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Gameverse | July 10, 2020

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Playing a Game vs. Watching a Playthrough

Robert Endyo

Slayer on the Beach

I recently saw a poll on twitter asking the question “Can you be a fan of a game if you’ve only watched a playthrough of it?”  The results were a resounding “yes,” but I found myself disagreeing with this perspective. We live in a time where you can experience the full audio and visual fidelity of a game in video format. It’s even possible to get that live with streaming services. However, this process lacks the core component of what makes a game a game – the gameplay.

The important bit of this pole is defining what exactly a “fan” is. The proper definition would point out that it’s an abbreviation of “fanatic.” This would indicate that a fan would be emphatically appreciative of a game without any criticism. Yet, in a modern context, a fan is more colloquially just someone who likes a particular thing. If I say I’m a fan of Doom, it generally means I enjoy playing the game.

Of course, the issue with this is plainly visible. I said that I enjoy playing the game. If I had simply watched someone play through the entirety of the game, stating that I’m a fan of the game wouldn’t make sense. I can’t say I enjoy something that I haven’t actually experienced. It would be akin to saying you’re a fan of long walks on the beach just because you saw a video of someone having fun doing that. In a scenario where you tried that yourself, you may not like the salt spray, uninhibited sunlight, or the smell of low tide.

The same would apply if you watched a playthrough of a game only to find that, in practice, it’s not as pleasurable of an experience. Let’s say you go into Doom and you find navigating the levels disorienting. Maybe you don’t have the skill or reaction time to move through at the exciting pace of the player you viewed. Perhaps the experience broke down further in a particularly challenging section you couldn’t pass. All of those things would have a detrimental effect on whether you’d consider yourself a fan of the game.

Playthroughs and streams of games can certainly justify being interested in a game or a franchise though. For instance, it might be justifiable to watch content about The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings to see if you’re interested in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Of course, when I did this years ago, it motivated me more to play Witcher 2 – which in turn made me a fan of the series. I wouldn’t have called myself a fan until I actually played the game.

 There aren’t any issues with appreciating games or viewing content like playthroughs about them. It’s actually a great way to see if you want to try the game out yourself. However, it doesn’t make sense to say you’re a fan of a game you’ve only watched someone else play. Playing a game is the only way you can actually know if you’re going to like it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had a bad time trying out a game I assumed I’d like after viewing content about it. That’s a risk that many have taken and will take again in the future. Yet, there’s not a game I’ve seen past or present I would say I was a fan of without having actually tried it myself.

What do you think? Can you be a fan of a game you’ve only viewed in third-person? Do even you decide what games to play from watching playthroughs? Sound off in the comments!