The Empathetic Quality of Game Grumps

I usually do a full-length post every week, but things have been busy for me recently so I just wanted to write a shorter post about one of my favorite YouTube channels: the Game Grumps, a fun, lighthearted video game Let’s Play channel.

Game Grumps was started by animator Arin Hanson and gamer Jon “JonTron” Jafari. Jafari left after one year and comedy-musician Dan Avidan joined, and Arin and Dan have hosted the show ever since.

GG 2

And yeah, if you’re unfamiliar, you probably aren’t interested in a Let’s Play series, and I can hardly blame you. The thing is, Game Grumps isn’t your traditional Let’s Play series:

  1. They’re really bad at video games. Most Let’s Players know the video games they’re playing extremely well, and usually, they’re very good at it. But the Game Grumps – for the most part – are terrifically bad at the games that they play, despite the fact that they play games for a living. This lends itself very well to Arin losing his composure and shouting at poorly-designed or excessively-challenging games. (Also, Dan, who played video games in the days of the original NES, knows games from 1981 to 1990 by heart, and plays them near-perfectly.)
  2. No face-cam. Most popular Let’s Players have a face-cam to show every little facial reaction that they have to every minute thing in the game, whereas Game Grumps opt for a lesser-used format which involves their audio playing over the footage of the game, sort of as a commentary track.
  3. They’ve avoided controversy. To their credit, they’ve managed to avoid any major controversies, which for people in the online gaming community, is rather surprising. There’s PewDiePie, the biggest gamer on YouTube, who said the N-Word on a stream, and there’s Jon “JonTron” Jafari – a former member of Game Grumps – who got pretty racist on a podcast. By and large, Game Grumps largely avoid politics and controversy, which apparently, is hard for YouTube gamers? Dan recently said on an episode, “even when we make vaguely political statements, they’re nonsensical and indecipherable.”
  4. Their fanbase is very loyal. The Game Grumps channel posts two (or more) videos of about ten minutes in length a day, and the style of videos is very conducive to building a loyal

Game Grumps is less like a traditional Let’s Play and more like improv comedy. They’re less like the (often-toxic) traditional internet gamers and more like people you’d probably want to hang out with. My point is this; after a certain amount of time watching these two, they begin to feel like your friends. You get used to their rhythms, and find their jokes funny. The format of the show is one that inherently builds a relationship with the audience.

I’m inclined to recommend some of their Let’s Play series, but it’s difficult to recommend one. There’s Arin’s historic meltdown in the crappy NES game Battle Kid, or his conflicted feelings about playing the highly-acclaimed Zelda: Ocarina of Time which he doesn’t enjoy, or their long-running series of Super Mario Maker, where they encounter a whole variety of difficult levels. Also well-worth watching their play-throughs of Doki-Doki Literature Club, Pokemon FireRed, or anything involving Sonic the Hedgehog.

But honestly you’d be better off if you found a video game that you enjoyed and watched that. In 2016, they started to play Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door, which is one of my favorite games, and it’s just fun to see it through their eyes.

In the meantime, here are a few short, animated videos which bring to life their conversations:





And I’ll admit, Game Grumps can be crass and sometimes childish (but just as frequently insightful), and maybe that makes it difficult to watch or maybe it’s just not your cup of tea. But I think that it says a lot about how YouTube channels build audiences, and what makes that medium different from others. The characters in movies or television don’t feel like your friends, and they likely won’t read the comments you leave, but YouTubers do. In that way, the media that audiences consume on YouTube becomes much more personal.


Who are some content creators that you feel personally attached to?

2 thoughts on “The Empathetic Quality of Game Grumps

  1. Loved this article! A lot of hit pieces have been made recently on my Grumpy boys and im glad someones standing up for them! Great article! Summed up my feelings almost perfectly!


    1. Hi Tiki! Thank you so much for the nice comment!
      A few weeks ago, I was seeing from my blog analytics that someone had shared this post in r/GameGrumps and I went through to try to find it and just found a lot of posts that said stuff like “The Grumps are doing x and I don’t like it” or “Game Grumps isn’t what it used to be or something like that.
      But there’s a lot more people like us who watch the show every day, like we’re friends with them.
      They’re such a net positive in my own life, that was why I wrote this. It’s been one of my most-read posts over the past few months that it seems other people feel a similar way.

      Anyway, thanks again for reading! 🙂


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