Streamers aren't meant to be consumed by watching them every day for hours on end. I mean, I'm sure there are core fans who do that, probably students and single young professionals like you say, but my use case for Twitch is "hey, I have 10-20 minutes free; not even enough time for a full DotA game, but I can see which pro players happen to be online now and watch them play for a bit". This gives me (somewhat surprisingly) lots of the same satisfaction that playing games used to give me; plus it's a lot less stressful (I was mostly into competitive multiplayer games) and without any practice required to get good at the game.
Meanwhile I wonder how people have time to finish entire seasons of TV shows on netflix, given the modern trend of story-driven shows that assume you've actually seen all the previous episodes instead of pre-internet-era sitcoms that you could jump in and watch any 30-minute episode with little context. Twitch is more of a return to old-school TV in that regard.
Is this really true?
I know I watched random episodes (Malcolm/Seinfeld/Friends/etc..) and enjoyed it. But re-watching them in the proper order is magnitudes better and clearly the way it was supposed to be watched.
I wonder if the same is true for modern TV shows, e.g. the big bang theory - it can be watched and enjoyed by picking a random TV show. Even longer form, say Firefly/Dark Angel/Twin Peaks require you to watch it in order - yet they could be enjoyed on their own as well (you had basically no choice anyway..).
Is this really true?
No, not really. First off, returning to the status quo is a sitcom thing, not a "pre-Internet" thing, but even then, characters change, leave and are introduced from time to time. Also, you can jump into a "modern" show and figure out any context you need to know pretty easily. I got into Barry and Curb in the middle of their seasons this year, and I still laughed through them...
But I think I've finally figured it out.
A lot of people are watching these streams AS THEY GAME. I can devote 75% of my attention to one monitor as a play "League of Legends", and listen to some helpful coaching from a Twitch Stream with 25% of my attention in the other monitor.
At times when my game is loading, or my character is dead and I'm waiting to respawn I can even devote 100% of my attention to the stream, and engage in chat.
I also can enjoy a stream when I'm taking public transportation or an Uber somewhere. Situations where I would game if I could, but I can't, so watching pros is the next best thing.
Lot of us grew up playing videogames with all of our free time. We are adults now. People in our age bracket who watch Twitch video game streams often probably do so to replace some of that time we wish we could be gaming.
I can't speak on younger generation's consumption of Twitch and Youtube but I imagine for them it's just as normal as watching TV, playing video games, watching videos on the internet (in the early days), or to liken it to something people my generation and older did: going outside and playing.
I think a lot of Twitch is not competitive games like Dota or Overwatch and are really casual games that anyone can understand. I never played Portal 2 cooperative but can easily understand what's going on if someone is streaming it. I think people that don't play the game but watch are watching games in that genre.
There are also games in the middle, like Fortnite, that are pretty easy to follow. "What do you do in this game?" "Kill anything that moves and run to the circle." Once you understand that you can probably figure out what the streamer is doing and why.
So far I've been proven wrong, but who knows, maybe it'll turn around.
Overwatch I got sucked into immediately. I knew the basic idea; kill the red team... and the rest of the details I picked up as I played. The matchmaking did a very good job of keeping the games winnable but not boring. The variety of heroes has something for everyone; from those that have been playing FPSes since they were 5 (Soldier, McCree, Widowmaker), those that picked up Overwatch as their first competitive FPS at 30 (Winston, Reinhardt, Moira, Mercy...), or those that want something completely different (Doomfist, Sombra, Symmetra). I have made many friends in that game, even met my (ex-) girlfriend via "stay as team" after a good match.
The biggest problem Overwatch has is that they made it appealing to the hard-core gamers as well, so you have to wade through all the people in the community that complain about "no aim, no brain" because they happened to play Aim Hero 13 hours a day and believe that's the only skill in a first-person perspective game that involves killing people. And the balance of the game is such that right now, they're kind of right... people with average aim in other games can absolutely destroy with Hanzo given the large hitbox of his one-shot-kill arrows. You don't need positioning, you don't need teamwork; just get those arrows in the immediate vicinity of the enemy's heads and you win, no matter what your team is doing. They'll probably tone him down a bit in the near future, though.
I clocked about 200 hours over 3 years before hitting that point, and since then I've done another 200 over 6 months.
Regardless, I think it's one of the few e-sports that's fun to watch regardless of how skilled you are yourself.
Also, RL has become my favorite esport by far. The problem is that unless you've tried the game you don't realize how crazily good the pro players are. Things that wows me don't impress my non-RL friends at all.
Not quite watchable on streams and videos currently because first person view on 2d screen is erratic and horribly flat - but I hope games like this is the future.
And commentators can make it even more accessible; their expertise is there to help provide context and guidance.
In football You don’t need to know, exactly, which way the plays are going to go and why, but you do need to know the rough constraints of the game and what is physically possible to perform.
Some of the things that happen in dota are utterly impossible to follow unless you have, at the very least, a knowledge of the (on average 3) active abilities of the ~110 heroes.
Games like MOBAs are opaque by comparison. I can see roughly what's going on but I couldn't tell you if a team is winning or losing to save my life. In football if the guy holding the ball is out in front of the defending team and running to the end zone I can guess he's going to score a TD, but a team can look like they're getting whooped in DotA but really they're tricking the opponents and someone is making a sneaky play in a different corner of the map or someone has an ability or gear that means the situation is the reverse of what it appears, etc.
All of that is really only apparent to someone very familiar with the game.
Watching streams is "about" gaming in the same sense that tailgating is "about" football.
You are absolutely correct though. Those first few weeks I had no idea what was happening aside from the occasional head-shot.
