With new information about gaming YouTube superstar PewDiePie’s 2014 finances coming to light, it’s no wonder so many gamers are turning to the popular video sharing site to create and share gaming content. The Swedish gamer brought home a cool $4 million last year, and it’s easy to see why as gaming culture has effectively taken over the site; Minecraft was the second most searched topic on YouTube last year, after music. It seems to have taken off as a platform for sharing anything from reviews and playthroughs, to revelling in each other’s glitches, spoofs, and ideas.
So why has this video sharing site become such a large part of gaming in the 21st Century? Gautam Randurai from Google has suggested that “a generation… has grown up on gaming. For them, having a gaming console was as ordinary as having a TV… and if they grew up on gaming, they came of age in the YouTube era. Many now consider it the best platform to explore their passions”. YouTube has simply come about at the right time; those who grew up with video games (from whatever generation), have also been in the right age group to either grow up with the development of the internet, or been at the right age to appreciate its gathering momentum. With 34,588,063 followers as of 15th Feb 2015, PewDiePie has obviously done something right with his mix of spoof comedy and playthroughs.
YouTube channel, PrismGamingUK (@PrismGamingUK), takes on big name games and provides viewers with live-streams, competitions, and tips and tricks. Speaking to them, I learnt that consumers are “us[ing] YouTube to get help/advice and tips on games or simply watch reviews to decide what they want to buy”, they started their channel by offering “strategies for games like Call of Duty”, essentially providing gamers the opportunity to see exactly what is required of them to progress. This may seem obvious, but not until we think back to the era before the internet, when being stuck on a level meant potentially growing too disheartened to even try.
Some may carry certain objections to being handed the answer to the problem, suggesting that it takes away from the overall aim of the gameplay. In a way, the access to the answer possibly does detract from the formidable notion of the boss battle, or the sense of achievement after finally defeating said boss after hours of practice and troubleshooting. However, just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to use it. If you play a game because you’re hooked on the storyline and the artwork, being locked in a situation that you can’t seem to get out of can really dampen your experience, and possibly end it. I enjoy working out what is expected of me, and rarely use playthroughs for the answers, but I do watch them. I watch them to check out whether I want to invest in a game, watching the first 10 minutes or so to see what it’s about, or watching someone else play a game that I have already played, to see someone’s else’s reactions.
So it’s not so much about the ‘answers’, its about watching someone else playing a game, which can often hold just as much entertainment value as the games themselves. Blast Processing (@IHAVETHEPOWER82) on Twitter, highlighted the potential for the YouTube platform for the retro gaming market – “It really helps to get unknown or forgotten classics into the foreground”. His YouTube channel, Genesis Moss, takes as its focus the retro industry. He harks the power of the internet, and told me that before the Internet “we had to rely on things like Nintendo Power and let’s face it sometimes magazines had an extreme bias because their job was to sell games. But with YouTube it’s different because most gamers give their honest opinions and it helps shape the gaming industry”. So it seems that YouTube’s popularity has also risen from its ability to provide a democratic platform for content and opinion – spurring thousands of independent viewpoints to be heard.
In a sense, YouTube brings the social side of gaming back into the forefront of the industry. Connecting people across the world through streaming sites and content creates a shared platform for individuals to discuss the industry, new games, and tips. But so do forums and Twitter, so why are video sites like YouTube and Twitch becoming so popular for this sharing of ideas? @JacquersLeo runs her YouTube site, Jacked, with her husband and described to me how they “like to challenge [their] audience to beat [their] highscores, it gives us all a sense of being connected and interactive”, she feels that “a shout out or mention in a video feels more personal than just a forum or tweet”.
YouTube provides a more intimate connection for users, while also allowing for a wider range of views to be heard. With gaming rapidly becoming more diverse, YouTube provides the necessary space for discussion with almost face-to-face contact across the world. The audio-visual crux of the site has also propelled it into gaming culture with its ability to easily present gameplay footage anywhere with an internet connection, which when you think about it, is a relatively new phenomenon. In essence, YouTube is where it’s at for the gaming community at the moment, and hopefully we’ll see its (and other streaming sites’) growth in years to come.
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