Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jimmy Kimmel, Let's Plays, and Video Game Streams

The less concise but more accurate title of this post is: Why would you want to watch someone else play video games? A Response to Jimmy Kimmel.

If you're unfamiliar with what I'm talking about, watch this video, in which he talks about the launch of YouTube Gaming.  He expresses his confusion over the matter very plainly.  I know, it's old, but I just now got my thoughts in gear.  For what it's worth, his spoof of YouTube Gaming is actually pretty hilarious.

Video games are fun, and lots of people like them.  This is the reason that the video game industry has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry.  Back when arcades were popular, the machines weren't always designed to make viewing the game easy for anyone who wasn't playing.  The question he's asking has been around for decades, and the answers have as well.  It's just that it's gotten easier to watch others play video games through the internet.

So, why watch others play games when you could just play them yourself?  I can think of five reasons.  I can also think of a lot of knee-jerk reactions, but in the interests of having this be an intellectually-sound post, I'll avoid them.

One: There are a lot of games coming out.  Every month sees a batch of new releases, for every platform, and there are several platforms.  Not everybody has all the money and time in the world to buy and play everything.  So instead, we buy and play what we can.  Our interest doesn't wane for the sacrifices we make, though, and the internet allows us to experience those games as well.

Two: With all the games coming out, and the diverse range of interests that they cover, it's inevitable that you're going to find yourself on the fence regarding buying one or another game.  Watching others play video games lets us see more than just the conflict-of-interest-laden, carefully crafted marketing material that the developers and publishers release.  It can help a person realize they really need the game now, or alternatively, realize that it's not worth their time and money.

Three: With the number of people recording their gameplay footage and commentary, editing the two together, and putting the result on the internet, there are a lot of commentators out there.  Each has a different style, as well as a different set of tastes for games.  You might initially find one person's channel because of a common genre or game interest, and then find yourself staying on and watching their playthroughs of games you never intended to purchase, just because you know their commentary will make the viewing experience enjoyable.

Four: This is the other side's perspective to reason two.  Watching others play games also has incredible marketing power, because it can and will influence people to buy games that they might not have otherwise found out about, or would not have considered buying.  Video game developers and publishers small and large, far and wide, and not named Nintendo, have embraced this and typically make getting permission to upload and monetize footage a very simple process, or even grant blanket permission to do so; often just requiring a link to the game's website or its page on the Steam store, which is easy to comply with.

Five: Sometimes, you either get stuck at a certain part of a game, or just want to see someone else's experience playing a game that you're playing.  There are a number of games that have large "open worlds" where the player is encouraged to go off the beaten path and find things on their own, and thus one player may experience things that another player might not.

I doubt he'll actually find out about this post, much less read it and not try to make fun of it in some way.  But his confusion over the subject has always been sitting there in the back of my mind, churning around until I realized that I had these three answers.  Now that I've posted them, hopefully I can get the matter off my mind, and maybe help anyone else who's confused about it realize what the appeal is.

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