Games like DotA and LoL have too many mechanics built into them that are just debt from their origins as a Warcraft 3 mod. They're not really intuitive or sensical to the uninitiated.
Moreover, in Starcraft if lots of different things are happening at once, it's as technically challenging for the players to keep track of as it is for the viewers. With MOBAs the action is scattered across 3 to 6 areas of the map at the same time, so it's way more complicated to keep track of as a spectator.
The Blizzard MOBA, Heroes of the Storm, was kind of designed from the ground up to be a lot more watchable. They got rid of the item stuff and moved the complexity from being focused on the character builds to more strategic stuff that's visible on the map. But it doesn't seem to have taken off that much.
Just another form of entertainment, like tv, but there's nothing I enjoy watching on tv. To each their own.
I also watch things like the Games Done Quick marathons. Those are mostly people who have dedicated themselves to a few games and are mostly interested in completing them in insanely short periods of time. People often spend years dedicating time to shaving off minutes... I would never do that... but I am glad someone does.
1. Games that simply require grinding to unlock game progression (XP, time-based gates, etc.)
2. Games with numerous hour-long quests that need to be done serially in order to progress
3. Games that disproportionately reward outlier-level skill, requiring a huge practice time commitment (multiplayer shooters)
4. Games that reward deep knowledge of rules and formulas, requiring extensive study and sometimes Excel modeling (Eve Online comes to mind, but also the Civilization series and some sandbox games)
These days if you want something fun you can play for 15-30 minutes and still get good at on that schedule, you’re limited to the bland “Casual Gaming” genre.
The Nintendo Switch has an excellent selection of more 'casual' games. Super Mario Odyssey reminded me a lot of the games I played as a kid.
A big factor for multiplayer games is the somewhat modern obsession with matchmaking and character intro/pick screens. When I was a kid, I could hop into a game immediately for a 15-20 minute deathmatch session of Quake 1/2/3 in any semi-populated server then leave whenever it was time to do homework, etc.
Last I tried Quake Champions, the newest installment in the series, you spend roughly 1-5 minutes in a matchmaking queue then another 2-3 minutes (or more, it was pretty bad sometimes) in some intro/loading screens, then another minute or two in a pre-match warm-up. So even in the same genre's case you're already potentially 8+ minutes sunk into your 15-20 minute 'quick game' period.
To make matters worse (again because of matchmaking) you are penalized if you have to leave before the completion of a match or if you go idle. Usually this penalty is applied as a low-priority queue the next time you try to matchmake which just compounds the problem from above.
Don’t forget the 2-3 minutes it seems to take to even load the game. QC would be so much better if you could just load it (quickly) hop onto an already-playing game, and skip all the intros and statistics. How did a franchise like Quake backslide so badly?
Quake Live (at least for its first few years) was relatively pure and old-school, including in the ways mentioned in this thread, but it was only moderately popular and didn't seem to do well financially. The most (financially) successful modern games tend to focus a lot on extrinsic motivations to play -- including character progression, unlockables, gambling crates etc., but also things that give extra context to individual matches, like statistics and ranking points -- rather than just the core gameplay. People also have less tolerance for being the newbie who loses 100-0, and expect to be matched against players around their level.
Not all of these things are relevant to your question, but some of them help to explain the trend toward lobbies, matchmaking queues, and other obstacles to just clicking on a server list and jumping into a game.
When my SO is out of town, my brain generates all sorts of horrible possibilities of things that could happen to my while laying in bed, from simple home invasions to black holes suddenly appearing and consuming my right arm. Watching Futurama (I had no idea there was a whole community around it) distracts me from those invasive thoughts.
While I work I need some noise, something, nearly anything. The complete lack of silence bothers me. I usually listen to OCRemix at work (via rainwave.cc) or 90's/00's music from when I was younger (nostalgia).
At home I will put on something like Friends (Netflix), Giant Bomb videos (giantbomb.com), or classic game play throughs (NES, SNES, Genesis) on YouTube (or Giant Bomb). For example, LaserTime did Aladdin SNES vs Aladdin Genesis side by side video and they played through NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpson's games on NES/SNES. Giant Bomb has a series called Vinnyvania where Vinny (one of the Giant Bomb employees) plays through all the Castlevania games and another where they play through all the fighting games and rank them. I'm not into the new games.
Twitch in some ways is more like those old days. I follow several streamers fairly closely. And by "fairly closely" I mean "they stream several hours a day and I probably watch 20 minutes of it, amortized over time".
We got into the habit of recording a few minutes before and after the show was supposed to air, as things frequently did not run on schedule. Especially recording things on the major TV networks and recording Doctor Who off NJN who would keep the fundraiser drives going as long as they could before starting an episode.
The only problem with this was sometimes my brother had a habit of taping public access porn over whatever was in the VCR...but that wasn't exactly a problem either. :)
I also find entertainment in watching game streamers, but I catch them on Youtube at my own schedule as well. I've never attempted to subscribe to Twitch and watch live.
Also agree with the TV thing -- lots of things I don't enjoy watching or maybe if its an episode, I don't have an entire hour to watch so rather not start one if I'm not gonna finish it.
Finally the more successful streamers are very enjoyable to watch. They engage with their audiences and treat them with respect. Compared to some of the smaller or no audience streamers who don't communicate or are just rude to their audience when they have one.
It is entertainment, it also is background noise for me when I am working.
Do I watch it intently? No. Do I know the score and what's going on? Generally. Do I feel I followed the season, YES. Though I have noticed that since I DVR (I watched the world series DURING spring training) a lot I don't keep up with the day to day discussions I actually know less about the team than my brother who watches few games but reads bleacher report constantly.
