Monday, March 13, 2017

More Twitch Talk

If you came here for a NieR: Automata review, you'll have to wait a few more days. I'm still working my way through the game to ensure I've played enough of it to validate a review. I don't want to muck it up. And with Mass Effect: Andromeda releasing next week, along with a convention this weekend, I'm doing my best to power through the game and make it review-worthy.

In the mean-time, let's talk about Twitch!

The exclamation means it is important.

When you can find news about Twitch on NPR as a featured story, you know it's worth talking about. The growth of the streaming medium, Let's Plays, and Twitch Creative has opened up more discussions. A slew of new questions, concerns about cyber harassment, and business deals that will affect future revenue are all on the table for discussion.

Watching Twitch these past few years, as a company, has been fascinating. Our entertainment interests have shifted. In the US, we spend more time at home then we do going out to see movies, attend concerts, or buy a CD. Yes, they still produce CD's. Our focus has shifted to on-demand content. We want to be able to see our favorite TV show with a mouse click. Even I, a self-processed DVD and box nerd, have given up my mailing lifestyle and stream movies direct to my PC. Why the change in our habits, and so quickly? Part of it is the convenience factor. Going to the movies doesn't hold the same nostalgia like it once did. After spending $40-$60 on tickets and popcorn, the time driving to and from, along with 30 minutes of commercials, it taints the experience. For some of us, we could get the same "movie" feel right from our homes as technology for better televisions and sound systems becomes more affordable. And it's all on your already comfy couch! Score one for the homebodies. But it's also a matter of cost. It's expensive to go to the movies. It's expensive to buy a DVD-box set of a TV show. Streaming the content is a fraction of the cost for your wallet, and for the production company.

It's no wonder that services like YouTube and Twitch have become part of our daily ritual for entertainment. They're even cheaper then the alternatives, easier to access, and provide the same great content in bite-sized chunks. Even if you have to watch an ad or two, they are much less invasive then other services. There also isn't a paywall to prevent you from accessing the content like Amazon or Netflix. Content creators work hoping that you, the audience, enjoy the videos enough to provide sponsorship, donations, or click on ads so they can generate revenue and keep producing.

When people talk to me about Twitch, there is a lingering stereotype that it's, well, silly. It's gamers playing games. What's the fun in that?

YouTube is still shaking off a similar facade as the upstart to the entertainment world and providing meaningless content. YouTube Red has shown that internet videos are much more then cats and men getting hit in the groin. Content creators have produced live-action shorts, animations, and full-length movies that rival the quality of television

Twitch started as a center for streaming gaming content at conventions and expos and has transformed into a platform for everyone to showcase their gaming cred. It's no longer about watching people play games, but the personalities behind them. Anyone can play a game. You don't have to be great at it. But what separates Rooster Teeth and Markplier from Joe Schmo is that they have personalities that are easy to gravitate to. They entertain while they game.

As a person growing to enjoy Twitch, I won't deny the fact that seeing someone play a game can be fun. Particularly speed runs or new releases where I may not have the time to actually play myself. Adulting. Life. Job. Bills. Responsibilities. While I would love to play every game that hits store shelves, it's not feasibly possible. So I live vicariously through streamers that are able to play the games that I wish I had time for. But this isn't the sole reason people watch Twitch these days. They watch for their favorite personalities. I'm more likely to watch Bill Doran/Punished Props on Twitch Creative as he streams prop builds then others, because he has the persona to back up his work. He's entertaining and informative to watch. He engages with his audience. He's quick to respond to questions and comments. He provides laughs as well as serious talks, and he enjoys every second of it. Those are the streamers that stand out for the medium.

I'm curious to see where Twitch goes from here. Opening up the avenue for game sales could produce a new breed of streamers that are brand specific. We could easily see a rise of streamers that are EA, Ubisoft, or Activision exclusive and pimp their content for a portion of sales as well as a streaming deal directly tied to the developer. It's more then just "playing games" these days.

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