If you’ve never heard of them before, don’t fret; the concept is simple. Screencasts are much like screenshots—only better. Screencasting features a video-feed comprised wholly of partly of someone’s computer screen. Often, they’re supplemented with audio narration and sometimes they’re even incorporated into their close cousin, the videocast.

Screencasts are not new technology. They date back to the heady days of 2004, when Twitter was but a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye, and when Livejournal was still the preeminent social networking site.

Since then, however, the screencasts have evolved and been used for everything from tutorials to product demos. The tech has become near ubiquitous—prominent enough for the eponymous Ze Frank to provide his own screencast on how to passive aggressively punctuate emails.

But beyond the obvious, screencasting’s potential ranges farther than just broadcasting how-to’s. The tech also helps germinate dialogue; it provides a way for users to provide suggestions in real time—to layer on feedback to a real-time demonstration of a piece a software. Namely, for those inclined to care about trivial pursuits, a screencast provides a way for gamer and developer to communicate.

Case and point: Cynical Brit. This particular screencaster publishes under the alias TotalBiscuit. His youtube profile hosts numerous screencasts of popular MMORPGs; namely, screencasts of beta gameplay of Blizzard Entertainment’s upcoming expansion: World of Warcraft Cataclysm. TotalBiscuits’s screencasts serve the obvious purpose of providing eager gamers with previews of upcoming content and tips on how to pass it. But the videos serve another purpose: they provide play-by-play feedback, including what quests are too long, what’s glitching, and where the plot could be improved.

The only question remains is whether or not Blizzard developers actually watch some of TotalBiscuits’s videos. If they do, kudos. If not, they should. For developers in the beta stages of a game, the sort of detailed criticism provided by TotalHalibut, for example, is golden.

(If you’re looking an article on how to create screencasts, Jon Udell provides one on digitalmedia. The post is dated, written back in 2005, so the tips on software have expired. Nonetheless, the article is still worth reading for those interested in learning the fundamentals of screencast creation and design.)