I've started getting into Twitch and it's a crazy place

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Humanity

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Edited By Humanity
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I'm starting to get up there in my years and as impossible as it may have seemed in my youth I am inevitably starting to fall out of step with technology and culture in many ways. One of those blind spots for me has been Twitch. When I was in college in the mid 2000's YouTube was really blowing up and I regularly followed a lot of what today would be called content creators. Back then that meant typically a college aged guy with some sort of microphone recording Call of Duty matches in his dorm room and then posting them with an audio commentary. This is back when guys like Hutch, SeaNanners, Wings of Redemption etc were fairly popular. By todays standards this was pretty barebones content. A lot of these guys didn't even have picture-in-picture cam feeds. It was just really good Call of Duty players getting ridiculous scores like 150/4 by exploiting kill streaks and generally being good at twitch aiming. To this day I remember a really young kid who at that time went by the name ProsDontTalkShit which was inarguably a terrible handle was starting to come up in the game and was being persuaded by his older and wiser YouTube mentors to change his name in order to avoid issues with sponsor deals in the future. Those were simple times and earning money from YouTube was pretty basic. You ran ads and the more people watched your video the more money you made from the ad. It was a very easy to grasp 1:1 sort of scenario.

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I knew Twitch back in the day as Justin.tv and understood it was basically a place to livestream games. I never really took much interest in it and years later when I did attempt to watch anything I would for whatever reason always have buffering issues and generally just gave up on the platform. Fast forward to today and Twitch is a completely different beast - one that I really still fully don't grasp. Specifically I mean the business side of Twitch. Subscriptions, donations, Bits.. it's ..ahem.. a bit much. When you tune in to big name Twitch streamers their setups are typically overlayed with a ton of info regarding, basically, how much money they are raking in. Latest donations, leaderboards on who is the biggest fan in terms of bits spent, subscription goals, etc. While YouTubers stick to a basic intro and outro segment where they beckon you to Like, Favorite, Hit the Bell, Twitch streamers typically keep up a nearly constant effort of thanking whoever donated or subscribed in any fashion to the point of it sounding like a Pavlovian response more so than a genuine show of gratitude. I always found it distracting how Twitch streamers all exhibit that nervous back and forth movement of the eyes as they peel away from the game they're playing every 15 seconds to keep up with the chat scrolling by. Unlike the passive YouTube model where the monetary aspect is largely kept in the background, Twitch is a very active and reactive system encouraging viewers to donate and requiring the creator to keep engaged with the live audience.

Recently I found a streamer that I started to follow quite regularly that gave me a bit more insight to how a lot of this stuff works. Jinnytty is a Korean female streamer that does a mixed bag of chatting, streaming outdoors and some game playing on the side. What is interesting about her is the humorously antagonistic relationship she has with her chat. Instead of the typical male audience that tends to worship their female host of choice in often gross ways, her chat is often mocking her and poking fun of the way she does things, but it never feels hostile or genuinely hurtful. While she cooks lunch in the middle of her show chat will comment on how inedible the food looks or what a bad cook she is to which she will reply "fuck off" with a grin on her face. It's like best friends making fun of each other where it never goes too far, and when it does the mods step in. Content aside, following her streams has allowed me to better understand and see how all the financial stuff happens first hand and it is both fascinating and terrifying.

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The craziest part of supporting your favorite Twitch streamer is how seemingly little the viewer gets out of it. Bits seem like a complete scam. "When you use Bits in a channel, Twitch rewards the streamer and you create an exciting moment," reads the description in the drop down purchase menu. Your reward for spending real money, sometimes up to hundreds of dollars, is an "exciting moment" when your purchase is overlayed on the stream and a little animation plays out. On the most recent Jinny stream a user bought 45,000 bits in celebration of something funny that had happened. As I'm currently in the EU the price for 5,000 bits is about 72 Euros - as far as I know a rough equivalent in US dollars. This person spent over 550 Euros and got, basically, nothing for it apart from recognition on Jinnys part. Subscriptions similarly seem to offer very little in return. I generally haven't seen Jinny do Subscriber only streams or lock anything away behind the subscriber paywall, and yet people will regularly buy dozens of subs and gift them randomly to the viewers in show of support. When she was doing a marathon of streaming 24/7 for several days in a row there were folks who would regularly gift 100 subs to random viewers, a value of 499 Euros or a new PS5. One of the primary ways people directly interact with her is to donate and leave a message which is then read out loud by a robotic text to speech program. This is mostly used for jokes as someone sends in a donation with a message that will highlight a funny situation, and while often these turn out really fun, it is basically paying for attention. The entire system is built on paying for various degress of interactability. Unlike say Giant Bomb, where you support the site by purchasing a yearly subscription of Premium for one-time fee of $50 and get access to a fair amount of premium content each week, Twitch viewers spend hundreds of dollars supporting their streamers with little to show for it, and that seems crazy.

Granted I haven't really watched many other streams so I'm not sure if this is a unique situation to this streamer alone. While Jinny doesn't really play up the fact that she is an obviously attractive female to rope in susceptible folks that feel maybe a stronger connection to her than they should, male hormones will often sing their own siren song. Heck, I'm not too proud to admit that I was probably initially drawn to click her stream thumbnail for the very same reason even though I stuck around because she seems like a funny goofball. That said this is the Twitch model. Male or female these streamers are relying on their fanbase to engage with a system that seems to be so heavily stacked against the viewer. So maybe I am getting old, and far be it for me to tell someone how to spend their hard earned money, but putting down $500 so a floating diamond pops up and the streamer acknowledges your username for the 2 seconds it takes them to blurt out a thanks for the donation seems like a raw deal any way you look at it.

