Content Poachers

The use of the term “poachers” with regard to fandoms appropriating content to create their own was a term coined by Henry Jenkins, specifically when addressing Star Trek fanfiction and fan creative creations (Jenkins, 1992), which was in turn based on a model devised by Michael de Certeau. “Poachers” were defined as those who “raided” previously created works (either literary or other forms of media) and would reconstruct or recreate different types of content from these pre-established characters and setting. These groups were not passive consumers of media, but instead active interpreters. Within fandoms, this would lead to largescale creative content movements, such as fanfiction, fan-films, costume creation, and more. The idea of taking someone else’s work and modifying it, either slightly or monumentally, into a new piece of content that blended both the familiarity of the original creator and the creative tangent imposed upon it by the poacher was fairly novel back in the 70s and 80s, when Trekkies (Star Trek fans) would appropriate the television show for their own creations. The concept of “borrowing” from already established content to create new forms of shareable creative content persevered, strengthened in particular by the advent of internet connectivity (Jenkins, 2006).
With that, these borrowed interpretations of popular texts became less about personal creation and more about sharable media within fandoms, and on a much broader scale. The ability to share appropriated content was quickly a genre within its own right (going so far that the Hugo awards, the biggest awards in science fiction and fantasy, have a category for “fanzines”) Hugo, 2015).

What Let’s Plays are will be defined in a following section, but it is enough to say that the idea of borrowing one’s creative content and applying another layer on top of it (essentially the “poaching” mentioned by Jenkins in regards to fan-edits and modifications in the 70s and 80s) is closely tied into this culture of “borrowed content as background.” While with LP’s the “content as background” is more literal (with the background video being actual game content, with often the only creative interaction of the creator being an audio overlay), the idea of creating and sharing crafted content based on previously established worlds and media falls exactly in line with Jenkins’ analysis of textual poachers. Additionally, the stories crafted by LPers are layered on top of the stories already created in the video games they’re playing, filling out the current story or expanding it into an entirely new one. While fan-fiction was textual poaching, LPs are video poaching, and both expand on the pre-created lexicon of fiction in new ways.