Why do I do it? Well for 8 years I worked in a heavily paired environment, then went to a job with private offices and felt under stimulated. Started watching baseball / twitch just so it felt like others were in the room. Also I have ADD so these things likely help keep me at neutral input levels.
I'm sure you have some garbage ass tv you just toss on as well. Home remodel shows, golf, blatheringly repetitive cable news. These things are mildly connected to your interest and are either there to be in the background or they're there to let you just zone out and decompress.
When working with amazon I often have to have this conversation with people... it usually goes like this:
55 year old business lead of some VP vertical: It's really wierd to me that people watch hours of other people play video games. It's got to be incredibly boring.
Me: I notice you have a "Masters" hat on. Do you watch that?
Me: You realize that like 99% of people think golf puts them to sleep.
55: Touche, how much revenue can we make?
55: I'm interested.
Even at home, I would never want to have some random thing blaring in the background. I only watch things that are worth my full attention.
By the way, golf and baseball help me take naps.
Most of the money and capital in this world are held by the older generations rather than the younger generations. The younger generations have to then spend their time "pitching" the older generations on ideas that, in a vacuum, are logical but not evident to the older generations.
As a result, anyone in the younger generations who has a personal relationship with the older generations (such as yourself) will become disproportionately wealthy if their pitch is accepted, compared to say the 27 year old single mother + person of color.
The problem is not people with good connections, it's a system that rewards those connections.
Where Twitch's live model works really well is in having a community of people all watching together. Streamers often engage with their audiences in some way, and Twitch's recent move to offer lower-latency streams is a reflection of that. There's a recent craze for a marble racing game called "Marbles on Stream", which a streamer integrates with their Twitch chat so that viewers can type `!play` to enter a marble into the race. (It's a Skinner box if I've ever seen one, but I like Jelle's MarbleLympics on YouTube, so I'm not one to talk.) You couldn't do that with recorded content.
For the record I'm a 51 year old professional.
For a while I had gamer friends who lived just down the street. It was much more enjoyable to hang out and watch them play than it would have been for me to play their games. I just didn't have the time to invest, so my main experience of AAA games was 20 minutes of flailing at level 1 while asking which buttons did what. It was way more fun to watch them kick ass and zoom through the game.
In contrast, watching TV by yourself can be quite lonely.
There are a lot of other differences between TV and twitch; I'm not sure how much worth there is in comparing them. They seem (to me) to mostly be different categories of products that happen to both include a video component.
You are right that the audience skews very young. Most of the viewers are half my age, and act like it... but we do do a pretty good job keeping the discussion intelligent. Most people write off Twitch chat, but if actively curated it can be educational, interesting, and inviting to more than just the "I'm 15 and my parents won't let me watch TV so I'm watching this on my phone" demographic. Most channels stopped trying; we try and we're doing okay.
Some games are easier to watch than others. Overwatch is fine, it's a very action-packed game and there are no boring moments. I play Hearthstone but honestly don't watch any streams because it's just sitting there for 70 seconds waiting for the streamer (or their opponent) to make a decision. I do watch edited videos on YouTube to see how decks I don't play work, however.
The downtime can really be a killer, though. I was watching a popular Hearthstone streamer play over the weekend (I was bored) and she spent most of the time playing that game where you draw something and the AI guesses it while waiting for her opponent to take their turn. Not worth my time.
What I really enjoy about Twitch is that I can have it on in the background while doing other stuff (coding most of the time).
I am a huge video game fan, but as I aged, unfortunately, I found it difficult to dedicate time to video games (and there by taking time away from my coding). Twitch allows me to not only get the story of video games, but enjoy the game along with an entertaining streamer and chat (though I rarely ever pay attention to chat).
1. Some days I wanna play, but I'm not actually on top form, going to twitch and decompressing by watching someone else play, live, has this strange humanness to it. In the most absurd of ways, you build a "friendship" with the streamer, even if only as a voyeur. I hate that reality, but I found myself liking the characters and tuning in to specific streams.
2. A lot of great plays/rounds/etc will get "clipped" and make rounds on various social media so I don't have to keep up 24/7.
3. Big "esports" events are the same things as normal sporting events, people will record/watch live and make time for the things that are important to them. It surprised me too, but being on the "other side" now, it's fun.
Seeing someone on the other side of the world react to a comment you write gives you a huge sense of connection. More than a passive TV show can offer.
Streaming is great "background noise" for when you're bored and sitting around the house. It fills the same niche that I think sports does for sports people. It's live entertainment with no fixed outcome.
I'm sure if Twitch were around and some of the best players broadcast their games with live commentary we would have watched them for pointers. I used to play Quake and remember watching a pre-Twitch video of one of the best Quake players, "Thresh", and observing how one of the best (perhaps the best) Quake players played the game.
In terms of time, it's like people taking golf lessons to get a better swing and get their par down, or people reading chess endgame books to learn how to properly do a bishop and knight checkmate, or what have you. I guess you're right about students and single young professionals, as that is when I had the time to spend on improving my skill at various games.
I don't play as much video games as much anymore but I had 5000 loyal followers that would take my word as the gospel.
I had some offers on a dozen gaming networks, the biggest one was TGN. I would categorize twitch followers based on age demographic, since this is most of the behavioral trends I noticed
Young millenials have nothing to better to do sometimes and really enjoy having that "virtual friend" / "virtual older sibling" mentality when it comes to video games. It fills a void they have and its easily accessible, all they need is their phone and internet. No need to schedule things with your buddies who might not be in the mood to game. Example, pewdiepie's viewers are on the younger demographic end
General agnostic age categories - I would divide into four areas regardless of age.