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mellotronrules

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#1  Edited By mellotronrules

that's a great summation of a lot of the feelings i have about twitch as a platform, and my ambivalence or discomfort around the 'tip jar' nature of its contemporary business model.

i reckon we're in the same ballpark age-wise (I also was in college during the mid 2000s youtube blow-up), so it truly might be a function of the media environment you're raised in.

but i don't think i'll ever get used to the mandatory 'shoutouts' for bits or subs donations that seems part-and-parcel with being successful on that platform. hype trains, raiding, etc.- part of it is it being an outsider-looking-in, for sure- but another part is the total gamification and performative display of a deeply parasocial relationship that makes me feel, shall we say- disquiet. especially since twitch streamer burnout was very much a discussion prior to pandemic.

there's an expectation of interactivity that i'm just not sure anyone benefits from (at scale). having a small base (probably one small enough such that it isn't enough to make a living, unfortunately) appears to be one of the keys to keeping it copasetic.

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Y2Ken

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#2  Edited By Y2Ken

Twitch has done an incredible job of creating an environment where giving money to the person you're watching is a commonly accepted practice to show support for their efforts. There's certainly ways it could be looked at as exploitative of viewers, especially those who might feel compelled to give more than they can afford or get some false sense that their donation entitles them to special attention or affection, and both comments above raise good points about how the constant need to respond to chat and to donations can actually be a real pressure on streamers (it's why you'll see some bigger streamers save their subscriber shoutouts for breaks in the stream, or - as many Vtubers have begun to do recently - had specific streams once a week where they read through all the donations and thank people).

However, especially at the smaller scale of stream, it's actually really lovely seeing people support a channel they enjoy watching. It means Twitch can be a viable source of income even for streamers who don't stream every day or pull in hundreds or thousands of viewers. A friend of mine had to take a few weeks off streaming recently and when they returned there was a run early in their first stream back where there were 20-30 subs (between regular and gifts) and multiple $1-10 donations, and it was super lovely seeing them receive so much love & support (especially as they're someone who isn't especially well off financially).

When it works, I think it's actually a really nice model - everyone gets to watch the channel and there's usually no obligation to subscribe, but people who can afford to throw a few bucks (or more) at the streamer can do so and those who are more well-off can even give benefits to other viewers with gift subs so more people can use the channel-specific emotes and join in with that sense of community and its in-jokes.

I've often wondered how GB would do with that brand of business model - it's actually wild that I pay less than $5 a month for GB Premium (who have several people on staff and also host their own videos & maintain their own website) when I'm giving that voluntarily to multiple individual Twitch streamers who I enjoy watching and/or want to support. There's not really a way to give more money to GB (shy of maybe buying merchandise) if you're someone who has more disposable income. That said, I don't know the ins and outs, and as long as their model works for them I'm obviously not going to tell them how to run their business.

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Y2Ken

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#3  Edited By Y2Ken
@humanity said:
The craziest part of supporting your favorite Twitch streamer is how seemingly little the viewer gets out of it. Bits seem like a complete scam. Subscriptions similarly seem to offer very little in return. I generally haven't seen Jinny do Subscriber only streams or lock anything away behind the subscriber paywall, and yet people will regularly buy dozens of subs and gift them randomly to the viewers in show of support.

To add to my above post, I'd respond to this directly (as someone who's been watching Twitch since those early JustinTV days) to say I think it's largely a matter of perspective. As a viewer, you really have to think of donating to a streamer as a "tip jar" (something YouTube has also toyed around with) rather than something to benefit you. A lot of people have disposable income - and some people have quite a lot of it - and they're happy to throw a few bucks at someone who keeps them entertained. I've seen so many people say that streams keep them company during work hours, for example.

With subscriptions you do get the benefit of emotes, and particularly with bigger streamers who have access to somewhere in the range of 20-50 unique emotes you will sometimes find that people will happily donate even to channels they don't watch a lot just to have access to those emotes to use elsewhere on Twitch. That said, I would still reiterate my initial point - most people watching Twitch tend to think of donations to a streamer as a way of saying "thanks" for their hard work (for all the goofing, streaming - especially by yourself - is a very demanding and draining job). And as such, outside of the bigger donations, even just a passing, "thanks for the sub, twitchviewer420" is more than enough acknowledgement for most people, because the donation is more intended as the viewer's thanks to the streamer for the entertainment provided.

Again, there certainly are people who donate looking for attention, or thinking that it'll buy them favour with the streamer, but generally speaking most viewers I've encountered are understanding that this isn't how it works and streamers have become increasingly confident at being up-front that you shouldn't expect things in response for your donations unless your stream actively advertises it as such (see Dan's stream where he offers sound alerts for bits, or writes your name on a can in his mini-fridge for a donation). In fact, Twitch actively restricts what you're allowed to offer in response for donations, because they're obviously wary of it being used in an exploitative manner (you can't use it to restrict entry to a giveaway, or to make you drink, or to get into a game lobby to play with you).

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Humanity

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#4  Edited By Humanity

@y2ken: I understand the sentiment that it's a tip jar and like you said, when it works, and people are just tipping something they enjoy then thats understandable. Other times as I outlined above where you see people dropping $500 worth of bits ..it seems excessive. It's kind of a roundabout conversation cause I also understand that it's your money and all that. If I was making the sort of money where $500 was a measly "tip" then I would probably look at it differently. Now that I'm older and earn more with a steady job etc I look at various expenses very differently from lets say the younger interns they bring on to the company who are still looking to save money wherever they can. I suppose what I'm saying is that on the face of it, the model seems bizarre even thought for the most part I'm sure it works quite well and the people that want to tip do so and the folks like myself who just tune in to watch aren't forced into anything either - but as @mellotronrules also pointed out, this might be an outsider-looking-in sort of situation.

