If you had to guess, how much overlap is there between ASMR and gaming YouTube? Probably not much, right? The stereotypes of each seem diametrically opposed — quiet whispers and calming visuals on the one hand and excitable shouting and graphical chaos on the other. And yet, some YouTubers have combined the two, producing the genre of ASMR Let’s Plays. In doing so, they’ve created a whole new way for people to enjoy games online.
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Forget Let’s Play, Let’s Sleep
Soft Serenity’s ASMR Stardew Valley series is prototypical: the game plays on screen while Serenity is tucked into a frame in the corner, narrating game play and giving a town tour in soft, gentle tones. Serenity walks into town to buy seeds, talks to townspeople, and rambles about her favorite features. The viewer is left with a feeling that there’s no rush, no worries, and nowhere else to be.
Serenity’s videos often clock 10,000 views or more and her channel is quite successful. Many ASMR creators (ASMRtists), like Serenity, post mainly ASMR LPs, but others post them occasionally, and there are hundreds if not thousands more who don’t make LPs part of their ASMR content at all. If ASMR videos were a supermarket, LPs would occupy maybe a single aisle’s worth of goods amid the personal attention, beauty routine, no talking, whispering, soft spoken, hair cutting, unintentional, role play and other popular video styles.
Though LPs are a niche genre in the ASMR world, they’ve quickly become an important space for people to experience and connect over games. Both creators and viewers say these videos — and the community built around them — is far more accepting than typical gaming communities, and that watching ASMR LPs has given them an alternative way to enjoy both new and favorite titles.
A Calmer, Softer Game Experience
“I definitely think Let’s Plays with ASMR offers a unique alternative,” Serenity tells me. “I feel it’s very accepting of anyone. ASMR gaming is all about being able to feel those tingles in a relaxing, soothing, and safe environment.”
The ASMRnerd, also known simply as Nick for privacy reasons, tells me he’s created around 200 ASMR Let’s Play videos and that while he doesn’t personally feel attacked or bullied in games communities, he knows it happens and appreciates the space ASMR creates for gamers.
“Online gaming communities have a reputation for being toxic, elitist, and antagonistic. The ASMR community was founded on helping others,” Nick says. “I’ve always felt [it] is a wholesome little corner of the internet.”
“Done right, [ASMR LPs] invite you to leave your worries behind. Whether it’s a soothing whisper, the clicking of controller buttons, or the pitter-patter of rain in Skyrim, the implicit promise is that there will be no judgement or expectations. You can rest easy.”
I conducted an informal poll on Twitter and heard similar comments from viewers of ASMR LPs. One told me “[LPs are] a more relaxed setting,” while another pointed out that they’re “not focused on competition or being critical of the game, but rather enjoying the art.”
One respondent even said, “It shows a different aspect of video games that I didn’t think could be possible.”
And that’s important for many people who want to enjoy games but may not appreciate the culture that often comes alongside them. For instance, Maddie Patton, 26-year old ASMR viewer and gamer, tells me she mutes her mic while playing online games specifically because of harassment.
“I don’t play multiplayer/online games because of the gaming community,” Patton says. “Every time I was placed in a team of random players, there was one who would treat me differently as soon as they realized I was a girl. I would get crude/sexual comments or be told I was a terrible player even if I was doing well.”
Patton said the gaming community still isn’t very accepting of LGBTQ players, either.
“While the gaming community is getting better towards women, it still needs some work when it comes to the LGBT community… There are some who say horrible things or have something rude to comment. For example, The Last of Us 2 released a teaser trailer … and in it the main character (female) kisses another female character. There were many comments along the lines of ‘Why does she HAVE to be gay?’, ‘Well I love the first one, but I guess I won’t be playing this one.’ Those comments were pretty disheartening.”
But Patton says the ASMR LP community is different, offering a safer and more calming environment to enjoy games whether or not you’re a hardcore player. While not every ASMR video Patton watches is an LP, she said they are a good alternative if you’re looking for calmer, softer games or a more accepting atmosphere.
ASMR LPs aren’t likely to overtake typical games content anytime soon, but the niche community certainly offers a more accepting space to women and members of the LGBTQ community. What began as an offshoot of the ASMR format has become a kind of alternative games YouTube, drawing viewers who aren’t even primarily here for the tingles — just a chill gaming experience.
“It’s more relaxed and casual without the toxicity,” one respondent said. Others agreed, noting the lack of competition, relaxation and lack of judgement and discrimination. Echoing these viewers, theASMRnerd succinctly captures the idea that ASMR Let’s Plays offer something special.
“I think both ASMR and video games have the intrinsic ability to bring people together,” he tells me. “and their convergence has created a very special community that I’m grateful to be a part of.”