The year 2020 brought us many changes in behavior, often centered around moving our socialization and entertainment to the Internet. From work and education at home to virtual calls with family and friends, having necessities delivered to catching the latest films streaming, more and more people use online services for their daily lives.
Pop culture and geekdom were hit particularly hard with the cancellation of festivals, conventions, and the closure of theaters. Not only did the average fan have nowhere to attend, but artists took hits to their income as well.
While many turned to YouTube or TikTok, whether as a viewer or a content creator, there was one avenue that drew me in far more: Twitch. Upon becoming a Twitch viewer, I fell down a rabbit hole into a world that would change so much.
Twitch isn’t a new platform, of course. Officially launched a decade ago (with roots even further back), it became known for gaming streams of all kinds, but has grown to encompass a large variety of content.
As a streaming service, Twitch is different from YouTube and other uploaded videos because it’s live. And while some platforms (like YouTube, Facebook, etc.) offer live streams, they’re often low quality and provide limited interaction.
As a viewer, you’re not only receiving direct responses from the streamer, but many channels allow you to cause on-screen effects. You become part of the show, and that’s one of the allures of Twitch, although that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I’d used Twitch before and I knew several friends who would stream to minimal (if any) audiences, but I never gave the platform much thought until the COVID pandemic. Although my life didn’t change much during 2020, I was still bored and looking for entertainment.
After a recommendation to check out Rhiebelle, I began to stray into other streams. What I discovered was not just interactive entertainment but also a community.
Not only do you meet other fans of the same content creator and develop online friendships, but also the streamers themselves introduce you to new streamers. Each group leads you to new communities and content and I developed friendships with people from across the world.
Twitch was no longer something I occasionally stopped by – it was a door into a whole new set of social circles and activities, all of which became integral parts of my daily life and schedule.
With my first regular streamer, I began to find myself adhering to their schedule to catch every stream. It didn’t matter that they were five hours ahead of me – I would wake myself groggily on a Sunday morning to catch their “afternoon” stream or rush home from work to watch their “evening” game.
Each channel led to another, whether through shared communities, being part of the same Twitch Teams, or merely being in the same category or game. Soon, I had Twitch channels up non-stop, at work or home, and I’d arrange my real-life schedule just to be online for my favorites.
The communities I joined also continued outside Twitch, often chatting offline in Discords and other platforms. As I had nothing else to do, I was living and breathing Twitch every day, and those few moments when nobody I knew was online felt banal.
Part of this obsession was because Twitch had grown into so much more than merely streaming games.
As I mentioned before, artists needed new revenue streams, and on Twitch, you could find people streaming everything. Singers and musicians played requests, crafters taught classes, and whole streams were dedicated to talking about everything from hobbies to social issues and mental wellness.
The streams themselves also became more complex, less like chatting over gameplay and more like theatrical productions or radio shows. Content creators would use camera and lighting effects, allow viewers to influence the streamer (or stream), or even activate sound alerts or pop-ups.
Twitch had become the new public-access television, shot before a live studio audience, and loyal viewers (or subscribers) were guaranteed a spot on the show.
While this sounds unhealthy, I eventually found a good balance between real life and Twitch.
Many streams have fallen to the wayside, with me stopping in occasionally but focusing primarily on my favorite streamers. If I have free time outside of those core channels, I’ll see who’s on and pop in to share some support for the friends I’ve made.
But there’s no doubt that Twitch has become my new favorite entertainment and focus for my free time. This journey only went further when I began joining my streamer friends in multiplayer games online and began occasionally streaming myself.
While I’m not sure if Twitch will hold up in the long run, as many content creators return to real-world activities, I can say it’s changed my view on entertainment and online communities. Not to mention, even if I do cut my viewing down even further, I’m afraid there’s no coming back from where I’ve reached.
Because I’m no longer just a viewer but also a content creator myself, having become a Twitch Affiliate.
I didn’t just fall down the rabbit hole – I’ve embraced life in Wonderland.
Let us know about your favorite Twitch streamers. Who would you suggest following and why?
This is Part 1 of LonoXIII’s series on streaming. Stay tuned for more!