> 1. To what extent do you like to watch others play games?
On occasion. Sometimes watching people play a game can sometimes be very frustrating for me, especially if they're not very good or they are very slow/etc. However, watching a skilled player tear it up, or watching a friend explore a favorite game of mine for the very first time, can be fun.
More often than not though, I'd prefer that the experience involve me in some way. Being a passive observer generally sucks with video games. Unless watching the other person's play style is extremely engaging, I'd rather be gaming myself instead of watching. Other things that help are:
*swapping places: super smash bros, for example, is lots of fun when people are constantly swapping out. Same for fighting games even if I'm just watching and not playing. I don't like most fighting games, but they can be interesting to watch when two very good players go at it.
*Talking about and commenting on the game: My friend and I enjoyed talking about Blue Dragon, and I had fun watching him play and explore the game. We would talk about the game's features, strategies I'd discovered and rules I'd learned by playing, and different skill combinations. This is what makes an RPG fun for me -- the exploration of power and strategies and combinations that make my character/party powerful. My brother once watched me play Blue Dragon and thought it was incredibly boring. He's not so much into RPGs, but I could also understand why he wouldn't be interested in what he was seeing. He didn't understand what was going on under the hood the way I do, and he wasn't drawn in by these invisible elements. He just saw me killing monsters, and it got boring for him pretty quick.
*Offering advice and/or learning from the player
*Rooting for the player. Well, sometimes. I'm not into sports AT ALL and I find it difficult to root for someone playing football etc. In fact, I hate watching sports. I hate it with a passion. Video games are more relevant to my interests, and I can occasionally root for someone while they're playing. What's important though is that I'm in the room with him, offering advice and interacting. I don't understand how sports fans can watch a game from across the world with which they have no interaction and get any level of satisfaction from it.
*edit*: And ye gods YES to the counterstrike comments...
I *like* counter strike but I HATE being an observer and waiting for the round to end. For all of counterstrike's good points, it really, truly sucks getting killed early, especially from a cheap shot. AAARRGH!
It also sucks that you have to have a large group to play an effective game. I mostly play games with my 3 main friends; I don't often play with people I don't know. It just doesn't come naturally to me. So it's hard for me to play games that require a big group of random strangers, most of whom will be making lewd jokes or griefing the whole game anyway...
But I digress.
> 2. Have you had similar experiences as I described above?
Yes. See above.
> 3. What's interesting to watch and what is not?
Stupid players are not fun to watch. Unless their failure is funny.
Inexperienced players are more fun to watch if I can give advice and help, and they're receptive to the occasional suggestion (some people, including myself on occasion, prefer to figure things out on their own).
Skilled players going at it can be interesting... though I'm not fond of major pro players. They remind me of jocks... It scares me that video games are going that direction. O_o
> 4. How do you believe the experience of watching someone else play could be made more interesting?
As I said above, interaction. Taking turns; getting into a party group and cheering, swapping controllers, etc; learning from the other player's cleverness; giving advice to a new player. Otherwise watching is just watching, and there are a lot of ways to spend my time that are better than watching other people play.
One more thing that *sometimes* makes a game more interesting to watch is a good story. Then it's more like a movie that intermittently slips into game mode and back to movie mode. If I don't plan on playing a game myself, then I don't mind watching someone else play and getting the gist of the gameplay and story that way. I watched most of my brother's progression through Ico while I was doing my own thing on the computer (the ps2 & tv are only a few feet away). It was neat watching him go through the game, though occasionally frustrating. I don't know if I would have ever found the time to play the game myself, so this may be a good way to get that closure.
The problem is, now I'm sure to never go through it, now that the gameplay and plot are both spoiled. Bah.
That said, if the game is fun to watch but isn't fun to play, it fails as a game. Too many games are like this... too many...
> 5. Last but not least, could the audience be made part of the experience somehow, perhaps even crucial for success?
Puzzle games. Competent audiences make puzzle games much easier, and it's fun to tackle a problem together with smart friends where everyone is contributing.
Stupid audiences (who won't shut up) make puzzle game players go on homicidal war paths. You've been warned.
Any game where giving advice and throwing out ideas helps can benefit from an audience. Games where trading controllers or watching in a party atmosphere (super smash bros, fighting games, lots of wii party games, etc) also benefit.
Single-player games that are highly personal and self-paced (many rpgs) can be all over the map, especially when experience grinding comes into play (oh dear god just advance the story already!). They may be interesting to watch or be watched, or they may have the audience and player clawing their eyes out in frustration. Games that require intense internal concentration are not fit for viewers unless they're far away and can't affect the player. Not all games are made for commentary or interaction.
As has been said above, a game's first priority is to be fun and rewarding to play. If someone isn't enjoying watching then so be it. If they are upset that my gaming is not entertaining them (and I've dealt with such people before), then they can go screw themselves with a running chainsaw for all I care.
If the game is fun to both watch and play, then that can enhance the experience when friends are around or you're playing at a party. That adds value for such social events. That does not, however, negatively reflect on games that are a blast to play but cripplingly boring to watch. Those are better than the games that are fascinating to watch but boring/frustrating to actually play (*erhem* Jak2/Jak3 *cough*).
When my computer inevitably explodes and kills me, my cat inherits everything I own. He may be the only one capable of continuing my work.