- One (like me) who still likes gaming and wants to keep up with some games mostly out of curiosity / bc I don't have time, so I watch gameplay videos mostly on youtube. I skip ahead sometimes and only watch videos here and there, sometimes at 2x speed.
- Two, people who have nothing better to do and enjoy watching streamers as a form of entertainment. Sometimes I would fit in this category as well, I watch a few fortnite players (nickeh30) who just have a great personality and are able to pull complex movements that only maybe 0.1% of players could do.
- Third, people looking to get better at the game by watching streamers. I sometimes fit in above category
- Fourth, we also have the esports area. This is your diehard sports-level fandom and I used to be a huge fan of DoTA partially because I played it for 10+ years and played with some of the top players competing today. It was nostalgia for me if anything, much like people who loved soccer growing up watched the world cup
So there you go, that's how I categorize gamers on twitch. You also have kappa trolls among other things and also softcore porn tailored towards parental controlled networks for kids nearing puberty but that's a totally different story. Then you also have programming streams, we get a largely mostly older / smarter tech audience for that.
Twitch does have an API as well if you want to do data analytics on it
For big StarCraft tournaments I sometimes tune in to major events as well. You can always watch the VODs later, but it's fun to chat with people during the games, or posting your thoughts while things are ongoing on the appropriate subreddit.
So it's similar to keeping ESPN running on your TV, or tuning in to the Superbowl or World Cup finals.
People sometimes even go out and meet up at venues to watch these tournaments. For example, in the bay area there are a few gaming lounges / bars that show major game tournaments. That can be a good chance to socialize with people who share a common interest with you.
It can also be fun to just chat with like-minded strangers while a game is going on in the background.
For me, Twitch is background a lot of time. I have 3 monitors, so I often have youtube or twitch up on one while I work on something, and it has a chat, so you can interact with other people watching it and their conversation if the whole thing isn't just a giant meme-blast-fuckathon like it is on so many popular streams. In this era of marathon-oriented Netflix shows, Youtube and Twitch are surprisingly reminiscent of old-school TV in how little attention they demand.
You probably wouldn't watch some random kids stream of them playing football in their backyard.
Now imagine Messi himself doing exactly that and also commenting it live, explaining all his tricks and his reasoning for every move he makes on the field. I bet you would be much more interested.
Think of it this way, if you only have that one obligation and no social life, what else are you going to do? No, watching twitch streamers or hanging out in ephemeral discord channels is not a true substitute for a "real" social life.
I know I'm in a tiny minority of people that watch streamers as a learning tool and not as a source of entertainment. No reason to cater to people like me.
It's ridiculous that Twitch mutes audio, even if it's only a few seconds. Fair use is being totally ignored.
It might be fair use for the streamer, but it almost certainly isn’t for Twitch.
What you are saying is that Fair Use cannot be utilized, because the hosting company is somehow violating copyright.
That is the same nonsensical logic that is used against MegaUpload and bittorrent; the same nonsensical logic that Youtube's Content Protection system is based on; the same nonsensical logic that drives DRM.
The world is not better when copyright holders are able to compel a third party to win their disputes. Unfortunately, that is the world we live in.
I worked with one guy who'd keep StarCraft competitions playing in the background on his third monitor while he coded all day.
I think most people use it when they need something low-investment to watch for a bit, pull up a popular stream for whatever game you're interested in and you have something that you can easily step in or out of, switch to a different stream if one gets boring, etc.
Same way some people use reality shows and similar such things.
Just b/c it's moving that way doesn't mean that behavior is going to go away. People watch CNN/FOX for hours straight (usually not attentively watching it mind you). This is no different.
When you find a streamer you like, it can be very relaxing. It's also introduced us to games we wouldn't play otherwise. My girlfriend hates anything scary, but we found a great stream of Last Of Us that made it really fun. I've also discovered new games to play through it.
So much depends on the streamer, though. If you don't get it, you probably haven't found the right one for you.
I usually keep Twitch playing while I do some housekeeping churns or cook. If there's a playthrough I particularly enjoy, I play VOD over a course of a few days for about 30 minutes at a time (usually one or two sessions a day). Otherwise I either watch live if one of my channels is online or pick a VOD from one of them.
Basically I treat Twitch channel as a YouTube channel or a podcast with an added bonus that they often broadcast live, too, and I can interact with the channel host.
Even just watching how a high performing esports team communicates in real time is pretty interesting.
It's down right impressive at how much some people can process in real time.
Also, i find it super entertaining to watch very skilled people do somthing that they enjoy. I might watch 1 hour of tv a week, but probably 2-3 hours of twitch in small intervals (30 mins here and there)
I'm definitely out of the target demographic for Twitch, but I consider it an additional entertainment channel when I'm bored of content in traditional media such as Youtube TV and Netflix.
I spend an hour or so every night just browsing through streams to look for interesting content, swapping between games and IRLs. It's a good shift away from production TV content.
My impression is that most people are just having it on in the background while they do other stuff. If this sort of thing was around back when I was in college I can definitely imagine myself streaming something on Twitch while I studied.
The overall vibe seems to be analogous to having someone keeping you company while you work. Not that different from talk radio shows, only more interactive.
some just don't have the money to buy the game they want so they go into Twitch to watch that very game and get their fix until they can purchase that game.
Twitch's VOD player is not particularly good, I might even say pretty bad, but you can absolutely watch on-demand.
There are people who will sit down and watch full broadcasts and in that case it can be a lot of time.
A lot of streamers are just always on which I'm sure makes it easier.