EDIT: Also just wanted to add that it does seem like Twitch is very much the future young persons platform of choice. The other day I was watching my stream and in the recommends I see Shroud has 90k viewers watching him, watch some Valorent tournament. I see some other prominent streamers with thousands of viewers - and then theres the official GameSpot Twitch stream of GameDev week or whatever it was with 17 people watching which was just sort of sad.

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sombre

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It became sexualised so gradually that I didn't realize what kind of website it's become lately

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FacelessVixen

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@sombre said:

It became sexualised so gradually that I didn't realize what kind of website it's become lately

I can't disagree with this. Like, I'm no prude, but what the fuck does a person streaming their gym routine have to do with video games?

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sombre

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@sombre said:

It became sexualised so gradually that I didn't realize what kind of website it's become lately

I can't disagree with this. Like, I'm no prude, but what the fuck does a person streaming their gym routine have to do with video games?

I'm all for people making money, but Twitch has become a softcore porn site in the last 2 years.

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jeremyf

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There are a handful of streamers I watch that are successful without reading subscriptions and donation messages, but I get the impression that they are the extreme minority on the platform. I've become used to the hustle as a viewer, even though I have almost never spent money on the platform. Text to speech donations are an immediate signal for me to close out, though. Going back to your point about the audience relationship, it's confounding to me how many streamers are essentially bullied by their chats. Managing the tone of up to thousands of viewers is an insane balancing act when you're on the hook with their generosity. I don't watch Twitch nearly as much as I used to because of work eating all my time, and the enormity of it is starting to intimidate me.

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Efesell

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I think Twitch is a beautiful place at the Mid level. Where you find those communities that someone has put in a ton of effort to cultivate out of nothing. It's heartening to see people donate and pay for this kind of thing and I do honestly resent it a little bit when people put something like that down by just insinuating that it's just paying for attention or a name on screen.

At higher levels I think it loses all of its appeal for me, it just evolves into an entirely new thing. A TV channel where you have a semi-interactive log of all of the people shouting at it.

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Y2Ken

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#10  Edited By Y2Ken

@humanity: Yeah I honestly get a bit staggered when people drop huge amounts of money on bits & subs, but with how many people on Twitch it's natural that some of them are big earners who can afford to spend like that without too much worry. I can totally see how it'd seem strange if you weren't used to it, though - and (not to say this is your perspective, I didn't read your post this way) I've seen others say things to the effect of, "Why do people subscribe when they don't get anything for it?" because some people are conditioned to not pay for something if they don't have to, rather than seeing "pay what you want" as an opportunity to give what you're happy to (and can reasonably afford to).

To the comments above - after the original split from JustinTV Twitch has slowly re-incorporated "non-gaming" content. Personally most of the IRL/Just Chatting streams aren't to my interests, though I do like a good cooking or art stream from time to time. But if people are into that, it's fine IMO. Streams can be marked as for adults only if the content is inappropriate for a younger audience (though there's nothing actually explicit) and if that's how people want to spend their time and money then more power to them.

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Shindig

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#11  Edited By Shindig

The erm ... people who are dropping big is one of my big issues with the platform (maybe the internet at large). With how democratised these platforms are, anyone can walk in and get deep, deep into what they're watching. Not all of them are going to have their heads screwed on and there's a big emphasis on 'community' which leads to a lot of cult followings.

On the flipside, I can't imagine many streamers like to think about just who is watching. They're not a watchdog.

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I watch Shroud and Summit sometimes, because they’re very talented and entertaining FPS players. HealthyGamer is an invaluable channel, he’s a licensed therapist who does “public therapy” sessions (with the disclaimer that what he does isn’t a replacement for therapy in a professional context). Really cool and helpful content imo.

Twitch reminds me of podcasts in that you can’t “fake” your personality with long formats where you’re streaming for hours and hours on end, unlike other platforms. I see it as a more real platform where people aren’t just a persona. On the other hand, I haven’t donated and don’t intend to, except for a prime sub once in a while to a small streamer/someone I know from other communities. But it is funny to me to think someone’s “donating” to a multi-millionaire, maybe it’s just the semantics that I find most funny. But yeah, I try to avoid big streamers who clearly appeal to a very young audience.

I can see it being a pipe dream if you tried to stream yourself. Most of the more successful channels started 5+ years ago before twitch became a more mainstream website, or they had a big following from esports or a different platform. It’s entertaining to see a big celebrity like t-pain stream because he has the personality to do that. But it can be very strange to see a celebrity or even a youtuber try to make it big streaming, just to see them not talk half the time. Will be interesting to see the future of the platform and if it will become more ad friendly.

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Humanity

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@prolurker: Curiously enough recently I noticed that Sarah from the pop band Kero Kero Bonita has started streaming Breath of the Wild on Twitch. It IS kind of surreal to see musicians or actors suddenly jump onto this platform and start chatting away with the viewers in a very candid manner. I suppose it should be disconcerting the way we (or I should say the way I.. ) view celebrities as somehow above this or that it's weird to see a "movie star" play a video game, chill, and talk about what sort of Pringles they like.

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ThePanzini

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I find Twitch to be real good background TV, none of the folks I follow use the bits thing. Its also a really good resource to get better at a game or discover new ones.

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Justin258

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It is sort of jaw-dropping to realize just how much money some of the more famous Twitch streamers can just make in one night. People have quit pretty good jobs to stream video games for eight plus hours a day. People have burned out on it, just like real jobs, and people have turned it into an actual career. I actually came to this realization a few years ago, when my brother started watching Twitch streamers play Siege and make hundreds or thousands a night. It was really weird for me then, but I've gotten used to the concept.

I don't think there's anything particularly insidious about it. Not in concept, at least, there are a whole host of potential issues depending on the streamer or the person watching. And anything less than an impeccably moderated chat can fall into toxicity at the drop of a hat. But in some ways this seems like the internet equivalent of giving a street performer some money because he played a song you enjoyed.

