Games you like to watch people play more than play (and vice-versa)


[ note: this sort-of overlaps with What Games Do You Watch More Than You Play? and Playing games that you don't like but I think it’s different enough that I’m still making a topic. ]

Watching AGDQ this year, as always, there were runs which were brilliant because of the skill, and runs which were brilliant because of the runners (even though the games themselves were deliberately awful).
This got me thinking about how I enjoy games nowdays, leading to this topic:

I think I can categorise games I actually care about into three classes:

A) Games I actually like playing and like watching other people play.

Two good examples here (wildly different) are X(-)COM(2) and Spelunky. They’re games which have the right kind of difficulty, pace and narrative for me to be able to enjoy them’; but they also have enough interesting variation, and enough actual in-game pace for them to be interesting to watch people play, too. Plus, most of the information you need to appreciate what’s going on as a spectator is present on the screen continuously, so you can enjoy armchair strategising.
Recently, Magic The Gathering: Arena has also been a thing here.

B) Games I like playing but are boring/frustrating to watch

I don’t know about anyone else, but whilst I can get into a game of Civ or Crusader Kings 2 or Stellaris; I find that they’re frustrating to watch people play - partly because the pace is all wrong, but I think also because these kind of strategy games have a ton of information “hidden” behind menus and secondary windows; when someone else is driving the game, you also lose agency over controlling what you can “know”, which is distressing.
(Speaking of MTG:A - part of the information loss issue is directly addressed on Twitch here with a Twitch extension which lets you actually look at cards on the table during the stream.)

C) Games I hate playing but like watching other people play.

For me, these are mostly in the ilk of the “deliberately ultra hard games with lovely art direction, music and narratives”. I’m never going to enjoy playing Shovel Knight or Celeste - but watching someone else play it means that I can appreciate all the good things about the games (everything but the rock-hard gameplay) and also see someone being really skillful.
I suspect the Souls games are somewhere here, if I ever tried playing one: I’ve seen a lot of good streams of Dark Souls and Bloodborne (this topic was inspired by yet-another-awesomely narrated/stage-managed run of the latter on this years’ AGDQ), but I am pretty sure I’d hate playing them.

I’m interested to see if other people have these categories (or other classifications), and what they put in them…


Getting Over It immediately comes to mind. I know that game would frustrate me to no end, but I enjoyed watching others play it.

On the other side of the coin I have a lot of trouble watching people play HITMAN or X-COM, I have a specific style of play for those games and watching people interact with them in a different way is really frustrating to me for some reason.


At this point (post GTA IV) I would rather watch someone play a Rockstar Game than actually play it. The shooting is always bad and the movement is a molasses flood but the presentation is second to none. I always find myself thinking this is a well made thing that I’d rather see than play.


While I played some RTS earlier in my days and actually did get into Stellaris after the Waypoint streams I think I much prefer to watch people with a greater knowledge of strategy games play them than engaging with them myself.

I also agree on the opposite end about Hitman, at least how GB has tackled the game, while incredibly entertaining (and thus maybe disqualifies) it’s also so wildly different to playing it myself, coupled with misunderstanding of systems and killing innocent people for no reason makes it also frustrating to watch.

I think it’s a combination of personal experience with a game, and a type of game that I’m watching that pull me in either direction on this question; I’m a casual strategy player at best, but an above average action or stealth game player.

Maybe also inherit to strategy games is the broad and contemplative perspective it allows for the stream hosts, and that makes Stellaris streams such good leisurely TV for me; Austin, Danielle and Rob discuss among themselves and the chat what actions to take next and the thoughts that drive their decisions, while playing them myself I’m mostly reacting and puzzling it out in my own head, I find it not as compelling minute-to-minute.


