In 2015, for the first time, the Let’s Play channel, which stars the members of Rooster Teeth’s Achievement Hunter crew, turned their show into a live experience. That event proved to be a such a hit that three more followed it the next year. Now, in April 2017, the Let’s Play cast is preparing for its most substantial tour yet: Four shows across the Eastern seaboard, all within a one-week span.
Adapting a channel like Let’s Play for a live audience presents several challenges. For instance, how can format that is inherently unscripted overcome speed bumps without the magic of editing? There is also a question of distribution: Should content from these live shows find its way online? Or should it be left as a singular experience for paying guests?
To get some answers, we talked to Jack Pattillo, an Achievement Hunter co-founder and the brains behind the Let’s Play Live experiment. He explained that the event series was born out of the gatherings Rooster Teeth hosts each year at RTX, the fan convention it runs in its home city of Austin, Texas. Pattillo told Tubefilter that playing games in front of an audience of 4,000 people lent a rockstar feeling to the experience (and not just because Grand Theft Auto is one of the Let’s Play channel’s staples.) “The performing nature of Rooster Teeth has always been part of the company,” he said. “The whole point of Rooster Teeth is making comedy for an audience and that’s what we’re doing all over the country.”
The ensuing event series, Pattillo and his cohorts decided, would be exclusively live, with no videos from the shows being made available on the Let’s Play channel. “The whole idea of Let’s Play Live is to experience it in a theater with a crowd of Rooster Teeth fans,” Pattillo told Tubefilter. “You can’t experience the same feeling of a show in a 1920 by 1080 [pixel] window.” He noted that a brick-and-mortar performance space has a much different essence than that of the office where most Let’s Play videos are recorded. “Trying to make an audience laugh is a different energy,” he said. “It’s something unique and special we’ve accomplished.”
As for my other main question — about whether the unscripted nature of Let’s Play videos presents a challenge for live adaptations — Pattillo reminded me that he and his colleagues are funny people first and gamers second. Or, as he put it, they’re “improv comedians who use video games as our tools.” It’s a similar philosophy to the one espoused by Funhaus, another Rooster Teeth-owned channel whose hosts will also appear during the upcoming Let’s Play Live dates.
That said, Pattillo acknowledges that putting on a Let’s Play Live show requires the Achievement Hunter gang to run “by the seat of our pants.” The fact that recording errors, for example, can’t be cut out in the editing bay is “the danger we run into doing this stuff live,” but Pattillo also calls that riskiness “the thrill of it as well.”
Even if Let’s Play Live features a “seat of the pants” approach, Pattillo knows Rooster Teeth can always count on the support of its fans, who are among the most passionate in the online video world. He described live shows as something “radically new,” but fans reward that experimentation with regular sellouts. “We are a community-first company. We know the fans are the reasons we get to do what we do,” he said. “We always make sure we take care of our audience because our audience has been so good at taking care of us.”
Some tickets are still available for the latest Let’s Play Live tour, which will launch in Newark on April 24th and will hit Baltimore and Orlando before concluding in Tampa on the 30th. Fans can expect a packed program filled with playthroughs of games like Grand Theft Auto and fun “interstitial bits.” Pattillo himself will also relish the opportunity to interact with Rooster Teeth fans once again. “I love it,” he said of the RTX convention. “I would do that every single weekend if I could.”