This past Spring, a student in my NYU English class ranted about people who watch YouTubers play video games. Her little brother does it and she didn’t understand why. Isn’t he missing out on the actual fun part of the game, which is playing the game himself?
Last year, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel made a similar critique, implying that the hobby seemed ridiculous and a waste of time. Obviously since this is a popular, growing interest, his comments as a public figure brought about a lot of backlash. But judging by this clip alone, it’s apparent that there were a lot of members of the audience who agreed with him that night.
So I’m a bored person with time to waste, and I’m one of many who watch YouTube gamers. I too sometimes get interrogated on why I even bother with this hobby.
I understand the negative stigma this hobby receives, but I don’t think it’s justified. I understand it because I know that everyone has this tempting urge to criticize trends that they themselves don’t enjoy. I tease my boyfriend all the time for playing “Overwatch” hours on end, only because I don’t play it myself, so of course I wouldn’t get the appeal. Nevertheless, just because I don’t get a hobby, doesn’t mean it’s objectively a waste of time.
Watching YouTube gamers is a relatively new hobby, but it actually is similar to an age-old activity–watching sports. People like watching sports games because 1) it’s fun to watch the pros play, 2) maybe they can’t afford to play it themselves for various reasons (financial, physical, they just suck, etc.), and/or 3) it’s fun to root for a team or a person, to feel like you’re all on the same side with the same mission. The same reasons can be applied for watching video games. It’s not that strange. It’s why there are certain competitive games that are now classified under the label of “eSports.” Because games like League of Legends and DotA bring people together to watch and root for their favorite teams, just like sports.
Personally, I like to watch video games because I can’t play myself. I’m a huge scaredy cat. Any game that involves a villain of even the smallest kind freaks me out. I can’t play Pacman because the tiny ghosts are enough to make me ditch the yellow pellets and spend my time anxiously screaming and running away from the ghosts instead.
Watching YouTube gamers gives me the opportunity to discover games and stories I wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Over the years, I found that I enjoy silly games where the whole thing is just a joke to laugh at, such as “Yandere Simulator,” or “Gang Beasts.” I also especially love story-based video games–games that play out like an interactive movie, where the player has to make choices to determine where the story goes, such as “Wolf Among Us,” and “The Last of Us.”
YouTube gamers themselves add to this gaming experience not just because of their skill but because of their ability to keep the viewer entertained. I like watching PewdiePie play silly games because he isn’t afraid to make an extreme fool out of himself to joke with his viewers. For the story-based games, I usually watch Cryaotic because he gets very immersed into the story and has the perfect dramatic, deep voice to comment on the whole experience. Pewdiepie doesn’t care that much for the outcome of his games which sets a carefree tone for his videos. Cry cares a lot in such a convincing way and makes you want to care too. I am not trying to say that one gamer is better than the other when playing a specific genre. Both Pewdiepie and Cryaotic play their fair share of silly and story games, but I only watch Pewdiepie play the former and Cryaotic play the latter because the way they play them matches my preference.
Here are two clips of Pewdiepie and Cry playing two different games, one silly multiplayer game (“Gang Beasts”) and one story-based game (“Wolf Among Us”) respectively just to give you an idea of how the YouTuber himself adds to the gaming experience. Maybe I’ll write another blog post sometime listing my favorite games to watch in general, but for now I think it’ll be good to end this blog post here. Enjoy! – Eunice.
Pewdiepie vs. CutiePieMarzia “Gang Beasts”
Cry “Wolf Among Us”