The Grammar Variables of Achievement Hunter’s YouTube Channel, Let’s Play
YouTube has opened up a whole new way in which the production of videos are created and the ways characters in those videos are shown. Since its creation in 2005, YouTube has become a household name and one of the most widely visited websites in the world. With this relatively new medium being used by most of the population on the planet, the ways people produce videos for the medium has changed much than how it is used for other mediums such as television but both do share commonalities. In Joshua Meyrowitz’s journal articles Multiple Media Literacies and Television and Interpersonal Behavior, he first discusses the approaches to media which are content, grammar, and media analysis and in the second article he discusses Hall’s concept of proxemics which Meyrowitz’s elaborates on to what he calls para-proxemics. Also in the second article Meyrowitz’s talks about para-social impressions which is an expansion on Goffman’s impression management concept. In this essay I will discuss in detail about what Meyrowitz has written above and how it relates to the para-social relationship I have with Achievement Hunter’s YouTube channel, Let’s Play. The channel that I have chosen is more unique in the sense of how it relates to Meyrowitz’s concepts.
To begin it would make sense for me to first explain what the media literacies are according to Meyrowitz; beginning with the “content” approach, Meyrowitz states that media can be examined as a conduit for content to travel through.(Meyrowitz 97) He says that this approach is the most common one used in analysis of media. (Meyrowitz 98) An example of how this is used is if someone was conducting research on television, the researcher might say that the television is the medium which content travels through cable wires where it then is shown on the screen. They would then analyze more on the content of the media than the actual medium its self. That is why the medium is referred to as the conduit. The second approach is “grammar” and in this approach the media is analyzed on how the subject(s) are framed on the screen, how high/low the shot is, the composition of the background, the lighting of the content, etc. It mostly looks at the production of the media content which Meyrowitz calls “media as languages”. (Meyrowitz 99) The last approach is “media analysis” which is when someone analyzes the media content for its purpose(s). The questions of ‘why was this content created and for whom?’ are looked at along with ‘what does this content contribute to society?’ Although more than just these two questions are looked at, they are the two main questions which are asked in this approach.
Now that I have given a brief explanation of what the media literacy approaches are, let’s look at the second and probably more important article Meyrowitz wrote about para-proxemics and para-impressions. Both of these terms derive from Communication scholars Edward Hall and Erving Goffman. Starting with “para-proxemics”, Meyrowitz states that this is a derivation of Edward Hall’s concept “proxemics” related to media content. Hall defines “proxemics” as the space between two individuals and the meaning and framing of that space. He says there are four types of spatial zones: intimate, personal, social, and public. (Meyrowitz 254–255) These four spaces are most common in social situations usually defined in one’s culture. The closer you are to someone might mean that you have a significant tight bond with that person while if you are farther away you might not but it is dependent the social rules within someone’s culture. Meyrowitz uses Hall’s idea and relates it to media content. He says that the space the viewer and the subject in media content can have an impact on what the para-social relationship that someone has (Para-social relationship is what Meyrowitz calls the relationship someone has with a media figure). This is then what Meyrowitz calls “para-proxemics” along with the elements of production to create it. The concept of “para-impressions” Meyrowitz says is how the characters in the media content react and coerce the viewers to other characters and relationships with the character and other characters. (Meyrowitz 256–257) These para-social impressions then either strengthen or weaken the para-social relationship with that character. These concepts are for the most part present in Achievement Hunter’s YouTube channel, Let’s Play.
I will now analyze my para-social relationship with Achievement Hunter using Meyrowitz’s concepts of “para-proxemics” and “para-social impressions”. Within these concepts contain elements of how something is para-proxemic or para-social impressionable. Starting with para-proxemics, the first element which makes something such is the viewer’s perception of characters. Achievement Hunter has a variation of the kinds of videos on their YouTube channel Let’s Play; while the channel has ‘let’s play’ kind of videos, videos where the characters are not seen but able to watch the games they are playing with audio commentary, they also have videos where the camera is on them. The videos that have video of the characters are AHWU (Achievement Hunter Weekly Update), VS., and GO! videos. Besides the AHWU videos, the other two usually have the characters competing against each other in either a game or challenge. The framing of these videos and the spacing vary throughout. Usually one of the characters will address the audience at the beginning in a “personal” amount of space as Edward Hall would define. It could be called a more personal on-the-scene news report type of framing. It is setup as though you are there about to spectate their game or challenge. The camera man’s shot is to reflect the field of view the viewer might have if they were there in their office with them. The camera man walks around to each character who are usually either at their desk playing on their computer monitors talking into their professional microphones or who are up and around watching the other character’s play as well. This is also related to the other element in this concept which is the viewer perception of relationships among characters. In these videos the characters usually ‘goof’ around with the cameraman to give the illusion that the character is actually goofing around with the audience although sometimes the characters might say whoever the cameraman’s name is directly. The cameraman may also sometimes rotate the camera around to have him in a very personal type of frame and address the viewer directly. Although this action could break the illusion the viewer had, it might still work since it could be the ‘reaction’ if the viewer may have really had of turning around if there.
