I’m going to admit to being one of those people that honestly doesn’t see the point of watching people play games. While I no doubt get the allure of seeing certain people play the game at its absolute best, I would just rather be playing the game itself rather than watch someone do it for me. Still, services like Twitch remain incredibly popular as a place for people to live-stream themselves playing games and for people to watch these pros to do so, while allowing them a chance to make some money in the process.
It should be no surprise that Twitch’s numbers have only risen during the COVID-19 pandemic as people, starved of entertainment, are looking for something to watch and share their gaming experiences. Its not just video games though, as board games have also started to become part of the streaming community as people can no longer meet up with their friends to play them, and so are left having to watch others play it for them.
Perhaps the biggest surprise story though comes from a game that is not exactly made for spectator viewing: Chess. A game that has been around for thousands of years and still remains as popular as ever, the surge in the popularity of the game on Twitch has been led by Hikaru Nakamura, a five-time US chess champion and the youngest American to ever achieve the grandmaster title. Nakamura has seen particular success coaching popular streamers like Felix “xQc” Lengyel, Faze Clan’s Nate Hill, and League of Legends streamer Albert “boxbox” Zheng as part of Chess.com’s Pogchamps tournament series
StreamElements CEO Doron Nir also revealed in a statement (via The Verge) how Chess has actually had a long history with Twitch before its recent boom:
Twitch has a long history of chess players dating back to its earliest days, but it wasn’t until 2017 when they partnered with Chess.com that they most prominently embraced the game of kings. Since then the game has enjoyed moderate growth, yet nothing compares with the rise it experienced in recent months when some of the top streamers, such as xQc, Reckful, and LIRIK, streamed it. While the chess community has achieved a lot of success on its own, this latest move illustrates the power of influencers to broaden the appeal of a brand
I personally love playing chess and while I still can’t picture myself watching it from a spectator side of things, but I can definitely see how it can help improve a person’s game. It’s great to see how an ancient classic like this is finding new audiences in the modern gaming scene.
Last Updated: June 19, 2020