In any case, Twitch streams and Youtube Let's Plays make for the best background noise when doing chores or mining in Minecraft or grinding in an RPG or doing some other brainless task. They also make for a decent alternative to actually playing the game yourself if you don't have time to, like with the aforementioned chores or when doing something repetitive at work or something like that.

As for me personally, the thought of being a Twitch streamer myself got squashed when I realized how much they're doing at any given time. I couldn't imagine myself sitting there managing a stream, reading off and interacting with a rapidly-moving chat, thanking the people who donated, and playing any sort of demanding video game. Sometimes it's frustrating to see them miss something obvious but then I remember they're doing multiple things at once and I'm not doing anything mentally demanding.

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Drakoji

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#16  Edited By Drakoji

@humanity: Oh god, this is not good to know, my productivity will crash if you say that I can watch Sarah stream now. But from my limited interaction with her, she seems very down to earth, not surprised that her stream seems to be too.

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ghost_cat

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Though it's not for me, I think streaming is rad, and the people who have the will and energy to do is are rad. I got nothing against the system of donations (like someone said earlier: if the donator has the means, he/she should be able to donate whatever they want), but the only thing that always suck is whenever a few nuts walk into the chat/community.

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Raleighen

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#19  Edited By Raleighen

I'm in my early 20's but I don't really get the streaming thing. I really realized this when vtubers became super popular and I was super confused about why. After some thinking, I think it's because I don't like streaming/watching streams/thinking about streaming myself and vtubers are that but the 'personality', if you will, doesn't have to show their real face, which I'm actually all for. Granted, I have not delved super deep into Twitch so there's probably a stream or two out there I'd enjoy, but I just don't like how most streams go. One person, who spends more time talking to/thanking chat than actually playing the game. I never have chat open, I haven't been around as long as JustinTV, but even when I started watching, I quickly realized chat was usually not a great place and went way too fast for me to keep up with anyway. 9 times out of 10, whatever I'm watching is background noise to either some mindless FFXIV stuff or cross stitch, where I can keep some attention on it, but not on a stream and chat.

I think I've really found what I do like, which is usually smaller groups of people playing typically single player games. Giant Bomb, Super Beard Bros, Scary Game Squad on Jesse Cox's channel. I do watch some gaming channels with just one person, but I really like the smaller groups. Streaming isn't built around that and I just really don't have any interest in it. I also agree with how the thanking for tips really just feels like a pavlovian response. Maybe I'm just too shy, but I don't want to be called out anyway. If I'm going to donate or something, I'm going to do it in a way that doesn't involve my name being called out.

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BladeOfCreation

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I feel like you can't talk about the current state of Twitch without at least acknowledging how different things were on YouTube as recently as a decade ago! I'm right there with you in a lot of ways. When YouTube was starting out, I was 20 or 21. I mainly used it for music videos and stuff while hanging out with my buddies and drinking in my barracks room. What's weird is I still use it to stream music. I never got a Spotify account. If I encountered anything else from YouTube, it was likely from "Around the Net" on Attack of the Show or similar programs. Around the time "YouTubers" started becoming a thing, I felt like I was already aged out of it. I was 23 years old and married. My ex was more in tune with that stuff than I was, but mostly just in terms of the meme stuff. I was aware of Let's Play videos but didn't really watch any. This is one of those things that I feel like a very small difference in age makes a big difference in how aware of these things people are. I'm 35 now. My brother is six years younger than me; he was the one who showed me YouTube stuff like that Smosh Zelda Rap video. That video is a decade old now. I'm actually watching more YouTube than ever now because my roommate (who is just a few years younger than me) introduced me to various shows. I will say part of the age gap in awareness of this stuff probably has to do with when/what age someone was when smart phones started being used to watch videos.

I feel like you can't talk about the current state of Twitch without at least acknowledging how different things were on YouTube as recently as a decade ago. Twitch is wild because even other people who play video games for a living, like Giant Bomb, will sometimes have "old man" opinions about this stuff. And we can't forget that Giant Bomb was at the forefront of this in a lot of ways. It is only in hindsight how that we can see how much of a threat Jeff Gerstmann really is. I've started watching Twitch streams more recently, too. The interaction between chat and streamer is an interesting dynamic. And in a lot of ways, it's a fucking weird dynamic. Subscribing to a channel you like stills seems a little strange to me, but it shouldn't, because I subscribe to Giant Bomb. It's the internet, but it's content and art. Pay artists.

Here's the thing. Just donating money or "bits" to a streamer is fuckingweird on paper. And when you get to streams with hundreds (or more) viewers, follow/sub/donation notifications and shoutouts get super annoying IMO. I also have an aversion to engaging with communities that are that large, in part because of how difficult it is to moderate them; GB obviously has a large following, but most of that following doesn't watch anything live. But I'm also posting this on a website that had a segment where they opened mail that people sent them. Obviously a lot of that stuff was jokes, like old copies of Sneak King or whatever. But it was also stuff that people would literally buy to send to people who make enough money to live in some of the most expensive areas in the country. When it comes to GB Mailbags and Twitch Bits, I don't see a functional difference.

There is a part of of the Twitch "economy" that is weirder than Bits but much more fun, if implemented properly: channel points. It's literally an economy of time, rather than money. The longer you watch, the more channel points you accrue (and you get bonus multipliers for following and subscribing). The basic rewards for channel points tend to be things like getting your chat message highlighted, unlocking channel-specific emotes, or getting a "shout out." But some creators use them in fun ways, and this is where I think some of the more interesting community/streamer interactions can occur. Mary Kish has channel point rewards for things like wearing a silly hat for ten minutes, or telling her dog that someone in chat loves him. Nina Freeman has some fun ones where she'll ask an 8-ball a question from chat. Side note: the Mary/Nina horror game streams are a ton of fun. You should watch them if you, like me, are a wuss when it comes to playing horror games. Of course, I've also seen channels that implement channel point rewards in super weird ways. One channel I watched for a while but stopped watching had channel point rewards that included the streamer following the person on Twitter or Instagram. Which is, frankly, fucking weird.

