Perfect Gamer Pressure

I love watching people who are highly skilled at what they do, whether this be watching the Olympics, for example, or watching time lapse videos of people painting or drawing. Then there are various ways to watch people play video games. I don’t watch too many streamers or gaming YouTube videos but for those who do I can only imagine the pressure that can be placed on their shoulders (or controller).


Recently I watched Nathan Ditum of PlayStation Access stream for (their first) PlatiMonday with the intention of completing the final two trophies and then gaining the platinum for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Nathan did this with a stream lasting just over 4 hours 30 minutes and got himself the platinum. Watching this stream, however, I was disappointed to hear that he was getting comments about this being surprising that he was doing so well and how is this the same guy from Metal Gear Stupid, another series they are running.

The PlayStation Access header and summary of subscribers on YouTube as of June 2019.
PlayStation Access on YouTube

The difference, and I would have thought it was obvious, is that Nathan has spent time in Sekiro, practicing and honing his skills over time and has got used to what he needs to do in this game. Metal Gear Stupid covers him and co-presenter David Jackson, as the stupid, playing a Metal Gear Solid title for the first time under restrictive circumstances, that is no CODEC calls and the only help can come from Rob Pearson who is watching and reacting in another room. Rob, a fan of the Metal Gear series to put it mildly, acts as the CODEC and font of all Metal Gear knowledge. This series also means that they are experiencing the game for the first time whilst being recorded, having to have some form of interaction with the game and each other and passing the pad at relevant points as well as creating interesting and enjoyable videos. If they were perfect at this game that they were playing for the first time the series would not have the same appeal or be as interesting.

If you play a game for the first time you are not necessarily going to be good at it. If you play a game for the first time whilst trying to create good content for a video series you aren’t necessarily going to become fantastic overnight. Adding to this when you try to go through it and pass the pad any improvements can take longer. Then there is also the game choice, one that you would actively choose for yourself versus one that you may pass by would suggest that one may be more in tune with your gamer style than the other and therefore your skill may be more aligned with the first option. However, for some people this didn’t seem to be clear.
I love watching gamers that you relate to. I love watching Access for their chat but also when they stream they aren’t necessarily perfect although it is clear that they love games. As a gamer, I want to see that people can improve, that people don’t automatically know what to do and don’t start out as amazing at whatever game. Basically, I love seeing people I can relate to. I am never perfect at the point I first picked up the controller and begin a game. In fact sometimes it is several hours in and I realise I have made some mistakes or unintentionally made things harder for myself. For instance, when I played the first Mass Effect for the first time I spent ages finding the first main plot progression really difficult for a new player as when given the choice of Noveria, Feros or Therum I chose Noveria. I found this difficult and unfortunate for several reasons, one being I was not skilled enough going into the Matriarch Benezia fight and I realised after furthering the game I missed out on interesting story points by not having found Liara first. So this fight was a struggle. After a quick search, whilst trying to avoid spoilers, I saw several comments that this mission was best done last. Stubbornness and my desire to carry on meant I did it. Eventually, after several deaths and having to get smarter, even if not better at that stage, I completed it. I didn’t know about these recommendation beforehand. However, when I eventually do another playthrough I am not doing this mission first out of those three. I learnt having made my mistakes. If anyone saw my initial attempts they may question if I would finish the game or if I had any skill level at games at all. I did this in private without an audience so I can only imagine how streamers, journalists, YouTube gamers and anyone else that records their gameplay or completes games in front of an audience can feel when their first attempts are seen.

Crash Bandicoot transforms into an angel and floats upwards.
A Crash Bandicoot death animation that shows I am not perfect.

Some of the YouTube gaming videos out there can hide the deaths, general stupid mistakes or the times where the gamer isn’t sure of where to go and similar. Basically they, if they choose to edit these out, can hide the “real” parts that I can relate to. If you saw me play certain games you would wonder if I had any skills at all when I get lost or fall off the same ledge for the hundredth time because I mistimed a jump or similar. Other games, when I have spent time with it and know what I’m doing and have actively played a lot recently you could think I have some level of skill.

Supersonic snowman
After practice and learning I can go like a supersonic snowman!

