Why watch Twitch streamers when you can play the game yourself?

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Gaming streams have become an extremely popular and profitable activity. Millions of people spend their time on sites like Twitch or YouTube, watching other people play games.

If you’ve ever tried to explain Twitch streaming services to a non-gamer, no doubt you’ve been asked this infamous question.

“Why waste time watching others play games when you can easily play them yourself?”

The usual response to this is to compare it with watching sports, but what is it that sets Twitch streaming apart from the mainstream?

Streaming itself has really become quite the phenomenon, with the gaming-oriented Twitch hosting the largest service for such live broadcasts, easily beating numerous mainstream TV channels in both viewership and retention.

Most large gaming events and tournaments are streamed on Twitch or Youtube, forming a kind of a symbiotic relationship: Twitch gets bigger and more popular as people tune in to these tournaments, while the events gain access to the site’s enormous viewer base.

esports bar GG EZ

Twitch streams are even shown in esports bars now

Everyday new streamers are stepping up to become celebrities through Twitch, be it via their skill at a given game taking them to the professional level, or just being an entertaining person with a charismatic online presence. The streaming space appears to have a niche for everyone willing to put the work in to carve one out.

We spoke to Steven ‘Bajo’ O’donnell about his move from public broadcasting on television into the world of professional Twitch streaming. He’s developed his audience through fostering a community and providing short videos in between gaming sessions.

So, we know Twitch is a huge service and has changed numerous lives, but this still doesn’t tell us why people watch others play games instead of playing themselves.

Sometimes the chat does ‘play’ the game though

A good number of viewers want to be entertained, and Twitch offers no lack of colourful personalities, who bring a shine to all manner of games—such a shine, in fact, that the game plays second fiddle. Other viewers tune in to see how the pros do it. They want to get better at a specific game, so they avail themselves of the opportunity to watch, or even play with these S-tier gamers.

Others use Twitch for the community. They get involved in the Twitch chat or discord servers. Posting memes seemingly at random are helping answer questions the streamer didn’t spot for others.

Memes…. memes everywhere…

A community sharing like this not only lightens things up, but helps spectators become participators as they test their imagination and ingenuity.

The community aspect itself seems to be the key for Twitch’s meteoric rise. Channels that encourage interaction with their chat through emotes and answering questions tend to maintain a steady growth. Twitch helps its own cause here by allowing streamers to make their own custom emotes as they reach certain milestones for their channels.

In bigger channels the individuality aspect of a community is lost, the sheer amount of people assures that there will always be something interesting happening in the chat or through donations.

2017 OPL Split 2 - Analyst Desk

Esports streams with live commentators and colour commentary

Personally, the streams I watch are usually for a specific event like a Charity stream, or for the personality of the streamer. It’s a bit like watching sports on the weekend when the League of Legends OPL goes live, although I tend to hide the chat as I’m not up to date on the latest memes.

Some personalities I listen to as they’re insightful on the games they’re playing or I just like the sound of their voice. Often its something I can listen to in the background as I work on something else or do some chores around the house.

Not all is rosy in the world of game streaming, though. A few terrible scenarios have played out during streams tarnishing the pastime. From channels that have encouraged depression, violence, harassment and a litany of other forms of wrongdoing. Some people just cross certain lines of comedy and end up actually being dangerous, whilst others were toxic to begin with.

On the commmunity side of problems, the most notorious is probably ‘SWATing’. This is when someone watching calls the police during a stream and falsely claim that the person streaming is a terrorist or has hostages, only to get the police to engage the streamer and land them in trouble.

Such acts are extremely dangerous and may lead to real physical harm for the streamer, or cause the special forces sent to him to miss a real emergency, therefore endangering other people.

Playing games while people watch is a fun pastime.

All things considered, streaming has become a fun new and liberating way of finding enjoyment, or employment, for many people doing the things they love doing.

Twitch being so open, allowing as it does everyone over the age of 13 to become a streamer, has enabled common folk like us—that’s right, like you and me—to go on to become popular streamers.

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