Visualise this: Imagine your favourite comedian cracking jokes, now imagine him cracking jokes while playing a video game. Now imagine a chat of thousands joining in and interacting with your favourite comedian. Now imagine yourself talking to and cracking jokes with them. This is, in essence what many popular streams are.
This is why I don't bother. I do like speedruns, and I watch some of the cinemassacre stuff on youtube since I do actually like watching those guys.
The GP is getting downvoted, so I guess a lot of people do enjoy watching games be played instead of playing them. Thank you for providing an explanation. As someone who does not enjoy it, it IS really difficult to understand.
- Mechanical Skill
It allows you to experience the story of a game or the experience of high skill play with little up-front cost or long-term commitment.
- competition broadcasting. With teams, pro players, sponsors, shoutcasters, analysts, interviews during the breaks, huge shows, stadiums and fans. It's like watching any "classic" sports on the TV. Can rise several hundreds of thousands of spectators (League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2 and Hearthstone mostly).
- player stream. Can be pro players during their training or just really really good players who stream all day as a job. On a personal note, I watch them because, as I said, they are really really good and the most popular of them are generally entertaining. The most popular have peaks at 5000-30000 spectators.
In the 2 cases, we talk about watching the best players in the world (may be 0.1% of the streamers). The rest of the streamers doesn't really have a public (friends and family probably).
I don't know what proportion of the whole each of the three makes up, but I would assume that the third category at least the very least merits a mention.