There was a point not too long ago when the idea of watching someone else play a videogame was considered ridiculous. So much so, in fact, that South Park even did an entire episode back in 2014 ridiculing the idea. Anyone with an older brother will know the torture of sitting and watching someone else play, eager to grab the controller for yourself. Why would anyone want to watch someone else play a game?
As it turns out, watching other people play games is now massively popular for a variety of reasons. For people who are growing bored of gaming, they can even serve as a way to still enjoy the hobby. Below, we’ll discuss some of the reasons people watch streamers and how to give it a go yourself.
The rise of game streaming
Live-streaming games has come a long way in the past decade or so. The concept of streaming a game began with a guy called Justin who created a platform called Justin.tv in 2005. The website allowed people to stream anything from their day-to-day life, to huge events, and some even streamed themselves gaming.
In 2011, a fork of Justin.tv was launched called TwitchTV dedicated solely to gaming content. By the end of its first year, more than 20 million people visited the site each month. Two years later in 2014, the site was drawing in over 55 million viewers per month, visiting to watch their favorite streamers. Like an opportunistic bloodhound, Amazon caught wind of this and acquired Twitch for a staggering $970 million in August of 2014. Amazon pumped considerable money into the platform, buying up other companies and networks to bolster Twitch’s position as the dominant streaming site.
Nowadays, Twitch is rivaled by Youtube Gaming but still reigns supreme. Spurred on by lockdown isolation and the need for connection, Twitch viewership grew over 20% between 2020 and 2021 to more than 800 million. Add in YouTube Gaming and global streaming figures indicate more than a billion of us now tune in to watch others play games.
Maybe South Park got this one wrong.
Why do people watch streamers?
Like many other people, I was once happily aboard the bandwagon that bashed game streaming as pointless and childish. Fast forward ten years and I’ll happily open the Twitch app on my TV to check in on some of my favorite channels and see what they’re playing.
People watch streamers for lots of reasons, the main ones being:
Watch high skilled gameplay
While I was never the most accurate shot or the quickest to react to someone stealing our flag, my skills have certainly gotten rustier over the years. Throw in a family, work, and an inability to stay awake past 10 PM, and I am now regularly shouted at in Overwatch or told to uninstall Rocket League.
Game streamers, however, still let me experience high-skilled gameplay more directly than YouTube compilation videos. Many streamers stream games for a living and are part of eSports teams. With amazing game sense, they are able to do things in-game that most people can’t. Watching these players can be exciting and even give tips on improving your own game.
Be part of a community
Both big and small streamers form communities based on experiencing games together. While people might come to a stream for the game, they often stay for the community and personality.
In real terms, this involves streamers talking to people in chat and viewers interacting with each other. Over time, people get to know each other with memes and in-jokes developing. Just like a TV show or movie can be enhanced by experiencing it with others, so can games.
This is especially true in the case of speedrunning and challenges. The Happy Hob, for example, completes no-hit runs of games giving his community some unparalleled highs. The mood was somber, however after he failed a no-hit playthrough of Elden Ring on the very last boss.
Discover new games
Browsing Twitch or Youtube Gaming can also introduce you to some new games.
This can be done manually by looking through the list of games currently being streamed, of which there are thousands, including old and obscure titles. You can also find games through your favorite streamers. Many times streamers will take a break from their regular games and try out something new.
Streamers are also usually the first to try unreleased games. Game publishers understand the pull that game streamers have and will give them games prior to release to drum up hype.
This can be used to judge whether a game is worth purchasing, avoiding, or better experienced through a streamer.
How to find streamers
Finding streamers is a matter of trial and error. You won’t like all streamers, sometimes their personality will not be right for you or they play games you aren’t interested in.
To start, simply look for games you like. On Twitch and Youtube Gaming, competitive games get the most interest but single-player games are also streamed. Browse the platform and find a game you’ve enjoyed yourself.
Then begin sorting by viewer count. There’s a reason the most popular streamers (that are not in a bikini) have the most views. They will regularly interact with people in the chat and have interesting personalities.
Stick with a channel for a while before giving up on it. It takes time to warm up to some streamers and you may have tuned into during a lull in the gameplay.
After you’ve followed a few streamers you like, algorithms will take care of the rest. These will get a feel for the type of stream you like and begin recommending other channels for you to consider.
6 streamers to try
There are now more streamers than ever with many doing it for a living. While choice is a good thing, it can also feel overwhelming. To get you started, here are some of our favorite channels that we believe you should check out first.
With high production values and aggressive gameplay, Herschel Beahm, (better known as “The Doc”) is one of the biggest streamers in the world. Through his character, Beahm delivers 3-4 hour-long streaming sessions full of action with tongue-in-cheek fun along the way. You can now find him on Youtube Gaming due to an ongoing Twitch drama.
Former professional Counter-Strike player and aiming god, Shroud now spends his days streaming a variety of games and constantly engages with his community. While Shroud is first and foremost an FPS player, since his retirement from professional eSports he can be found playing a wide-variety of games, including MMOs and strategy titles.
One of the earliest Twitch Channels, ManVsGame is a channel run by Jayson Love. Alongside his viewers, Love experiences the highs and lows of gaming as he tries to complete every game worth completing. This includes a lot of retro games but newer titles too. For those who enjoy a slower-paced experience, this is one to check out.
Gaining popularity through his YouTube channel, Asmongold is now a popular games streamer. As a long-time player, he originally streamed World of Warcraft to document raids and adventures. Nowadays, he can also be found playing games of all types to more than 3.3 million followers.
Currently on hiatus from Twitch but not YT so might not want to include.
One of the biggest personalities on Twitch, summit1g has been streaming since 2012 and is another former Counter-Strike pro. He is known for high-level FPS gameplay as well as having fun in games like DayZ and Sea of Thieves. Alongside Dr. Disrespect, Summit1g’s personality is one of the louder on this list, making his streams fun and energetic.
A game developer himself, CohhCarnage plays games with a more critical (and appreciative) eye than most streamers. He streams most days of the week and plays a wide variety of games including upcoming indie titles and the current big releases. Unlike a lot of other streamers, CohhCarnage doesn’t just play the current big hits but some of the more obscure titles you can find in the depths of the Steam Store.
It’s not for everyone, but if you find yourself a little weary of games, try watching streamers. The enthusiasm of the personalities and their communities act as a great way to keep yourself interested in gaming.
If this has helped you fill many hours with gaming joy, then please share our work with others. Additionally, why not tell us all about it on Twitter? Alternatively, find some other ways to rediscover your love of gaming.