world of esports ws pkg riddell_00032304.jpg
Welcome to the World of eSports
03:52 - Source: CNN

Morgan Spurlock goes inside the competitive world of professional gaming on “Inside Man,” Friday at 10 p.m. ET, on CNN.

Story highlights

Watching people play video games is a burgeoning part of the entertainment industry

Six of the top 10 most viewed YouTube channels in the U.S. focus on gaming

The eSports global audience is projected to exceed 427 million by 2019

CNN  — 

What’s the hot show teens are tuning into?

Watching a stranger play a video game on the internet.

I have witnessed this trend firsthand; my 14-year-old son and his friends watch videos of gaming all the time. And they are not alone.

According to Ryan Wyatt, the global head of gaming content at YouTube, “Hundreds of millions of YouTube viewers watch 144 billion minutes of gaming content every month.”

To better grasp how popular this is, Wyatt points out, “Six of the top 10 most viewed channels in the United States are focused on gaming.” In fact, the most popular person on YouTube is PewDiePie, a guy who films himself playing video games. He has more than 45 million subscribers. That’s more than Justin Bieber, who has 21 million.

This begs the question – what is so appealing about watching someone else play a video game?

My son says I just don’t “get it.” As a lifelong gamer who is obsessed with the industry, I’m baffled why someone would choose to watch a game when they could just play it! Comedian Jimmy Kimmel compares this to going to a restaurant and having someone eat your food for you.

Wyatt offers a counter-argument: “Why do you watch ‘Chopped’ when you can cook? Why do we watch reality TV? We want to be entertained and learning about video games is very entertaining.”

Help me win!

A lot of the trendy gaming videos are how-to guides. Years ago I used to watch YouTube tutorials to learn how to build amazing structures in Minecraft. I would then get ‘cool dad’ points when I played with my son and showed off these buildings as my own.

Now the demand for gameplay tips and tricks has become so great that there are now “game strategy experts” for almost every game. Like Drift0r, who creates in-depth guides for the Call of Duty series. He has more than one million subscribers and 230 million views on his YouTube channel. Making these videos has become his full-time job, and he is now moving into live streaming to spend even more time with his fans.

“The majority of them are interested in an opportunity to converse or to play with me,” Drift0r says. “They constantly want to talk about and compare strategies.”

Watch it live

Live streaming is watching someone play a video game in real time. This has quickly become the hottest part of the gaming entertainment industry.

“Everybody knew it was going to be a growing market, but no one expected it to grow as fast as it has,” explains Chase, the public relations director for Twitch, a social video platform for gamers. “Twitch has become a social network for the gaming age.”

Twitch is on the forefront with more than 100 million unique viewers every month, with each person watching an average of 106 minutes daily.

With numbers like that, the industry has taken notice. Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for $970 million. And YouTube has also jumped in with their launch of YouTube Gaming in August 2015, which makes streaming available with the rest of their gaming content.

On both of these platforms not only can you watch the live action, but you can also text chat with other viewers and even the player you are watching. You would think it would be difficult for someone to play a game and participate in a chat. These streamers somehow do both, which creates a truly unique experience. It’s like talking to your favorite NFL quarterback in the middle of a game and he gives you a shout-out before making the next play.

The appeal is creating this personal connection.

Video gamer DizzyKitten has been streaming since 2013 and has built a considerable following on Twitch. “I love interacting with people live,” she says. “I have subs that have been with me from the start and they really know me.”

Subs are viewers who subscribe to a streamer, and they usually choose whom to follow based on personality, not game skill.

Professional gaming

While some people watch video games for the camaraderie, others want to see the best play the best. Hence, pro-video gamers are becoming the newest crop of sport stars.

Olof Kajbjer Gustafsson (called Olofmeister) was ranked the top CounterStrike player in the world last year. Counterstrike is a popular video game series where two teams fight each other, and an individual player’s skills can turn the battle to his team’s favor. Fans often stop Gustafsson on the street. He says he’s amazed that he is playing in sold-out arenas for tournaments around the world.

Olof Kajbjer Gustafsson is called  the best player of CounterStrike: Global Offensive.

“I think that with every new generation it is going to get bigger and bigger,” Gustafsson says. “There is such a rise for eSports and I feel a lot prouder saying that I am a professional video game player.”

Think of eSports as a professional sport league for video games. It has become one of the fastest growing sports in the world. According to Newzoo, the eSports global audience is projected to exceed 427 million by 2019. These pro-gamers amaze their fans with their awe-inspiring moves just like professional athletes.

Yet, despite the popularity of these gaming videos, the majority of streamers and game video creators are not that good, so why continue to watch someone who sucks?

Because, my son says, it is so funny to see people react to how terrible they are, like the viral video of Leeroy Jenkins, who caused his entire raiding party to be wiped out in the game of World of Warcraft.

“That is why I watch you play Dad!” he says with his newfound teenage sarcasm. OK. I think I get it.