Sound harsh? Trust me, it isn’t.
First, some background. I thoroughly enjoy video games. I grew up as systems first emerged, and I’ve owned a variety of them over the years — Atari 2600, Commodore 64, the original Nintendo Entertainment System (and I’m talking about one of the early models, complete with a gun for Duck Hunt and the R.O.B. robot for the awful Gyromite game), Super NES, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, Nintendo Wii, and numerous PC gaming rigs. I also spent countless hours at the local arcade, playing both video games and pinball. Hell, I even subscribed to magazines like Nintendo Power and PC Gamer for close to a decade.
So, yeah, I like video games.
You know what I don’t like? Watching other people play video games. The reasons for this are pretty straightforward, the most obvious of which is that I’d rather be playing the game! Who wants to stand behind someone at the arcade or sit beside someone on the couch when you could be the one enjoying the game for yourself? It’s boring when you’re not part of the action. It’s also frustrating as hell if the player you’re watching is no good and bumbles around the screen, messing up in spots that you know you could dominate.
So imagine my shock as I started having kids and all of them flocked to YouTube to watch people play video games each and every day. And, more jaw-dropping than that, the videos themselves have millions and millions of views!
Have you ever seen one of these things? Or, perhaps the more apropos question is, have you heard one of them? No need to think on it; trust me, you’d know if you had. They are some of the most irritatingly obnoxious shit you could possibly imagine. Have a listen to an example:
[Meet PewDiePie, a YouTube juggernaut with over 54 million subscribers. The above video was posted five days ago…and already has 3 million views. Just watch the first 30-60 seconds to get a taste of what I’m talking about. I wouldn’t dream of subjecting you to more.]
You can imagine what it’s like with a gaggle of kids in the house, watching this nonsense. And, of course, not one of them watches it with earbuds in. Ohhhhhh no. They have to crank that shit up to their devices’ limits, making sure that every last decibel of yelling at a fucking video game or movie clip is sucked from the speakers, all of which has me doing my Corey Feldman in License to Drive impersonation:
[Which is actually an insult to shit everywhere.]
In all seriousness, I don’t begrudge these people their success. There’s obviously a viewership out there that is hungry for this kind of material, and if someone can tap into that demographic and earn millions of subscribers (and, I’m guessing, a nice chunk of money), then so be it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have the same question pop into my head every time I hear someone maniacally shrieking.
Why do people watch this stuff?!
As I did research for this post, I see that numerous people (including medical professionals) have offered up their opinions. One theory is that watching people play video games is the modern-day equivalent to people who watch sporting events on television. Maybe, maybe, I could see this for cinematic games such as Final Fantasy or Mass Effect. But that doesn’t explain the absurdly annoying commentary that is coupled with these videos. Last time I checked, Bob Costas and Joe Buck weren’t falling off their chairs and rupturing their lungs while conveying a home run or touchdown to the audience.
[Baseball bores me as well, but at least it doesn’t induce migraines.]
Another posit is that people watch these videos because they cannot afford many of the games that the YouTubers are playing; as such, would-be players can live vicariously through the videos. Again, I call shenanigans on this because 1) many of the games on these videos – Roblox, League of Legends, etc – are free to play, 2) even if someone doesn’t have the budget for a bundle of games, there are avenues such as rental stores, Redbox, and more that allow people to play games on the cheap, and 3) if the cost of a system is the concern, there are devices that are inexpensive enough for the budget impaired. I own a Kindle that cost me $49.99, and again, many of the games are free. My guess is this is a moot point anyway because if someone is watching the YouTube videos, then they already have a device capable of playing the games themselves.
[Unless this is what your phone looks like, odds are you can find a way to play a game.]
Last, I’ve seen that people watch these videos because they suck at playing games and they want to watch someone do it well. This is the dumbest reason of all. How the hell is someone going to get better at playing games without, I don’t know, fucking playing them?! I’m all for going online to find a walkthrough if you’re stuck during a game and need some help. But I find it very, very hard to believe that anyone is learning anything from a host who will need a tonsillectomy after the damage done from his latest episode.
[So you lost. Restart that mofo and play it again!]
So what do I have to add to the conversation? Not much. Unfortunately, I think this is the way of the world these days. With physical activities on the decline (something I’ve seen in my own community, with baseball leagues being disbanded and gymnastics classes cancelled for lack of enrollment) and electronics on the rise, this is what young people are choosing to do. I’m not saying that gaming is a bad thing – as I stated above, I’ve played games most of my life – but the idea that people are giving their time to a clown with a video camera, a microphone, and a nails-on-chalkboard voice makes me weep for viewers. By all means, play the games, but for the sake of your remaining brain cells and auditory capabilities, stay off of the YouTube gaming channels. You’ll thank me someday.
Until we meet again…