Have you met Twitch?: The activity of watching other people stream video games

Have you met Twitch?: The activity of watching other people stream video games

You may have heard about Twitch, you might not have – either way keep on reading, as I will tell you why this is a totally normal thing for people to do.

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At first this might strike you as slightly strange, especially if you don’t do it yourself but just hear about it. I mean come on; sitting at your computer watching other people play a game on their computer. These people might as well just play the games themselves right? Well… Not quite.

You see, placed solely within the context of video games this might seem like an extremely nerdy and strange activity. But fact is, the streaming scene is growing at a large rate – so we can either conclude that the amount of nerds in the world is growing (which might actually not be wrong), or look at this activity in a larger context.

Now there are two main sources of content on Twitch, and these are broadcasted eSports (electronic Sports), and streamers. And yes, eSports has become a huge phenomenon – so big in fact that we these days have people who become professional gamers. For instance the prize pool of the DOTA 2 internationals was an astounding 18 million dollars! Another example is the viewership of the League of Legends 2015 final, where the highest amount of viewers was recorded to be 14 million. To put this into perspective about 114 million people watched the 2015 Super Bowl final, but of course American Football has been around for a lot longer. In short, the eSport scene is already big, and yes, watching these people compete in games is exactly like watching any other sport on TV. It requires a high degree of skill, exact mechanics, precise descision making and communication with the rest of the team. They may not be “athletes” but that doesn’t make what they do any less impressive – as they are true professionals.

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An overview that shows just how big Twitch is as a streaming service.

Okay, so that was a bit about the eSports scene, but what about the everyday streamers? Well again, I argue that this isn’t actually that strange an activity. Historically gaming has been quite a social experience. Just think back to the times when games first became popular – these were the times of the game arcades. Young people would huddle around an arcade console, maybe wait their turn, but not least spectate whoever else was playing, and if the player was good, appreciate his or her skill. This element of sharing the game experience has truly been a predominant part of video games. Many of us may remember the days of the PlayStation One – our most memorable moments on this console is more often than not in the company of our friends, taking turns, rooting for each other, trying with all our might to beat that dastardly difficult Crash Bandicoot level for instance.

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Crash Bandicoot: Slippery Climb (possibly one of the hardest levels)

My point here is, what goes on at Twitch is similar to these experiences we had when we were younger. It makes the experience of playing games more social again. Here I am mainly talking about people who follow select streamers over an extended period by the way. But, they mainly follow these streamers for one of two reasons:

  • Either the streamer is entertaining and simply creates great content for his or her viewers. Here the priority lies with the entertainment and interaction with the followers.
  • Or the streamer is followed because of high professionalism and skill level. People will watch this person because the person is very good at the game and maybe want to learn how to improve, or simply appreciate the skill.

Of course things aren’t all black and white, and there are definitely streamers who combine these two things in order to create as high quality content as possible. But these two things are usually what is emphasised in a stream. No matter the case, what also has a major impact is the community. Great streamers build a large number of followers, and these people end up building a community around the streamer and his or her content. With the help of moderators in the Chat, a space is created where people can feel a sense of inclusion – and this feeling really cannot be underestimated.

In short there are many good reasons why watching other people play video games make perfect sense. There is the sports perspective, the entertainment perspective, the sense of community, and of course other reasons. These could be limitation of hardware for instance – if your PC can’t run a game you might just want to watch the gameplay through a stream. Or maybe you are curious about a game but don’t want to invest the time and money into playing it yourself. The reasons are many, and all equally as valid.

That will be all for now. If you watch Twitch streams – you are a cool kid! If you haven’t tried it yet, give it a go! Who knows, you might just like it.

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