also wonder if your audience is made up of people who are sufficiently aware of odd and unusual games that they don’t need to hear about Joust again?

    Nb. both of those last two points mainly stand when talking long episodes. I’d watch a few minutes on something I knew I’d never play because that’s a price I’m happy to pay in the hopes of interesting tidbits, despite being time poor.

    3) # Episodes/Series. I don’t think this matters to me.

    I’m unsure what meaning there is in the concept of “a series” for web-delivered content outside of how you and Gregg are obliged to produce it. Like, there is no theme to each series of Side by Side. And how much do people care about the release schedule for content that’s bundled up with umpteen other YouTube subscriptions? (I use RSS, but I’m old and weird.)

    4) A question for you, which I will also answer from my perspective: what or who is Side by Side for?

    I watch it to discover good local co-op games which I want to play with my partner.

    For that purpose, my preference is for larger numbers of games to be covered, so there’s more chance of seeing something I like. My preference is also for shorter videos, because I don’t want to know too much before I play. That doesn’t only detract from the pleasure of discovery: in competitive games, it advantages me – and with my partner I’m already advantaged because I’m the sort of person who watches YouTube videos in search of new games to play.

    That’s it from me… hope some of that was food for thought. I’m looking forward to the final series whatever form it takes. :)

  2. Hello Shaun,

    Christmas right back at you.

    I think my mind is almost made up that we’ll switch back to shorter videos and maybe even reinstate the 5 minute limit. Plus I just wrote this to That Scar in the YouTube comments:

    One thing I came close to unpacking but veered off at the last moment is that I just screwed releasing Side by Side in general. The first series was too focused on Sportsfriends, although the episodes were regular; the second series was just random, stretched out over a year and some thought the tail end of the second series was an all-new third series; I may have got with the program with the third series but it was quite short.

    “I don’t know how you prepare these videos but I feel that the discussion / breakdown is recorded soon after you play.”

    It’s the next day. We tend to play on Friday night/Saturday and then go through the discussions the following day when we’ve allowed thoughts to settle. But it’s probably not long enough to escape a hot take feel. The new approach of playing before the filming weekend was meant to mitigate some of this, get some deeper thoughts on the table, but the downside is that it lends itself to long-form analysis. (Editing is much more fraught with the longer discussions, obviously.)

    Yeah, the “failure” of Joust was not unexpected because it was just this last-minute bonus episode I threw into the mix. I don’t want to watch any Joust any more. Even Doug Wilson doesn’t want to watch Joust any more. The Joust episode does well with people who know nothing of Joust, but they won’t watch our series anyway :)

    The eps/series is more a practical concern – how many we can create before another hiatus. If we wheel out 17 short episodes, I’d gauge a lot more people would give the series a better look than 5 long ones (at least that’s what the new series seems to indicate). It’s all about being up in people’s feeds, isn’t it? Five appearences probably isn’t enough….

    “4) A question for you, which I will also answer from my perspective: what or who is Side by Side for?”

    Aha, yes indeed. I mean, I don’t think I’d ever watch anything like Side by Side. I’m not a game-video kind of person and I hate watching most video-based analyses – but I *would* watch the Electron Dance films.

    My intention in the beginning was to just to raise awareness of local multiplayer games. That was it. But we didn’t really get the views. I think some of this is down to my crappy approaches to series one and two. Series three was just trying something completely different, which was likely the complete opposite of what anyone wanted, if you know what I mean? I still love the third series and I know some people like the long format… but I think it’s niche niche. I mean, my children have abandoned me. How much worse can it get?

    Thanks for the honest words, Mr. Shaun.

  3. Sooo…. I’m not fully satisfied with this feedback, but it’s also silly to A. not send it, or B. spend a bunch of time polishing it. So it goes. I guess the main point I wanted to make that I like side by side, but mostly because it has the same ingredients as your other output, and you and Gregg have a fun chemistry. Your content and style may be a little niche sometimes, but it’s almost a perfect fit for me, so I’ll read/watch/listen to most everything you put out (maybe not streams as much, but I dunno. I never really watched game videos on youtube before SxS, so maybe if you decide streaming is your thing i’ll eventually check it out). Ultimately, if Side by Side is a pain to produce, I’d wholeheartedly endorse switching to something easier or more rewarding. Realistically, I think the scenario that would make the most sense for continuing Side by Side would be if you had some sort of distribution partner like RPS, SU&SD (local multiplayer videogames are basically board games) or Critical Distance. Presumably there is an audience for thoughtful stuff, but.. who knows?

