Gameplay has become one of the biggest content trends on YouTube, with Pewdiepie at the forefront, and thousands following in his footsteps. If you look at gameplay trends however, they usually don’t follow the same pattern when it comes to game popularity that the rest of the gaming world does. If you follow the biggest gameplay-personalities on YouTube, you often see a trend of small indie games quickly becoming the new “It-games” to play; Five Nights At Freddy’s, Skate 3, Agar.io, Slenderman and Goat Simulator are just some examples of games that had little to no advertising in mainstream media, yet made it into the spotlight thanks to gameplayers. And while some channels either focus on a couple of games or review the biggest games on the market, it appears as if indie games make up not only the majority of popular gameplay videos – but also the best.
Triple-A games, or mainstream, big-budget games, have faced a lot of criticism the past few years. Games have been delayed and/or published with glitches and errors, and franchises keep expanding, including those that should have ended a long time ago. Indie games however, have steadily grown as a consequence of the gameplay evolution. Thanks to the internet — YouTube and Twitch in particular, mainstream media is not necessarily the best platform for developers to advertise for their games. Some indie games even become more popular than Triple-A games, despite the lack of the same resources an indie developer might face.
So what is it about indie games that make them stand out from Triple-A games? For one, they have an x-factor. Even if a game might not be graphically impressive or with the same amount of endless opportunities that Triple-A games like Grand Theft Auto might have, there’s still something in the story, set-up, or characters that make up for a good gameplay video. Goat Simulator is a great example of this – starting out as an inside joke between Coffee Stain Studios’ developers, once video of the game went viral, the game was released, and most large gameplay-channels decided to use the game.
For when it comes to good gameplay videos, the recipe doesn’t rely heavily on the quality of the game, but the personality playing it, the commentary, sense of humor and entertainment that comes out of it. Audiences enjoy seeing something fresh and unfamiliar, and while some channels still focus on making tutorials rather than game commentary, the cheeky and hilarious videos of the likes of Markiplier, Seananners or VanossGaming are the ones that get the most views.
Take the recent trending game Agar.io – the online multiplayer where you simply play as a ball eating other balls, trying to become the biggest one. Easy and uncomplicated, yet it somehow makes up for hilarious gameplay. Same goes for the likes of Slenderman – though not a complicated or stunning game, it has an x-factor in the form of a horrifying figure that pops up, making up for thrilling gameplay.
In the world of gameplay, games are treated differently. And while games such as Grand Theft Auto, Minecraft, Left 4 Dead or Skyrim make up for great gameplay videos, it’s not only because of the endless opportunities you have to make the game your own, but also because of the glitches, the errors, the small things that can make it hilarious.
Streaming trends do not necessarily follow the trends in the mainstream, the biggest and newest games or the bestselling ones – these trends are based on what the biggest names in YouTube play, and it isn’t always those games. These games are all too familiar, and few want to see a Triple-A game spoiled by gamers on YouTube. Take The Last of Us, a Triple-A game that was played by plenty of YouTubers, but did not end up becoming more popular than other videos – probably because it’s a story-based game people wanted to play for themselves. And if gamers would wait to play it, the game would become irrelevant, which might be the reason for these types of videos often not getting as many views as other gameplay videos might.
Think of it this way – just as Sharknado and The Room are horrible movies, they still have some entertaining value to them because they don’t take themselves too seriously. Triple-A games seem to ALWAYS take themselves too seriously. When you play a Triple-A game, it almost feels like the game expects you to take it seriously, to dive into it and spend hours admiring the graphics, story, online mode – whatever the game wants you to enjoy the best. Indie games however are mostly made with the same intent that all games used to be made – to entertain. While some are deep, artistic and/or intended to stir something deep inside you, have you shed a tear or ponder life’s biggest questions, some are simply meant for fun. These are the games we want to see get played.