It plays in the background when I'm grinding on work stuff late at night, or when I want to do SOMETHING that isn't watching TV. Much less commitment and effort than the games themselves, and feels about the same.
Though this is partially to pick up tips for when I GM IRL though my players aren't as well behaved :-)
From these observations, if you assume that people are watching gaming content to learn, you should be able to reduce confusion at the popularity of live content on twitch and start to get an understanding of why Twitch does not represent a step backwards.
There’s no requirement that you only watch while they’re online.
Who has time to write comments on an anonymous forums? Who has time to watch TV? Listen to music? Who has time to watch a couple of men kick a ball around? People make time if it is something that interests them.
> you have to sit down and watch for hours every night
You don't have to. You could just check in for a few minutes while you are eating or programming or cleaning or anything really. Also, many streams are available for viewing "offline". You don't have to be there for the stream. You could watch it later.
> Who does that?
Tens of millions of people?
> I imagine it's mostly students and single young professionals.
Probably. It's usually the younger generation that adopts tech and then slowly the older generation follows.
Not sure why you are so shocked? What's the difference between twitch and TV or watching the world cup? At least with twitch there is interaction via chat.
It's an incredibly sad, discouraging experience even if you get traction (and I got some traction). It's also utterly hollow: your entire existence is as a wrapper around the content folks actually want to see. The most successful streamers develop their own brand, but these people are the 0.5%, the Felixs and the _sips and the ZachScotts. They're the exception, and even they have specific genres and subjects that if they venture into they risk losing a massive chunk of their audience.
Once I realized this, I had to stop trying to do it professionally. I'd rather go back to doing software product work. At least I feel like a real person with real impact in this field, as opposed to one of a billion interchangeable wrappers around other people's mostly interchangeable content.
But you can of course go see my youtube channel and watch my old minecraft content if you want. Some of the stuff around the middle of my cycle (i.e., D&S play Minecraft, Minecraft the Hard Way, Sunless Minecraft) was pretty solid for the genre.
Then one day my friend on a whim did a skit that ended up doing very well (it got featured on wired.com and even posted on HN ). We got a lot of attention from this skit (and one or two others), but this really wasn't content we wanted to dedicate ourselves towards.
It was extremely disheartening seeing the wide disparity between videos we wanted to make and videos that got views--we loved to think that people enjoyed watch us, but it was really clear that most people just wanted to see more of those two/three videos.
I don't think I regret the time spent though. Doing LPs definitely strengthened my ability to explain what I'm doing as I'm doing it, a skill I use all the time as a software dev (and one I definitely see others lacking). It also gave me a ton of experience with video editing, which while not as useful professionally is a lot of fun and I think a useful skill to have in your pocket.
Yeah, what sets popular streamers apart is that their 'wrapper' is distinctive and entertaining in its own right. Everyone is showing much the same product; what can you put around it that's different?
Kind of like selling fizzy drinks, I guess.
People want to see themselves in whatever you produce for them. It's that simple. They want something they identify with.
Artists and content developers can have more fun playing with it because they have different meaning spaces - they see connections across content that is still self identity, it's just across a different set of things. It can be competitive and draining though, so one must use their energy wisely.
Crowds can be fickle in general, so it can as well be exhausting staying plugged into them, producing just for them, without any way of receiving meaningful feedback.
It's not that people are narcissists at heart, it's just that they don't want to pay attention to things to things that don't make sense to them on any level. That's pretty normal.
Funny thing is comrade Tocqueville hit on that upon looking at the USA for a couple of months almost two centuries ago.
Something along the lines of "democratic peoples want to hear stories about themselves" (instead of the classics), rather early on the pages of his Democracy in America, writing about theater and culture.
I think the internet introduces both tunnel vision of self identity and complete chaos where self identity breaks down. This seems like it would be an obvious consequence of anonymity, but some things are easily forgotten.
It makes sense with the Democratic process. Identities constantly swapping and merging, playing both sides while being neither fundamentally. It makes sense that communism would have a valid criticism. Stable, forced sense of identity suppresses dissent before it manifests. Until revolution, war happens, that is. Scary stuff!
There is a youtuber; BloominBanana I subbed around the same time I subbed to Markipler 2010ish, they both do (did?) the same horror gameplay except Bloomin' has about 12 subs on youtube.
Mark as I knew him was the king of 'going out there' he was never afraid of marketing, publicity stunts and was honestly humble to his huge user base where Bloomin' despised marketing and wanted to grow "organically".
Growing organically isn't possible. You need to do something, you need to bot and break rules on twitch, you need to ask for publicity, you need to make friends with other streamers. Playing a game and being funny doesn't cut it anymore
When the internet was a smaller space occupied primarily by nerdy types, you could make something interesting and by the nature of the medium, a lot of people found it. You thought you really hit it big if you made Slashdot, but getting featured on television took it to a whole different level. (For example: The Dancing Baby) You didn't need to have a face or a personality - your content actually could speak for itself. But even back then, taking those extra steps usually didn't hurt, either.
Now, the internet is full of professionals of all stripes, and that means you're fighting for attention against people or entities who have a budget for marketing and PR. I can take the most beautiful photos in the world and put them on Instagram, but if I'm not actively marketing that account, no one will ever see them. Meanwhile, some dope with a fresh set of credit cards rents a Lamborghini for a photo shoot, buys batches of followers, and that will grow a following, and maybe he'll get a free night at a posh hotel out of it.
Maybe Bloomin' just does it for the love of it. Maybe Markipler has been able to quit their job and make YouTube their profession. I bet both of them wish they had aspects of the other's experiences. As much exposure as I got to being a small-beans niche internet 'celebrity' (like, on the level of local weatherman), I wouldn't wish fame on my worst enemy.
