Why We Watch Others Play Video Games

Playing video games is a favorite pastime for numerous amounts of people in the world. After a long seven-to-five work day at the office or a mentally exhausting time throughout classes, we all just want to go home to relax with some good quality gaming. We want to pop in the new Dishonored 2 into our Xbox One or launch up the recently released Final Fantasy XV and get away from the real world problems.

Others like to watch other people play these games on YouTube and Twitch. Why is that?

This activity has invaded the internet by storm, with every other YouTube video being a Let’s Play of every single game imaginable. Teenagers are spending multiple hours a day watching these so called “YouTube gamers” and Twitch streamers play video games for a living, from detailed walkthrough guides to comedic personalities from the corners of online video entertainment content.

To gain a perspective on how Let’s Plays and gaming videos have impacted online video platforms, Ryan Wyatt, the global head of gaming content at YouTube commented on the statistical information he gathered on the amount of people who watch gaming videos on YouTube.

“Hundreds of millions of YouTube viewers watch 144 billion minutes of gaming content ever month. Six of the top 10 most viewed channels in the United States are focused on gaming.”

This has proven to be true, since the most popular person on YouTube at the moment is PewDiePie with 49 million subscribers and approaching 50 million ever so quickly.

This current generation has been labeled as “game watchers” and has strayed away from the “players” aspect. Streaming, uploading and sharing has blown to astronomical proportions. Lost in the pasts are the times when young children would watch the “experienced” older gamers play titles such as Pac-Man or Donkey Kong at the arcade or talk about strategies on how to beat the Water Temple in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This idea of watching others play video games shouldn’t come as a surprise, but does appear new to many.

As far as 10 years ago, the action of watching someone else play was seen as something to look down on, a certain activity that is meant for “younger siblings” or the “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” that isn’t as invested in games as you are since they don’t understand what is happening in the game. But they still want to be involved in your gaming experience, so instead of playing the same game as you, they would rather just watch.

There are many people out there that would rather watch a game being played on YouTube or Twitch than play the game themselves. What this type of content ends up being is a form of an interactive TV show that the viewer can engage with. I can’t count the times I have picked up some lunch from my college campus and driven back home to sit down and watch the next episode of a Let’s Play instead of watching a TV show on FOX or CBS.

What ‘Let’s Plays’ allow you to do is see, comment, like and share that video with your friends that would also enjoy it, or have them look at a walkthrough that has never been attempted before. Most of the time, people are tuning in to watch the person that makes the videos due to their personality. A boring game that no one has ever heard of can help make it more entertaining just because the person playing it makes it a lot funnier and entertaining. That’s the personality people like. This is why a lot of the current generation enjoy watching Let’s Plays.

Now let’s get into the realm of how Let’s Plays can benefit many indie game developers and bigger companies producing more revenue for their games.

If you get a big exposure of your game after sending a game code or a copy of your game to a YouTuber, does it affect sales? Ryan Clark, the founder of the widely known indie game, Crypt of the NecroDancer, explained that sales for his game went up $60,000 after it was featured on Pewdiepie’s channel. It’s become what gaming is as of today.

Minecraft. I’m sure every gamer or even your next door neighbor has heard about the Swedish sandbox video game created by Markus “Notch” Persson. Many young children today constantly play this game on their iPads and tablets at home and can spend hours a day using their imagination to create designs and structures in the game. The success of Minecraft comes from all of the personalities on YouTube that upload Minecraft and have made this game into a living, making thousands, or even millions just from this game.

Minecraft has spread like wildfire because of YouTube Let’s Players. I don’t believe Minecraft would have been as successful as it is and Notch would have never become a billionaire if gamers didn’t play the game and upload Minecraft gameplay videos, modded maps and collaboration videos.

Minecraft videos still to this day are getting a lot of money rolling into the pockets of Mojang and getting many views on their videos through ad revenue. I don’t believe Minecraft would be what it is right now if it wasn’t for the YouTube community and Twitch streamers playing this game in the last few years.

This is a prime example of how YouTubers and online personalities will help any game boost your sales.

The social aspect behind watching games has given Twitch a popularity rise, which was sold to Amazon for $1 billion recently. Matthew DiPietro, the VP of Marketing at Twitch said, “Gamers are social by nature, video is their native language, and Twitch is the platform where they connect.” DiPietro makes a good point because people love to watch stuff and talk about what they see. I know I enjoy watching one of my favorite streamers play League of Legends before I head to bed. I enjoy the streamer’s commentary and at the same time I get to learn new tricks and tips on how to improve in the game.

If you’ve noticed in the recent years, many of the big viral games have been titles such as: Amnesia, P.T., Outlast and most recently the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. The big catch in these videos is that people watch the player play in a skillfully manner or watch their reaction to a specific jump scare. They know that the person playing the game will mess up at some point, which will lead a funny reaction. Screams, freaking out, the reactions. This is what brings people to come back and watch more gameplay videos.

Viewers will watch the story unfold as the player makes their choices and experiences the game, then after the video is done the viewer can comment and share the experience with everyone else that watched it as well.

You can watch the YouTube player play the game so they can be the brave person for you and have them test out the game before you do. Afterwards, you can decide if you would like to play the game for yourself. People watch games to determine what is good and what isn’t. People are always influenced by other people’s opinions.

Now I do support the decision to watch video games on YouTube and Twitch, but there is a point where I have to draw the line.

Tons of people say that they would rather watch a walkthrough or a full Let’s Play series of a game instead of playing because they are not able to afford the $60 price tag on each AAA game. That’s ok with me, gaming is not a cheap hobby to pursue and I know what it’s like not to have a lot of money. I’m a college student! But, not all games are $60. There are always sales going on all year long. Indie developers have also made games that have been in the $30 price range and even going down to $10 when on sale. Why not just buy the game and show your support to the developer? They could lose money due to the fact that people will exclusively only watch Let’s Plays.

We’ve been doing it since the 1980s, but we’ve stepped out of the arcades and have migrated to the world wide web that is the internet. Watching other people play games isn’t something new, we’ve just found an easier way to do it instead of being cluttered in a room full of people. We are all “watchers” and “players”, we just haven’t realized it till now.

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