In the let’s play videos on the channel the framing is much different; there is no camera but sometimes a “face cam” which has the perspective of a security camera angle. But the face cams in their Let’s Play videos are barely used unless it’s for a ‘crazy reaction’ to something in the game they are playing. In the let’s play videos the viewer has the framing of the character’s eyes in that they are seeing exactly what the character is seeing on the screen. There is much flip flopping to other characters screens in the video to edit what the most exciting thing each character is doing at the moment. You are never on one character’s perspective for the whole let’s play unless it is a solo one. The audio in the video is usually all the character’s playing the same game together. This is usually left unedited unless if something extremely bad or whatever is censored. In these types of videos the viewer may still feel involved in some way since they are able to see exactly the most exciting parts a character is partaking in at the exact moment of audio. Usually the characters are together in their games which allows for multiple views of the same event.
In all the videos posted on Achievement Hunter’s Let’s Play channels, the video and audio quality is crisp and clear. The characters use high end microphones such as the one’s you would find in a recording studio or radio station and while I am unsure what kind of camera they use, it does shoot in 1080p resolution. With the spacing of characters in the videos that feature cameras, the viewer can easily tell the features each character has as if they were there in real life looking at them. The shooting of the videos appears to be amateur since the cameraman has free range with the camera and it is constantly moving but in a smooth way without shaking which makes it more realistic to how your eyes would move if you were actually there. In some videos with the camera there may be juxtaposed images and videos framed in the upper right hand corner to the gameplay one of the characters is currently doing in the frame or to a subject they are currently referencing. The first one relates more to the VS. and GO! videos and the second is more for the on-the-scene news report format of the AHWU videos. In all the videos the camera is at equal viewing with the characters although some characters are sometimes sitting down at their desks which give the appearance that you are ‘standing over’ them. I have never seen a video where you were below the characters eye level unless it was an ‘action cam’ or better known ‘Go Pro cam’ perspective. Besides that, the shot is always at equal eye level. When it comes to editing videos, they are for the most part not edited much; like I said the paragraph before, the let’s play videos are edited just on characters screens but nothing else is for the most part is edited. The VS. and GO! videos have very little to no editing done to them. The most heavily edited videos I would say are featured on their channel are the AHWU videos which are set up like news reports and often have ‘jump cuts’ but these cuts are professionally done in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the video. Any editing that is done is usually very small compared to what you would see on other YouTube channels.
The time lengths of the videos on the Let’s Play channel usually differ on what kind of video they are. The longest videos are mostly the let’s play videos which can range from 30–60 minutes in length or more. The VS. and GO! videos usually have the same run time of 10–15 minutes in length. The shortest videos are the AHWU videos which usually have a 5–8 minute run time. Even with the varying video lengths, a viewer doesn't have to feel ‘cheated’ out of content because Let’s Play posts multiple videos a day. Usually Monday through Friday are the days in which most content is posted with some videos being posted on Saturday and only about one being posted on Sunday. The viewer always feels like they are not being forgotten because they are able to ‘interact’ with the characters on a daily basis which adds to the para-social relationship a viewer might have with Achievement Hunter.
When it comes to para-social impressions, it is easy to see how it is present in Achievement Hunter’s videos. Para-social impressions include how the characters react to the viewer and how they react to other characters in the content. It can also include the setting and context of which the character or characters are in. I will begin with talking about the setting Achievement Hunter’s videos are in. Goffman says that when an individual enters a social situation, he or she wants and needs to know something about the other participants and the given social context. In the videos where the characters of Achievement Hunter are shown, the viewer quickly realizes the roles and personalities each character has. The lead character is usually the one named Geoff, who is almost always the first character you see in the beginning of the video who tells the viewer what the context of the video will be. You might even see in this introduction the other characters in the background doing silly things in the frame of the shot. Almost all the videos shot take place in the Achievement Hunter office of Rooster Teeth Productions in Austin, TX. The office is relatively small with each character’s desk facing the wall to make a U shape along three sides of the wall. The camera is set up to have almost all the character’s desks in the shot. Each characters desk is cluttered with various gaming merchandise and items which reveal a little bit about their personal tastes. This could be part of what Goffman says is their ‘back region’ which is what he defines as an individual more personal values, feelings, problems, etc.(everything not on camera)(Meyrowitz 263); but it doesn't really reveal much more than the games they like so you could also debate that it is still the ‘front region’ which is the ‘performance’ the character has in front of the camera. Like I’ve said before, you are at the same eye level as the characters which make you feel welcome to the setting.
