Video Of The Week: Watching Videogames

I had a conversation with my son yesterday about watching games vs playing games. He told me he doesn’t watch a lot of videogame play on the web, but he has friends who are really into watching others play videogames.

Of course, this is not new. Amazon bought for almost a billion dollars a year ago. And more and more people are watching others play videogames instead of or in addition to playing them.

Here’s an example of why:


Comments (Archived):

  1. falicon

    My sons (9 and almost 12) and their friends are *super* into this sort of thing.Given the choice, they would opt for watching youtube gamer clips over most t.v. or movies…and it’s almost all they seem to talk about with their friends as well.BTW – my oldest is also into making the videos as well…so if you’re into this sort of thing, he would be giddy if any of you subscribed to his channel (he has a personal summer goal of getting to 50 subscribers) –

  2. William Mougayar

    Early on, I wondered why people were fascinated watching this, but then realized it’s like watching any other sport. You’re watching the pros and experts playing a game impeccably well, and it’s entertainment. The good part of that is that the gaming “stars” can make a lot of money and have millions of fans and subscribers. And some users follow a star, no matter what game they play.

    1. David Semeria

      I read somewhere that they’re considering admitting video games to the Olympics. I don’t know how likely this is, but it fits in with your idea of gaming as a sport.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Interesting. Thinking how they’d fit into the idea of “Citius, Altius, Fortius”:-). Hmm…Ok, “Citius” !Chess still hasn’t made it into the Olympics…

      2. William Mougayar

        i wouldn’t be surprised. it’s an exercise of the mind and hands.

        1. awaldstein

          We had competitions in the early days of CGDC (u remember that?) and there were rock star gamers on a stage with hacked specially designed joysticks.

      3. Anne Libby


    2. LE

      I wondered why people were fascinated watching thisThe secret sauce is the color commentary and the play by play.Most importantly the enthusiasm in the announcers voice. Take that away and you’d have a significant audience drop and it wouldn’t be anywhere near as compelling.Note this from American Ninja Warriors:…Strip away the high production values, the set and the commentator and what are you actually left with that is so interesting to watch?

  3. JimHirshfield

    Yup, my 10 year old doesn’t watch TV. He watches others play minecraft, when he isn’t playing it himself.

    1. feargallkenny

      Jim do u have a kid mine craft agreement like the mobile phone one?

      1. JimHirshfield

        Hahaha! We should. Just trying to limit the time he spends in front of a screen. Not hard to do during the school year. Harder in summer.

    2. mikenolan99

      My 25 year old and my 21 year old play on one screen, and watch game vids on the second monitor…

      1. JimHirshfield

        Split attention?

        1. mikenolan99

          It’s amazing to watch… they are also talking via Skype with who they are “raging” with…

  4. David Fleck

    What I find even more interesting is how twitch got to their business idea. Justin – the founder – originally was livestreaming his life (quite literally) with a camera on his head all the time. That morphed into where you could watch live streams of anything imaginable (copyright holders be damned) which morphed into twitch. Why? Because they saw live gaming as the most popular application. I’m still flabbergasted that the idea I originally saw at intimate parties in SF (justin with a camera on his head) morphed into this. Example of listening to the market and going where the market is TELLING you to go. Props to that team for figuring it out and executing against it.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      It’s relating to passion for an idea and sticking with the problem (whether you realize it’s a problem or something missing) for long enough.

  5. feargallkenny

    Any strategies for coping with stampylongnose’s voice on the minecraft videos my 9 y.o. on watches would be much appreciated!

    1. Jeff Jones

      Is stampylongnose some guy with an English accent that makes ‘funny’ comments on mine craft videos? I was at my buddy’s house and his 2nd grade twin sons were watching something like this nonstop.

      1. feargallkenny

        thats the guy

  6. Neeraj Shukla

    The quality is really good in this video. I am not a game neither a game watching person. But if this is how good the engagement is, no doubt that people would watch and love this.