Wow. Okay, I have a lot of thoughts about this stuff. Thanks for starting the thread and inspiring some thoughtful discussion.

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apewins

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#21  Edited By apewins

I once heard my 7-year old nephew talking about Minecraft, thought that was cure and seemed age-appropriate. I didn't know he was into games so I asked his mom, and turns out he doesn't play Minecraft, has never played it. He just loves watching it on Twitch. So I can definitely see an entire generation being brought up by Twitch these days rather than daytime TV like it was for me. And younger generations aren't really fixated on material wealth anyway like it was for me where I always wanted more toys, so maybe donating just comes easier for them. I do kind of feel bad about watching streams myself when I have no intention of donating (and I use ad-block too), but at least they are getting their viewership numbers up which I suppose is good.

But definitely during the pandemic I've been watching Twitch more and more. It even leaks into my other activities like sometimes I have Twitch on a second monitor while I watch a movie or play a game myself. I am starting to worry that my attention span is getting even lower, but then again maybe it's just the pandemic making me lonely and it'll go away eventually.

The streams I watch tend to be with pretty small audiences which I find keeps the content much more tolerable. But even there you sometimes see streamers casually soliciting donations and it just feels wrong. I once saw a female streamer rake in probably around 2,000 dollars in a span of 10 minutes, followed by her having to stop the game because she was crying of happiness, which just encouraged the tipping even more. And this was on a small channel that doesn't typically get too many donations. It does make me think if the logistics are more such that you might stream for days for very little payout, but then when the donation train comes, it comes in big.

I'm actually thinking about getting into casual streaming myself. I wouldn't do it for the money, I have a job with a decent salary. But it's not like I'm getting out of the house anyway these days so I might as well stream while I play games anyway and maybe it would make me more accountable to finishing games which is something I really struggle at, even with games that I like. And basically looking at it like if I make 5$ a day after my workday it's already a win for me.

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Shindig

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@bladeofcreation: Yeah, things have standardised now to such a degree that you can't imagine anything wild on youtube or twitch. I do kind of miss that pioneering mentality of people just trying to get video on the internet.

People recording five feet away from their TV, arguing with whoever else was in the room, using whatever free recording software they could get away with, etc. A channel like Retsupurae wouldn't work now. Everyone's figured it out.

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mellotronrules

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#23  Edited By mellotronrules

@humanity said:

It IS kind of surreal to see musicians or actors suddenly jump onto this platform and start chatting away with the viewers in a very candid manner. I suppose it should be disconcerting the way we (or I should say the way I.. ) view celebrities as somehow above this or that it's weird to see a "movie star" play a video game, chill, and talk about what sort of Pringles they like.

yeah- this aspect has been interesting to watch. i feel like a lot of it (at least from the actors/music side of things) is a direct result of COVID completely blowing their year, so there's a real need to hustle to maintain their BRAND and/or meal ticket. and if you'll forgive a dated, BUSINESS-Y catchphrase- in this ATTENTION ECONOMY we now live in- this hustle feels absolutely necessary when kids/young adults might be more likely to watch a fortnite stream than a netflix show.

and just speaking personally- these non-twitch-native channels are the streams i'm actually most interested in- watching Dina (Shannon Woodward) play TLOU2 and offer insight on filming scenes, or seeing metal bands figure out how to perform to a camera- this stuff is far more compelling to me than your typical floating-head FPS pro, or spoopy gamez streamer.

i'd say i'm generally a fan of people who are trying to break the mold a little bit and return to the days of live streaming being a bit more cable-access and less influencer/cult-of-personality.

like DJ Knight? fucking great stuff.

reminds me a lot of when radiohead was experimenting with their livestreams around In Rainbows.

edit: here, have another out-of-context DJ Knight clip.

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sicamore

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The porn industry is often ahead of the curve and dictates business and tech innovations.

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noobsauce

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#25  Edited By noobsauce

Props to the people making a living off twitch. I think it's dumb as hell to give any of these folks the money some of them make but they've found a way to convince people to pay them to play videogames or some other adjacent hobby in a weird cult of personality type of way (not all, but seems that way in cases of the larger streamers).

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incandenza137

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Seems we live in a culture where self-interest is so ingrained that we're mystified by the fact that generosity can be enjoyable in and of itself. Anything can become toxic when taken to an extreme, but in general I like this model--you give voluntarily to things that you like, rather than everything being such a raw, brutal exchange. Sidesteps this endless anger about "I wasn't given what I expected / deserved for my money" that often seems to infect gamers.

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brian_

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I think the thing that concerns me with Twitch stuff is that there's little in the way to protect viewers from spending obscene amounts of money, while also giving constant incentives for them to keep spending more money. It just reminds me too much of video game microtransactions where, yes, it's all optional, but, whether intentional or not, prays on consumer psychology, through stuff like fomo, or a responsibility to support something by building up a feeling of loyalty to a product.

I think it's one thing to have a tip jar, and another to have a tip jar that constantly reminds you to tip by telling you that everyone else is tipping, and what they're tipping, while the owner is telling you how great everyone else is for tipping, and playing a funny sound when you do tip.

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Shindig

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This is timely.

Loading Video...

Hopefully it starts at 16:45 when he talks about his Machinima conversation. He filed for bankruptcy last year. Always have a Plan B, a nest egg, a parachute, an escape road.

