Why People Like Watching People Play Videogames

Okay, okay — I’ll admit it. I don’t really have the time, money or equipment to play videogames. I’m doing the best that I can with my time, prioritizing graduate coursework, clinical practicum, writing, volunteerism, and so much more.

Plus with the pandemic and all, I ended up finding other things to keep myself satiated, whether it is jogging through quiet nature trails, watching a good movie, listening to music, and doodling.

I also grew up in a household where I wasn’t really allowed to play videogames. Imagine that. My folks are quite gentle these days, where they kind of don’t care what I do these days, as long as I’m happy. However, they once used to tell me to study hard all the time.

As you can imagine, I don’t really study “hard” these days. I kind of learned to study “smart”. I learned to not memorize material as my ancestors did before me. I kind of found ways to internalize material instead, by volunteering, researching, and networking.

I wanted to practice what I learned, and along the way, things like gaming did not become my thing, even if I liked the idea of it.

As a young adult, I’ve grown to assuage my fears surrounding hard work in other ways, whether it was reading, writing, or watching other people play really cool videogames. Yes, once in a while, I’ll hop onto YouTube or Twitch and watch other people playing games.

I’m aware that this is somewhat unusual because I’m watching someone else playing a game instead of being the one playing it. I know that I could just buy that game and play it myself. I also know that playing by yourself can be a lot of fun too.

Photo by Bartek Mazurek on Unsplash — In an alternate universe, I would have been an avid gamer.

However, the millions of views on casual or competitive gaming videos suggest that there’s plenty of people who are in the same situation as me, and some who are addicting to watching. Personally, I’m more a casual viewer, who pops in when I have an hour to spare, which isn’t saying much.

Considering the demand for spectating games, I’m not surprised that we literally have eSports. Your regular sports channels and companies endorse and host eSports tournaments that often get live-streamed. There are official teams that represent cities, regions, and even entire countries. There are literal cash prizes, often in the hundreds and millions.

You can read more about eSports here if you don’t believe me.

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I don’t really watch competitive eSports, but I am a big fan of watching more casual and fun gaming content. You know — the kind where the gamer cracks some hilarious inside jokes, donates to charity and performs some unbelievably timed feats.

There’s obviously a lot of content creators out there these days. The choices on what to watch and where you can watch it are endless, and it’s easy to find something that is interesting and suited to your niche interests.

Photo by Hello I'm Nik 🎞 on Unsplash — I love YouTube and Twitch.
Photo by Hello I'm Nik 🎞 on Unsplash — I love YouTube and Twitch.

What I also like about watching casual gaming videos is that you get to discover hidden lore surrounding the content creator. For example, for every handful of videos you watch, maybe you will catch something odd, like the content creator acting out of character, showing off their acting chops.

The next thing you know, you’ve fallen down a rabbit hole where you realize that the content creator has five official alter egos and each ego is associated with some overarching and tragic backstory with high continuity across all videos.

That’s creativity in action, folks.

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Photo by Alex bracken on Unsplash — What can I say? I can watch these videos anywhere.

A lot of people like traditional sports, whether it is football, soccer, baseball, and basketball. They’ll often tell you that a sport like football is their favorite sport of all time. It’s likely that they don’t even play football, but they enjoyed watching their fave teams play football instead.

You could easily apply this logic to watching videogames. In sum, I’m standing by my guilty pleasure, even if I don’t have much time to watch the comedic banter. As for you, maybe it’s your guilty pleasure too.

January 19, 2021




Synthia Satkuna


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