Should video games be as much fun to watch as to play? – Reader’s Feature

A reader argues that watching your favourite game can be just as entertaining as playing it – especially if you can’t beat it yourself.

Sales of video games and their platforms have gone through the roof this year.

Between January and June alone the Nintendo Switch has sold almost 9 million consoles and the number keeps on rising. That is a whole lot of Mario and Luigi in our lives.

One of their biggest titles, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, was released on 20th March 2020. It immediately became a best seller. This may be in part due to the timing, given that three days after its release the UK was put into lockdown. The pleasant and simple escapism that it provided was like a warm bath at the end of a long day, especially when juxtaposed against the bombardment of conspiracy theories and cynicism in the real world.

Another highly anticipated game also became available during the coronavirus pandemic. On 19th June 2020, The Last of Us Part 2 was released.

Despite not offering the same easy going and comforting gameplay as Animal Crossing (in fact it is almost as opposite as you can get), within three days of launch more than 4 million units were sold. It became the fastest selling PlayStation 4 exclusive ever.

And there is the problem for many, me included.

Like many others, The Last Of Us Part 2 is just that – an exclusive. And, sadly, not everyone has the luxury to afford multiple games consoles as well as the games and accessories that go with them.

So, can we get as much pleasure from a game if, instead of playing it, we watch it?

Thanks to Twitch Vloggers and YouTube channels such as outsidexbox and Outside Xtra, TheRadBrad and Eurogamer, we can see and engage with new releases from start to finish, often as soon as a game is released.

A quick type into YouTube’s search bar will throw up an unbelievable number of walkthroughs, collectable locations, speed runs, and tutorials.

This is true not just for new releases, but for older games too.

I found great joy as I discovered YouTube channel Zelda Dungeon, which had videos of my childhood favourite The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. One play of Saria’s Song and I was transported back to sitting on my brother’s Beano bedspread, eating handfuls of Iced Gems as our plucky and pixelated hero took on the perils of Hyrule.

Walkthroughs online can offer us a peek behind the veil, a way to preview the gameplay and plot devices before making any purchases of our own. A virtual road test if you will.

But beyond purchase previews, they also offer a chance of escapism and storytelling.

Channels such as Gamer’s Little Playground, who proudly refer to themselves as ‘The Netflix for Gamers’, have made seamless compilations of video game cutscenes. What they have created are a multitude of game films that rival that of any blockbuster at the cinema.

From The Simpsons to Resident Evil, there are hours of hugely enjoyable game footage to be found. You can binge watch a whole series without the frustration of that one level that you just can’t finish (there is no way I am the only one guilty of rage quitting).

Naughty Dog, the creators of both the Uncharted series and The Last Of Us, are known for their realistic story portrayals. The character writing and development in each instalment is second to none. Before you realise it, you create an affinity with the characters. You become invested in their arc.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was nothing short of a marvel, beautifully wrapping up a decade long journey of looting, shooting, and jaw-dropping locations. This cinematic wonder won the 2017 DICE award for Outstanding Achievement in Story.

I would not know this without the internet, however. I will put my hands up and admit this, I could not complete the game myself. But I did not want to miss out just because of my slow reflexes and ineptitude. So, I turned to YouTube to fill in the blanks for me. And I am glad that I did, it was wonderful (yes, I shed some tears).

Video game director and Uncharted writer Amy Hennig told Retro Reply, ‘Fundamentally it’s about character and story. We deliberately leaned hard into all the beloved tropes of adventure cinema. (Uncharted) is a love letter to all of that’.

So maybe next time you are struggling to decide on a film to watch or series to binge, take a quick tour of the video game offerings instead. You will not be disappointed.

By reader Victoria Kennedy

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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