Microsoft versus Sony, Battlefield versus Call of Duty and Forza versus Gran Turismo. These are some of the rivalries that can get people talking about console wars. “Game On or Game Over” is your place to get inside the minds of Nicholas and Andy as they seek to find the true meaning of gaming and tackle some of gaming’s most controversial subjects. Both are award winning authors – although the awards haven’t been mailed or created yet — but trust them. Would they lie to you?
Nicholas: It’s been almost two months since our last Game On or Game Over article and I suppose I have some explaining to do. Throughout July and August I decided to take a journey over to Europe in search of new topics to talk about. I visited three countries and looked high and low for inspiration on what we could discuss over the next few weeks.
Problem is, Europeans aren’t exactly the biggest gamers so apart from a few hundred selfies, I’ve unfortunately come back with nothing.
Fortunately however there was a bit of talk on the internet last week about a certain video uploaded by Jimmy Kimmel regarding the launch of the new YouTube Gaming section. He begins by talking about how he finds it strange that gamers would watch gamers play games, and asks why gamers wouldn’t just want to play the games themselves. The video then ends with a spoof about a series of YouTube channels that let you watch gamers who watch gamers who watch gamers play games.
Now, before we get onto the topic that is the flurry of hate towards Kimmel I wanted to get your opinion on his video and your thoughts on the entire popularity that is watching other people play games.
Andy: Well, it was nice while it lasted but I guess you had to come back sooner or later. I guess all those brides I sent to keep you from coming back were wasted. Ah well, maybe next time.
Onto the Kimmel issue. One thing that you and I have always said we would do with this forum that we have writing these articles is to be honest in what we think. Sometimes our opinions don’t mesh with what other gamers think and sometimes we are on point with most of the gamers out there. In this particular instance, I tend to agree more with Kimmel. Now, before I incur the gamer wrath, this is just my personal opinion. I just cannot understand the appeal of watching someone play a game – the whole Let’s Play scene to Twitch streams. Nothing about them appeal to me. I’ve tried watching some for a variety of games, from a variety of different gamers and always leave within five minutes.
When I play a game I want to be surprised by plot twists, be punched in the gut by choices I have to make and be excited about the possibilities of what could happen. By watching streams or Let’s Play videos all that is gone. It then becomes me just following along with what I saw. It’s like a friend telling you all about a movie and then taking you to go watch it. The magic of video games is about choice and the experience of going through it.
With that said, it’s Kimmel’s job to get a reaction and he did just that. While his delivery of it was over the top, I can’t say I disagree with the message behind it. I know I’m probably in the minority in thinking that – but I have to be honest. I’m not sure if we have really ever discussed this before, so I’m curious what your stance on it is. Are you a Let’s Play/Twitch viewer yourself?
Nicholas: I’m on the same page with you on the above (surprise, surprise). There was one particular Let’s Play series I watched a few years back for Portal 2 (and the appeal was that there was just so much swearing from one of the players) but since then I can pretty much say that I’ve never watched a Twitch stream and I also watch Let’s Play videos very, very rarely. I don’t mind watching video game reviews, things like the Angry Video Game Nerd or the odd Achievement Hunter video, but that’s about it.
I’m with you in that I’m also someone who likes to experience things for himself. There’s no joy in watching someone play a game that I haven’t and if anything, the only time I’ll watch people play games is if they’re creative (for example, someone makes a drifting video in Forza) or if it’s humorous (think Rooster Teeth). Just watching someone play Counter Strike or League Of Legends competitively is about as interesting as watching paint dry. It’s not to suggest that I think it’s wrong that people watch streams, but I, like Kimmel suggested, am much of the same opinion that why wouldn’t I just play it myself?
I mentioned the swearing/humour side of one Let’s Play series before, but I don’t think the majority are like that. What do you think is the appeal of watching other gamers stream and when/why do you think it really started to take hold within the gaming/online community?
Andy: I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of those who do regularly watch these videos and streams. I’ve talked to a couple of my friends who watch a lot of Let’s Play and Twitch streams. The reasons seem to boil down to a couple things. Some watch because they want to get better at a certain game – seeing different ways to go about maps, gun loadouts or what have you. In that sense I can understand their reasoning. Other reasons were because they were bored, because they like the person doing the stream/video and to specifically watch people playing retro games for nostalgia.