  7. ttasterisco

    I used to watch others play videogames back in the days (~2000) when Counter-Strike was THE game. The main reason was to learn. Me and my friends would be watching the top teams play (e.g. Ninjas in Pyjamas) and try to understand their tactics and skills. It was also very entertaining. It’s crazy to think that the streams back then would already hit several thousand viewers (I still had 56k!). I don’t think I have a point with this comment, just being nostalgic :p

  8. Nidhi Mevada

    Lol 🙂


    I think that we are learning more and more that people will watch anything that they are interested in for hours. I used be an actress/writer in Hollywood and there was the notion that there MUST be the perfect story with beginning, middle and end to make it interesting for people. But, the internet is showing us otherwise. Girls will watch hours of other girls apply makeup, and youngsters will watch other youngsters open boxes of new toys (search “unboxing” on youtube). I must confess that I can sometimes watch hours of other people buy crap at thrift stores (my passion). So, I’m not surprised about this story.

    1. LE

      I like your idea ( and just signed up for a beta invite.Suggest you change your question line from “do you have tons of stuff to sell on ebay” to “do you have tons of stuff (or just 1 item) to sell o ebay”.I recently paid my wife’s nephew to come up and do exactly what you are offering. He charges 50% (which includes covering ebay fees, paypal and shipping) however he also removes and stores the item as well. I have sold things on ebay but find it to be a pain as an end to end solution and not worth my time. Otoh I don’t want to throw things out (not a money issue just seems wasteful..)You could get a network of home workers to handle the pickup and storing.Posting an item and research on ebay is only one thing the other part is actually getting it into the hands of the buyer after it is sold. That is easy but time consuming and a pain. That’s why I was willing to share the revenue with someone who would do all of the legwork.


        LE, great ideas. We know that the shipping part is one of the major problems as well. We are also trying to solve that problem as well.Thanks for signing up!

        1. Jim Ortiz

          i’ve fallen in love with Shyp- wonder if it will become a default option on EBay. could you integrate with them?

      2. creative group

        LE:do you have a financial interest in Disclosures on thiswell read and followed blog is important to the acute.

        1. LE

          No obviously not.

  10. Richard

    The Long tail, with billions of smartphone users building a niche of a few hundred million users, particularly young, seems very repeatable today.

  11. JLM

    .I wonder about the long term impact on our youth of everybody being glued to a computer screen for their primary form of independent entertainment.They need to be outside playing baseball and learning to dunk a basketball.OK, sorry.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      @JLM – At last a sane response to indoctrination in mindless drivel !

      1. JLM

        .And I didn’t even mention hunting, fishing, skiing, sailing, swimming, shooting skeet, skiing, hiking, surfing or . . . . or . . . .JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. LE

      Let’s be clear that this is addictive to some people and in a sense a step in the direction of the fall of the Roman Empire. No question about that.Like anything else it’s ok in small doses. The problem is all of this gaming is obviously an addiction with some young (and older) people. Wait until they start betting on these games (I guess they most likely are already doing that, right?)

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        They used to call putting anything in life consistently before what matters idolatry.Now idolatry is even idolised.You seem to see this as symptom of a dissolution of society – I cannot agree more. What matters to those who have nothing to strive for leads them by the nose.

      2. mikenolan99

        “Kids today – they dress like bums, they never listen, and their music is just noise.” – said every older generation, ever.

    3. Girish Mehta

      Or just go outdoors for a walk / hike. Or a run 🙂

    4. Jeff Jones

      They’re drone pilots in training. On dunking a basketball – that was always my dream as a hoops obsessed kid growing up but at barely 6′ the best I could do was grab the rim.

