When we’ve talked about the Think-Aloud assignment in class, YouTube “Let’s Play” videos and Twitch streams invariably come up as useful comparisons. There are a ton of YouTube and Twitch creators who bring in viewers (and in some cases, dollars) by the tens of thousands just for playing video games on camera or screen-cap. Typically, these videos also feature a live audio commentary from the player, and as we’ve also discussed, these narrations can often veer toward absurdity and, consequently, far away from what’s actually playing out on screen.
There are a few Let’s-Players, though, who maintain a tight focus on the game being played, with some going so far as to read aloud each piece of text or dialogue. I’ve seen this most often in Let’s Plays of narrative-heavy games without voice acting – at least, no official voice acting, because as soon as the player begins to read the text aloud, he/she effectively fills that role. These game-centric (rather than player-centric) Let’s Play channels thus feature content that is remarkably similar to our Think-Alouds.
I bring all this up because as I was reflecting on my own Think-Aloud, it occurred to me just how easy it is to think of the author-reader relationship as an unrequited one. The author serves us a text, and we consume it. Things like Let’s Play videos and think-alouds, though, make the relationship far more mutual, and far more intimate. I wonder if this is because Let’s Plays and think-alouds create a relationship closer to one between two readers, rather than between a reader and an author. Ideally, when someone watches my think-aloud, they’re experiencing this text for the first time, just as I was when I filmed the video. Granted, they’re ‘reading’ the text from a greater distance than I did, and thus the interactive effect on their end is stifled (or lost entirely, you could argue). But there’s still a certain kind of bond created as two parties share the experience – albeit a disjointed and asymmetrical one – of experiencing a new text together. I think that’s so cool, and actually kind of beautiful.
As for thoughts/reactions more specific to my own think-aloud and the experience of making it: this was harder than I expected. As an introvert and as a writer, I’m more inclined to express my thoughts methodically and carefully and ideally on paper, rather than aloud. (Really, as students I think we’re all fairly conditioned to react to texts this way – the typical format is read a text alone, ponder it for a day or two, then come back and share thoughts as a group. )So, to suddenly have to think and react on my feet to a work unfamiliar in both its presentation and its content was… a challenge, to say the least! Still, it was the best kind of difficulty – not the frustrating kind, but the kind that makes you clear out old, comfortable ways of thinking to make space for new and exciting ones. I’m thankful for that.