Why do we watch other people play video games?

  1. The decline of television is key. The sheer expense of TV increasingly means cord-cutting, and those yet to cut find ever less programming suited to their interests. User streaming platforms such as YouTube, on the other hand, can be laser-focused on any interest you might have. As it turns out, for many, subtracting TV-watching time doesn’t allow more time for reading books, pursuing hobbies, volunteering, or otherwise doing ‘meaningful’ things. Instead, apparently, we still have a need for relatively short, passive diversions. Time-wasters. YouTube is a great TV replacement, and the inherent appeal of gaming content ensures its popularity.
  2. Gaming content facilitates community. Social media and livestreaming spur the development of community and the para-social relationships borne of direct creator-viewer contact. Gaming content acts as an equalizer and a place of comfort for a large segment of the userbase. For one, gaming already had a strong, self-identified community, and community-focused platforms are a natural fit. But game content allows for community interaction based on the game, not on the streamer. The stereotype of gamers as awkward, introverted shut-ins — and therefore unlikely to achieve streaming stardom — is increasingly untrue, but game content as a focus allows all gamers to participate in the community. Livestreamed game content allows gamers to meaningfully interact with each other on mutual turf.

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