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Video Gaming Becoming A Spectator Sport

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Video games have become more popular than ever but now people have turned to watching others play for entertainment.

That's right, good gamers now have fans, with millions gathering around computers to watch competitions or even just get some tips on how to play.

Some are even calling "gaming" the next big spectator sport.

Videogame designer Katie Hallahan loves to play games herself but she also loves to watch.

"You get attached to different personalities and you like the people who are essentially hosting these videos," said Hallahan.

She isn't alone. Gaming is now a popular spectator activity, with millions of people logging on the Internet to watch videos or live streams of their favorite players as they navigate games and provide commentary.

"It's become a new form of entertainment. People who play games also enjoy going out there and watching the best or just the most interesting people play," said Hallahan.

Emmett Shear is the CEO of Twitch, a website that lets gamers live stream their play.

"We've been seeing 45 million monthly unique viewers per day that come to the site," said Shear. "They watch more than an hour a half of video."

YouTube is filled with videos of gamers. The most popular can actually earn a living posting their play for viewers like Hallahan.

"They get sponsorships or they're able to get a cut off the ads that show during their streams or their videos," said Hallahan.

So what is the draw? Experts said just like watching professional sports, people want to watch the best players and it's a good way to learn tricks to improve your own game.

"For games that involve more strategy obviously watching other people play can be very helpful because you'll get new ideas or see things that work or don't work," said Hallahan.

Psychologist Dr. Richard Ryan studies video games.  He said the psychological satisfaction watching games provides is different than if you're playing yourself.

"Playing video games is a really satisfying thing to do. They provide people satisfactions of competence because you can always feel like you're increasing in your skill, and they give people a sense of autonomy because there's a lot of choice and freedom in games," said Dr. Ryan. "Watching games is a social event. So a lot of the satisfaction is just watching social interactions between other people, the humor, and the exchanges that they have."

Dr. Ryan points out that watching games isn't as engaging as actually playing the games, so over-watching isn't as big a worry as over-using them.  He adds in either case when it's driving out relationships, when it's driving out other satisfactions, then it's an issue.

"And that's when somebody should be concerned about it," said Dr. Ryan.

Hallahan watches only a few hours a week, but she said like a good sports game, sometimes the videos can draw her in.

"Sometimes it can be tough to walk away. Mostly if, you know, they're at a really intense part of the game, or towards the end," said Hallahan.

As for how much watching games has exploded in popularity Major League Gaming, which streams professional competitive play online, said it has seen 600% growth in its audience in the past three years and they've got nine million registered users around the world.


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