In some ways, it's probably better to think of your stream as a product. You're reliant on the kindness of strangers. Treat them like customers rather than the sketchy 'look at this community of friends' nonsense that twitch really likes to pitch.

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Humanity

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@shindig: I haven't heard that name in a while. In a way I can't blame him too much because there have been a lot of YouTubers over the years that actually have managed to just cling on to this type of work, but obviously thats not the norm. The guy I mentioned in my original post all the way at the top - CaptainSparklez - the guy has 11 million subscribers and has been almost exclusively posting Minecraft videos for 10 years. I can see how others might look at that and think "huh guess it will work out in the end." I mean what does Ninja do thats so different than DSP really? I might be a little ignorant on this because I don't actively follow the guy but as far as I know he just streams on Twitch doesn't he?

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Efesell

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I'll always be surprised that DPS is still around at all because he perpetually seems like a fucking nightmare.

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bondfish

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#31  Edited By bondfish

I agree that there needs to be more of an incentive to subscribe and/or donate to the streamer. Having exclusive emotes just isn't enough, especially for the people who do not even use the chat. I understand that it's about supporting someone and the people who have the money can and will do that. But at the end of the day it is a product they are selling they are selling themselves in a way. I know that some channels do have subscription goals and all that which is fine and does work. I might be one of the selfish people but I would probably donate and even subscribe to more channels if I got more out of it. I only use my Amazon Prime sub for one channel a month because I do feel like I don't get much out of it subscribing to more channels besides a thank you. One again I get it is about being supportive, I think they are missing the point and can really up subscriptions and tips for people if there is more incentives to do so because I know I am not the only one who has the same mind set.

* Just thought of an incentive of something like subscribing to 5 channels gets you a free game or something like that.

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Shindig

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@efesell said:

I'll always be surprised that DPS is still around at all because he perpetually seems like a fucking nightmare.

He's around because he has nothing else to do. He won't take a day job because the twitch money is (on paper, at least) too good. There is a real fear he has of giving up or starting fresh, hence why last night he shat the bed completely. Every little thing upsets him, every troll cheer gets him to hold court and make an example of them.

It's bizarre and he's not the only example. On one side, he's found a position in society that gets him paid. There's something admirable about people that would normally stagnate in unemployment finding a way out through twitch. But it's the self-employment aspect that Phil really can't manage.

No ability to budget, no people he's willing to listen to for advice. He's a valedictorian with a degree in finance but he's blown the money away on two homes (one in the process of being foreclosed because he ignored payments to trigger the bankruptcy) and a mobile game addition that's cost him upwards of $50,000.

And he's kept the camera rolling for all of it. He's a case study in what not to do. And he's not the only one. Anyway, rant over.

So yeah, I'm fascinated by the twitch space. As more and more people get into it, a little education could go a long way. I also want to see what new ideas come along. Things like Twitch Plays Pokemon or the charity streams LobosJr does with the donations triggering modifiers and so on.

Vtuber's are shite, though. Just don't have the face cam. Or really, really play a character. Also, whilst donating subs are a lovely gesture, I don't like the practice. I don't want to feel obligated to view someone because a chat member saw my name in chat and threw a sub my way.

Now that I think about it, can you really play a character on twitch these days? Are the audience too conditioned to think everything is genuine?

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BladeOfCreation

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@incandenza137 said:

Seems we live in a culture where self-interest is so ingrained that we're mystified by the fact that generosity can be enjoyable in and of itself. Anything can become toxic when taken to an extreme, but in general I like this model--you give voluntarily to things that you like, rather than everything being such a raw, brutal exchange. Sidesteps this endless anger about "I wasn't given what I expected / deserved for my money" that often seems to infect gamers.

You make a great point, and I think in a lot of cases this is exactly the type of thing that is happening. I've seen regulars in a Twitch chat donate subs to other regulars. I just think it happens to be a "both" situation rather than an "either/or" here. In some cases, this exchange is occurring because people genuinely want to support the content creator. But in other cases, this exchange is occurring because people want something in return--in some cases that can be as innocent as a shout out, but it other cases the motives are worse than that. People want to feel like a part of community. Parasocial relationships are complicated and weird, and people have different standards for what they find unsettling. As I pointed out in another comment, we are all on a website where most of the commenters in this thread subscribe to Giant Bomb.

I'm genuinely curious what the difference if for people who subscribe here but don't see the value in a Twitch subscription for a content creator they like.

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cjring4

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I really only got into Twitch when Ryckert started streaming at the beginning of the pandemic. I've since found some other channels like Kyle Bosman and O'Dwyer's noclip. It really is just great background noise but a lot of the big streamers are kind of a turn off for me. I really just go for gaming media people that I know like O'Dwyer, Tamoor Hussain, Bakalar's pinball etc. and they usually are pretty entertaining.

I actually did start streaming a few months ago. I avg like 3-4 viewers and it's almost always my brothers and an old buddy who lives in a different state. It just scratches that itch of when I used watch my brothers play Resident Evil or vice versa when we were young. It's fun. I'm late 20s if that helps.

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MrGreenMan

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Twitch pretty much adopted the cam model ideology and I really feel they have completely lost site of what made Twitch special since then. Over the years there is less and less reason why you should donate to a streamer other than to get rid of annoying ads that break the platform. These days I have seen more people who used Twitch exclusively for years are abandoning it because of the DMCA drama to go over to Youtube because their terrible policies are far more generous and fair then Twitch's random ass rules that often seem to have no rhyme or reason other than they say so.

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sombre

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I don't think I'd want to base my life around begging people for money online.

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bondfish

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@bladeofcreation: I subscribe to Giantbomb because I enjoy watching their premium content and get something out of it. I don't subscribe to twitch streamers because their streams/shows are free and there is no reason to subscribe.