      1. JLM

        .Actually, a friend of mine was the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and he said exactly what you just did.He had the distinction of taking the resignation of all the senior officers at the Air Force Academy on the heels of a sexual harassment scandal of some form or another and remarked to me that it costs millions to educate a fighter pilot and that the guys who can run drones are all enlisted airmen who cost almost nothing to recruit and train.They struggled with whether they could give combat awards to guys sitting in different countries directing combat drone strikes and found out they would rather have the right to work longer hours and a refrigerator of Mountain Dew. They all wanted Alien computers.It is a real issue as it is very expensive to train a pilot.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Jim Ortiz

          love Spud, but that was faked.

    5. Stephen Voris

      Remove the “computer” prefix, and you’re pretty much describing the last, oh, fifty years or so? This isn’t too different (in my book) from television, after all.Whether television has been a net positive or not on that front is also, I think, a not-wholly-settled question. But the answers are similar.

      1. JLM

        .Going to go out on a limb here — the proliferation of violence on television has not been a good thing for the US.I suspect that shithead in Columbia, SC who murdered nine people in Charleston was probably influenced by gratuitous violence.Way out on a limb?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Pete Griffiths

          Pretty much.I recommend “The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined” Steven Pinker

          1. JLM

            .Interestingly enough I have actually read this book. I have Pinker’s other books — one of which was a big best seller — on my “when I get around to it” reading list. I think it is an interesting read on the “macro” of civilization over a very long time period.Everything he says may be true. I found it interesting in a “first impression” and would concede I don’t have the psychology background to be able to argue against it nor is the book set up that way.The book reads like a primer and doesn’t really present an argument but rather an education.Where it is lacking — just not the subject matter of the book, not really lacking — is in the arena of recent developments.Having raised a couple of kids into adulthood and comparing their experience to my own — a micro view v Pinker’s macro view — I do find that there is a huge impact on society based on what is out there related to violence and sex.I had a similar conversation with my 97 year old father last week when we got started on the subject of the manner in which the world has become anesthetized to the atrocities of ISIS. There is no more shock value and it just feels like a game. He was a professional soldier and saw some horrific things in his wars.Children are bombarded by a world that sees them as consumers from the age of about three and which also sees them as adults in their marketing concepts.Thanks for the reference.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    6. Matt Zagaja

      From the #GamerGate thing on twitter to the current Reddit fiasco I think we have a pretty good preview of what happens to SOME people. When you treat life as a game you don’t fully internalize the potential consequences of your actions. We all need to figure out how to fix this.Not to say it’s completely a negative. Some people become motivated to further explore computers and take up programming and then get good jobs writing apps for Twitter, etc. When I was at CES in January I met a guy who got into building gaming rigs as a result of his gaming “obsession” and eventually because they liked his work he was hired by Corsair to design their cases.I was introverted in high school. I loved video games. My online friends and I spent our Saturday nights in video game tournaments. I was overweight and sedentary. I also learned much about programming and computers. While my friends first jobs were at Subway, Barnes & Noble, etc. I was independent fixing computers and setting up networks for small businesses in a local suburb. I made more in an hour than many friends made in a week.The truth is as a young person the natural reaction to failing or not being good at something is to avoid it. Whether it is in sports, academics, or social pursuits it is pretty painful to fail. Video games seem to provide this refuge where failure does not count. You get multiple lives. I hope that young people learn that is true for real life as well. The world does not care how many times you fall down as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.I later came to learn and understand that many of my struggles with baseball and basketball were because I was born with a lazy eye. Surgery corrected the physical part, but my brain does not see in three-dimensions. I cannot tell where a baseball is or how far the basket is to dunk the basketball very well. In college I joined the cycling club and dropped 20 lbs the first month of my freshman year. Real life may not be easiest video game, but I’ve found it to be the most rewarding.

