“Game”, in the title of this post, is used as a verb. For brevity. (“Gaming” is very common, but “game” much less so? Hmm.)
When I first introduced my parents to the concept of esports (video game competitions) they were amazed how many people would come out to watch other people play a video game. Competitively, for decent sums of prize money no less. And then I haven’t even told them about streamers, people who play video games for an audience. But honestly, I’m not all that surprised they found it confusing and at least a bit odd.
Older generations generally know video games as the things you played on your NES or Game Boy, and think gaming today is that except with prettier pictures. (I say “generally” because there is an ever-increasing amount of adults with more than basic knowledge on digital media, games included!) Watching someone play through the limited “worlds” of 80’s-90’s games sounds pretty lame indeed. And even if they were more expansive, it still detracts from the thing that makes games so interesting: their interactivity!
Two key elements are forgotten here. The first is a part that comes as a bonus of sorts with some games: spectator value. Strategic games (turn-based and real-time) can be great to watch, and quick-paced fighters for example offer a level of intense action and excitement not unlike sports like boxing do.
The second element is narration. Narration in the broad sense that it can either be a commentator whose sole purpose is deliver play-by-play commentary on the developments during a match, or simply the player themselves, adding an extra level of entertainment through jokes or literal narration.
There’s a lot more to it than just watching a person push some buttons, and it’s part of what makes some games so great!