With streaming this hiding of the practice attempts is less likely to happen in the same way. However, streaming from your first time playing differs to streaming a game you know and love. Most of the time people can see which category a given stream belongs to but there will be people, for instance young people, that feel downhearted that they aren’t that good at the game. When I was younger I didn’t experience the same thing because you could only compare yourself to friends and family and that meant you didn’t really know how skilled you were or otherwise.
We live in a world when the answers are at our fingertips and if we get stuck on a game a quick search means finding a video, a guide and walkthrough all within a couple of clicks by someone, or some people, who appear more skilled than us. Then we also live in a world where “git gud” is thrown about if anyone appears less skilled at a given game or plays at a lower difficulty level than someone else deems acceptable.
I can only imagine the pressure full time, or even part time and hobby, content creators in gaming are under as these comments will be directed their way more than the average watcher realises. I hope that young people growing up watching streams and videos realise that they aren’t worse for taking time to learn the ins and outs of games and how to play well. Additionally, I hope that viewers remember to offer support to content creators who put themselves out there with games that they aren’t good at, either by being a genre they are not confident in or by being a game that they haven’t played before for example. It is tough to be told you aren’t good, or that it is surprising you are doing well because you are normally rubbish at games, or whatever backhanded compliment that can come along. Remember we are all different, with game preferences and skill levels, but we all start out new. We all deserve supportive comments when we try new games and are trying to learn a new game in front of an audience. Additionally, we deserve support just for putting ourselves out there as, from what I have seen, video related content creation requires confidence and a thick skin. Be supportive of your favourite content creators and remember to be kind.
Do you ever feel perfect gamer pressure or that you aren’t good enough to create video game content? Let me know in the comments.

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21 thoughts on “Perfect Gamer Pressure

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  1. Seeing someone fail at a game, learn from it and discover things is much more interesting to me than watching perfect play or speedrunning. If I’m seeing someone discover something for the first time, I feel like I’m right there with them learning what’s what — even if it’s a game I’m already familiar with.

    I’ve recently started watching Game Grumps on YouTube, and I really appreciate that, while their episodes are short and tightly edited, they’re not afraid to show themselves failing, getting mad and sometimes having to give up and walk away. Their enormous Super Mario Maker series is particularly good for this, but it also applies to them playing unusual games like House Party; they figured out early on that they wouldn’t be able to determine much stuff for themselves on camera in this case, so they played the whole thing with a walkthrough. The series was still massively entertaining.

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    1. It really can feel like you are learning with the person if you see bits where they walk the wrong way, die miserably or spend time running away from a boss before trying again. For me that is more enjoyable. I just want people watching to understand the difference between someone playing a game they know well and one that they don’t. This is something I would think is obvious especially when it comes to the series that inspired this post but apparently a few people don’t get that.

      I admire speedrunners and those that do “perfect” runs of games but I find it more enjoyable watching someone that isn’t always doing the right thing.

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  2. I’ve only recently gotten into Twitch culture, but the couple communities I’ve jumped into have been very kind and accepting of the streamer’s mistakes during gameplay (albeit with sarcastic riffing aplenty :P). I’ve never really felt the pressure too much personally, but probably because I’ve never actually shown off gameplay of my own playthrough.
    Sometimes I do get a bit self-conscious of what feels like a “limited palette” of games I enjoy when I write in my blog: I don’t want to get to the point where I sound like a broken record to readers. But that’s probably as much gamer pressure as I’ve felt personally online.

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    1. Oh yeah sarcastic riffing is probably very common but when you are getting is this the same guy and then how can he actually be good or how is he so bad when he plays a different game it seems so unfair.

      I haven’t shown off any gameplay either so for all you know I am perfect. Other than my descriptions of when I mess up of course.

      I think it can be easy to feel self conscious if you a limited palette of games. Sometimes when I spend so many months talking about the same selection of games I have been playing I feel a bit awkward but I also am limited in time so I can’t feel too bad. It can be good knowing what bloggers like what genres etc, like if you are known for games in certain genres people will come to you to find out your thoughts. It can work both ways. I don’t think you will sound like a broken record.

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      1. Well I appreciate the feedback! Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it interesting no matter what I play next! 🙂 And yeah, there is a fine line between playful commentary and deriding jabs meant to be mean! Rudeness just ruins the experience for everyone.

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  3. I mean, I think we can all agree that when it comes to gaming I am perfection incarnate…

    …yeah right. I personally enjoy online content more when they show all the screwups and issues. There are some youtube channels that struggle with games so much it drives me up a wall, gives me that “stop, hand me the remote, I’ll do it!” urge, but it does generally entertain me more if the experience is genuine. Having said so, not every game is spectator friendly if you take too long at it.

