When it comes to geeks and gamers, the public perception might be more closely aligned with isolated basement dwellers than the sea of enthusiastic and outgoing attendees I found on the floors of the expo hall at PAX West 2016. At the convention, popular game streaming platform, Twitch, is ubiquitous. In addition to the company’s own booth housing meet-and-greets and a stage packed with commentating hosts, there is a “Partner Lounge” (a place for established streamers to take a little reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the event floor), and several unaffiliated streaming zones. These days, when you game, you game with friends—at least in a virtual way.
I had the opportunity to attend several Twitch and stream-centric panels led by various big names and insiders. Beyond the hardware, software, and games, the unifying thread for Twitch is an overwhelming sense of community and the importance of connection.
What is Twitch?
Nine years ago, Justin Kan started a “lifecasting” platform by the name of Justin.tv. It later evolved into a strictly game streaming service named after the term “twitch gameplay.” Today, Twitch is a community of sharing. At the Twitch Town Hall—a tradition introduced more than 2 years ago at PAX—Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham, Director of Programming at Twitch, and Erin “Aureylian” Wayne, Lead Community Manager, discussed the platform’s newest social features such as friends, channel feeds, and cheering—a way to give virtual kudos to your favorite streamers with a micro-transaction of “bits.” Attendees vocally voted in the second annual “Global Emoticon Vote” where the community’s various inside jokes and mantras are immortalized in community-designed emoticons for use in the viewer chat window.
As the Twitch community grows and social interaction becomes the driving force, the future of Twitch actually seems to be getting back to its Justin.tv “lifecasting” roots. Today, in addition to gameplay, you can find various creative channels filled with live streams of arts and crafts, cooking, and even social eating. During the panel “The Spice of Twitch: Variety in All Things,” several variety streamers (those who don’t typically stick to one game, genre, or type of stream) discussed how they find success as a streamer in a large pool of infinite possibilities. The advice corroborated by each streamer was this: you are selling your personality and the connection with the community of viewers you build. In many cases, the content can almost be secondary. The platform has become, for many, a place to connect.
So You Wanna Be a Streamer
Through “tipping,” subscriptions, and partnered monetization opportunities, those streamers fortunate enough to build a loyal following are able to take up streaming as a career. Lindsay “Pehpper” Peck’s talk “From Dreamer to Streamer: A Guide to Streaming on Twitch” outlined what you need to take that first step in finding streaming bliss. Step 1: Stream. Find something you enjoy and share it! Step 2: Engage with your viewers. If you don’t have any, keep talking! You might sound silly, but when a viewer stumbles into that room, he’s more inclined to stay. But it doesn’t stop there. Engage outside of the stream. Reach out to other streamers and the community at large.
As panelists further discussed during “Driving Fan Engagement: The Next Frontier in Live-Streaming,” viewer engagement is crucial. Without their fans, streamers are nothing more than strange people talking to themselves in front of a computer screen. Not only does engagement provide valuable feedback for the streamers to better tailor their content to their audience, but it provides isolation-breaking interaction for the streamers as well.
All About Community
The Twitch community, and indeed the enthusiast community in general, is extremely strong and supportive and the deep connection between a streamer and his audience can be a powerful force. That’s why it pays to reach out to the passionate minds at Caffelli. We can help you harness the power of all things gaming, streaming and Twitch.