Another popular reason is watching because it’s a game they aren’t sure if they want to get or not. I’m 50/50 on this one. For me personally, if I am unsure about a game I’ll look at some trailers, watch some first impressions videos and if I’m still unsure I’ll wait for reviews to roll out (either text of video reviews). Like we both said above, I just don’t understand wanting to watch that type of gameplay to help you decide. Maybe this just boils down to a generational thing. There is a prevalence of instant gratification and needing things right away in society as a whole. The “wanting to know if it’s good” type of thinking may just be a carryover from that.
We have talked about our opinions on this now, and touched on the reasons why people seek out these types of videos. Even though neither of us really see the draw of these types of videos, we can’t ignore that they are insanely popular. Look at PewDiePie and how much money he made last year, it’s insane. Of course not all the people that do these types of videos make that much, however if there wasn’t money to be made many wouldn’t do it. Anything from sponsorships, to ad views, to having subscribers donate (that last one still confuses the crap out of me) – people are making money off of it. I want to go off the original topic a little bit and talk about the money that is involved here. What’s your opinion on people doing these Let’s Play videos and Twitch streams profiting off of them? How do you feel about the whole subscriber/done issue on Twitch?
Nicholas: Personally I’m OK with it to be honest. Right now I can’t see myself ever wanting to give someone money just because they play Counter Strike well, but because it isn’t forced on me I’m unaffected. In much the same way with micro-transactions, if you want to spend the money then go ahead, but it’s just not something I’ll ever do.
As I’m writing this all I’m thinking about is just whether we’re (that is, those who don’t understand the streaming craze) are just a little stuck in the past and aren’t completely ‘with’ new trends. What I mean is, gaming isn’t just about some single-player goodness with Super Mario or some co-op fun with Saint Row 2. We have e-Sports that some people (not me) consider is on-par with physical athletes and gamers and vloggers are now as popular (if not more) than celebrities on TV, radio or movies. Is it just an unwillingness for people like you and I to completely adapt to how technology is changing how we interact and over what?
A good example to contrast this to would be an automotive journalist call Chris Harris, who has a great YouTube channel called ‘Chris Harris on Cars’. He was a guest on the Joe Rogan Experience once and spoke about how donations really help him and his team to put out good content that in turn will earn more views and allows him to reviewer newer and greater cars. Hearing this and watching his content, I wouldn’t have a problem throwing a few dollars his way because it seems fair enough. However, I’d never give money to PewDiePie so he can download and play more flash games.
Is there any reason why I should have a difference of views between people putting themselves online for cars than games, or is it somewhat hypocritical?
Andy: I’m not sure, for me anyway, that it is necessarily an unwillingness to adapt to it. I have actually tried to watch a couple different ones to see what all the hype was about, and nothing I saw was able to hold my interest. Even for games that I love like Fallout. So, I’ve tried and was willing to give it a go, but it’s just a non-thing to me. I guess that ultimately, it’s just not a method that I use to get video game information. The only videos I really watch on YouTube that pertain to gaming are Achievement videos, how-to’s to get past a level I’m stuck on, game reviews or more highlight-style clips. I don’t watch them just to watch someone play a game.
In regards to your second question, is it hypocritical? I don’t think so. I think it boils down to you finding content that you deem is worthy of your interest, whether it’s presented in a way that you like and you want to support it. I think it’s the exact same thing as saying “I love video games” and then saying, “but I don’t like fighting games.” In this case I like games, and I play a lot of them and enjoy most of them. I just don’t enjoy fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter etc. so I don’t buy them. It’s not hypocritical, I just know what my tastes are. I like cars and I like fast cars, but I wouldn’t drive a Mazda because they’re not even really a car to be honest. We all have our individual tastes and preferences nothing wrong with any of them… unless you drive a Mazda of course.
