The Science Behind Why We Like Watching Others Play Video Games

Streaming has taken off in an incredible way in recent years. Today this is a huge industry, and streamers have become celebrities, often making entertainers from other fields jealous of their popularity.

A good example of the importance of streaming today, is that when Amazon released its first game last year, one of the crucial factors the company considered was that the game is not only supposed to be fun to play, but also to be watched while someone else is playing it.

Some are surprised by this development, but there is no mystery in why watching someone else plays is entertaining. In this article, we will cover a few groups of reasons that can explain the popularity of streaming, and we will also take a quick look at some of the most popular games used for streaming.

Hard Science

When we turn to hard science to find an explanation for the popularity of streaming, one word pops up immediately: neurons. More precisely, we are interested in the so-called “mirror neurons” here.

These are special brain cells that help us in our ability to mimic: babies use them to learn how to repeat certain sounds or make facial expressions. Not only that, evidence suggests that mirror neurons are closely connected with our ability to experience empathy.

And this ability to empathize, to connect what we observe to our own experience, is possibly a big factor in the popularity of streaming today. Mirror neurons enable us to feel the highs and lows of playing, just by watching someone else play.

Social and Psychological Reasons

Many of us have problems with anxiety and tension, and it has been indicated that watching someone play can be a very efficient way to release tension and relax, something like a way to escape the stress of daily life - almost a form of meditation.

Of course, a big element of this phenomenon is its social aspect. Watching game streams is an opportunity to meet other members of an online community, communicate with them and develop relationships, especially in the last couple of years.

Finally, an important reason for this type is our ability to learn by watching. For many, this is a way to develop new strategies of gameplay and improve their skills. For this case, many streamers even broadcast their practice sessions.

Cultural Reasons

As we already mentioned, streamers are today often celebrities. This means that, like with all celebrities, a kind of cult of personality develops around them. Their fans have the impression that by watching their favorite streamers play, they have an opportunity to spend time with them and get to know them better.

Many fans are more interested in the personalities and characters of streamers than they are in their gaming skills. This is why streamers sometimes also serve as comedians, or even as advice-givers.

As the streamer Stephen "Destiny" Bonnell explained: "It's not so much watching a game, as watching a person who happens to be playing a game. Like if Denzel Washington started to stream Halo 3. You might not play Halo 3, but you'd probably watch Denzel Washington play because of who he is."

Most Popular Games for Streaming

Although it usually isn’t very important what game you choose to stream, some games are universally popular, and some Twitch and YouTube channels became known due to their dedication to that one particular game. These are some highly known options that can be found on Twitch.

League of Legends

LoL is a 2009 multiplayer online battle arena video game and consistently among the most streamed games on Twitch. A big part of that is that LoL is the world's largest eSport, as the LoL international competitive scene consists of 12 different leagues.


Fortnite is another most-streamed game on Twitch. The game has three different modes, and out of them, the Fortnite Battle Royale mode became an incredible success and a cultural phenomenon. Fortnite is the favorite game of many popular streamers - take Ninja as an example.

Casino Games

Casino games streamers appeared on Twitch back in 2015, but this phenomenon really took off in 2019, so that we now can watch streamers like Roshtein, DocJazy, or Immortal. Besides slots, or poker, some of the most popular casinos streamers play roulette, and with them, you can learn more about tricks and hacks that work and those that don’t. These streams can often be as educational as websites specifically dedicated to casino games content and because users can witness the players in-game decisions in real time, they immensely speed up learning and build up confidence. More slow paced and visual learners will probably prefer sites like ArabianBetting, where users can get in depth information about online roulette and how to play, but can also get recommendations on the best roulette casinos and even where to hunt for bonuses.


Minecraft is the most-watched game on YouTube. Not at all surprising considering that it is the best-selling video game of all time. So far, it has sold more than 200 million copies, and last year, it had 126 million monthly active users.

When we consider all of the reasons for the popularity of streaming today, this phenomenon looks far less unusual than it might seem at first glance. We are not only hard-wired to enjoy watching someone else play, as neuroscience can teach us, but such activity also serves some of our basic social and psychological needs.

Streaming is only the latest and more technologically advanced way to satisfy these deep needs. And for these reasons, it is pretty clear that “watching others play” is an important entertainment industry, and here to stay.


To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Fortnite Game Page.

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2021