I’ve noticed something that strikes me as peculiar over the last few days.
I started streaming some games late night – the big ones that have drawn viewers have been Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Secret of Mana, although I still stream other games at times.
However, I’ve been watching other people play games from time to time when I’m just not in the mood to work on my own files, and what I’m discovering is that there are a lot of people streaming competitive play or top-tier playstyles or speedruns of classic games, but it’s very difficult to just find someone playing an older game of theirs that they haven’t mastered. And you know what? They’re a hell of a lot more entertaining to watch.
I’m not sure what it is, but watching someone die a few times in Super Mario World while they try to get that one jump just right or watching someone get killed over and over again as they eventually make it through a difficult-as-hell game like Super Ghosts ‘n Ghouls feels a lot more relatable than watching someone masterfully cruise through a perfectly-jumped, perfectly-timed, perfectly-executed run of Super Mario 64.
I’ve even had people laugh with me when I was playing Link To The Past and just having a hell of a time with a boss or during my Secret of Mana playthrough when my whole party suddenly gets completed wrecked by what is effectively a single trash monster.
One of my friends came over to do a split-screen co-op of Timesplitters: Future Perfect on my old PS2 that I brought back down from Seattle, and we first tried playing on normal difficulty, but found that even with a big screen, the game just wasn’t sharp enough to be able to make out enemies at a distance. Even worse, we found we kept overcorrecting when we tried to adjust our aim, or just kind of generally failing at being very effective at the game at all. We scaled it back to easy and had a blast playing (he’d never seen the story before, and there’s a lot of humor in it). We were almost in tears laughing at the sounds the zombies made when we ran out of ammo and just started pistol whipping the shit out of them.
When gaming was limited to the neighborhood, I was very concerned with trying to be the best gamer around, at least at the games I played. One of the most crushing things to deal with on the road to maturity was realizing just how awful I really am when I have to compare myself to the rest of the world (way to go, internet). Being a gamer was such a huge part of how I identified, that being bad at the one thing I spent most of my time doing was really hard to cope with at a young age.
Now that I don’t give a rat’s ass any more, I find I’m just not interested in watching the people who really do dedicate their entire lives to being the best players in the world. It almost feels like I’m just watching a very good computer player because they don’t make mistakes. They’re less and less human the better they get – that’s what really makes watching a person play a game more fun than watching a computer-controlled demo. They fuck up, because they’re human.
There’s just something so relatable and enjoyable about playing games with other people who are going to make as many mistakes as you do, but have a good time and get through it anyway.