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Why Your Kid Loves Watching People Play Video Games on YouTube

Kids can’t get enough of Let’s Play videos. Is this something to be concerned about?

Many parents are making a perplexing observation: Their children seem to prefer watching videos about their favorite video games rather than actually play those games.

Kids are spending an increasing amount of time watching “Let’s Play” videos, narrated videos of other people’s gameplay that are peppered with humor and personal observation.

Let’s Play videos have been among the most popular videos watched on YouTube in 2015, and many adults are understandably confused as to why kids would want to watch somebody else play a video game rather than play it themselves. When it comes right down to it, though, the phenomenon is no different than watching someone play golf, tennis, poker or any other professional sport on TV. It is for this very reason, however, that parents have a legitimate concern about how much time their kids spend watching these videos.

Why do kids love these videos?

Kids enjoy watching Let’s Play videos for a good number of reasons:

  • 1. Skills boost Many kids just want to get better at a game and learn new strategies from an “expert.” They might use a video as a walkthrough that helps them get past a difficult section of the game. Kids expend a great deal of cognitive energy thinking about their gameplay and want to learn how to do things themselves — just as they might watch videos of people dancing, skateboarding or doing bike tricks so they can learn how to do those same moves and stunts. Developing an expertise and improving a set of skills is common and constitutes a desire for personal growth.
  • 2. Social connection There is also a social component to Let’s Play videos. Kids share these videos with their peers and often watch and discuss them when they are together. Some kids watch these videos because they can’t afford to buy the game or because it is rated M and their parents won’t let them play it; they can watch others doing so on YouTube and therefore stay in the loop with their peers.
  • 3. Entertainment The most common reason kids watch Let’s Play videos is because they are entertaining. The entertainment value is not simply in the game itself but in the person who has made the video. Kids may be attracted to the charisma of a particular YouTuber and feel as if that person has become their friend. They get to know his or her personality and look forward to the interesting things that YouTuber is doing in their videos and may subscribe to their channel. The most popular YouTubers are funny and responsive to their audience. Many kids feel particularly connected if they make a comment and get a response from a YouTuber they follow. Popular Minecraft YouTuber Stampy has a “Love Garden” where he features kids’ submissions:
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