Interactivity between streamer and the audience separates Twitch.tv from other streaming websites
In an article titled Watching People Is Not a Game: Interactive Online Corporeality, Twitch.tv and Videogame Streams, Sky LaRell Anderson discusses the importance of the human element in streaming, especially on Twitch.tv. According to the article, Twitch.tv is different from most other streaming websites in that it employs several features which specifically draw attention to the streamers, the viewers, and the interplay between them. The author describes corporeality as “the overall emphasis of people over characters”, and “humanity over the digital space of games”. In this case, interaction is more important than the games being played.
Streamer usernames and labels, such as the names of the stream teams they belong to, give some information about the people behind them. In addition, streamers often show a video stream of themselves over the game video, which draws attention to the physical presence of the player instead of blending it into the background. This allows viewers to choose streamers based on physical attractiveness, race, gender, or other visual factors instead of the game. The video also means that viewers can see the player’s gestures, facial expressions and other non-verbal communication during streams. Stream audio often further emphasizes the presence of the player, since players often refer to the player character using first-person language, taking precedence over game narratives.
Video of the streamer often shows something in the background as well, such as a gaming room or gaming equipment. In these cases, viewers can peek into the physical spaces the players inhabit. This makes the streamers more human and recognizably physical. Advertising gaming equipment, for example, can remind the viewers that without them, the streamer would not be able to get sponsors. This, in turn, reminds the viewers of their own roles in the community.
Source: GOGcom Twitch.tv stream.
The chat box, which normally takes a large portion of the screen, allows viewers to send questions and comments to the streamer and other viewers, emphasizing that the stream is a community event. Viewers often have several ways of appearing on the stream video, as well. Subscriptions, follows and donations usually appear on-screen. This allows viewers to draw attention to themselves even in chats with large audiences, as well as to contribute to stream content. Streamers also often communicate with viewers by replying to comments out loud and addressing individual viewers by their usernames.
Twitch.tv is not just about the games, but about watching something with other people, not unlike sports spectatorship. The most important human element in the stream is the player, but interactivity between the streamers and the audience is essential to the experience. When humans are more familiar with corporeal experiences rather than the ethereal nature of gaming, the lack of physical presence must be replaced with elements such as participant naming and labeling. The presence of people can be manifested through something as simple as a username, and even when not sharing physical locations, people can experience the corporeality of the community.
Author and title: Sky LaRell Anderson, Watching People Is Not a Game: Interactive Online Corporeality, Twitch.tv and Videogame Streams,
Published in: Game Studies, vol. 17, iss. 1
Date: July, 2017
Featured image: GeekandSundry Twitch.tv stream