Why do people watch other people play video games?

Watching YouTube on Phone If you don’t do it yourself, the idea of watching someone else play games may seem confusing. Why not actually play them instead? When you think about it, watching people play video games is a lot like watching sports. You are both watching other people do something that you could do yourself. Why watch people play sports when you could play it yourself in the local park? Here are some of the common reasons why people watch others play video games:

The Streamer’s Personality

The most popular YouTubers and streamers have big, larger than life personalities. For example, the most viewed YouTuber PewDiePie is well-known for his over-the-top reactions to horror game jump scares. People who watch gaming videos don’t necessarily watch it for the game itself, but the personality of the host. The game may change with every video but it’s always the same host with their unique commentary. Many YouTube presenters create gaming related comedy. Apart from a few comedians such as Dara o’Brien, who is really doing comedy about gaming?


Twitch chat allows you to directly interact (for better or worse) with the streamer. Giving a donation can sometimes get your name called out and a thank you from the streamer shortly after. This instant gratification can be compelling to some people.

Something to Have on in the Background

Many people will not watch gaming content exclusively like you might TV, but have it on in the background while doing another activity. This could be browsing the internet or (rather aptly) gaming, especially during a slow period such as waiting for a match to start. Common ways of accomplishing this are having the video in a small window in the corner of the screen, on a second monitor or simply minimising it.

See What a Game is Actually Like

Before spending your hard-earned money on a game, you want to know if you will enjoy it. You could view the game’s trailer, but they are often misleading and contain non-gameplay footage that consists entirely of pre-rendered cutscenes. You could read a written review, but they can be lengthy when you just want to quickly know what the game plays like. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many is a video worth?

Discover New Games

Apart from a few streamers who are dedicated to playing a single game for an extended period, most will play a wide variety of games. This gives you opportunities to discover new games you may enjoy that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

Unable to Play Games

Another type of person who might watch gaming related videos is someone who can’t play a game at all:
  • A console exclusive and they don’t own the console. This is more common with story driven games such as ‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Until Dawn’.
  • Children who can only play games for a limited amount of time due to parental controls on games, but not the internet.
  • Their computer isn’t good enough to run the game.
  • Don’t have the money to buy the game right now.

Learn from the Best

There are many games out there that are notorious for their difficulty such as Dark Souls. In the old days if you got stuck in a game you would either just keep trying or use a strategy guide. However, a YouTube video can show you move-by-move how to beat a difficult section of a game.


An increasing number of video games have competitive tournaments (esports) such as League of Legends which had 36 million unique viewers during its 2015 world championship final. These tournaments allow players to watch their favourite game played at a high skill level by professional gamers and perhaps pick up some tips on how to improve their own skills. This overview of reasons why people watch other people play games may not have convinced you to do it yourself, that’s okay, but I hope it has made you more aware of the reasons others choose to.
I Make It. You Play It.