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The Meteoric Rise of Video Game Streaming

The phenomenon of video game streamers.

The streaming of video games has become a phenomenon in recent years. Video platforms, such as YouTube and Twitch, have become the authoritative channels to communicate and share the virtual exploits of peoples gaming experience. Not only have the most eminent become synonymous with video gaming, but many have branched out into branding, such as clothing and candles.

These videos discuss games in a variety of formats, including ‘let’s plays’, walkthroughs, machinima and reviews. They have captured the attention of millions of loyal followers, who opt to subscribe and watch the video content regularly.

Historically, video gaming was generally a solitary activity, but now there has been a seismic shift towards not just multiplayer gaming, but a totally communal experience, where gamers watch others playing games and can comment and communicate upon the events.

Culturally, this trend is extremely important; it reiterates the place and importance of video games within the wider media environment. The sheer level of professionalism, fun and communication with fans means gamers trust streamers. The streamers themselves do recognise their influence amongst fans.

So why is the genre so popular? Let’s explore this a little further

The sheer number of games out there means gamers can be very choosy about what they purchase.  Gamers can watch a trailer and demo the game, but us savvy gamers want to see the game in action right now. The streamer is the guinea pig, with the viewer watching to ensure the game is worth the price tag. The type of games streamed range from AAA games to indie titles that have sparked their interest. In effect, their influence upon the video gaming industry cannot be understated, with games such as Punch Club, who through clever marketing embraced the Twitch streaming community and an increase in sales was clearly noticed directly after the streaming. There is nothing better than discovering a new game.

Personality is a deciding factor, as gamers want to watch engaging streamers, with a strong personality, who isn’t afraid of speaking their mind. No article about streaming video games can be written without discussing PewDiePie, who also has the most subscribers on YouTube. Naming fans ‘bros’ builds and develops an instantaneous connection with fans. Streamers such as PewDiePie and Jesse Cox are engaging and hyperbole the heck out of a game.

As a career path, streamers are extremely talented gamers and can demonstrate the games in the manner that they are supposed to be played in. They take the extreme mode challenges and chancey manoeuvres, simply for the entertainment value. The unpredictable nature of what could happen is what is truly exciting, the speed challenges and games with jump scares is very appealing for viewers.

Community spirit is important; the viewer is part of the shared experience and can comment and post on what is happening in the game. The competitive pressure is on the streamer, but the viewer can relax, enjoy the banter and chat in the forums. Savvy streamers know to utilise social media to ask fans what to stream next, thus assisting with the buying advice.

Self-improvement is a key factor, as gamers seek to improve skills and hone techniques. For strategic games like Hearthstone, learning and understanding the reason why cards should be played at a given time and the playstyle of other people. It also reminds players that the game, with perseverance and practise IS beatable and give us all hope that we too can complete the game. Watching and learning is better than reading a guide to truly understand what a player needs to do to beat a boss, for example.

There is a whole genre of esports, the professional arm of gaming where the best of the best can be watched playing their game. Whilst there is no personality shown through watching these high level players, one can watch simply in awe of the technical levels that the players have reached.

People watch streamers for a whole variety of reasons and the popularity of streaming will increase. There is a whole world of games to explore and introduce viewers to, both current and upcoming, AAA and independent games. What we all enjoy, is a person we can relate to, who plays a game that we know and love, are curious about, or equally have never heard of and learn about it, whilst having some fun along the way.

Published Nov. 17th 2016

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