More or less. As the content generated exceeds limits of human attention, it is our ability to pay attention that is scarce and much sought after. And I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Basically, if you focus on how people want to approach their goals/passions, instead of the goal itself, you get a really good idea of why they're doing something. If you know why they're doing something, you can design systems allowing get better genuine engagement. So, you stop designing for attention (which can be exploitative and bad) and start designing for meaning (which is empowering and enjoyable).
Applied to this problem of the lonely blogger/streamer, I'm not sure what the solution is... I'll think about it and post a reply later to avoid a wall of text.
My wife's a composer, and between the work the two of us have put in around her music, she's gotten pretty good exposure - a piece of hers went fairly viral in 2009, with peak exposure probably being a couple of segments on the Rachel Maddow Show (and a lot of law blogs leading up to that). I built a custom CMS for showcasing the music she writes, and we take advantage of social media... but we've also seen friends of hers, also composers, short-circuit that by hiring a PR firm, and suddenly they're being reviewed in the New York Times. Throwing that cash around is way more efficient than, say, marrying a web developer and dabbling in media creation alongside maintaining a career in music composition.
On a larger scale, Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails has been through a couple of cycles of this. Started out on an indie label (1988), found it wasn't serving them well, basically struck out on their own to earn enough credibility that a big label bought out the contracts (1991), which worked well until it didn't (2000), went almost entirely in-house (2008), which did okay but didn't scale, and post-2010, works with different people or agencies with different strengths, between selling merch, manufacturing & distribution, tour management, publicity, and so forth.
This resonates with me deeply. I've always lived by that sentiment.
It's also one of the reasons I love the points systems on Reddit and Hacker News, as it's the fairest way to objectively rank things people make, rather than by how much advertising and marketing they can afford.
1. You are exceedingly lucky, and your work somehow attracts the attention of a person or organisation who's already famous/has a massive audience. This is how many indie games take off, with examples like Five Nights at Freddy's and what not becoming popular after being played by the likes of Markiplier and PewDiePie.
2. You somehow find a very specific niche that no one else on the planet has decided to compete in and that somehow has a decent sized audience interested in it. This is far less likely than it used to be in the early internet days, but it's still technically possible. One of my own forums is like this, since it's the only site dedicated to a certain video game franchise on the entire internet. Another example may be the likes of Boundary Break on YouTube.
But you're right that it's certainly not a practical way to grow your channel/site/business/whatever, especially as the only way someone can succeed that way is basically through sheer dumb luck.
I’m not sure I entirely agree with this.
I used to watch a few Youtubers like Ethoslab, Davidr64yt, Caliform, TheTolhe, etc. that seemed to grow completely organically. I’ve never seen them do any kind of “marketing” for their channel nor clickbait bullshit and they seem to have made it anyway. I think luck plays a big part in this, as well as your experience & charisma when doing your initial vidéos (if those suck, most viewers will just move on instead of giving you a chance to get better as time goes).
I do know he was extremely outgoing, almost weirdly so. I don't know the full extent of his 'hustle' but it wasn't just booting up amnesia every week.
It's the life of all those trying to enter into high risk, highly coveted careers that afford celebrity: authorship, sports, politics, music or film. The field might be changing but the game remains the same: humans mostly value what other humans happen to value, the other 99.99% comparable but unknown products are simply discarded.
All of these streamers who are bothered by not having an audience seem to have started for the wrong reasons. If all they care about are subscribers and viewers, then you're going to get really burnt out when that doesn't happen. Most of the popular streamers who I've come across do it because they enjoy it.
The same can be said for the people who create successful SAAS apps. It's a mix of enjoying what they do, combined with making something that no one else has yet. It's not to get rich quick.
However we must see it also from the small business perspective. How many start a business versus how many succeed? I remember when coffee shops, cupcake shops, and more, were the fad, and they vanish with regularity.
It took me almost a year of regular blogging before I got some type of readership on my site, and even today, 3 years later, I wouldn't consider it popular. My intent was never to get make money on the site. It was to create documentation for myself (and anyone else who wants to follow along).
The most important thing was being unique with quality.
While other people parrot the best credit card rewards, we did serious research into finding the best Calories Per Dollar, Protein Per Dollar, Vitamin A per dollar, etc...
But like the other person mentioned, I dont like shoving it in people's faces. I'm finally at the point that I get hundreds of googles a day and Ive meet people IRL that have been on my website.
The biggest deal is to provide value that no one else is. Most people are wayy to lazy. They would rather spend 4 hours on a blog post instead of 20.
You could write the same story about YouTubers, bloggers, artists, musicians, business owners and software engineers. Many try, most either fail or struggle in relative obscurity.
I found myself really disliking how I spoke when editing the videos because it was a real pain to make my voice heard using all sorts of compression and volume normalisation
It was a decent insight into how others may be hearing me (or not, as the case was)
My voice changed -drastically- in 3 years of creating online video courses, and while things like confidence levels have gone up (tone / etc.) there's also been technical improvements too (better mic / audio settings). My audio settings now are very basic. I just speak at a casual volume straight into the mic and do very little audio processing (just a noise gate and a tiny amount of compression).
A good gauge for improvement is how long you can go in a single cut. I still script a lot of my content just to gather my thoughts (I feel it makes for a better end result, even if I don't stick to the script 100%).
Is the analogy made to failed startups already? Let me steal a couple of things mentioned in the article and just replace the topic of Twitch streamers with startups. I am now a self-proclaimed startup guru for the remainder of this comment by using this article as my source :D
Reasons for starting a startup other than being financially successful or successful through social impact are: (1) it is a form of self-improvement, (2) you will connect with people and (3) you can express your political views. Note on expressing your political views: create an amazing product that helps your political views like starting a hospice clinic that is pro or against euthanasia.