    When it comes to streaming, I’ve noticed a lot of viewers tend to prefer the experienced playthrough, seeing someone just go through the game’s content without issue. Very rarely, and this is from personal experience, do I get people watching who are there with me on the first playthrough, on the journey with me as it were, through all the horrible failures.

    It’s a shame, the failures are often much more fun than the successes when you’re first going through a game. I genuinely laugh out loud when I fail in some spectacular way during a playthrough, and it’s something that’s just going to happen during that first time with the game.

    As for pressure, I used to have it, that need to prove that I was good at games. It was my thing, so of course I had to be good at it. Then I decided that was profoundly dumb of me and I stopped. Now, either in YouTube or Twitch, I just play for fun and if I can’t finish the game for one reason or another, then I simply can’t, no big deal. I recently quit a playthrough of Final Fantasy XII, for two major reasons: 1) it bored me to tears, 2) I couldn’t wrap my head around the combat system very well.

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    1. I mean obviously you are the perfect gamer but for the average ones amongst us this applies.

      I enjoy seeing the failures as well as the successes. Like you say you are on a journey and all parts of that are included but there are moments that will only happen when you first play a game and they can be some of the funniest. I mean some of the failures I manage as a new player are just so spectacular that you would never be able to repeat it and just so funny because you sometimes have no idea how you managed it.

      Just play for fun and there is no problem if you decide not to finish. As much as if you are sharing the gameplay (youtube/twitch) you will want to but you need to be happy with what you are doing. At least if you are honest with yourself then the viewers will be there with you.

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  4. To me, expecting someone to be the perfect gamer in a situation that is clearly not for that is toxic. Unfortunately, in the land of streaming, this is everywhere and is kind of something streamers just have to deal with, which is terrible. This is probably why so many streamers say they suck at games, to put the bar low for expectations.

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    1. I feel so sorry for those that do have to deal with this because it is so unfair. It must be such a knock to their confidence to have comments like that. I find it enjoyable watching as someone learns a game and overcomes the difficult bits and get quite invested in seeing them succeed. Sometimes I think viewers need to recognise what they say has an effect to the streamer, but also that everyone starts out new at a game much the same way that the viewer would if they started a new game. The general advice of be kind is sometimes something that I suspect is forgotten by certain people online.

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  5. I don’t think it’s very fun to watch someone do a perfect playthrough, I want to see them mess up a bit and have fun, otherwise there’s no particular build-up in watching someone play because you know they’re going to do the thing and they’re going to do it really well. If you watch someone work to understand a puzzle though or struggle through a section you get excited for them when they finally manage it, or it can get funny if they start getting more and more frustrated, and it’s a lot more entertaining.

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    1. I enjoyed watching the stream for Nathan to get the platinum but mainly because I’m never going to play Sekiro as it doesn’t interest me. So seeing it done well was interesting.

      I just much prefer watching people as they learn and become skilled over time. It also means you seem much more invested in their progress and want to give a little cheer as they manage something that they have struggled with.

      I just think sometimes viewers need to recognise the difference between an experienced stream/video for a given game and someone new to said game. No one needs to be perfect at all games because that’s not realistic or necessary.

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  6. I love watching people go through video games for the first time! It is so much more interesting to watch them try things and learn. I find it kind of boring to watch someone do exactly the right thing at exactly the right time – there’s no spontaneous happiness when you get a headshot or jump scares or a sigh of relief when you FINALLY solve that puzzle. Speed runs and esports are fun an all, but I prefer the discovery stream. 🙂

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    1. When people are trying things and learning bits about a game that is new to them it’s so interesting. It can also be quite funny when they do the things that you generally try when you play a new game. And you are so right about the relief when you solve that puzzle or get an amazing shot that you didn’t expect. Even as a viewer when you see those moments it’s such a boost and almost like an applause moment when you have watched someone struggle then finally manage something. It’s just so wonderful to see.

      When someone knows the ins and outs and can do it all successfully then it’s great just not as enjoyable for me. I often find these more interesting (at least for me to watch) if it’s a game that I’m not necessarily wanting to play myself, or it’s a multiplayer game that I’m not skilled at, so I can see how it can be played and what it’s like if people do it well. But my favourite is seeing “normal/average” gamers play games especially when they are new to the games they are playing or working through it as a series.

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  7. Hey! I just found your blog via Twitter, really enjoying it 🙂 I think that there’s something so satisfying watching someone speedrun a game when they’ve mastered it. Super Mario 64 is my favourite to watch on Twitch I think, mad what people can do with the long jumps and backwards jumping etc.

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