Opinion: The phenomenon that is watching others game

My thoughts on live streams, ‘Let’s Play’ videos, countless internet walkthroughs and why they could mean the end of single player games

Twitch MainGrowing up in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, I watched video games evolve from a new and niche platform for entertainment to a globally-popular pastime.

Then, with the introduction of online gaming for console’s during the PS2, Dreamcast and Xbox era, the scope of how games could be experienced was pleasantly altered. But in the age of social media, YouTube and live streaming, gamers have taken that to a whole new level.

In today’s gaming world, the playing field has drastically changed in terms of how gamers experience video games.

In a recent Plugged In article, one of the founders of TwitchTV, a streaming site that allows video games to be live streamed straight from the PS4 and (soon-to-be) Xbox One or other platforms, was quoted on just how popular live streaming has become.

“Each month, over 35,000 individual accounts stream content,” JustinTV and TwitchTV co-founder Justin Kan said. “The high watermark for concurrent streams (simultaneous broadcasters streaming at the same time) is around 1,450.”

That’s pretty impressive, I must say. Gamers who become popular streamers can even make money doing it now. But I still wonder about the appeal of watching other people play games.

I admit, I’ve logged on to my PS4 a few times and watched other people play for a few minutes. I look up gameplay footage all the time just to see if a game looks like a worthy purchase. I’ve even looked up clips from walkthroughs when I’ve been stuck trying to find that last collectible.

Hell, I even sat through an entire “Let’s Play” video of Superman 64 because I wanted to see why it is regarded as one of the worst games of all time. I also wanted to see more of it, seeing as I never made it past the ridiculous “fly through the rings” opening level the one time I played it as a kid.

I must say, watching that particular “Let’s Play” was fun and quite educational, as the particular player hosted a ton of information about the game’s history, development cycle and more. Not to mention, I definitely realized why the game is so hated.

But I still scratch my head at why so many gamers enjoy spending hours watching others play. Is it to learn new techniques, hints and tips? Is it to save money by enjoying the story of a game you don’t find to have appealing gameplay or just can’t afford?

I just don’t get it.

I’m a gamer. I play games. Watching others can be fun for a little while, but the huge amount of popularity it has garnered just makes little-to-no sense to me. Nonetheless, this new way of experiencing video games is here to stay and I’m not knocking it.

I mean this isn’t much different from when we were kids and read gaming magazines that featured full-fledged game guides. It isn’t much different than going to a friend’s house and watching them play a game, and with the ability to comment and/or voice chat with the person streaming the game, it’s not much different than cheering or booing said friend while they played. It’s just over the internet now, instead of in the same room.

It’s definitely an interesting trend, but I wonder if it’s just a trend. How ever long it stays popular, though, it’s an important step in the evolution of gaming because it could have serious implications on how developers approach making their games in the future.

With more and more games moving away from single player game experiences and pushing for more online gameplay, I hate to think about where the gaming world could be heading in terms of single player games. Will the streaming revolution make the end of single player games come sooner than later? Or am I just paranoid because I prefer single player experiences?

If nothing else, streaming does and will attract more people to the best hobby in the world, and that definitely isn’t a bad thing.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments, and, as always, keep it locked to Shortcut Gamer for all your news, reviews and more.

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