    7. LE

      You are, no doubt, knowledgeable about how casino games (more specifically slots) are designed to provide exactly the type of reinforcement that keeps someone engaged for hours and hours at a time. [1] [2] Not even wanting to get up to go to the bathroom. That reinforcement well exceeds all but the most entertaining and compelling TV shows. Most of those TV shows or movies have ups and downs and quite frankly aren’t typically good enough to create an addiction. And they end at a certain point they don’t go on forever.Besides even the nominal exercise value of outside sports it’s pretty clear that it is near impossible to get addicted to playing sports (as opposed to watching and betting on sports) simply because it’s not possible to play sports to the extent that you can play video games or consume video entertainment. Right? You need others to play and you need a team, daylight typically, and you most certainly aren’t going to be playing at night and certainly not into the wee hours of the morning.That to me is really the key issue and the difference (more than the “fresh air” and “exercise” concept). It is self limiting in it’s usage and design. Gaming online goes on forever.[1] At least there is the balancing factor here of running out of money and transportation and proximity to where you can actually play the game.[2]

    8. Anne Libby

      Agree, and yet you don’t have to search in the news/online too far to find out that it’s socially difficult for parents to allow their kids outside unsupervised. (Search “free range kids” on DDG.)

    9. aminTorres


    10. fredwilson

      My kids did both. They played a ton of sports and played video games too. I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive

      1. JLM

        .The balance is the key, isn’t it?Perfect Daughter, who you had lunch with, earned 11 varsity letters, started on the varsity in three sports as a freshman and never saw a B in college.Life is a game but balance is everything. They are not mutually exclusive, are they?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. Aviah Laor

        The real price is day dreaming. The option to pull a smartphone anywhere, anytime, is mutually exclusive to day dreaming. Imagination always comes in a concrete form: TV, Games, Movies.

        1. Anne Libby

          One of my little relatives taught me to play Minecraft. He also tells stories and makes movies. Minecraft is a way for him to bring his stories to the screen: I seem him as deeply creative and curious in the game.(Also, a good experience to see when he’s as “big” as I am, and can help me to do things, because duh I’m not as good at Minecraft as he is…)

          1. Aviah Laor

            True, but it’s not exactly like the state of mind of day dreaming, especially for kids, half awake, half asleep. There is a difference between little red riding hood’s imaginary woods, abstract and reflecting the inner world, and the video game “woods”.

          2. Anne Libby

            So I don’t know that I see it as totally different: some play is constrained by the “tools” he’s playing with; some is all in his mind. He could build with Lego, or with Minecraft. Sometimes he just wants to talk to me about a world he is going to build. (Probably partly because he’s not allowed unfettered screen time, so he imagines his world instead. But also in the same way he talks about the movie he wants to make, or the comic he wants to draw.)

          3. Aviah Laor

            OK, when he’s not allowed screen time

      3. Alexander Hughes

        They aren’t mutually exclusive! And playing is probably a lot better than watching TV.Since the original post is about video games, it’s worth noting that there’s a lot of research going on on their effects on the brain, and while playing all hours of the day isn’t good for you (and neither is watching TV or sitting at your desk!), video games are actually beneficial.Here are two great places to start on that (ironically, by watching video):…Of course, it doesn’t apply to all games, and there’s a comment on here that references casino games – many popular mobile games emulate that kind of effect on the brain, and a lot of game designers are aware of it (

    11. pointsnfigures

      Hard to “learn” how to dunk. You just have to be able to jump high enough. Of course, I started with volleyballs and then basketballs. The hard thing to learn is to be able to move your body to do cool stuff. Amazes me the physical punishment some people take as they make their way to the rim and they still throw it down. That’s strength.

    12. MickSavant

      so, generally I agree with that sentiment. But I get a bit of a chuckle at the finger wagging of kids watching others play video games… as opposed to watching others play sports?