The characters in Achievement Hunter when gaming always use the ‘front region’ in their videos. They do not talk at all about their personal beliefs, values, problems, etc. They do in their let’s play videos talk about individual stories they have had in the past not on camera but they are stories that do not reveal much about their ‘back region’. It is not to say that there ‘front region’ is bad, it is actually better well received from the viewers since they like how funny and goofy the characters can be. For me personally, I enjoy the way they act in their videos and would probably feel awkward if the characters began talking about personal stuff since that isn’t what I came to see in their videos. Although I haven’t met them personally, many fans say that they act the same way when they run into them on the street and such although they could be still ‘performing’ their character personas on Achievement Hunter. I am sure they may act differently with those they are really close to. Part of this ‘front region’ relates to how they are dressed in the videos as well. Most the characters wear either some type of graphic tee-shirt with an unzipped zip-up sweat shirt or a zip-up sweat shirt that is zipped up. One particular character, Ray, is well known for wearing a purple zip-up sweat shirt in most of the videos. Some characters, such as the older ones, have heavy facial hair. Geoff is well known for having a large mustache. Some characters as well have a noticeable amount of tattoos; particularly Geoff has ‘sleeve’ tattoos that take up both arms. It is interesting also that the characters vary in age from mid-twenties to mid or late forties. All the characters for the most part get along well despite their ages differences but sometimes you can notice that the older characters talk more amongst another than the younger characters. The same applies to the younger characters. In some let’s play videos they acknowledge this difference and do team challenges against each other which they have the older characters on a team called “Team Gents” versus the younger characters called “Team Lads”. Many viewers enjoy these kinds of let’s play because they tend to have more comedic value to them. These performances by the characters in their videos really make it feel as though you are their participating in their commentary and game play.
With both para-proxemics and para-social impressions being present on Achievement Hunter’s Let’s Play channel, it is easy to see how someone can create a para-social relationship with the characters. Meyrowitz calls a para-social relationship one where you have a bond with a character or characters in some type of media content. I feel that I have a strong bond to the guys of Achievement Hunter. I do not watch them mostly for the game play, but for their hilarious commentary they have together. Many fans create their own videos about the guys of Achievement Hunter which supports participatory culture of YouTube. Participatory culture is when fans of a media friend create their own original content about the media friend and participate in sharing it with other fans of the same media friend. The framing of the videos also makes it feel like you are there with the guys and playing a game along with them. While it is a professional production studio that runs the channel and Achievement Hunter, you still feel personal, legitimate connections with the characters who work there.
In conclusion using what Joshua Meyrowitz called ‘para-proxemics’ and ‘para-social impressions’, both terms expanded upon originally from Edward Hall’s ‘proxemics’ and Erving Goffman’s ‘impression management’, you can see how the elements of each help to contribute to creating a ‘media friend’ to the viewer. From the height the videos are shot to how the far the characters are on video to the interactions the characters have with one another, it gives the viewer the feeling that there is a personal bond between the viewer and character. YouTube offers something much more different in terms of bonding with characters; in other mediums there is always a barrier of access between you and your ‘media friend’, you couldn’t address them directly and were hard to reach. With YouTube the viewer can comment directly on the video to the characters that made and posted the video which breaks down the barrier other mediums have. This may be why YouTube has so many viewers because anybody can create and post content and the accessibility is extremely easy. I have watched Achievement Hunter since about mid-2011 and still enjoy watching them; I am always looking forward to the next hilarious video that they will post next.
Meyrowitz, J. (1998), Multiple media literacies. Journal of Communication, 48: 96–108. doi: 10.1111/j.1460–2466.1998.tb02740.x
Meyrowitz, J. (1986). Television and interpersonal behavior: Codes of perception and response. In G.Gumpert & R.Cathcart, (Eds.),Inter/media: Interpersonal communication in a media world (3rd. ed., pp. 253–272). New York : Oxford University Press.