Who can be considered a gamer? Depending on who you ask, it might mean enjoying a certain type of genre or owning special hardware. Recent pushes for inclusivity widen the label further khổng lồ encompass anyone who plays anything, whether that’s Candy Crush or điện thoại tư vấn of Duty. But what if both of these modes of thinking are out of touch with how the world consumes games in 2019?

In 2018, YouTube viewers watched over 50 billion hours of gaming content on the platsize, with 48% of viewers reporting that they spkết thúc more time watching than they vị playing. Twitch, the leading live streaming service on the internet, was reportedly watched around 9 billion hours last year. If you’re watching a game, it follows that you’re not actively playing something at the same time, at least not usually. Many YouTube & Twitch viewers will go on to enjoy games on their own time, of course, but increasingly, there’s a growing section of fanatics who participate in the culture without ever picking up a controller.

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The reasons, based on conversations I’ve sầu had with dozens of people, vary widely. Perhaps the most comtháng thing people cite is a laông chồng of time. Games are becoming more and more demanding with each passing year, with mainstream titles often clocking in at dozens upon dozens of hours before completion. Anecdotally, many people I know are still working their way through games from 2018 and 2017, like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, because the worlds are so expansive — và continue lớn get bigger with each new update or DLC.

“Games as service,” the biggest trkết thúc within the space, is all about time commitment. Games lượt thích Destiny 2Fallout 76 reward players for logging in daily, in addition khổng lồ holding limited-time events that are only available during certain time frames. Games are becoming work, and work takes time và energy.

Image: Bungie via
Joaquin, a video game fan who used to lớn play things lượt thích Counter-Strike, says that his video clip game habits changed dramatically once he got a job.

“I had money to buy games and consoles but I didn’t have sầu time,” Joaquin told “Or at least, time I needed to lớn invest on gaming,” he continued.

For others, watching đoạn Clip games instead of playing them is a matter of mastery. Gretchen, a devout livestream viewer, says that she considers herself a competitive game thủ.

“I want khổng lồ always be winning, và be good at the game,” she said. After college, she stopped having as much miễn phí time as she did growing up. But instead of giving up the hobby outright, Gretchen started watching high-cấp độ Counter-Strike instead.

“Watching someone play means that I don’t have khổng lồ invest my own time ‘getting good’ at the game,” she said. “I’d rather see someone else who’s good at the game bởi vì it.” She estimates that she watches around five hours of livestreams a day, which may sound like a notable investment, until you consider how much easier it is lớn fit in a livestream than actual playtime. You can watch games while you vày a chore, lượt thích laundry. Or you can cruise the website while listening khổng lồ a stream in the background. Some people even use Twitch to fall asleep, with broadcasts acting like a modern lullabies.

For Zelda fan Melinh, watching instead of playing was how they were introduced into the hobby in the first place.

Image: Nintendo
“I was one of those kids who got inlớn games by going over someone else’s house & playing their on their consoles,” they said. Melinc recalls watching over their cousin’s shoulder growing up, and that cousin was apparently much better at games than they were.

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“He’d carry me through all the levels and I was too proud lớn want to lớn continue playing like that,” they said.

Now that Melinch is older, time has also become a more precious resource — và they know that many good games can become a big timesink. Transitioning to watching rather than playing felt natural.

“I think a lot of the appeal that I find in games is the capacity to just get really, really inlớn a piece of truyền thông media for a period of time that’s lasts longer than, say, how long it would take me to read a book or watch a movie,” they said.

“I worry that if I’m actively playing a game, it’ll be too easy to lớn ignore my responsibilities, like my graduate work.” Watching instead of playing allows them khổng lồ enjoy the hobby while, say, eating dinner “without feeling like I was going to lớn be super distracted for a long time.”

In my experience, whenever I tell people that I write about đoạn phim games for a living, a good 60 percent of them will respond with the same thing: Oh, I love video clip games, but I can’t play them. I get too sucked in!