    Alternate advice: Make Gregg move in with your family, or at least somewhere on your block.

    Length:
    I guess I’m in the minority, but I really enjoyed the longer episodes. Well, Cryptark , N++, and Sumer were really great (I got Cryptark after watching, already had N, haven’t bought Sumer yet). I guess Unholy War and Joust felt a little padded (I can’t easily play either of these). So maybe I’d just say that the longer ones have a higher enjoyment variance for me. But if the people aren’t sticking around for the longer ones and they’re a lot less shareable, I dunno…

    + best ones are even better than shorter ones
    – not-best ones are not better for being longer
    – more work for you?
    – harder to share with others

    -> I abstain on the question of long vs. short.
    But… How hard would it be to vary length to match how much interesting stuff you have to say about the game? Bloop was a great video, but would have been absurd stretched out. Sumer and Cryptark videos really benefited from the extra length, but I guess would have been fine if they were shorter. Looking through the list of games, S2 seemed to strike a good balance of matching the length to the game. Maybe when you’re picking your games for S4 you can just ponder whether any of them would benefit from a longer treatment.

    Game choice:
    If old, at least something that’s easy to play – ideally on PC – I think that’s where your potential audience is, mostly. Or at least it’s where I am.

    I guess I’d be less concerned with age and platform than just games that click with you. I think that Pongs, Bloop, Lemon Joust, Necrodancer, Cryptark, and Rocket League are some of my favorite videos (whoops, shouldn’t have gone back through to check), and I guess that one of the common elements is that the gleeful laughter to everything-else ratio is really high in those.

    Other question:
    What are these videos supposed to be? Recommendations? Reviews? Analysis? An introduction to ___? Fun footage of a personality you already know playing a game? To me it’s always seemed a bit jumbled on that front, which is maybe part of the charm – fitting the content to the specific game. But maybe that hurts with shareability – maybe it’d be easier to “succeed” if you were targeting a specific niche besides “people who already like your work from the site.”

  4. Thanks Dan. When your name popped up in the comments on YT I then remembered you’d actually liked the new longer episodes.

    Having Side by Side “syndicated” by someone like RPS would not really work, simply because of the weird schedule. We just can’t ensure to have episodes on a regular basis and it would probably become something of a millstone (work) instead of what it is at the moment. I really like doing it – but doing it means I don’t have enough time to do the other stuff. I also think the Side by Side output is still kinda variable and I can’t seem anyone picking it up, if you know what I mean. We have considered adopting Gregg, I know the children would like it. They would also like to adopt Eric.

    On the length question. I never laid down “a perfect length” for how long an episode should be in this series. I just let us talk for how long it felt like we should talk, and I edited down to what seemed appropriate. Hence Joust stopped at ten minutes. We deliberately chose meatier games because the plan was to have something to get our teeth into. Sumer would not work with five minutes. We could’ve pulled off Cryptark and N++ but how much we would have said, I don’t know. If we’d done Bloop in this series, it would’ve stayed pretty short – we couldn’t even stretch the original Bloop episode to 5 minutes – it was just shy of 3.

    I think we’re probably S4 will be just aiming for 5 minute bites but we might avoid more complex games simply because it would eat so much time to really be able to say something about them.

    What is Side by Side ?S1/S2 was meant to be recommendations, to make people aware there’s a lot of local multiplayer out ther. S3 changed to proper analysis.

    But I know seeing us play the games is important to the whole experience and my Dad has been complaining when there’s too much talking and not enough playing!!! But some episodes just didn’t do the business on the score. I poured through the footage of Assault Android Cactus for the first episode of S2, and the game was just so full-on, we were really quiet for most of it. Just two guys staring at a screen. This actually plays over in my head when we’re doing the playthroughs for the camera: for the love of God don’t be silent, say something, because this footage isn’t going anywhere otherwise. I do find it stressful doing the playthroughs, despite what it might look like! After a day of “performing” playthroughs we’re always exhausted. Streaming is the same deal – don’t ask me why I like doing this but it feels good to create something.

    Anyway, we’ll see what happens. Gregg and I will probably gather again later in 2018 to do a new series. Happy New Year!

  5. Crap, I missed all these great comments. Thanks for the feedback Shaun and Dan K.


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