Friday, November 25, 2016

The Game-Watching Game

Vera and I spent a nice quiet Thanksgiving on the farm yesterday watching a lot of football. Then today we spent some time driving around visiting family and enjoying leftovers.

Got to hang a little with my nephew, which is always fun. He’s seven-and-a-half now, and as usual during our reunions he introduced me to his current interests.

One was a new app he’s enjoying called My Singing Monsters which he insisted I download on my phone, too. Sort of a funny game with a creative element involving arranging “monsters” you’ve collected in ways that allow them to sing repetitive, catchy songs together.

He’s also handy on YouTube these days, and introduced Vera and I to a couple of his new favorites.

One is this nutty series of shorts called “The Annoying Orange” which I believe started out as a web-only thing before eventually becoming a series on the Cartoon Network. (And no, in case you’re wondering, it isn’t about the president-elect.) One of the videos just involved characters from the show playing a video game and commenting over it, my nephew giggling all of the way. That one is pictured above -- has over 6.8 million views!

Another are these videos made by an English fellow (I didn’t catch the name) that seem to involve him just acting funny on camera while sitting at his desk. Kind of minimal, but super-popular apparently as indicated by the huge views he gets.

I’m not sure what the standard format of the latter is, but the videos we saw all involved him kind of challenging himself to guess which of two choices would be the most popular in a “Would You Rather?”-type game. Stuff like “Would you rather spend five years in prison and then get a million dollars when released or never go to prison and not get any money?” He made his decisions entertaining by forcing himself to eat sour candy (and make lots of faces) should he choose the less popular of the two.

My nephew thought he was hilarious, and while I wasn’t laughing as much I think the target audience has to be kids. I found myself thinking how similar the dude’s videos were to ones produced by those playing online poker on Twitch, at least formally.

In both cases, the audience is basically watching someone play a game while trying to make it compelling viewing in some way. Both combine entertainment and education, too, via game show-like structures (or at least they can). And of course, in both cases the performer has figured out a way to monetize the performance.

We play games for a variety of reasons. There are a lot of different motivations for watching others play them, too, some of which make the games themselves somewhat incidental.

Something to think about, I guess, as I go back to watching football this weekend.

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