I’d like to circle back to your original part of the discussion and flip it around. Kimmel did his little monologue, people laughed and went on with the rest of his show. Over the course of the next 24-48 hours he received a ton of hate mail and threats. Gamers want to champion themselves and say how far the industry has come, how awesome it is and most importantly how much gamers should be respected, yet the second someone says or does something they don’t agree with then it becomes the preverbal sh*t-storm. That’s a great way to get people to take you seriously. I did see one thing on this issue where two, I think, prominent Let’s Play people reached out to Kimmel offering to show him what it was about and more background on it. That’s the response people should have to be taken seriously, not “Fuck you Kimmel, I hope you get cancer and die!” That was honestly one of the messages he received.
Maybe I’m philosophizing here, but if gamers want to be taken seriously as a whole we are the ones that have to reach out and bridge the gap. We can’t expect people who don’t follow gaming to just sit back and think “Oh, that’s a great thing.” I don’t care about the idea that “Well gaming is full of young kids that’s just how they are.” That’s bullsh*t. The average gamer’s age is much higher than most people think. Until we are willing to talk in a civilized way those non-gamers have no reason to take gaming seriously. Kind of a soapbox moment there, but that honestly how I feel about it. What do you think? You used to be one to rant on Twitter about things, what’s your take on it now?
Nicholas: It’s interesting that you said that Mazda’s aren’t real cars. That’s exactly the same way I feel about Elkhounds – they’re not real dogs. Getting back on-topic though, the hate that Kimmel received was pretty severe in some cases but if I’m honest, I wasn’t surprised, and I’m glad you brought it up for discussion this week.
You mentioned above that you’re not one to just accept that young kids are immature and we should expect that kind of vitriol online, and you also mentioned that the average gamer is much higher than what most people think (over 30 last time I checked), but there’s something that I think goes undiscussed whenever these kind of situations arise. How come we automatically assume that all the people at the end of those hateful comments and posts are young kids, and furthermore, how come we automatically assume that they’re gamers too?
Through services like Xbox LIVE and PSN, from the comments section of a YouTube video, Facebook post or gaming article, we’ve come to know that there are some pretty insensitive people online. Thing is, we never know anything about these people other than their online handles, which doesn’t give us an insight into their age, gender or hobbies. I know that the theme of Kimmel’s video was about gaming, but just because someone decides to get angry at him, why do we automatically assume they are gamers, and why do we automatically group them together with the rest of us? As we wrap up this week’s article, rather than talking about gamers vs. non-gamers, how come we don’t just say normal people vs. asshats? When gaming is so broad now, is it worthwhile even calling gamers ‘gamers’ anymore?
Andy: I think I’ve stopped automatically thinking that those types of posts are from kids. Partly because it seems that many kids I run into online now are more respectful than the “adults” I talk to. I think the majority of people assume that the person typing the hateful comment is a kid because we expect adults to act better. I think we are to the point now that almost every form of online comment should just be completely ignored. Sure there are some good, honest and thoughtful comments among the sea of stupidity – but wading through the crap to get to the good stuff is just too exhausting.
With that said, I really wish there was less acceptance of the threats that permeate the comment threads. I don’t like how we have reached a point where we see something like “I hope you get cancer and die” or “I’m going to kill you” and we scroll right past it and chuckle, or even click the little “Like” button. That frustrates me to no end. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to it and realistically law enforcement have better things to do with their time. It will only take one instance of follow through on one of these threats though to shake everything up.
It’s ironic how you mention the shift from calling it gamers vs non-gamers to normal people versus assholes. I can certainly see the validity of it, yet at the same time I wear the gamer badge with pride. The stigma of what being a ‘gamer’ means has changed, where with the explosion of mobile games the vast majority of people can technically be called ‘gamers’ now. I don’t want to lose the meaning behind being a gamer, yet at the same point the cool thing about being a gamer is inclusion versus exclusion. Anybody can be a gamer, but the second someone says a joke about gaming the preverbal heavens open up the trolls crawl from the woodwork. I’m looking forward to the day that things like that are no longer the norm. Until then, play what makes you happy and ignore everything else. After all, if I love a game or an activity it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it regardless if they have their own TV show or not. At the end of the day does Kimmel’s opinion directly affect any YouTube Let’s Play creator or Twitch streamer? The answer is no. So, why should we care about it then? Simple, we shouldn’t.