well just because you and him are the same age and you get video games doesnt mean he gets video games. maybe he was video game deprived growing up and thought they were for stupid nerds
I don't know his personal situation, but I can tell you that, at that point in time, videogames were huge. It fully permeated the culture in music, art, and every other medium. Arcades were a booming social culture, and watching people play games started with Street Fighter 2 in the arcades, as far as I'm concerned. (One could argue that Dragon's Lair began the era of truly spectating games)
But I've enjoyed watching others play long before is that a thing on youtube (or even before youtube was a thing). In college I used to watch people play Quake, Thief, and C&C. Some of it was to see different strategies but mostly it was to see things that I wouldnt notice while focusing on the main action. It's not for everyone, but I like it. If you dont, you (j/k).
Hell yeah, Quake/Unreal Tournament competitions were majorly spectated games, though the technology of the time limited it mostly to audio, demos, or recorded matches.