Why Do We Spectate?

After the close of Evo 2014, I had an epiphany about the games industry. There’s a huge community of people, gamers and non-gamers, that watch other people play games. Not only am I one of those people who watch, but I also create content for others to watch. One of the things I loved doing growing up was taking turns playing video games and watching my brother (Trill Will) in games like Metal Gear Solid, Megaman X4, Tekken 2, and several others. I’ve always had a fascination with watching people play.

This carried over to my teenage years when my friends and I would play video games together. We always “got hyped” and screamed across the room when one of us landed a seemingly impossible, no scope, twitch-reflect sniper shot from across the map in Halo 2. It got to the point in college where having my friends over to play video games helped the time pass by when working on projects. I loved talking about games, and watching others either struggle or triumph over impossible odds. Video games, in an essence, have always been a social part of my life, and have always fun to watch, but it wasn’t until the final day at Evo 2014 that I actually started thinking about how outsiders may view the idea of watching people play video games, and how “e-sports” have become “an actual thing.”

If you are one of those people who “just doesn’t get it”, I welcome you to this article! I also congratulate you on making it this far in. I want to take a moment to put things into perspective- Do you like watching any kind of media? Let’s say you really like dramatic shows, like True Blood, or the Wire, or perhaps you love anime like Attack On Titan. Maybe you’re more of a sports person, and love watching players display their athleticism on the field, mixed with the healthy sportsmanship players often exhibit on the field/court. Now combine those seemingly very different things into one medium, and you have the phenomenon known as Video Game Spectating.

There’s something inherently entertaining about watching someone react to circumstances differently every time, even if they’ve been in the exact same predicament or sequence. There is always something a bit different about each scenario, and it is exhilarating to learn new things about those games, similarly to any other form of entertainment. You can experience really interesting stories and see people’s reactions to said stories, just like you do with films, shows, etc. You get the high adrenaline antics of tournaments and gaming events where players train 8+ hours per day on a particular game. These people know the rules, the parameters, button combinations, character move sets, frame data, visual or audio queues, and everything in between. These are people who have reactionary skills far beyond the average person, who can show you things you never even knew was possible with characters you “thought” you had a “pretty good grasp on.” In short, e-sports are just as demanding mentally as any other sport, with less emphasis on physical contribution, considering you count out the duration of these massive gaming events.

And let’s touch on Let’s Players on live streaming services and video services like Youtube. Some of these youtubers are afforded mansions and corvettes based on their public persona on the internet as a lets play personality. Not only are people subscribing to their channels for their skills in the online arena, but their highly entertaining and engaging personalities that go with them. So many of the youtubing and livestreaming gaming community are really great people, who are always excited to interact with their fans (myself included), and never before has this community been a part of something large. Did you know that the biggest channels on youtube are GAMING channels? Yeah, it’s definitely a thing.

In short, I believe we watch let’s plays and e-sports for a variety of reasons. Similarly to how other people watch other forms of entertainment/media, gaming is no different. I love listening to let’s plays while I’m at work, and as you all are aware, Black Oni Blog also has it’s own podcast. People love to talk about, and listen to other people talk about video games. The medium is flourishing, and being in the midst of all of it is deeply satisfying, and fun (if not totally draining). So thank you to the viewers, listeners, and readers out there, and thank you to all of the developers for giving us such great games to experience.