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Better as a Let's Play

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"The horror game sensation that no one enjoys playing, but everyone loves watching other people play."

A gray area between Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game and Play the Game, Skip the Story, where people enjoy the aspects of a game, but not because they experienced it themselves. Rather, they enjoy seeing other people experience it. Just something about this game in particular makes watching others experience it more fun than actually playing it yourself. Maybe it's a horror or rage game that results in hilarious reactions from the player's terror or frustration, but it's only funny if you're not the person playing yourself. Or maybe it's a game known for being challenging and seeing someone's determination as they overcome the challenges (and maybe get a little frustrated along the way) is very entertaining, but the difficulty is too intimidating to want to try it yourself. Alternatively, the game is an Obvious Beta and not worth your time, but seeing someone make fun of the game's issues is worthwhile.

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A last reason may be another, more simpler one: money. Some people have no way to legally play the game, thus, they enjoy seeing someone else sharing their experiences with an open public. This is especially true for story-driven games.

Related to Just Here for Godzilla and Watch It for the Meme. May also include Bile Fascination.

Note: Please don't list every example of a game where people avoid playing it in favor of watching a video of it online, or we'd be here all day. There needs to be discussion about people enjoying watching the game over playing it for the reactions and/or struggles of the players more than just not wanting to play it themselves. Entries that are just "watch all of the story paths online so you don't have to play the game yourself" with no regard to watching the person playing the game belong under Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game. Also, while it is necessary to discuss why people might prefer not want to play the game themselves, please refrain from using this trope as a way to bash said game.

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Examples:

