Why Gamers Love Let’s Plays

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel upset a lot of gamers. On his show, Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel, the host had a bit making fun of the newly opened YouTube Gaming channel, essentially making fun of people who watch Let’s Play videos. The joke was he couldn’t understand why anyone would want to watch someone else play a video game. And, well, here’s the skit…

This really upset me. Oh, not because of the joke or that Jimmy Kimmel was attacking gaming. I was upset because the joke wasn’t funny at all. It wasn’t even chuckle worthy. I got the idea but it just wasn’t funny. But a lot of other gamers were extremely upset with the joke because it was unfunny. Rather, they were upset with the idea that watching games cannot be fun.

I can sort of understand Jimmy Kimmel’s point-of-view somewhat. The logic is, wouldn’t you rather play a video game rather than watch someone play a video game? After all, it’s not really fun to watch someone watch a movie or a television show. Okay, watching people react to big events on television like the Legend of Korra finale can be entertaining but watching them watch a plain old episode isn’t.

But being someone who does watch video game tournaments and watches a few Let’s Play videos, I get why watching people play video games is entertaining. In fact, I can mention several reasons why.

Since I watch mostly fighting video game tournaments over Twitch, let’s tackle that aspect first. Being someone who loves fighting games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Dead or Alive, it’s really fun to watch others people competing against each other. It’s like watching any sporting event. You’re rooting for someone to win and you’re watching probably the best of the best play against each other!

Second, it gives the viewer a chance to experience the game without having to actually get the game. Gaming is an expensive hobby. There are ways to be a cheapskate gamer by getting used games, waiting for the prices of Triple-A titles to go down, outright piracy, etc. But even with all of this, it’s still going to be pricey to obtain all the games you want. Thankfully, Let’s Plays and watching people play video games gives us a window to actually seeing the game without having to purchase it. A way to try before we by, in a way.

Also, when someone is really skilled at playing a particular game, watching them play it can be mesmerizing. They could be doing stuff that you’ve never thought of doing or they could be performing moves and precise maneuvers that you couldn’t do even if you practiced for hundreds of hours. Even if you haven’t played the game, seeing that level of skill can be astonishing!

However, the biggest and best reason as to why people enjoy watching Let’s Play videos actually doesn’t have to do with the game itself but with the person playing the game. The most popular gamers who produce Let’s Play videos may not be good gamers in fact. They are just entertaining people and using the game as the material to do so. This is why Pewdiepie has become so popular on YouTube. It’s not his gaming skill; it’s his ability to entertain the viewers.

While I could mention Pewdiepie as the best example as he is definitely the most famous person who produces Let’s Play videos. However, his humor can be grating so I actually wouldn’t recommend the likes of Jimmy Kimmel to watch his videos to understand why it can be entertaining. Instead, I would actually recommend another talk show host’s own Let’s Play series of videos: Conan O’Brien’s Clueless Gamer series.

While it is under the guise of giving a review, I would say that the Conan’s Clueless Gamer videos is more like a Let’s Play since he’s just playing the game and not actually going to the technicalities as to why the game is good/bad. As the series’ name does imply, Conan O’Brien isn’t really a good gamer. He doesn’t know how to control the character and he’s just mashing buttons most of the time. Yet his videos are incredibly entertaining because we’re watching his reactions and getting what he thinks about the game he’s playing. We don’t care about the game; we just want to see the person playing it.

Jimmy Kimmel made a video with other Let’s Play personalities to try to squash all the hatred he’s garnered and that’s fine. The Let’s Play personalities did try to explain in a calm manner, which is really important so the gaming community doesn’t look like rabid killers (which is already a stigma we have to fight off). And he did snicker while watching the videos he was shown.

However, at the end of the video, I don’t think he understood why watching people play video games is still fun and, honestly, I don’t think he will fully understand. It’s probably not his thing and I get that. Watching Let’s Play videos isn’t for everyone. But it is for a lot of people for the very reasons I mentioned above.

Or he could just watch Conan’s Clueless Gamer series.

Do you find watching Let’s Play videos entertaining? Let me know in the comments section below!

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