I think it’s definitely true that the “style” of the stream can make a big difference to how enjoyable it is. I admit that the CK2 and Stellaris streams I tend to find have a lot less discussion, and tend to run with less pauses (and less clicking on all the options)…


For me category C consists pretty much entirely of good horror games. I can’t bring myself to play anything remotely scary but I love watching other people play them. I really wanted to play Resident Evil 7, but I couldn’t make it more than a couple minutes in the demo. At this point I must have watched at least five different playthroughs of that game, maybe after a few more I’ll have memorized the scares enough to actually be able to play it. Same with games like Soma or Darkwood.


Oh dear, yeah, horror games are a big one for me too.
I even find it hard to watch at times, jump scares are bad for my anxiety, but I much prefer watching over playing.
Games that heavily rely on jump scares and loud sudden noises are just not fun to watch though, take any indie horror game on steam for example, but eerie games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill or Amnesia are pretty good to watch with a fun host.


I find that I enjoy watching a stream of someone playing a game that I haven’t played more than watching someone play a game that I have played. I don’t have a job so I don’t have much money to spend on games, so a stream is a cool way to experience a game without having to buy it.


A) Games I actually like playing and like watching other people play.

Competitive games or action games with a lot of procedural generation. Watching other people play teaches me new approaches and tricks and sometimes gets me in the mood to play myself.

With more narrative or bespoke designed puzzle games that I enjoy playing I can watch other people play them but only after I’ve finished them and even then they’re not as evergreen a source of viewing enjoyment.

Most watched game that I also play a fair amount: Overwatch

B) Games I like playing but are boring/frustrating to watch

Pretty much any strategy / tactics game. Tactics games are some of my favorite and most played but for some reason have no patience for watching other people play them. My guess is that it’s a combination of having to memorize more information to understand what’s going on due to things being out of view on the map or in pop up menus and these games being more challenging for people to talk about while playing.

Rob and Austin’s X-Com streams have been an exception to this. Having a co-player advisor two debate and joke with would probably make other strategy games a lot more watchable.

C) Games I hate playing but like watching other people play.

There are a lot of games that require practice and skill to play well that I’m interested in but not enough to develop those skills.

I agree with other posters about horror games, but also find watching streams a good way to judge if a game is over my scariness threshold. Resident Evil Revelations, no worries. Resident Evil 7, oh hell no.

Most watched games I’ve only played a little and probably won’t go back to: FromSoft’s Souls Series


Seconded. The only horror game I’ve ever completed was Resident Evil 5 - which is probably the least “horror” of all RE games. I basically have to watch other people play them. I quite like the stories, but I hate the actual experience of playing horror games, most of the time.

I’d also add in precision-focused shooters, mainly because I’m just… bad at them. It can be really cool to watch people play stuff like Quake or high-level Doom runs, but I am absolutely awful at actually playing those games. So it’s more fun to watch.

Stuff in category A for me is a lot of platformers and strategy/tactics games, especially if there’s secondary commenters instead of just a solo player. I play a lot of them, but they’re also cool to watch, a lot of the time.


I find this too, but more often with newer FPS than older ones - I absolutely can’t get into the new 2016 Doom, but it’s great to watch people play (whilst I was young enough when Doom and Quake came out to be actually okayish at playing them, and also enjoy watching people much better than I.)


Platformers. Any and all. I don’t like them but my girlfriend is amazing at them and I love watching her work through levels almost as effortlessly as a tool-assisted speedrun.


I’m right there with y’alls on horror games. The only one I’ve successfully played myself was Silent Hill 3 but that was only because I had a friend talking to me the whole time. I tried playing SOMA on my own and was a disaster until I had to quit not very far in. But watching other people play it? All the scariness and anxiety-inducing stuff in those games seem to evaporate when it’s a level removed. I love watching your Silent Hills, Resident Evils, Amnesias, things of that nature.

I also really like watching fangames but absolutely can’t stand playing them. I’m not much of one for platformers anyway but fangames in particular I don’t want to play because of the high difficulty and the often intentional but bad level design. Watching people play them is fun and actually kind of relaxing though, even if the person playing isn’t very good and dies just as much as I would.