Back in the early days of gaming, playing a game was seen more as a solo experience. Sprawling RPGs were more the norm. As the medium has evolved however, this is no longer the case. We went from a stereotype of screen-tans and anti-social tendencies to the cooperative socialites we are today. Nowadays, it seems that every game has some sort of social feature in order to keep us playing them much longer.
Multiplayer gaming permanently changed over the seventh generation of consoles, with games like Halo 3 and Call of Duty 4 leading the charge. But as the generation came to a close, we started getting used to a different kind of “multiplayer” by way of streaming. That’s right, no matter where in the world someone is, we can now join them in playing ANY game as if we were in the room right next to them. Hell, the idea was so unique that it prompted both Amazon and Google to act on it, with Amazon buying Twitch for close to a billion dollars and Google launching their YouTube Gaming platform in retaliation.
“Why would you watch someone else play the game instead of playing it yourself?”, people may ask. Well, watching a stream is so much more than just sitting there staring at someone playing a game. You’re interacting with them and essentially learning from them. You’re also making friends and finding people to talk about your favorite games with. Viewers can learn about their favorite games, or maybe even pick up a few tips on how to improve their own gameplay techniques. Around 500 million gamers flock to Twitch every month. They can’t all be crazy right?
Take your average League of Legends player for example. Aside from LoL being one of the games they spend most of their time with, they may be watching a professional player stream to try and up their game. The player could watch each and every move the pro makes from their direct perspective, while said pro may be giving tips to the players watching. Viewers can ask questions directly via chat, as well as interact with each other. There is no telling what sort of knowledge any given player in the chat may have.
It’s important to keep in mind that gamers also watch streams for more than just then the game. Streamers have personalities and they love to interact and entertain. They are like mini-celebrities and the viewers may end up watching a stream for their personality more so than the game they are playing. It may look like a simple thing to just sit there and talk while playing a game, but it takes a lot of work for those streamers to stay entertaining, and their viewers respect that.
There is also the possibility that the viewer may be unsure on how a game works and would want to check it out a bit before purchasing (the recent No Man’s Sky comes to mind). It makes me wonder if more people had watched streams of the game before buying it than they would know what they were getting into and not be as disappointed.
Aside from the community factors of streaming, there is an air of novelty to the platform. Experiments like Twitch plays Pokémon or Twitch plays Dark Souls have garnered thousands of players to join in the fun. In these unique scenarios, a game is started, and it is up to the Twitch chat to control the game by typing instructions into the chat. A turn-based game like Pokémon sounds (and is in practice) a bit more viable than a game like Dark Souls but either way, it’s a fun experience only possible through Twitch.
Without question, there is significant value in streaming. There is a reason around 500 million viewers spend their time there every month. There is a reason Amazon spent almost a billion dollars on the damn idea. Watching other people play a game instead of playing it yourself might sound crazy on paper but in practice, it can be a beautiful experience.