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Shindig

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That's my stance as well. You can easily justify a twitch sub (and many do) with 'well, I've watched them for so long as they deserve it' but it never progresses to much beyond an act of charity, to me. Some people get off on charity. Some love the gratitude that comes with it.

I want stuff. Emotes or a badge next to my name is not compelling stuff to me. I want a higher level of service that is what premium gets me.

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Onemanarmyy

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@shindig said:

Also, whilst donating subs are a I don't want to feel obligated to view someone because a chat member saw my name in chat and threw a sub my way.

Oh man, that reminds me of realizing i had received a subscription to this very small-time streamer that i once followed, but basically hadn't tuned in for years. But i did still have him on my followers list. Apparently in my sleep i somehow ended up in this small-time channel and for some reason the streamer himself had decided to give me a subscription. Perhaps in the hope that i would return. That did feel pretty bad to me, to be honest. :/

That said, most of the time getting a subscription is more of a luck-of-the-draw thing where some big spender decides to allocate a bunch of subscriptions to a certain amount of random users. I wouldn't feel any obligations in such a situation myself.

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Gundato

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A bit rambly (totally off brand, I know) but I see a lot of the "I/they just do it out of charity" kind of comments and... yeah.

A bit of backstory: A very good friend of mine did the cliche "strip her way through law school" and we've chatted a lot about the similarities of twitch/youtube to stripping/camsites over the years. As she likes to put it "I always made sure the guys I was dancing for knew I was a single mom working my way through med school" (yup) in the same way that you have so many "part time" streamers and cammers who make sure to tell you what a miserable day they had or how much The Algorithm is hurting them and so forth. You build up sympathy because sympathy is money.

Similarly, over the past week or so I watched two different youtube influencers post videos of how youtube is dicking them over. One Warframe streamer I like (LeyzarGamingViews. he actually doesn't hate Warframe!!!) was explaining the bullshit of youtube insisting international streamers pay US taxes (I don't know tax law well enough to know how "normal" that is but google telling anyone to pay taxes is some "you mother fuckers" shit) and an Escape from Tarkov streamer that is still in my recommendations (Pestily) apparently got temporary banned from youtube and all his associated accounts because of false reports/false positives and like half the video is about his lost revenue for a day. Both sucked and should not have happened but both influencers very much hit the key points of "Here is my revenue stream. I am barely making ends meet but I love to do this" and both discussed the need to diversify income streams in ways very reminiscent of the more successful sex workers who have been doing that for years as every single platform uses them to get big before kicking them off to get reputable. Years ago I got linked to a VOD of a camgirl who basically was explaining that all the youtubers are "fucking stupid" for not diversifying and that the moment youtube or video game publishers crack down on the grey area they are going to be out of a job with no way to really recover. And... she was right.

And honestly? All of that is fine. The reason parasocial relationships get so bad is because, contrary to what a lot of folk in this thread seem to think, the product is not the stream just like it isn't watching someone spin some tassles to white snake. The product is the companionship. It is someone listening to you talk about your day or responding to a comment you made in chat or just looking right into the camera and making YOU feel special (there is a reason kids tell pewdiepie when they need to step away to do chores).

And, conceptually, there is nothing wrong with that. If some skeevy guy in sweatpants thinks he is helping a college kid take care of her baby by dropping large tips then good for that skeevy wannabe motherfucker. She gets cash for books/booze/whatever and he gets to feel like he did a good deed. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, but HE feels better. Same if someone thinks they are making a charitable donation to someone who talks in a goofy voice and gets fed viewers during raids. The performer is selling that "feeling".

It gets a bit weirder when the "product" is someone reading a donation message or responding to chat but it is the idea of paying someone to "listen". Sure there is that feeling of weirdness when it is a group chat (how long until video game influencers are selling private zoom calls?) but a lot of that can be alleviated in the exact way Dora and Steve did: Speak in catchphrases and ask the audience questions you know they will answer "correctly".

And as for the idea of paying to have someone shoot a string cheese bidet up their ass or to dye their hair some color or some other physical challenge? Uhm... they got vibrators that hook up to the internet and buzz based on donations. Also, all of that is just the idea of paying to interact with someone in some way.

So yeah... this shit is weird. But... if people are engaging responsibly then more power to them. And I actually REALLY like that twitch et al have done a lot to "normalize" these kinds of interactions. Sure you get plenty of "Eww, they are a slut" style comments. But it puts the vast majority of people into the mindset of understanding that just because someone is a performer doesn't mean they aren't a person. Whether that performance is getting sick 360 no scope headshots or... doing a magic show where various devices and limbs disappear and you can DEFINITELY tell that nothing is up their sleeves.

That being said: I do get a bit weird when people call it "charity". Yeah, there is the sense of "Just let me believe the lie" but... you still gotta understand that it is fundamentally a lie in the same way that you can LOVE watching two boys from socal do a front flip and slam their heads onto ladders while still needing to understand they did that in as safe a way as possible and that you don't know how to do that. You are watching a performance and even if you might forget in the moment, you need to remember in the aftermath.

Because... just go look at various "out of the loop" or "drama" summaries of when companies built around influencers and parasocial relationships have controversies. There is a LOT of grown ass adults who think <NAME REDACTED> is their best friend because they are entertaining while playing minecraft and lots of people who insist that having some REALLY strong emotional reactions to a youtuber they like being sad is "100% normal". I am not knowledgeable enough to know what is and is not okay (even if I definitely got opinions...) but we are all fucked up. Understand when you are too and be aware of when your particular flavor of fucked up might have detrimental impacts to your finances or be a crutch to avoid "healthy" activities.

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tds418

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I'm probably 5-10 years younger than the OP, but my problem with Twitch I think is more basic: I don't like watching something that is constantly asking me to spend money, or in Twitch's case, constantly reminding me I can and should "donate" to support the streamers I like. At some point, those constant asks take away from the underlying content. That's one of the great things about GB Premium: you pay upfront, and then get a lot of great content that isn't constantly concerned with getting you to spend more.

