Wanderings – Watching a game about nothing…

Maybe I am showing my age a bit here, but I just don’t get it. What is it with kids watching videos of people playing video games? I really don’t get it.

Three teenage sons live in our house: two of them constantly have Youtube.com videos running, watching other people play video games. Videos have a “host” who I assume is the game player, in a little window at the top of the screen. Whatever game they are playing takes up the rest of the frame.

There is commentary, and more commentary. It doesn’t even seem to be tutorial-like. Watching a video of this was similar to walking into a room where two people are already talking, mid-conversation: it feels like the time you are watching is spent trying to figure out what they are talking about.

Again, I must be showing my age. Watching videos to learn how to do something, that makes sense. I even flip on the Youtube to see how to fix something around the house, or how to cook something I’ve never cooked before. Watching other people play video games, I don’t get.

Even more bewildering to me, some of the videos are of games the kids don’t even play!

I did some research on two fronts: with my own kids to find out why they do this; and with other parents asking if this happens to them. Here’s what I found out.

My kids report it’s funny, they’re bored, and it’s something to do. Other parents report that they don’t get it either. It frustrates them, kids are bored, and it’s something to do.

Through such tireless research I have concluded that watching other people play video games is the Seinfeld of video gaming –it’s a show about nothing.

At least watching Seinfeld is funny, because it was relatable. Who doesn’t have a “Newman” in their lives, hasn’t complained to their friends about some inane thing that happened, or wanted to yell “Serenity Now” when stressed out? That is all relatable.

Trying to relate to my own kids, I sat and tried to watch someone playing a video game. I think I’d rather try to figure out how to play Cricket. I don’t get it. Why not just play the video game in the first place?

“Because this is more fun Dad,” I was told.

While I don’t get watching videos of other people playing video games, I do get watching something pointless being comforting. Since the pandemic began, I’ve gone through all the episodes of The Blacklist, The Office, Kim’s Convenience, and many other series.

Lately flipping through the multi-channel universe that all show the same shows, I have found it entertaining to go with old favourites like episodes of Friends or the aforementioned Seinfeld.
This time could be better spent. Just like my sons could actually PLAY the video game rather than WATCH the video game, I could watch new shows or series.

I tried watching the History Channel, which isn’t really history anymore, just alien conspiracies, pawn shops, and reality shows of building houses. Wait, isn’t there a channel already doing that? Actually there are four channels related to building homes and home improvement, but two of those also have food.

Maybe, just maybe, the kids are on to something. I have spent more time trying to figure out what to watch on TV, and trying to understand that just because the channel is called The Learning Channel, doesn’t mean you’ll learn anything.

Plugging in to Youtube and being able to watch something you actually might find interesting, or at least feeling like you are engaging with the world when everything is locked down, might just be the best thing after all. Even if it is just watching other people play a video game.

Originally published in the January 27th, 2021 issue of The Leader.