The Varying Quality of You Tube Content
"The ability to speak does not make you intelligent". Qui-Gon Jinn
I’m sure this has happened to many of you before. You’re playing a video game and you have a particular question regarding it. How do I reach a specific location on the map? Is there an optimal build for a certain class? Where can I get a certain item? A quick Google search returns multiple results but most of them are videos rather than text-based answers, so you opt to watch one to get the answer that you seek. However, you then notice that your simple enquiry somehow merits a video that lasts twelve minutes. You then spend your precious time enduring a rambling diatribe from someone who clearly hasn’t scripted a succinct explanation. If you’re lucky you may get the answer that you seek, or you may end up wasting your time entirely. Should you perhaps watch another video? Needless to say, you eventually go back and read one of the written answers.
The written word is a great medium for imparting information and answering questions. But video is often considered an easier and more convenient option. It’s quicker and potentially easier to create and you can embrace the old Hollywood adage, “Show, don’t tell”. When I was an active Guild Wars 2 player, You Tube videos were the most immediate way to find out how you reach a specific Vista, especially if it involved a complex jumping puzzle. However, there was an important caveat involved. Whether you got a quick and accurate answer came down to the quality of the video, how well it was edited, and whether the author was adept at expressing themselves clearly. And this pretty much rings true for any kind of instructional video, be it for wiring a plug or co-ordinating a twelve-man raid in an MMORPG. Sadly, one of the few things that You Tube, and the democratisation of video production hasn’t achieved is any form of automated quality control. Simply put not everyone is cut out to be a teacher and the ability to record a video doesn’t mean that it will be good by default.
For the sake of this discussion, let us focus exclusively on game related You Tube content and that which is specifically meant to explain a mechanic, system or such like. IE any material that is intended to be instructional. The key to producing a good video of this kind is twofold. The video content has to clearly show the thing that is being discussed and explained. Presentation is key. It needs to be unambiguous and focused. Next the accompanying narration has to be factually accurate, easy to understand and engaging. The former of these two skills can be easily learned. There is a wealth of advice and guidance available on the technicalities of producing professional videos. The latter requirement, which is a form of public speaking, is not so easy to pick up. In fact, for some it is nigh on impossible. Hence, there is a broad spectrum of quality when it comes to You Tube content of this kind. Speaking casually, as you would with friends, using banter, patois and colloquialism are fine on “let’s plays” or for live streaming. This very personal style of discourse can be a source of appeal. But I believe it has no place when it comes to providing instruction.
And therein lies the rub as the expression goes. Simply put there are far too many You Tube videos where the subject matter is poorly framed, and the creator has no discernible oratorial skills. Inarticulate ramblings and poorly expressed points are sadly common place. Plus, there is absolutely no excuse for being dull. Yet You Tube is awash with poorly made content that often proves to be an absolute chore to sit through. I appreciate that many content creators are driven by enthusiasm, but I also suspect that a percentage are motivated by dreams of internet fame or a chance to make a fast buck. Greed often seems to trump quality control and enthusiasm is no substitute for talent. Furthermore, irrespective of the sophisticated algorithms that You Tube has at its disposal, it doesn’t have yet have the tools to automatically determine the quality of content. Which means that unless you have a prior familiarity with a content creators work and trust it, watching any video for instructional reasons is a crapshoot.
Now I want to make it quite clear that I'm not in any way advocating that people should be denied the chance to create You Tube content. I firmly believe in the individual’s right to express themselves within the confines of the law, regardless of whether their videos are shit or borderline David Attenborough. However, the moment you place something in the public domain then you are inviting criticism. We live in a media saturated age and the wider public are extremely tech savvy and expect content to be to a certain standard by default. Therefore, a lot of existing content creators really do need to raise their game and produce work to a higher standard. Basic literacy helps. So does not speaking like you’re recovering from a major head trauma. You Tube also needs to introduce a more sophisticated means of providing feedback, other than the arbitrary thumbs up or down, so that content creators have a fighting chance of knowing what needs to be improved. However, You Tube doesn’t like to spend money on human moderation, so this situation is sadly not likely to change any time soon.