Video Games: Watching not Playing

By Alejandro Merlan
Staff Reporter


The defining characteristic of video games is that they are interactive. As with all mediums, as the years have progressed video games have evolved and expanded. The evolution of videogames has even breached the boundary of interaction. Now, a growing majority of people are starting to choose watching video games as one would watch a football game, a television episode or a feature film.  Just as there are multiple ways of interacting with video games, there are a myriad ways of watching them as well. Video Game YouTube channels serve as guides, provide background for stories or discuss the principles of a game. Popular streamers like Rooster Teeth, Pewdiepie, Markiplier, Jontron and the Angry Video Game Nerd have channels that are entertainment driven – known as “Let’s Plays”. Knowing how Let’s Plays work is crucial in order to understand why people are drawn to watching them.

Let’s Plays in general have a similar style to that of sports broadcasts – and the communication strategy is the same.  In both, the viewer is watching action develop on screen while a commentator relays relevant information. In Sports broadcasting there are usually two commentators: one person for play by play commentary and one person for what is called ‘color commentary’. The play-by-play commentator describes exactly what’s going on while the color commentator livens the situation with his own opinion and his emotions.


Rooster Teeth

As a company that was started by three individuals for fun, Rooster Teeth now consists of over 90 full-time employees. The company has expanded past just making Red vs Blue. The company also produces RWBY, and video series such as Immersion, The Slow Mo Guys, and Fails of the Week.

“When the Xbox 360 first came out, Burnie and I would have these achievement races all the time, as we were obsessed with collecting – I don’t know what it was, but we were having these races, trying to outdo each other all the time, and help on the internet just sucked. You were lucky if you managed to find a text guide on GameFAQs, so as we were doing it, we started to film us getting achievements to show each other, as we already had all the equipment together from Red vs Blue.” Said Geoff Ramsey in an interview with Redbull.

With more than 800 videos and 3 million subscribers The Let’s Plays now feature six regulars; Geoff Ramsey, Michael Jones, Gavin Free, Ray, Jack and Ryan with occasional guest appearances. This team effort gives the videos a very laid back and casual feel. Almost as if you are right there with them. Each person is a character, each bringing a different style of humor to the table. For example in their video

“It takes the mindset of picking up the controller and the game telling you to move forward, so the first thing you think of is, ‘Oh cool, I’m going to go backwards’, just to see what’s behind me or to do the exact thing I’m not supposed to do.”



Now that Let’s Plays have become very common on Youtube, one of the more notable channels is Jontron. Jon Jafari began making videos with the Channel Game Grumps but has since moved onto his own. His style of videos are one of the more edited versions of a Let’s Play. This is done on purpose because, as opposed to simply playing the game, Jontron does a semi-review of the game. These are not real reviews because most of the games he plays are supposed to be bad, so it is done for comedic effect. It’s a style similar to Mystery Science Theater.


The Angry Video Game Nerd

Another person who reviews the game as he plays is James Rolfe – better known as the Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN).  Rolfe started off playing his review videos far before Let’s Plays as he started in May 16, 2004. His focus is on old school games such as Atari, Nes, commodore etc.

“I have many reasons for reviewing only older games. I relate to them better since they are from my generation.” said Rolfe on his website Cinemassacre.

James Rolfe started making these videos not only for his childhood love of videogames, but his true passion of cinema.. In his psychoanalytic video of The Dragon In my Dreams James Rolfe states that his passion had always been film and by making these videos along with the other content of cinemassacre he achieves that.

All of these people led to a single man who would magnetize the entirety of YouTube



It doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t. His competitors and critics describe his videos as nonsensical – just a man screaming into the microphone, spouting gibberish, with some occasional awkward dancing. How could a single man have more than 35,000,000 subscribers on Youtube? That makes his channel the third most subscribed behind only #Music and #Gaming. To put that in perspective, the closest independent channels are HolaSoyGerman and Smosh at 21 and 19 million subscribers, respectively.  Rihanna, One Direction, Katy Perry, Eminem and Jenna Marbles average less than half that, at 15 million subscribers.

Pewdiepie’s brand earned $4 million in ad sales a year ago.  He even attracts attention from the games he plays. His video “Flappy Bird-Don’t Play This Game” launched the then unknown game Flappy Bird and its Vietnamese developer to a worldwide sensation.

So how did 25 year old Felix Kjellberg do it? His career in playing video games took off while attending, a university in Sweden.  PewdiePie comes from the original YouTube account PewDie- pew from a laser gun and die for death but when he lost the password he added Pie in the new account. But the origins of when his videos started and what his Youtube channel account name means, are insufficient in explaining how he attracted so much attention.

To explain why Felix brings in so many people, let us walk through his videos. To begin Felix, or PewdiePie, is known as an attractive individual, visual appeal plays a big role in first impressions likability. He  starts his videos by introducing himself in a signature high pitch voice: a shrill “Peeewdiepie”. One of the most important things he does is how he addresses the viewers and subscribers as bros. What he is doing is keying everyone into a comradery for watching his videos. Its as if you are part of a special group for watching a PewdiePie video.  During the videos he comes across as sincere, one of the most important elements in having people trust and like you. He ends his videos by saying “brofist” and he has his fist on the camera.  This is a very unique strategy as this signals to the viewer to do likewise, reinforcing the group mentality and at the same time it gives the viewer physical contact leaving a lasting imprint on the viewer as they go about their day.

As PewdiePie explained in an interview with Icon magazine “ We’re gaming”together” and many people see me as a friend they can chill with for 15 minutes a day. The loneliness in front of the computer screens brings us together. I just want to invite them to come over to my place.”

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