If this blog hasn’t hammered one thing in by this point is that video and computer games may be relatively young medium compared to literature, music, film and other forms of entertainment like theater, but at its core the reasons for playing these games and methods are not new in themselves. Nevertheless, the evolution of technology does mask old things with new coat of paint. Old things in a different way for the new generation.
This whole post started from listening to a discussion about streaming, to be frank. It is true that streaming has become a way of life and making a living to certain people, and its the kind of work that almost permeates the streamer’s life. If you’re also doing normal video work on Youtube, preparing pre-scripted material with voice over, graphics and video, that’s off from everything else alongside streaming. No kid who wants to grow up to be a streamer should think that’s its an easy or stable job. On the contrary, being a content creator via streaming and video creation takes loads of hard work to get good at it, and even then you might fail because you don’t find the audience or your charisma just isn’t up to the task.
Streamers on platforms like Twitch and Youtube are self-employed. They do no work for Amazon or Google they’re just users like any other. Youtube may have started as a site for people to put videos on that couldn’t be longer than ten minutes, but it’s evolved to this massive network of content providers, which essentially means Google has outsourced the content at their site to people who do it for free. Sure, there are partner programs and such, but ultimately users are external from the company itself. The same applies to Twitch. The money is made from sponsorship and donations from viewers.
None of this is new, and comparisons could be spun to whichever direction we’d want. For example, peeping shows on the net rely on monetary donations from the watcher for the provider to provide some visual titillation and more. Another example could be anyone doing public sports, who has been slabbed all over with sponsorship logos on their shirts, pants and who knows where.
Arts patronage is more or less a dead concept and has evolved into modern sponsorship, where it used to be high-position people like kings and queens supporting their chosen people for arts and crafts, while nowadays the equivalents would be large companies and individuals. There was an interesting paradigm shift about ten to twenty years ago with modern technology, which took place in very slow pace, where tipping someone for their content moulded into the donation via Patreon and other services we have today.
All this is new for current paradigm of electronic games regarding the users themselves, both content providers and supporters. While it all really stems from people wanting to watch other people doing something for their enjoyment (IRL streaming and such are just another form of Big Brother), modern communication technology has broken the wall of interactivity between the watchers and actors. For example, you can watch Casposaurus’ videos and comment on them, to which he’ll most likely reply in a cuntish way. You can also watch his streams and directly interact with him via the chat. The last wall breaks down when you can go to his Discord channel and talk with him directly about pretty much anything. We’ve come from people discussing about things on an online forum to real-time, anywhere at any time. It may not seem like a major change, but the underlying element here isn’t just being able to connect with the audience, but who is doing the connection; a person.
Generally speaking, the separation between a provider (e.g. a corporation) and its consumers is beneficial as it providers a buffer between the front and the back. While this buffer exists between the example content provider above, it is much thinner barrier. You can’t exactly contact a script writer or director directly and discuss their latest episode or a movie with. With streamers and other content providers, that is a solid possibility with most of them.
Content providers who take up streaming and video making as their full-time job are dependent on their content. If the barrier between the user and provider is thin and the product is themselves rather than the content they make, their personal actions and choices can and will affect the rate of viewers and possible revenue. Internet Drama may be fun to watch and laugh at times, yet it can have heavy consequences if those actions cause major loss in viewers. While providers can state that they won’t change their methods or content whatever the sponsors say, the reality is that they have to create content that satisfies at least certain audience. Effectively, providers create something they think to be of value, and hope their submission is worth the patronage of the crowd, that the value can be found in them.
Watching a streamer is akin to watching a sports. People don’t watch sports just for sport itself, because simply watching it for the technical execution can get a bit jarring on the long run. It’s the “drama” they watch it for, the tension of things. The same can be said of streamers’ audiences, who are not looking for just well played game, but the self-contained community surrounding it all. What’s the value viewers hold in the streams is different, though we can generalise them as for the viewer, for the community or for the style of content.
Stream community and cultures have a low-entrance barrier as anyone can enter it either as a viewer or streamer themselves. Everything related to the communities and the sub-culture is easy to understand and grasp by just looking at it for a moment, similar to sports. This is somewhat opposite to high-entrance barrier parts of culture, like high art galleries or opera, where the viewer has to put more of that grey matter into work to get the intended enjoyment. As such, it is only natural for video and computer gaming to adopt something old in a new way for itself, considering it has became one of the largest entertainment industries.