Don't try to get fake likes for your marketing campaign, or fake emails for that matter. Related, buying into reciprocal deals is dangerous (e.g. you like someone and they'll like you).
Oh, and if you're able to be comfortable being lonely, not taking rejection personal and keep a work rhythm that you can stick with then you may have a chance of success. However, it all comes down to quite a bit of luck still, didn't I mention you need to be comfortable being lonely?
I wish there were more articles like this. Despite the fact it's not a post-mortem it shows how tough these things (Twitch streaming or startups) can be.
Where does the analogy break according to you? I am having a bit too much confirmation bias in my thinking.
I love watching Twitch, and watch 5-7 gamers regularly (almost every night). From what I can tell, most of them:
- Are in their mid-20's to early 30's.
- Live with their parents.
- Make just enough from Youtube/Twitch/Patreon/merch to fund their gaming rigs, buy new games, buy their own food, and maybe pay for an upgraded internet connection.
These are people who in some cases have hundreds of thousands of followers on Youtube and each Twitch stream attracts over two thousand viewers. It's not a good way to make a living.
I've asked several of them if they make a full-time living (via Twitch chat), and they've acknowledged the question, but didn't seem to want to really answer it.
A couple of them even make a joke out of it every time their sibling starts torrenting and it slows down their network connection.
If I ever have a kid, I'll support their dream of becoming one of these people. And I'll also tell them they're not living in my house past the age of 18. Figure out a way to make money while doing what you love.
The economics simply don't work. Even if you ascend to the "middle tier". It works out to way less than (american) minimum wage, at best.
I now cringe a bit at the hours and hours i spent there, though i did make some good friends and had great conversations. But it really wasn't the best use of my Late 20s, in the longrun.
It should really only be seen as a hobby, for a few extra bucks on the side, at best, like mowing lawns or other odd jobs. If you think you can make a living, that is both dangerous and delusional thinking.
To contrast with that, I know twitch streamers whose channel averages out at around 300 viewers a time, and who make a very comfortable living. Having a properly run channel that encourages donations, cash and bits, is a huge part of it.
I've seen streamers who pull an easy $200 a day in donations. Add in 500 or so subs, and it isn't too hard to break 6k a month. Not enough to live in the Bay Area, but a really nice salary in most of the country.
And that those streamers have to stream 6-7 days a week to maintain their audience.
Not worth it, honestly.
I can definitely see how it could/would eventually become more work than fun, but that doesn't seem to be the case for many streamers.
carlsagan42 streams once a week for ~4 hours, and pulls in a couple thousand viewers at min, at 6pm on a Saturday.
His secret? He is super entertaining, hands down one of the funniest people and most entertaining people to watch on twitch. His YT videos of his streams then get a few hundred thousand more views on top of that. But yes he is an anomaly, in that he is really damn good at both game play and also entertaining.
Most streamers don't have that killer combo, so they have to work a lot harder.
Plenty of streamers are 9am-5pm, 8am-4pm, or 11am-7pm. Heck I know successful who are 8pm-midnight.
I'd argue that it really depends on the stream and the community. Streamers that build a super strong community can get away with shorter streamers and smaller viewer bases. They won't be pulling in millions, but they can get a steady income stream from it.
My overall point is that streaming is a valid career for people who have the right skills. The barrier to getting started is low, but the barrier to doing to an open mic stand-up is also low. The difference is there aren't a bunch of news articles about people flocking to open-mic nights, although I suspect on any given night there are a thousand or so people doing open mic in the US alone! But there is also a cultural realization that most people shouldn't quit their job, drop out of school, and start practicing their comedy routine 8 hours a day.
I know of more than half a dozen who are just Super Mario Maker streamers.
I know, my pure happenstance, of two cooking streamers who have built communities.
I think low double digits is a low ball estimate. There are more successful retro gaming streamers than that, I have no idea what the contemporary game twitch scene is like.
No one ever talks about 300 viewer streamers, they make for lousy news stories. Drama with super successful streamers, and articles like this one that talk about failure at the bottom.
Someone working 9-5, 40 hours a week, pulling in 40-50k a year isn't a news story.
It may be part of their income but not all of their income.
If you run the numbers on what's needed to make ~$1500/wk off of 4 hours/week of streaming, it doesn't paint the picture that you are.
Sounds great? Well if it takes 30 hours a week for 3 years, it really isnt great. (And I've probably spent 15,000 USD on interns and editors in 3 years)
Lucky I'm an engineer and my website is fun and I appreciate the traffic/comments more than anything.
You'd have to be fantastic at your particular game or whatever they stream on Twitch (I know absolutely nothing about this platform) and great at self promotion. Not unlike wanting to be a rock star or movie star.
I fail to see how it's any more like a lottery win than being in other forms of media, other than it's a very new platform (in the grand scheme of things).
It wouldn't be for me but I'm sure plenty of people are making plenty of money and Twitch has its own Justin Bieber/Miley Cyrus (or whoever is the pop star of choice today. Yeah, I'm getting old).
At least for music, there are some career fallback options if you really want to pursue that path, but lack the charisma / marketing skills to be a pop lead. Orchestras / Broadway, session musicians, game and film composition, studio work (production / engineer / composer), etc. A lot of these paths actually value technical competence way more than the self promotion necessary for pop music stardom. It's an extremely competitive field, of course, but it's possible to do very well as a musician without necessarily being a pop star. I'm not sure if the equivalent exists for Twitch streamers.
