Written by Richard Atlas - Game Designer, Marketing / PR / Business dude at Clever Endeavour
Okay so first off I'd like to say that my mom actually knows that people watch people play games, because her son is in game development. But replace "mom" with dad, older sibling, cousin, grandma, grandpa, dentist, doctor, car mechanic... anyone really. It seems that people are astonished when I tell them how important YouTube and Twitch are to the success of games nowadays... after I explain to them what Twitch is and how it has more viewership than Hulu or Amazon.
This article is my explanation about why people watch video games, written as the conversations that I've had many times. Feel free to use it to explain the phenomenon to people who aren't in the industry:
Random civilian: I just don't understand why people don't have anything better to do than to WATCH people play video games, as if just playing them wasn't lazy enough.
Me: Why do people watch basketball on TV?
Random civilian: Well, I dunno, it's entertaining!
Me: I'd say they watch it because of one of three things.
1) They play basketball as well, and want to get better at it.
2) They want to see the best people in the world perform at their peak and compete.
3) They play, or used to play basketball and they understand and appreciate the intricacies of the sport.
Random civilian: Yes, I agree.
Me: I would argue that watching someone play video games is quite similar. Watching competitive e-sports is like watching physical sports in all of the same ways.
Random civilian (who knows a bit more than the usual): But what about people watching someone who is average at games over-reacting to things and putting on a show?
Me: Have you ever seen "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"?
Random civilian: Yes of course.
Me: Isn't that literally taking the most simple trivia game, and putting on a show? Imagine that show, with Jimmy Fallon as the host. People like entertainment, and funny people combined with solid (games) content makes for great entertainment.
Random civilian: And you're saying that your game, Ultimate Chicken Horse, relies heavily on these people to show the world how entertaining your game is by experiencing it live?
Me: Yes. In fact I'll be writing an article sometime soon with details, but the YouTube views and big videos are directly proportional to our sales.
Random civilian: Wow! It all makes sense now! Thanks magical explanation-man!
And that, my friends, is how you should explain to people that yes, people watch people play video games. A lot. Like a ton. When you explain what the heck Twitch.TV is to people, be sure to throw in that they were bought by Amazon for $970 million. Also mention that the top gaming YouTuber, PewDiePie, has more subscribers than anyone else on YouTube, and more than Justin Bieber and One Direction's subscribers (numbers 5 and 7) combined. The top 6 gaming YouTubers combine for over 105M subscribers. Might also want to mention that the League of Legends finals sold out the Staples center in an hour... yes... to watch people play video games.
And that's that! Here's hoping it works in our favour as well :)