      1. JLM

        .Or, as opposed to participating in sports?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  12. LE

    A true story about gaming addiction.An immigrant, born in Turkey who is a chemistry professor at a college in Delaware, and worked hard to get to this country, and is trying to earn some money on the side, drives an hour to get to my office to install soundproof security windows.He is paid $900 for a days labor. (Referred by the manufacturers, windows additional obviously.) He needed a helper so he brought his son. He told me that he was going to bring his son to help when he came out to measure. However when he arrived there didn’t appear to be anyone in his car. I asked where he son was. He told me he was sleeping in the car and that he went to bed at 3:30am the night before. The father the night before had been on a red eye from Colorado for some conference he had to attend for the University.The father was doing all sorts of work by himself like uncrating the windows and prepping the job site and he didn’t want to disturb the sleeping prince. Apparently he had to argue with his son to even get him to come with him.When his son finally came in I asked him why he went to bed the night before at that time. He said he was playing some game (don’t remember which one) but had started playing mindcraft and “that’s for kids”. This kid was maybe 17 I think. Good looking kid. Looked like Tsarnaev the Boston Bomber actually.His father felt that he was powerless to keep the kid from playing games at his age. This is the case because he didn’t lay down the law when the kid was younger. So now at 17 he has no control over him (note to all of the parents of kids who are sub puberty the time to act is now, not post 12 or 13…keep that in mind)A bit later the kid goes back to the car and has to go to sleep again. I would imagine that he had been up for more than one night playing games hard to believe he was so tired on one night until 3:30am (if not the entire night..).When he came back in and could barely help his Dad (who pays for his college). So I lit into him about what a waste of fucking time it was to be playing video games and how he could easily spend the same time learning to do programming where at least he would end up with a marketable skill. I was surprised when he told me that he actually has learned some programming but my guess is that the lure of the easy hit of videogames well exceeds the pleasure and reinforcement of learning programming especially when all of your needs are met. If Daddy provides for all of his needs why does he even need to think about the future or money? Daddy pays for everything kid has no pain. Seems pretty simple to me. Kid is comfortable and content. Unlike Dad who busted his ass to get out of Turkey for a better life.I don’t think this story is all that unusual. And the blame can be planted firmly in the parents lap for allowing their kids to go down this road. Back in the day we didn’t have TV’s in our rooms and if we had computers I can assure you that our hard ass parents (who didn’t need to be cool or our friends) wouldn’t take our whining and our lip and allow us to get away with the shit that goes on today.I was glad that this happened. I have been really hard on my step kids about playing mindcraft “all of the time”. And they get all A’s in school (really). However unlike other parents I don’t see that as the be all and end all that gives them a pass to waste time in that way. Especially when it is an activity that is (like a casino) so addictive that people seem to want to play it well into the morning hours.

  13. Stijn Hendrikse

    My son plays and also watches very good players to learn from them (and it can be entertaining). It’s similar to watching sports vs playing sports. Sitting on your couch watching football with a bowl of chips is not better for your health then watching a middle earth battle between two Korean video game masters. Screens are the same, and both happen in well lit and dark rooms. Video game watching involves less alcohol I think..bottom line nothing really new here.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s exactly right

  14. awaldstein

    Human nature brought to mass fruition by technology.Been like this since the first Atari CoinOp game of Asteroids found a place in your local bar and gathered a crowd.Honestly the truth of that behavior made me start my career at Atari when they were putting this experience in a console.

