Sometimes it can be difficult to muster the energy to play video games. The mental energy required to immerse yourself in another world can be restrictive depending on the time or amount of focus you have to devote on any given day. At the end of a long day of work or class, it’s often more enjoyable to sit back and watch a video game be played rather than engaging in the action yourself. As a visual medium, there is a mountainous amount of video content on the internet related to video games. From Let’s Plays to eSports VOD’s, content creators and competitive gamers alike generate the content that we consume on a daily basis. This is the understated side of the industry we thought about when considering the question:
I love to watch streams of my favorite games played competitively. I used to watch a ton of Super Smash Bros in high school. Recently, I’ve taken to watching a lot of Overwatch and Splatoon 2. On top of being entertaining, I learn a lot from watching the pros play. It helps my own game. On the other side of things, I’ll occasionally watch walkthroughs of people playing horror games. I’m too afraid to play them myself, but I appreciate the genre otherwise. I watched full walkthroughs of The Last of Us and The Evil Within. I never would have made it through those games otherwise.
I love watching gameplay of Telltale games. There is no specific one that I enjoy above all, but season one of The Walking Dead was the first series I watched back in 2012. At the time, PewDiePie, known for his quirky gameplay experiences, had rarely played impactful, story-driven games like The Walking Dead. The amount of comradery that was shared with the community that watched these videos was nothing short of amazing. Going through the seasons, Pewds would sometimes livestream episodes; watching with a live audience was a whole different level of fun, especially talking with people in the chat, everyone reacting to everything going on.
I have spent an unspeakable amount of time watching Minecraft let’s plays. I’ve never really been able to get into the game myself, but really enjoy watching others show it off. My favorite videos were from a Youtuber called Vintage Beef. He would often play with one or more people, playing challenge levels or competitions (Minecraft was my introduction to Battle Royale mode), but would also play solo, just talking about his life or different topics as he would work on some new building project. The height of my watching was when I was in a somewhat stressful living situation and without a means of playing games myself, and Beef’s videos were a way to escape my problems and recharge for a little bit. I’ve also watched a fair amount of Arma 3 from a guy called Frankieonpc. Again, a game I would never play myself, but watching someone both extremely skilled at the game and commentary can be a fairly meditative experience. Neither of these channels ever leaned into the hyperactive, meme-heavy sensory overload of PewDiePie or the like, for which I am thankful. I’m too old and grumpy for that kinda thing.
Since I watch a lot of YouTubers, there are some games I only consumed via YouTube, so seeing people play them became part of the experience from me. I watched Markiplier play Mad Father, Witch’s House, IB, and Five Nights at Freddy’s. I saw Jacksepticeye play Night in the Woods, Undertale, and Doki Doki Literature Club, and I watched multiple users play certain Kingdom Hearts titles because I don’t own the consoles for them (and I’m not one to buy a video game console for a series of games). But the ones I like watching best are the Five Nights at Freddy’s series because the reactions of the people playing are honestly the best thing out there.
For a good long while in high school, I spent a lot of time watching all the most popular fighting games in the FGC, Marvel VS. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter 4 in particular. I would also routinely watch Bajan Canadian’s 50-round Zombies runs in Call of Duty: Black Ops while doing homework. Currently, however, I have to give it to Overwatch. Watching pro players perform out of the box maneuvers or get crazy team-wipes always inspires me to play the game more and put in the effort to improve my skills. I love how Blizzard has made the viewing experience more and more intuitive as the years have progressed. While I haven’t been paying as much attention to the Overwatch League as I would like, the bright colors, fast pace, and general excitement of Overwatch make me really want to dive back in.