My earliest gaming experiences didn’t include holding the controller. I used to watch my brother play, getting blamed for distracting him whenever he lost. I soon leveled up and became the navigator, drawing maps of dungeons and telling him where to go next. It was only later that I played the games myself. This experience is still being repeated, only now via Twitch, and it’s how the company wants it to be.
Speaking to Polygon, co-founder and COO Kevin Lin explained that Twitch is different from YouTube because of its social element:
It’s different. YouTube is on-demand, it’s more of a solitary experience. For Twitch it’s very instantaneous. It’s like sitting down on a Monday night to watch football or sitting down to watch the Super Bowl together, it’s very conversational, it’s incredibly social. […] The content may look similar, but the emotion behind it is significantly different, the creation of it significantly different.
Lin and the rest of the Twitch team see getting new streamers into the community as important. They are planning to expand their educational portal to help people learn everything from the basics of streaming to getting advise on webcam placement. While getting people onboard isn’t seen as an issue, some of the publishers are. Whiles some companies are trying to establish formal relationships with streamers, others (particularly Nintendo) are being more heavy handed with their policies of containment.
I would love for Reggie to get it and appreciate it, personally, but that’s OK. I think at the core he understands it’s something that’s happening. The numbers speak for themselves: millions and millions of people are watching Nintendo games on YouTube and on Twitch and on other platforms, that audience wants that. They want to be able to engage with the game outside of playing the game and that’s something that I think people will begin to realize over time: That you’re not just building a great game, you’re [building] a community and a culture around that game.
I suppose I don’t entirely “get it” either. In many ways, Twitch is a more social version of what I used to do as a kid. It’s about watching someone else play, egging them on towards victory and laughing with them in the face of defeat. It’s an extra community element for people to interact with – like a forum or subreddit, but different. At least, that’s how Li explains it. He explains that game studios are getting on board, building in spectator modes, statistics and other interesting ways for viewers to consume the content. It’s not just about getting people to buy and play your game; much of buzz can be built in a community of passive participants. I just… I guess I’m just not sure I get it. I like to watch other people play games that I will never play, but only loved ones. I know that Dark Souls would make me break my controller into a million tiny pieces. Instead, I enjoy watching my husband play while I encourage him and serve as co-pilot, but I have absolutely zero interest in watching a stranger play the game and scream into the camera while doing so. Then again, maybe I just haven’t found a twitch streamer who does it for me yet.
Who would you recommend watching on Twitch or YouTube? Do you enjoy Let’s Plays and other gameplay content, or do you prefer videos that analyze, critique or entertain in different ways?
Last Updated: February 17, 2015