In Melinh’s case, it helps that consoles have built-in features that allow you lớn enjoy games a little more passively. They love sầu using the PS4’s SharePlay to lớn keep up with friends over long distances. The pal will work their way through a title while Melinh watches, or goes about their day.

Image: Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive sầu Entertainment
“We’ve sầu kept each other updated on our lives và given each other advice và support while she played through The Witcher, Horizon Zero Dawn, & the Dishonored games,” they said.

Another comtháng thread aý muốn players I spoke khổng lồ was a lack of money or access. Video game consoles cost hundreds of dollars, và triple-A Clip games often cost $60. Subscriptions to online services vary in costs, but add lớn the overall pricetag — never mind accessories, like controllers. While cell phones have opened up the floor for more types of players, those also typically cost several hundreds of dollars.

“Sadly, money’s tight most of the time now,” said Twitter user schreiraupeee. “But hey, at least you can show tư vấn for your favorite who bởi play them.”

Younger kids who don’t have nearly as much spending money as an adult tover to enjoy games more freely on platforms like YouTube. In this case, titles lượt thích Minecraft or Gr& Theft Auto V can function less as open-world games và more as Saturday morning cartoons. In some ways, video clip games are more expansive than anything you could see on TV: characters from all sorts different properties can be modded in, or any structure can be built by the đoạn Clip game players. Things lượt thích budget, actors, & locales aren’t really a concern. Spider-Man can hang out with Elsa from Frozen và Elmo from Sesame Street, and it’s no big khuyễn mãi giảm giá.

Spider-Man stands in front of Elsa from Frozen in GTA V Image: Take Two / Rockstar via Game Offline
YouTube & Twitch also make certain genres more palatable. It’s comtháng, for example, for people to lớn watch horror games on those platforms, but never actually play the genre because it’s too scary.

For some, watching but not playing video clip games isn’t a question of time or resources — but rather a concern over stigma. Viktor, a người of Slay the Spire, says that people around hyên ổn tkết thúc to lớn judge his love of video games.

“Most of my immediate family reacts very negatively when I play myself,” he said. For whatever reason, his family seems fine with his fandom if he’s only watching, so that’s how he explores his interests.

Much of the gatekeeping around video clip games revolves around mastery — can you vì this? Do you know this? But curiously, many of the viewers I spoke to lớn could talk cửa hàng about their favorite games, despite never actually booting them up. Some seem to lớn know their games of choice better than people who actually play them every day, because their fandom revolves entirely around knowledge.

Many of the viewers I spoke lớn could talk shop about their favorite games, despite never actually booting them up

This phenomenon of đoạn phim game fans in the periphery isn’t limited to lớn viewers. Thanks to games lượt thích Overwatch and Fire Emblem, which have expansive rosters & lively cartoon worlds, Clip game fandom also encompasses things lượt thích fan artists and cosplay aficionados. Often, when new characters are announced for a đoạn Clip game, it’s common for developers to lớn release character guides lớn help people know how to draw or dress up as them. You also can’t go to a Clip game convention without being surrounded by folks in video game costumes. A not insignificant number of these folks don’t necessarily play the games they rep — they just lượt thích the character kiến thiết, or the art style. But their enthusiasm is just as valid as those who play The Division 2 every day. We’re all operating under the same ecosystem.

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Perhaps this progression of video game fandom was inevitable. I still rethành viên being a kid, not a nickle lớn my name, dutifully checking out the magazine racks in my library. Nintenbởi vì Power, Game Pro, EGM — I read all of them, cover lớn cover, fantasizing about games I’d never get lớn play. Then I’d go home page and argue about Clip games on forums with other kids who probably didn’t own everything that sparked a flame war.

YouTube & Twitch weren’t a thing bachồng then, but if they were, I have sầu a feeling I probably would have sầu been obsessed with these platforms, too.