  15. Jonathan Pan

    According to data released last year, 58% of Twitch users spent almost three hours per day (20 hours per week) watching videos on its site. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends 2.8 hours per day watching TV. What we are seeing here is the “cord-nevers’s” media consumption habits switching mediums rather than deviate from average US consumer media consumption habits. So in terms of the “future of TV” discussion, I think Twitch is part of that evolution.Another take on this story (for this audience) is the future of eSports (organized video game competition). The video above is a match in the North American League Championship Series for the game League of Legends, the most popular eSports game. There is a debate on whether eSports will become a sport. The narrative and investment thesis in recent investments says yes.I disagree. I think VC or other investors should view eSports growth more like solar energy rather than the discovery of oil. While there has been exponential growth especially over the past five years, the infrastructure required to make eSports into an economic juggernaut like sports isn’t there yet and won’t be there in most investment horizons.Investors should carefully examine the data beyond what is reported. I think what has been reported over the past few years is somewhat hyped and often selective. Example: “More people watch eSports than watch the World Series or NBA Finals.”In this example, the eSport referenced was LoL. The statement would be true if it stated, “there were 27 million viewers globally who watched the 2014 LoL World Championship online, which was more than the 15.5 million viewers (on average) who watched the five-game NBA Finals series on television in the United States, or the 18 million viewers who watched the clinching Game 5.”This original statement is a faulty comparison because it compares global digital viewers versus U.S. television viewers. If you want to talk about NBA global viewership, you can’t ignore China, the NBA’s number one international market. While the NBA finals viewership numbers in China are not disclosed, we can get a sense of the scope by looking at viewership numbers for the Chinese New Year NBA games. In 2013, there were 107 million viewers. In 2014, 116 million.The more important question to ask beyond number of viewers, is how much are the viewers worth? That depends on the value of the broadcast rights. The NBA’s American broadcast deal is valued at $24 billion over 9 years, according to The New York Times. The NBA’s Chinese digital broadcast deal with Tencent is worth at least $500 million over 5 years. There are no publicly available eSports broadcast rights figures but my sources stated that the largest broadcast deals in eSports are in the low-six figure range.Summary: eSports is a thing, whether you play the games or only spectate it. But I don’t think it should be viewed as a sport just yet, especially by investors. If you are expecting sports-like returns vs. competitive-gaming returns, you will be disappointed. Investors should also do additional due diligence on the reported figures.

    1. fredwilson


  16. creative group

    Watching others play games is nothing new and titles change depending on who is reporting it. (Voyeurism, etc.) The amount of revenue being made having people watch do anything has changed the game. (Reality TV)The following is for us old farts that don’t get it. (We never will)…

  17. pointsnfigures

    Amazing to me. Not even speaking a language I understand! But, it doesn’t surprise me anymore. When I first was shocked was when I saw sports arenas selling out to watch people play.

  18. SD

    Twitch is a great way to screen games to see if you feel comfortable letting your kid to play.

  19. Pete Griffiths

    This is a big deal. And of course there are superstar players and teams earning millions.

  20. David Goldberg

    I. Feel. Old. And I’m only 33.

  21. David Goldberg

    While this marketing is exploding, I’d point to the Poker-watching market, which had a similar sharp increase, then a pretty steady decline since. Tread carefully when making large bets.

  22. Chris Kaukis

    EVO is happening right now. I have friends who look forward to it every year. Not to play, but to watch. It’s like the super bowl for them. Here is an old example of why:

  23. Joe Lazarus

    I work at a mobile game company. I’m not a hard core gamer myself, but most of the guys in my office are glued to Twitch for hours at a time. Many of the programmers and artists leave it playing in a separate window as they code and draw. Nearly all of the Twitch views are concentrated on particular games and certain talented players. Not too different that pro sports or old school arcade behavior where kids gathered around a player breaking a high score on Pac Man. Not my thing, but probably not just a fad.

  24. Marissa_NYx

    For 12yr old boys like my son and most of his friends, watching videogames on YouTube and Twitch would rank up there with playing real football (soccer ) and playing PS4 games. Becoming a professional YouTube videogamer is what a lot of them want to be when they grow up.

  25. Anne Libby

    In my family, “paint drying” = golf on TV.

  26. William Mougayar

    Great startup idea 🙂

  27. Matt Kruza

    Anne, hey now! Huge golfer here… and ok.. yeah if you aren’t a golfer it would be boring 🙂 but if you are a golfer golf on tv is great as you see 10x the number of shots you do in person following

  28. Anne Libby

    Yes, any “paint drying” debate is between the golfers and non-golfers.