An open letter to Jimmy Kimmel on his video game joke

kimmel

An open letter to Jimmy Kimmel:

Hey Jimmy,

First off, let me just say that you are by far my favorite late night host. And I say that only so you understand that everything I say after this comes from a place of admiration and respect, and not from any sort of hate or anger.

Jimmy, when it comes to video games, you are clueless. And not in a kitschy and cool way like Conan. I mean that you are completely out of touch on the subject of video games and, more specifically, watching people play video games. And you know what?  That’s okay. Not everyone gets why watching people stream video games has become so popular. But the fact is that watching people play video games is now as viable a viewing experience as any professional sport. You want hard numbers?  Here are just a few:

  • A report published by SuperData this year stated that viewership of eSports exceeded 134 million people worldwide, double what the audience was just one year ago.
  • In terms of peak Internet traffic, Twitch.tv drives the fourth most traffic on its networks, behind just Netflix, Google, and Apple.
  • Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, put its money where its mouth is, purchasing Twitch.tv for $970 million last year.

To be fair, your video last Friday that poked fun at people who watch video games was actually pretty funny. I mean, it was misguided and uninformed, but it was funny. Especially to those who don’t understand the culture of video game streaming. “Let’s make fun of things we don’t understand!”  That’s as tried and true a comedy bit as fart jokes. And if you had left it at that, we could have all had a laugh and moved on with our lives. People who don’t understand video game culture would chuckle in an, “Oh those crazy kids!” sort of way. And gamers would rally around the fact that mainstream media still doesn’t understand what it is that makes watching video games so compelling.

But here’s the thing, you didn’t move on. You doubled down. Instead of just letting the video float into the cat-centric ether that all other viral videos eventually go, you decided to pluck out the worst YouTube comments made about your video, and publicized them on your show. And yes, I know that making fun of the worst of humanity is kind of your thing. It’s probably one of my favorite recurring segments. But let’s be honest, cherry picking ignorant and insensitive YouTube comments is like shooting fish in a barrel. And this is only magnified when the nasty comments are primarily coming from a group of males between the ages of 13 and 25. And gamers (God love ‘em) are about the most passionate and yes, juvenile people out there. So picking a fight with them, and then self-selecting the worst of them as indicative of all gamers, does a disservice to the majority of gamers who might disagree with you, but don’t want you to die or get some horrible disease.

The fact that you don’t understand why people would watch others play video games is fine. Just like how twenty years ago, people didn’t understand why someone would spend hours picking real professional athletes to play for their fake fantasy teams and compete for fake championships. Hobbies can be weird, and not everyone always gets them. But that’s part of what makes them fun and special. And I get it. Your job is to make fun of people and things that seem a bit weird.

No doubt, watching the stream of vitriol that flooded your YouTube video compelled you to create a public response. You might have even felt some satisfaction in doing so. But just know that calling out gamers as a whole to be ignorant, insensitive jerks isn’t going to help matters. You’re just fueling the fire for the Internet trolls out there. A better solution would be to make an honest call out to gamers, asking them to help you understand why watching video games is no different to them than watching a professional sport. Believe me, if you asked, you would get thousands of people willing to explain to you exactly why watching video games is important to them. I’d be happy to be the first.

Sincerely,

Brian Chu

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