It is a lot of networking to help make raids happen early on, a lot of learning to adapt to what the audience wants (which is hard with only a text interface to the audience!), a lot of hard work, and a good amount of natural talent.
Paid my estimated federal and state income taxes through the year, paid federal and state taxes at the end of the year, paid for a decent tier in the healthcare exchange, put away as much for retirement as was prudent, and still had more than enough money to take two months of the year off and pay for a three bedroom, two bathroom house in the suburbs (mortgage, utilities, and insurance all paid).
It's not impossible here, but it is impossible in the Bay Area.
And what better time do make a go at it than in your 20's?
A second aspect that i really enjoy in relation to twitch streams is the chat community and the interaction you can have live with the streamer. Its basically a IRC chat channel that the streamer is the owner of. So even when the stream is offline, you can hang around chatting with friends that you make online. It really remind me of my old mIRC days. Its all about finding a community that you enjoy, not all stream chats are the same. Some can be quite toxic but most streamers have Mods that ban people quickly for hate speech etc.
There are also people that are coding on twitch these days, and i really enjoy having one of those streams open while coding myself. Whenever i get stuck on something, or am thinking about an issue / design I like watching what the streamer is coding for a few min. It tends to help me work out the problems quicker and the designs are normally better thought out.
I wonder if there's a bit of game theory in play where it's impossible to be discovered when playing a megapopular game like Overwatch/Fortnite, and it's more advantageous to play relatively more obscure games. It wouldn't be the first time working the long-tail has been effective.
I do not think most twitch streamers are trying to be professionals. I think most streamers are just trying to add more fun into their game time. In game theory everyone's main objective is the same, in this case measured in either revenue or viewers. In the twitch world most streamers are trying to maximize fun instead of viewers or revenue.
(Disclosure: I stream relatively obscure games, and know many other streamers in both megapopular and obscure games.)
It turns out that if you do the basics, and make content that is not terrible, then you can be the "#1 live stream programmer in the world", pretty easily.
But it turns out that getting to the #1 spot at the top of the twitch programming category only nets you about 10-20 concurrent viewers.
At that point the goal should be to grow the category as a whole, I guess.
I'm usually a self-starter on learning things, but I can lose interest quickly if I don't get some sort of feedback or have someone to ask questions. MOOCs, forums, etc are a waste of time for me in most cases; too slow and impersonal. And now that I think about it Twitch/streaming would probably be a better suited learning medium for me.
There is lot of blindly looking at the screen, reading tutorials or getting frustrated with compilation errors.
They do not like to be helped.
A lot are doing game programming, I'm less interested in this, but some are very interesting. For instance...
Really interesting what she does, and an insane attention to detail.
A HNer I watch when he codes... he does an interesting mix of stuff and has 30+ years of experience
there's people coding games with robotic bananas
who also has coding streams with Microsoft Devs
and numerous others doing embedded development, web development, backend dev, security, crypto, Rust, Lisp, C++, F#, Vimers, IDEers, VSCoders, Emacers.... all sorts.
I didn't know of the streamers you mentioned, but I'd be sure to check them out.
Looking forward to being wrong on this.
Complete game from scratch (nothing but platform libraries). Has spawned a number of small projects, like 4coder (https://4coder.itch.io/4coder) and Milton (https://github.com/serge-rgb/milton) and a lot more: http://handmade.network/
Complete hardware/software stack for a RISC-V computer from scratch (compiler, assembler, ...)
He's the author of the excellent stb header-only libraries, does the occasional live coding video.
He's the game developer and designer behind Braid and The Witness. He's designing a programming language (JAI), works on that and shows off features, as well as doing game development, on his channel. (And occasionally playing games.)
https://www.twitch.tv/naysayer88 with no schedule
Martin "quill18" Glaude:
He's primarily a game streamer, but also a consistent Ludum Dare participant, with some high placement in many of them. He has a series of programming videos.
They have different approaches, but mostly ignore the chat during the stream, but often the chat has very bright folks who can help out.
Most people watch above the fold in browse, and then above the fold for those games, so the streamers get all or nothing depending on the fold. So when you start out, that's nothing.
But for the minority of people who care about specific games/categories that usually aren't above the fold on browse (which hn is probably biased towards), this gets you quite consistent growth and engagement, especially if you're competant at the game or interacting.
I just recently ran across some twitch channels via youtube because I was looking for some help with some Dark Souls III content.
It's like a whole different universe with people who live and breath these games every waking moment. I found it very interesting to see that it's a whole way of life with this many people. Now I'm tempted to watch some of these twitch broadcasters even though I'm not interested in the games that they're playing.
I've tuned into other low viewer streams, and a lot of them are just bad. The gameplay is bad, and the streamer isn't entertaining. A successful streamer needs one or the other, either be one of the top in the world for the game you are playing, or be super entertaining to listen to. For the later, the game itself is more of a set piece around a comedy bit.
People with 0 new advice, rehashing the same old credit card rewards and budgeting advice.
Its so terrible that there are people claiming 'frugal ways to eat' and claim 50$/week per person for food is frugal. A single google search would tell you that under 30$/week is a good goal.
This drives me crazy because we are eating for 20$/week and actually put hundreds of hours into studying this.
In the end, my website gets hundreds of viewers a day, their blogs arent ranked on alexa.
Even in a week where I only at food cooked at home I can't imagine getting under $70/week. I'm curious what I would have to give up to get to $50, much less $30.
I guess to some extent I'm asking to have my cake and eat it too. It just seems like you have to give up most meat and a lot of flavor to hit $50/week or lower.