How Not to Play Hitman was a wonderful series that came out back in 2006 (was I really 16 back then?), and its modus operandi is rather neatly summed up by its title. It features Tom ‘notBowen’ Bowen playing through various Hitman games, starting with Blood Money (Christ – is that game really 8 years old?), and giving a thorough rundown of how such games are not supposed to be played.
Occasionally he seems to start with the best of intentions, only for events to escalate out of his control. The videos are completely unscripted, and typically completed in a single night, with most of the time invested in the development of introduction videos and choosing the music (as seems to have been the case for many, these videos represented my first meaningful introduction to They Might Be Giants). Most of the time he starts off in the mood for mass murder. On every occasion he leaves a trail of dead NPCs in his wake, as particularly exemplified by the finale of his ’47 does Mardi Gras’ episode –
The timing is impeccable, and the videos are actually helped somewhat by their Web 1.5-esque presentation – no annoying teenage voices to put up with on the narration (notBowen was in school at the time), and some very well executed camerawork and editing means that there are some genuine laugh out loud moments in there.
Bowen was in high school when he first began the videos, primarily to test out the FRAPS game capture software – “the music and the big stupid captions were just to make it interesting after the fact,” he says.
The early videos in particular number views in the hundreds of thousands, so has he enjoyed any particular fame as a result of this series? It’s hard not to sympathise when he points out that he seems “to have missed the YouTube gravy train by a few years”. While he did have some brief involvement with Gamespot and ScrewAttack, his typical recognition is through gamers and message board posters (like me) asking whether he is really “that guy”. That said, he did once overhear a customer quoting one of his videos while working at his local GameStop: “When it became clear I wasn’t being set up by someone I knew to fuck with my head, I was thoroughly awed at this chance meeting. So much so that I forgot to put the disc in the box. He didn’t come back either. Apologies to that kid.”
Bowen graduates from school after this semester, and may return to making more episodes but – as this is the most common question he gets asked these days – he makes no promises.