Two Forks: Embarking on a Video Journey

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I’ve been toying around with the idea of getting back into video content, in part because I’ve found myself wanting to do similar things for other games I’ve been playing lately, like Star Wars: Destiny and, most recently, Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game. Video content is a unique animal in requiring much more work on the front end (recording, voice work, editing, publishing) than written pieces, and the target audience tends to be more focused. With written work, anyone can read if they choose, and what they take from the writing is up to them. Some skim articles for decklists or interesting tech; others settle in for the experience, as the author takes them for a ride. I’ve always considered written content simultaneously more welcoming and more strategic, while video content has always seemed to be more about entertainment and visuals.

It might seem weird to do a written article on the various ways to approach video content, but the more I’ve looked around, the more surprised I’ve been to find basically no information on the subject. With a wealth of content creators out there, and a ton of different outlets for video content (YouTube creators, Twitch casts, website-driven), the avenues and particulars for consuming catered content can be daunting, and it’s something I want to dive into and analyze if I can.

This article won’t be a survey of the different content creators out there, but a deeper look into the types of Magic content that is already being created (and potentially into unexplored areas). It's a collaborative effort, so take notes and let me know your thoughts at the end. If you’ve ever wanted to have your voice heard and potentially shape a final product, "get in on the ground floor," so to speak; this week, you’ll get your chance!

A Brief Overview

I’ll spend a little bit of time going over the various styles of video content I’ve found so far, but the meat of this article focuses on you, me, and what readers want out of future video content in my column. I know Ryland has been doing some traditional video content recently, in a similar vein to the "Trevor Holmes Plays MTGO" series I did a while back, and that stuff has been great to watch. It’s my intention to branch out a little bit, in an attempt to offer something unique while also making sure not to step on Ryland’s toes and take away from the great work he’s been doing. So, let’s get into it!

The "Let’s Play"

The tried-and-true method for video content in Magic, "let’s play" content aims to put the viewer in the driver's seat (or at least provide a third-person view) as they watch the content creator play games, either online or over-the-table. This type of content accounts for the majority of the video offerings out there, as it's easy to watch, entertaining, and offers something for everyone. Players looking for a strategic edge can watch a deck being played to gain matchup insight, and glean info on both how to play or how to beat a specific archetype. Twitch content most often falls in this vein, but with a more casual "live atmosphere" effect thrown in.

If there is a downside to this type of work, it’s the natural effect of oversaturation, as just about everyone is doing it. Dozens of streamers and just about every major Magic site has let's play content of one sort or another, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does make it difficult to bring something new to the table. Let’s play therefore ends up in this weird space where it's on the content creator to bring something unique in terms of commentary to the table, but only viewers "in the know" are aware of it; most that haven’t watched tend to continue not watching, as they stick to their preferred video series that they know.

The Commentary

We all know this one, as "the commentary" is the most recognizable and wide-reaching of all the types of Magic content out there. SCGLive is the big dog here, and the Wizards’ Pro Tour coverage of course, and the options drop off a cliff from there. The commentary is defined by individuals giving match/tournament analysis from a top-down level, playing neither side but offering insight and entertainment at a macro scale. This type of content has a ton going for it, so take your pick. The best players, high profile events, ‘something for everyone’ in regards to archetype, commentator personality, etc.

The downside to this type of content is it isn’t quick, and the market is basically cornered. While you can jump into a SCGLive stream for 30 minutes, you’ll be pretty lost as far as the whole event is concerned, but that’s not too big of a deal. I remember fondly Saturday’s of old as I did various things around the house and let the stream run in the background. For the simple man, there really isn’t a market for this type of content on the individual level, as its almost impossible to bring the same level of intrigue and entertainment value the Pro Tour offers to a weekly FNM stream, complete with commentary from Joe Schmoe.

The Spoiler Hype

I’ll be honest and say I tend to avoid this type of content like the plague, but I appreciate it for what it is and know this type of work is a big hit with the casual crowd. We all love spoilers, and I don’t fault anyone for how they choose to consume it. Personally, I like to look at new cards in a vacuum, on my own in silence, preferably with a skeptical eye and a ton of sighing and grunting. Still, this type of content is instantly recognizable for what it is, and has a perfect home on YouTube. Quick, flashy, meant to generate excitement—for the most part, this work skimps on analysis and caters to hype. That's not to sound disparaging, as spoiler content does what it does well.

If there’s a downside here, it's that this type of content comes and goes with the season, like business at Party City. If you plan on staying open, you’re going to have to offer up something more. (I have to end the Party City analogy here, because I truly don’t know what they do outside of the window of October 29 to October 30, which is when I’m usually there.)

The Weekend Update

Here’s where I start to branch out and come up with things that I haven’t seen done that much (but then again, I haven’t been looking). I assume some content creator out there has explored this stuff in some capacity, but in my own echo chamber of strategic high level content I haven’t come across it yet. That being said, a sort of news parody-type content for Magic happenings could be very interesting, as the anchors discuss what’s been happening recently, talk about events coming up, throw in jokes, and wrap everything up in a package of agenda loosely labeled as comedy. I went off a bit there, but I think the idea has legs, though I wonder how it holds up when there isn’t much actual news to report on. Nexus would have to stick to Modern, and include relevant goings-on in the community while straying away from Standard talk.

