Life has been a little stressful lately. At first, that pushed me to turn to video games for escapism—something I’d not really done before. This week, I’ve found myself too tired to binge through Fire Emblem. But it still felt weird to be more disconnected to gaming, so I returned to something I haven’t done for my own entertainment in a while: YouTube.
For a time, I was fully plugged into YouTube. I had a handful of popular creators and Twitch streamers whose videos I would watch consistently. In the past, before coming to Kotaku, I even contributed to Patreons and other funding campaigns for my favourites. When you start working as a games journalist, all things game related invariably become work related. When you play a game, you’re on the lookout for angles. See someone on the train with a Switch? That’s a chance to snoop on real players and their habits. If you’re like me and watched speedrunners and other streamers, you turn that into a beat that you cover rigorously. That’s not a complaint; my job is cool, and I’m lucky to have it. But it also means that the way I consumed YouTube videos changed. It wasn’t something I did for fun anymore.
Retreating to fantasy worlds gave me a buffer from stress over this last rocky month. Sleep has often eluded me. In those moments, I’ve turned to YouTube and found comfort in watching good players and funny people enjoy games on what feels like my personal behalf. For instance, I stopped playing Apex Legends. Like many games that require attention and reflexes, it’s not a great game to play when you’re exhausted. To get my action fix, I’ve turned to personalities like StoneMountain64. Stone’s got great energy and production value. He has channels for edited work and longer stream archives. Watching someone be unabashedly enthusiastic—performance or not—is wonderful. Each match has a story, and you feel the ebbs and flows much like a good episode of television.
Stick with the same creators for a while, and you start to learn the cast of characters they play with. In some cases, you watch less for the game and more for their interplay. I’m an avid Final Fantasy XIV player but have been playing less. I can still get my fix, plus fun chatter, by watching creators like DrakGamestein. Drak and his friends play through all sorts of content, but watching them work through Final Fantasy XIV’s high-level raids is fantastic. His team is skilled but not on the cutting edge of progression raiding, which gives videos a more casual feel than if you were watching day one diehards. Fights are edited to highlight witty banter and jokes. It allows me to enjoy my favourite game, even if I’ve sometimes politely bowed out early when I play for real.
It’s nice to return to an old habit I’d put aside for work. Binging games gave me a sense of escapism that eluded me, and watching YouTubers on my terms has reconnected me to something else I’d lost. I’ll find time tonight for the folks important to me, but I might steal an hour to watch things because it’s what I want to do. No more articles (excluding this one), no sniffing out stories. Just some good videos by charming folks.