Watching Other People Play Games: A Twitch Primer

eHow Tech Blog

Playing with Twitch

Gamers can be inscrutable to their friends and family as they spend their time watching other people play games on a channel called Twitch. Gamers not only have their own language, but they also have their own social connections.

Hello, I’m a gamer. I have a non-gamer girlfriend who doesn’t quite understand my hobby. Perhaps you know a gamer guy, girl, son or daughter, and empathize with my girlfriend’s situation.

Her confusion has been exacerbated over the past year as Twitch has become a part of our (that is to say “my”) regular viewing schedule. In the heat of a gaming moment, I’m not always very descriptive with my responses, so… I created this Twitch primer for my girlfriend.

If you have a gamer in your life, you’ll benefit from this guide as well. Let’s start with a question I’m sure you’ve often asked when you hear a voice in the other room:

“Are You Talking to Me?”

At the moment, I’m watching Twitch, an online place to watch, learn and connect over video games. I’m shouting at a guy who is broadcasting his game play. He can’t hear my voice. I’m like a football fan “motivating” my team to win, or a person watching a horror movie telling the lead actress “don’t go in there!”

I might also be on TeamSpeak — a  voice chat that connects me to real people. They can hear my voice. TeamSpeak lets me hang out with friends I can’t often see in person.

“Why are you watching people play a game?”

I’m not watching alone! In a single month, more than a million different Streamers broadcast their video game play—and over 60 million watch.

The Streamers I enjoy most are true entertainers; good at the games they play and willing to provide teachable moments. The audience watching with me is entertaining, too. We type to the Streamer and each other in an online chat that accompanies the live video. It’s considered bm (or “bad manners”) to provide a Streamer with information that would give an unfair advantage. Chat is still a lively conversation though filled with “hellos,” tips, motivation and emotes.

“What does Kappa mean?”

Gamer speak is littered with purposeful misspellings and intentionally poor grammar (but NEVER choose the wrong to, too, or two—or the incorrect there, their or they’re—lest ye be mocked!). Each game also has jargon to describe areas of a map, characters and gameplay.

On Twitch, however, one does not simply express in words.

One Does Not Simply Express in Words

Forget smilie and heart emoji. Twitch audiences have a unique way of expressing themselves through emotes. Type a specific word in chat, and a small image appears instead.

“Kappa” is the most popular emote on Twitch (proven by the Kappa Per Minute counter). In Japanese folklore, Kappa is a mischievous spirit. On Twitch, the Kappa emote is the face of an employee who helped build the Twitch chat system and loves Japanese culture. Add “Kappa” to the end of any sarcastic sentence for it to be properly taken in jest.

“Are people getting paid to stream video games?”

Pro gamer Aphromoo made $8,000 his first month streaming. I’ve personally seen MaximusBlack make over $3,000 in a single 8-hour stream. However, only a select few—about one percent of Streamers—make a decent living through Twitch. These Streamers spend at least 40 to 80 hours a week streaming or improving the quality of their stream.

The best Streamers aren’t in it for the money, though. They broadcast their play because they love gaming and want to connect with like-minded people. Which brings us to my girlfriend’s final FAQ.

“What is a gamer?”

At one time, “Gamer” meant “young male who plays a lot of video games.” However, the online gaming industry achieved critical mass when the iPhone arrived. For many, smartphones and tablets became a gateway to console and PC games. Mobile devices changed the face of gaming.

Change fueled prejudice among some spiteful gamers who felt their identity threatened, and recently a “consumer revolt” called #GamerGate exploded. This debate on sexism in video games and pay-to-play journalism has gotten too political for me. Fortunately, Todd VanDerWerff explains #GamerGate fully, so we don’t need to delve any deeper here. Instead, let’s focus on your mom.

Your mom’s a gamer.

No, that’s not a slight against you or yo mama. It’s a fact. Armed with mobile devices, Moms feverishly tap and swipe their way through Candy Crush, 2048 and Bubble Witch. It’s easy to say, “Liking a few apps doesn’t make mom a gamer,” and I’ll quickly agree that gaming is a lifestyle. Serious female gamers are not a novelty though.

Females are (almost) just as likely as males to enjoy console, computer and mobile games in 2014. The average gamer is 31 years old, and has played video games for 14 years. Millennials have grown up, and they’ve grown up gamers.

Recommended Watching

If you’d like to understand the gamer in your life even better, I recommend you watch SilentSentry on Twitch. He’s a dedicated family man who plays a variety of games. You might even catch him and MrsSentry streaming League of Legends together.SilentSentry Twitch Stream

Already watching Twitch? Post your favorite streamers in the comments below so I can check them out!

Photo credits: Twitch, The Daily Gopher, Silent Sentry


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