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Efesell

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I think that it’s painting with a very broad brush to say it’s all about the parasocial element. Streamers aren’t my friends they’re entertainers.

But I do agree that calling it charity is off. It’s a job, a tough one at that, and you don’t need further excuse to pay people for their hard work.

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deactivated-606548892b4d4

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Twitch and other streaming sites provide a much needed sense of community in a time where we are always connected and online yet even more isolated from eachother. But for a lot of younger people and worringly some adults, the personal boundaries between them and the streamer seem to be either blurred or non-existent.

I truly believe the parasocial element and unfettered access to these bigger than life personalities is the biggest reason why so many people feel more comfortable than ever to unhealthily dump their life story and trauma via donations on stream. Expecting a complete stranger in front of thousands of viewers, to not only hold space and empathise, but to walk the delicate line between giving appropriate advice and possibly exacerbating a person's trauma is really dangerous and raises the question as to whether Twitch should do more in providing mental health resources to people in distress. There a many reasons why people do what they do, but why we place streamers and celebrities on these pedestals is something that is rarely discussed until a streamer is seriously injured or dead.

It doesn't help when chat becomes hostile and authoritative towards the streamer because they felt their comments in a sea of thousands wasn't acknowledged or their unrealistic demands weren't carried out by the streamer with gusto. It's a worrying trend and as someone studying to be a psychologist and maybe one day a school counsellor, I'm really concerned that our desire for instant gratification is taking over our natural instict to be compassionate and respecful towards eachother, particularly towards those that provide us a service. I know I sound like a Helen Lovejoy crying about the kids, but it's something that I constantly think about, when our existence is becoming more online and less offline.

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OSail

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I am like a few people here, I can't get along with entertainment that reminds me of sales programming with thank yous/reminders to gift subscriptions to others etc unless it's for an event, so the basis of profit for streamers on Twitch puts me off almost entirely. I can deal with Games Done Quick events because at least the interaction is focused on encouraging people to donate to causes like Médecins Sans Frontières. It's still a form of mild emotional manipulation for money, as all marketing/crowdfunding exercises are, but I get it and if I see someone dropping $500 on it to unlock a playthrough of a game, at least it's going to a good cause. Not to knock streamers making money, but seeing very popular streamers be classed up by a Lot Of Bits solely so they will engage with the gifter in some regard is a little concerning, innit?

Beyond that, it is me simply not liking videos that are about interactions with an audience in video games, or most things to be honest (theatre experience is where I find it interesting to break a fourth wall directly with specific individuals due to the lack of a parasocial aspect most of the time in that context), mainly because I don't care about how many people are watching a thing. A performance should stand on it's own unless it needs research for contextual knowledge and awareness, or if it's Artaud dropping pig guts on an audience, cuz at least it's not a parasocial situation. I care about watching a person experience the game, or hearing about advice for it, or something similar.

It's why I like Giant Bomb as a Premium service. I paid for entertaining/relatively informed people to talk or play games, and they do it without making me feel like I am a part of their lives, or that my opinion matters because of $30 a year. They might consider a comment of mine, maybe, or maybe not, and that's ideal. I have no role in their lives and I know it. I won't impact them. My $30 doesn't matter that much if I left. That is preferable to a site which depends on thanking everyone who donates, or chatting with individuals, or talking to your mods etc most of the stream. It's not the streamers fault, it's the business model, but if streamers are on a site with a business model that pushes that approach? Then it isn't for me, and probably isn't ideal for a lot of people that don't realize it.

As a few people have mentioned here, it's very much the cam-sexwork system but a lot worse (I mean, it's Amazon, of course it's worse!). And that reminds me of all the hassle awful people give to Twitch streamers who do anything vaguely sexual/suggestive (or what people will mark as such, given rampant sexism across all aspects of tech culture) on Twitch, and the anti-sex worker stuff going on with it over the last few years. S'just not on.

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sombre

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I went onto "Just Chatting" and saw a woman in a bikini, in a paddling pool, writing the names of her subs on her body.

Isn't there websites for this kind of thing? Isn't Twitch meant to be a gaming platform?

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Efesell

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@sombre: Twitch is a streaming platform. It came from gaming roots and its the most common type of content but thats all.

What’s the issue there, honestly?

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alistercat

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#49  Edited By alistercat

@efesell: @sombre: I had the same thought, and I was annoyed when it was recommended to me by Twitch. For me I think it's just not wanting titillation along with my other entertainment. I don't get annoyed by a cooking stream, but someone not quite nude but clearly trying to be provocative and writing names on their body isn't something I want to see pop up along with all the other streams. It is very reminiscent of softcore porn channels on TV (and something that happens on webcam sites a lot).

Efesell is right though. It isn't just for games any more, hasn't been for a couple of years. There's a lot of entertaining stuff on there unrelated to videogames.

Edit: I feel the need to add that I fully support sex workers, and people demonising them or being horrible to women can fuck off.

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Humanity

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@alistercat: It definitely isn't just for gaming. A quick glance at the popular categories shows "Just Chatting" is at the moment at 380k viewers, with Counter Strike in second place at 250k - so obviously the sites primary use right now is "variety streaming". That said, while I don't begrudge someone for trying to make a living, I'm also not going to burrow my head deep in the sand and pretend like the streams with scantly clad women aren't exploitative. It's social engineering to get susceptible young men to waste money on a carefully engineered fantasy. At least the actual porno sites with cam girls are upfront with what they offer. Twitch should crack down even further on this sort of content because like mentioned above, cooking streams, art streams, hiking and travel streams, thats all fine and cool. There is no need to have basically softcore porn on Twitch.