Watching Gamers Game

I will sit and watch someone play Minecraft for hours at a time, instead of playing it myself. In fact, I regularly watch Minecraft videos — at least a few a day. This is absolutely baffling to some people. Even people who regularly play video games get confused. I know people who will spend hours with controller in hand, but would never think to watch someone else play the game, except to look up a cheat, or the solution to a puzzle. The concept of regularly watching someone else play a video game, instead of playing it yourself, seems foreign.

I certainly feel a little self-conscious whenever I have to explain that I spend a lot of time watching Minecraft videos, as in, videos of someone else playing Minecraft. The only time anybody else has brought this up around me was to point out that they know of kids that watch Minecraft videos. Minecraft has something of a reputation of being a children's game (it isn't) so I suppose this shouldn't be surprising. That doesn't change the embarrassment I feel, though.

On his blog, Chris Coyier mentioned watching StarCraft II videos:

I’ve played the game enough to understand how it all works — which I find to be a prerequisite to enjoying watching any game. I’ve tried watching people play games I would probably like, but have never played, and it never takes. StarCraft has loads of strategy and drama, like any good sporting event, and tends to be in small enough time increments that commitment is deliciously low. My stepdad watches a lot of professional golf on TV (and plays golf) and it’s certainly less weird than that.

I would argue that watching someone play video games is no different to watching sports of any kind, only less socially acceptable or normalized. And, Chris is exactly right: like sports, understanding the game itself is absolutely crucial.

I would rather clean a public bathroom than sit and watch a football game, because football is boring and I don't understand it (and I don't want to, despite the efforts of the straight dudes in my life). Same goes for golf, curling, or pretty much any other sport. Is this how everyone else feels about watching people play video games?

We're also talking about videos made by people who play video games and make videos about it, professionally. So it's not just about watching them play. These people have learned how to turn a video game — the very same game that you or I could play at any time, the same game that I have played a thousand times — into something truly enjoyable to watch.

It's not just someone playing Minecraft. It's practically a TV show, full of comedy or drama, with recurring characters you get excited to see in crossovers and on multiplayer servers. As a rule, the player/content creator injects the entertainment factor into the video. Without the right player to watch, I might as well just play the game myself.