Streaming video game content is on the rise, and as certain entertainers become more and more popular, some serious money is on the table. It seems like a dream to the average viewer… the people we see on webcam are in-game, having experiences just like the ones we have, and are being paid to broadcast from the comfort of their own home. While many of us wake up every morning and prepare for another day of work, they’re probably still sleeping, recuperating from a long night of streaming that ended just hours ago.
To the average viewer, the daily life of popular streamers seems like paradise… but what we don’t know is the sheer amount of work and patience required when catering to audiences that regularly exceed 10,000 viewers. Sure, technically these guys/girls are paid to stream themselves playing video games; in the most simple, basic explanation, that’s what they’re doing. But that doesn't explain why MOST broadcasters can’t even break 50 regular viewers, or why we choose to watch some streamers over others, it’s more complicated than that.
I’ve used Twitch.tv almost every single day for around three years now, and I feel that experience warrants some judgement:
Twitch chat: There’s a fine line between the content on Twitch and the engagement that its chat provides, and in certain streams they’re two separate entities. The intellectual degradation of Twitch.tv chat is accelerating at an alarming rate, and in any stream with north of 5,000 viewers the chat goes straight to hell. Amidst all the Kappas and ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つMOLLY ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ spam, getting in any kind of constructive comment edgewise is impossible. And that doesn't even address the plight of female streamers, who are constantly berated by offensive and sexually oriented commentary.
To combat such behavior, streamers have two options: slow-mode, or sub-mode.
Slow-mode limits the number of messages you can send in chat every “x amount” of seconds. Slow-mode is unpopular for streamers who like interacting with their audience because it often causes the chat to lag, introducing a significant delay between their live play and messages sent in chat.
Sub-mode is used almost exclusively on high-volume streams. Subscribing to a channel costs $5.00/month and earns you a unique icon and certain chat privileges. Most streamers believe being able to chat is within the rights of all Twitch users, and denying that right with sub-mode is wrong. As such, sub-mode is often a last resort in the event spam/harassment reaches unacceptable levels.
It’s not all bad though, and personally I love the fact that in this day and age you can support yourself solely through gaming. It’s giving more games the exposure they deserve and starting to introduce competitive eSports as a legitimate avenue for funding and fandom in the future. One thing I've observed is that even given the monetization of what was recently considered a hobby, most streamers still make it about the game, and I really respect that. I've learned a lot from streams, and currently some of my favorite comedians/entertainers are YouTubers/independent streamers. At the same time, the bar isn't getting any lower, and breaking into the streaming industry is getting more difficult. And without making significant personal compromises for your potential audience you’re not likely to post significant numbers.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to streaming culture, and its future is bright, but there are definitely some issues with the community involved. Can these problems be solved with time? What are some possible solutions? I have my reservations, and no doubt others disagree with my concerns, but I love watching streams. And as opposed to something like professional athletic sports, streams are on every hour of every day, making them a reliable and helpful source for all kinds of information and entertainment. See you next week!