The Extraordinary Proliferation of Streaming
In 2021, streaming has taken on a wide (and sometimes surprising) range of forms
So your boyfriend (or girlfriend) has been sitting in front of their computer for an hour now watching someone else play video games. What on earth? Why would you watch someone else play video games when they have a perfectly good Xbox sitting right next to them? This is something I get asked quite often as someone who frequents a few different streamer's channels. I am writing this article to set the record straight. It’s not weird; it’s normal to watch other people play, and I’ll tell you why.
But first, a bit about the world of streaming. Most times when you hear the term “streaming” people go to one of two things. One would be the likes of TV and movie. Netflix, Hulu, Prime, these kinds of things. The other would be video games. Twitch, Facebook, YouTube, all of these platforms offer some kind of live streaming content and that is what I will be focusing on in this article.
While the live streaming world is heavily laden with video games, this is not the live streaming world's main focus. With one simple search on Twitch.tv of “music” and the first one that comes up is SkratchBastid. A twitch streamer who lives streams his DJ performance.
You also can find the search category on twitch of “Just Chatting.” Thousands of people tuning in to just have conversations with other people with similar interests. Anything from the stock market to cooking, there is probably a directory for it somewhere on Twitch.
For one thing, who doesn’t like live events? Why do we go to concerts rather than listening to Spotify? Why do we spend insane amounts of money on going to a Liverpool match or a Browns game? Because it’s live. Because you are a part of the action just like everyone else that is involved. You get to see firsthand some great action. A lot of the time these streamers that people watch are the cream of the crop. Boasting 1000+ wins and 10000+ kills recently in Warzone, streamer Rexzilla on Facebook is quite popular with over 70,000 followers. People find themselves on this streamers page for multiple reasons, but I can tell you one thing for sure, it’s not because he’s bad at the game.
Some streamers even role play characters when playing their games. SheriffEli made his start out as a content creator pretending to be a Sheriff in Grand Theft Auto Online. He would go around pretending to be a sheriff, and it was nothing short of hilarious and entertaining as hell. There is a slew of streamers who play GTA Online and roleplay different characters. An article on different ones can be found here if you are interested!
Taking a look into the culture of video games is incredibly interesting. Specifically, though let us take a look at the early days of Twitch. Go back to February 2014. Twitch decides to allow the community play a game of Pokémon Red…collectively. This meant that anybody watching the stream could interact with the game. Depending on the mode the game was in, there was a time when anyone watching could type into chat and tell the character what to do (go up, down, etc…) and the game would do it. You could imagine how frustrating this would be. What resulted is nothing short of a culture of its own. Nearly 7 years later this moment in video game history is still talked about. A time when thousands of people came together to play a single game together. This is not unlike things in “normal” life like sports, or even working together on a hobby project. People from around the world were interacting together on a stream. If that doesn’t normalize the action of watching streams, then I don’t know what will.
This is just one example of a stream creating a community and culture of its own. Pop onto anyone of the streamers I have mentioned and the people there will have their own jokes and ways of speaking and interacting with one another. It is a place that these people may feel comfortable and accepted.
People go to these sporting events or live concerts because the people they are watching are good at what they do. We can even take the comparison away from the pure skill of the players and look at people like comedians or talk show hosts. Yes, they aren’t throwing a ball 100 yards or doing a backflip to score a goal, but they are good at conversation and making you laugh. The same comparison could be made with streamers. Certain people might not be tuning in for the high octane, thrill, of winning 24/7. They might be looking for someone who makes them laugh and feel accepted.
For this example, I look at a few different streamers. Darkness429, ThePoolshark, and Jenntacles are all good examples of streamers who have built communities around the ideas of acceptance, love, and just having fun with the games that they are playing. Now, this isn’t to say these streamers are bad at video games. It is more a comment on how they have shifted their focus from being amazing at one game, to focus on the joy that can be found by playing games with friends. This is where the world of streaming can really take off and be a benefit to the wider world. These streamers have built entire communities where people have found others that are like-minded and they feel free to express their thoughts and views about things they really enjoy. They have created safe spaces for those who might not be able to find a safe space in their own life because of the various circumstances they might find themselves in.
Take a look at ThePoolshark who now streams on Facebook and Twitch. As a veteran of the army, Poolshark has undoubtedly been through a tough time, and as a consistent member of his page, I have witnessed firsthand the effect and impact he makes on others in his community that might have witnessed similar events to him being in the Army. Poolshark is an example of a content creator that has tailored his community in such a way that others like him feel comforted and welcome when they might not be finding that in their own world at that time. If someone comes into his chat that is struggling with past events from the Army, he is immediately attentive to that and does what he can to help that person. Having someone like him on your side, saying that they're listening, might just save a life or two.
Only in the past day or two ThePoolShark has announced his own company that aims to help provide technological help to veterans called Red Rock Tech Services.
Streamers and the World
These content creators also have more than just their gaming to offer to the world. In 2019, prnewswire.com reported that a streamer by the callsign of DrLupo raised $2.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This was his third year raising money for St. Jude. The previous year he raised $2.3 million and the year before that…$1.3 million. This is just one example of a streamer that uses their influence to raise money for these amazing charities. It all stems from this idea of community. People gather to watch these people play games, cook baked goods, play music, together. When people come together and are like-minded in their goals, amazing things like raising over 6 million dollars for charity can happen. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for these content creators stepping out into the world and saying “Hey guys, enjoy life, be kind to others, and watch me play some games while you’re at it.”