Why Do We Like Watching Other People Play Video Games?

As you may already be aware, this year's Freeplay Festival is underway with a number of online panels having already taken place. These panels are being streamed live online and there's more good news: anything you miss is being uploaded onto YouTube!

And I'm finding this extremely handy for playing catch-up.

A number of great panels have already taken place. Australia From The Outside featured a handful of high profile Australian developers living and working overseas -- including Siobhan Reddy from Media Molecule and Bennett Foddy, the creator of QWOP. That's definitely worth a watch.

The above is an interesting panel on YouTube, Streaming and the Let's Play format that asks the question: why do we love to watch other people play. Also some pretty compelling viewing.

Freeplay is still kicking on with many online panels still on the horizon. You can check out the schedule (and get tickets for 'in real life' panels) at the official website here


    'Why do we like watching talkshow hosts give their opinions?'
    'Why do we like watching reality shows that trick us into thinking they're real?'
    'Why do we like watching athletes compete?'

    This is a question I ask frequently, although replace 'we' with 'people'.
    I really don't understand, because I really don't like watching other people play.

    I'll watch a 'full cinematics' YouTube of a game I couldn't be bothered slogging through the 'game' part (again) to get to the story, or I'll watch a Let's Play of something I'm interested in buying to see if it looks in the wild like it does in the trailers (practically never, btw). But that's about it.

      Was thinking the same thing. "We do?" I don't get it at all either, for me Lets Plays are only useful to either check up on a part of a game without cracking it out myself if I'm trying to remember something in particular from it, or to reference a particular part that I want to show someone or can't properly describe to them.

        @transientmind - make that three of us. I don't understand the fascination either.

        Other than it's bascally the equivalent of tuning out and watching TV. People always find the path of least resistance when it comes to using their brains, and this is a good way to passively enjoy a game?

        Me three. My reaction when watching other people play is one of the following:

        1. Shut up. I want to hear what's going on/you're annoying.
        2. Why did you ignore that powerup/collectible/secret path?
        3. Stop showing off how good you are.
        4. Seriously, shut up.

    I watch mainly to see how other people play a game and to get new ideas for how I can approach something.

    (For me) Literally to see how the Youtuber or Twitcher reacted to moments in the game.
    (Late and final edit: to participate in & read comments)

    Vetting gameplay because the publishers have whole departments devoted to tricking you with cinematics/vertical slices that do not represent the rest of the game.

    Kind of off topic side note: some people/sites/publishers (Nintendo and a fair few other Japanese based pubs) propose that watching let's play footage hurts sales. I can't speak for anyone else, but can definitely say its actually the opposite for me. Around 20% of my Steam library and at least 2 console purchases (yes 2 consoles, a ps3 for TLOU and a ps4 for TLOUR) and countless console games purchases have come directly from me watching let's play (as opposed to gameplay) footage.

    Last edited 13/04/15 2:40 pm

    The youtube LPers I watch the most are those who go through the effort to edit their experiences into a new and entertaining video. Usually they're having the same kind of fun and entertaining experiences we all have in those same games, but usually it's much further apart, or you have to play a certain way, or the LPer is just way more charismatic for multiplayer etc. or even you just didn't notice what was so funny/cool when you were playing.

    I like watching others play for insight into different ways of playing a game or different techniques and strategy. As human beings, we tend to pigeon hole ourselves because once we learn a certain approach to solving a problem we focus on it exclusively. As such, we develop a sort of tunnel vision that prevents us from seeing alternatives. Also, I happen to be in the camp that finds it entertaining. It's no different to watching any television program or sport. Oftentimes it is less predictable. For example, I had a great time watching Mark streaming Bloodborne recently not because he was amazing at it or because of the game itself but because of his emotional reactions to the game.

    I don't really watch let's plays unless I'm looking for some hints should I get really stuck in a game. I do enjoy watching well edited videos with an entertaining commentary over the top, It's just another form of entertainment I guess, plus you can always pick up a few hints and tips to make your own game better.

    There's usually one of three reasons I'm watching someone playing a game. One is for analysis and study to learn how to play or pick up some tips and tricks. Second is because they're doing something entertaining and impressive (speedruns mainly). In the last case, I'm less watching the game and more engaging in the social aspect of the experience.

    For me, watching others play games is right up there with watching grass grow and watching paint dry.

      I dunno, the 2014 Grass Growing World Championship had a huge TV audience...

    The only gaming I watch is professional Dota gaming. That's just for the simple joy of watching someone that is much, much better than you can ever hope to be playing the game.

    Also, the commentary is great. The game is so very deep, and it's very easy to miss some of the more subtle elements of the gameplay without having a professional commentator pointing them out (like choosing to drop a ward in a slightly less-than-optimal location because it's less likely to get de-warded; I would never know they did that if someone didn't point it out to me, and I've been playing the game for >10 years - it must be even worse for newcomers)

    Most of the gaming i watch is Multiplayer Pokemon matches and Dota 2, on the rare occasion a speedrun or let's play but frankly i prefer to be playing it myself! =)

    I prefer to play video games. Watching people play video games is one of the most boring things I can think of.

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