If there’s a downside, its that this type of content will probably rely heavily on writing and production value, and on the skill of the anchor to land the jokes. The line between weekend update content and video podcast is blurry, and in my mind this type of content works best when each offering spins a specific narrative, or tells a story. Jay-Z could musical guest and Ryan Gosling could host, I guess. That might help it be successful.

The "20/20 Investigates"

Another option could be a video offering of something similar to the old metagame updates, using visuals, decklists, and bullet points to work through metagame shifts and trends in a visual manner. This type of content would align most closely with a run-of-the-mill written article, and the script for the voice work would probably stand alone as just that—but it's better, because video!

I kid, but only slightly, as most video content that isn’t commentary or let's-plays works just fine as text content anyways. Let’s not fool ourselves here. Video work, when done well, involves written work applied to visual aids, so it can stand alone as a written piece if we break it down. The value here would come from a clear dissemination of valuable information in an entertaining manner. And big words.

The downside here is that this type of content would probably involve a lot of work on the backend, as I’m basically doing all the research that would normally go into a written article on metagame analysis and trends, but then adding on top of that a swath of graphics, decklists, transitions and the like. Still, if done well, the end result could be pretty sweet.

Real Talk

If there are others let me know, but from a quick look around, and prior experience, I found three primary styles of video content, and came up with two ideas of my own. My thoughts tend to lean more towards something long-form, unique, and geared towards a more invested crowd that is searching for high-level content. The goal is to be just as informational as entertaining, because if we aren’t offering strong analysis, wouldn’t we be better off just streaming? Again, nothing wrong with any of that, just thinking out loud about potential opportunities to plant a stake in some unclaimed land and fly the Nexus flag high.

The options, of course, are endless. Am I in front of the camera or talking over full-screen graphics? Is there a co-host? Should the video content be weekly? I have other commitments as well, so while I’d love to do a full-scale production every week, finding the proper balance between backend work and the quality of the final product is essential.

So here is where you come in. Let me know first what type of video content, if any, you enjoy consuming, and what type of content you would like to see on Nexus that would make you excited to come to the site. The whole purpose here, of course, is to provide something that you want to see. I could go through a primer of every deck in Modern, good and bad, but what’s a primer without seeing the deck in action, and does that mean we’re just doing a more involved let’s play? That’s fine if so, but I want to know what you think before I dive in and start working on something unique. I’m me, which means I’ll leverage my insatiable need to try and do something at least a little different to keep myself interested, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Rein me in and set me free, so to speak. I’m interested to hear what you have to offer, and excited to see what roads might lie ahead.

Thanks for reading, and you better type something before clicking away!

Trevor Holmes

2 thoughts on “Two Forks: Embarking on a Video Journey

  1. It’s kind of a weird idea, but I think that videos of lost matches for whatever the best deck in the format are would be cool. There are always videos that investigate hyped decks, but they usually reinforce the hype. For instance, of the Grixis Shadow match up videos that I saw over the months, it was winning most of its matches. Presently though, while still quite good, the format has seemingly adapted to it and it is less clearly the “best deck”…a turnabout that, while predictable, seems contrary to previous reports all the same.

    A variation of the video concept, might be running a deck that used to be a contender through some tournaments to get an ‘on the ground’ perspective of what knocked it off its mantle. The whys are easy enough to figure out from stats etc, but seeing how things unfold is different.

    Such videos would probably take a considerable amount of time though because the decks in question would need to be practiced heavily to insure that the biggest contributor to losses would be the deck, versus pilot-error.

    I’d be inclined to refer to such videos as investigative, versus the categories provided in the article.

  2. Hi Trevor,

    I don’t watch a ton of content for MTG but what I’m a lot more invested in is esport, used to play a lot of Starcraft, 100% converted to Dota2 now. Obviously, this is a completely different beast but maybe there’s something to take away from it.
    There’s 3 types of content I tend to consume:
    – First person view of pro players which is a lot like your let’s play.
    – Commentaries of tournaments which you covered too.
    – Super analytical review of past matches. This one is a lot less common as far as I know. Particularly in Starcraft, there’s a guy named Day[9], maybe you’ve heard of him as he’s pretty famous. His mantra is “Be a better gamer” and he used to run a show where I’d pick a replay of a pro match and go crazy in depth analyzing every moves and decisions, trying to teach people how to improve. I know I can thank him for 90% of how skilled I am at the game. And being rather mediocre at MTG right now, I’m thinking I could use that kind of stuff 😉

    Haven’t really found that kind of content in MTG yet. Or maybe I haven’t searched hard enough, that’s also possible.
    And now that I think about it, I’m not even sure that would work at all or be interesting.
    But hey, you asked that I typed something so here it is 😉

    And good luck with whatever you choose to do!

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