  • Among Us is usually best enjoyed with a full lobby of 10, all on the same voice chat, to make for entertaining dialogues and arguments. This is why it's fun to see a group of YouTubers, especially ones with established dynamics, play it out, especially if you can spectate a game from different player's perspectives. Hilarity and drama ensues when betrayal becomes inevitable.
  • Armed & Delirious has nonsensical writing and bizarre-looking late-90s pre-rendered 3D graphics that can be fascinating to see. However, the weird and obtuse puzzles, items that require a Pixel Hunt to find, and backtracking across worlds spread throughout multiple CDs mean that it's better to watch a playthrough video from someone who has access to a walkthrough and cut out most of the backtracking rather than try and endure the game's flaws yourself. Plus, seeing someone else react to and try to explain what's going on is often worth a laugh.
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  • The jump scares, bizarre characters, and surreal and intentionally schlocky nature of Baldi's Basics in Education and Learning make videos of gamers reacting to the latest weird character or mechanic added to the game as they try to avoid their ill-tempered school teacher widely popular.
  • The Danganronpa games are extremely popular Let's Plays; in fact, the series gained a western fanbase (and eventual English release) because of a Let's Play on the Something Awful forums. This owes to the series' unique blend of Dating Sim and murder mystery, so it's fun to watch players solve the cases... and even more fun to watch players' inevitable despair when a character they get attached to dies or is a case's culprit (resulting in a Cruel and Unusual Death "execution").
  • Cyberpunk 2077 had a disastrous launch due to numerous glitches and unpolished game mechanics, particularly on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. As such, many people who either did not purchase or pre-order the game at launch or found it unplayable on whatever hardware they owned preferred to watch others play it, whether out of genuine interest in the story, setting or gameplay, or to see what jaw-droppingly awful glitches or development oversights would crop up for the streamer/let's player.
  • David Cage games (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, Detroit: Become Human) are popular for Let's Play and streaming audiences for several reasons. The games usually offer branching story paths based on player choices, which can be attractive to people who want to see what choices another player will make on a blind run. In addition, the games' Quick-Time Events set pieces and cinematic storytelling make them visually appealing to watch. And last but not least, the games are often considered to have very noticeable flaws in gameplay, storytelling, character animation, voice-acting, and other issues. This makes them fun to mock, especially for people who would never play said games themselves.
  • Doki Doki Literature Club! is most popular for its Surprise Creepy plot twist, but most people who know anything about the game know about the twist, taking some of the impact away (though the psychological horror element still remains and there are many horrifying scenes that have not been as spoiled). Most fun comes from asking Let's Players or friends unfamiliar with the game to play it under the assumption it's just a silly dating sim, and then waiting for them to reach the infamous Wham Shot and freak out.
  • Dwarf Fortress is one of the most (if not THE most) complex video games in existence and thus has an extremely steep learning curve. But at the same time, its simulation depth and unmatched Video Game Cruelty Potential often generate the most badass and/or ridiculous video game stories you've ever heard. Because of this, watching let's plays and reading forum posts about this game is way more entertaining than actually going through the trouble of learning how to play it yourself.
  • The Fighting Game genre has a deep history of this. The genre is considered very hard to get into due to the steep learning curve each game has, understanding whatever meta exists, and having to learn each game's own unique mechanics, with very little being able to be transferred over to a new game or even the next title in a series. Watching, though, is one of the most popular parts of the genre period, since you don't need to know how the game works to enjoy watching the fight, and tournaments are often among the most watched events in the gaming sphere due to being able to watch players who did go through the trouble of learning the aforementioned stuff compete head to head.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's is known for being terrifying, creating a great sense of paranoia and the punishment for failures is a good ol' Jump Scare. For people who don't like being scared, this is rather off-putting, but the terrified responses of LPers make them watch videos of the series anyway. Honest Trailers put it best:
    "The horror game sensation, that no one enjoys playing, but everyone loves watching other people play."
  • Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is a game designed to frustrate the player, featuring no checkpoints and even a minor slip-up can send the player back to the start of the game. All sorts of highlight videos of LPers and streamers exist on YouTube showcasing the rage players go through for our entertainment.
  • While both La-Mulana and La-Mulana 2 are relatively fair games, with signposted deathtraps and challenging-but-not-impossible bosses, many of their puzzles are deeply obtuse and founded in unfamiliar mythology. Since these puzzles are not optional and make up the majority of the game's story, a playthrough with someone talking you through the mental gymnastics can end up a better experience.
  • The Last of Us Part II: After the controversy regarding story leaks, many a potential player decided to wait it out and see the game from Let's Players videos instead of spending their money on the game. Both those who didn't follow the leaks and those that do watched others play it, mainly wanting to see how others would react to it, especially the infamous scene where Joel gets murdered.
  • Minecraft has nearly infinite creative potential, but even on Peaceful difficulty or Creative Mode, building anything more complex than a basic house can be a daunting task, not to mention that the game likes to throw survival horror elements that can easily ruin one's day, such as surrounding the player with zombies and spiders in the middle of cave mining operations and Creepers abruptly not only killing the player but also destroying half of their beautiful house. As a result, many people instead prefer to watch their favorite streamers and LPers play the game and make and show off their projects. The Virtual YouTuber agency hololive in particular is well-known for its Minecraft streams, having one multiplayer server for the Japanese and Indonesian branches, as well as a dedicated one for the English-language branch; the JP-ID server in particular is lavish with Scenery Porn as a result of talents having played on the server for over a year.
  • At the height of their popularity, Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent were all the rage among Let's Play. The two were considered some of the scariest games ever made, which prompted multiple people to be too scared to play them, but love to watch people getting scared by them.
  • Platform Hell games, such as I Wanna Be the Guy, frequently fall into this category. The average player has close to zero chance of successfully completing the game, and it quickly becomes tedious trying and making next to no progress. Watching an expert's LP thus offers two benefits: you actually get to see past the first few screens, and you get amusing Angrish over the soundtrack.
  • P.T.: Considered one of the scariest games ever made, but now also almost impossible to get your hands on, since it was removed from all stores by its developer shortly after release. It's now only available on PS4s that had installed the game previously, making this a game that people mostly experience through LPs.
  • Persona:
    • The Persona games, especially 3, 4, and 5, are very popular Let's Play games in the JRPG genre, due to all of them being very long and very story-driven. It would be very easy to say that many fans of the games never actually played the games themselves and simply watched a LP of it. The main reason people prefer to watch Persona games rather than play them is because of their "Life Sim" segments, where the player has to choose what daily activity the main character will do. People watch other people play it because they either don't have time to do it themselves, or they want to see how the choices/time management of the content creator play out.
    • To a lesser extent, the various spin-offs that have surfaced since Persona became a Cash Cow Franchise for Atlus also count. This can be chalked up to most these titles being canonical continuations of the installment they spun off from (thus retaining a focus on narrative and characterization) while also switching to completely different genres of gameplay—ones that someone who primarily plays JRPGs might not be willing to invest their time in learning the mechanics of. (For example, Persona 4: Arena and its sequel are Fighting Games, Persona 4: Dancing All Night is a Rhythm Game, and Persona 5 Strikers is a Hack and Slasher with Action RPG elements. The Persona Q games go halfway, as they're Dungeon Crawlers styled after the Etrian Odyssey series.)
  • The Silent Hill games are widely praised by both fans and critics alike for their characters and storytelling, but most agree that the puzzles, the length of the games, and the clunky combat may not jive for everyone, thus people looking to get into the series may opt to watch someone else play it and see their reactions to the events in the stories.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) is a widely disliked game and most aren't willing to play it themselves... but watching someone else glitch the game into oblivion never gets old.
  • Common in Souls-like RPGs, especially those from FromSoftware, being the Trope Codifier and Trope Namer. Since these games are notoriously Nintendo Hard and also tend not to have a self-evident story, some people might not be particularly interested in playing them either for gameplay or for story. However, they might be interested in watching three different groups of streamers play them:
    • Those who aren't particularly good at the game, since you get to watch it while hearing funny Angrish reactions.
    • Those who are really good at the game or speedrunners, meaning you get to see the game beaten in cool or elegant ways that most regular players couldn't hope to emulate in these games.
    • Those who are actually interested in the lore, meaning that you actually get the story of the game as you watch, from the streamer's commentary.
  • Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2 have a very large community of fans that don't even play the games themselves but love to watch dedicated streamers play the Sturgeon's Law-prone levels that random people have created. For this reason, many content creators attempt Super Expert No-Skip runs so that their viewers can watch them play through the horrors that await. Other sub-communities include Troll Levels (levels designed to make players look like idiots), Puzzle Levels (levels designed to test players' knowledge or problem-solving skills), and Kaizo Levels (Nintendo Hard levels designed for players to show off their reflexes and platforming skills).
  • Telltale Games works are more story-driven Adventure Game affairs with different outcomes depending on the choices. So naturally they make for great Let's Play videos, especially if they're based on a popular IP such as The Walking Dead, Batman, Fables or Game of Thrones to name a few, just to see the choices of what certain LPers would make.
  • Undertale is a game where the choices you make have tangible consequences, and is generally considered a case of Enjoy the Story, Skip the Game, so many watch LPs both to consume the story and to see the choices the player will choose to make and how they react to them.

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