Watching People Is Not a Game: Interactive Online Corporeality, and Videogame Streams

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In this article, Anderson examines the rise of Twitch and the new type of interactions that have arisen due to the medium. This interaction is between the Streamers and their audience, instead of between the players and the game. In this context, the purpose of the game is a connection for the streamer to bond over with the audience, and the site is specifically designed to facilitate this interaction, while popular/ effective streamers build their streams to enable the interaction.

Anderson begins by explaining the history of as a site, as a split off of another streaming site, with inspiration from sites like YouTube. After being bought by Amazon the site was widely promoted and became the 8th most trafficked site worldwide by 2014. Anderson explains that this is a new sort of interaction between players and game, as previous studies have examined player vs. player, and player vs. community, but all in the context where all members are interacting with the game. With Twitch the social interaction between individuals is different, as the player is no longer an equal or subservient to the community, instead, they are a performer, and their actions are not ways to interact with others, but moves to be judged by the audience. What is most important is the human element. 

“It is difficult to find video streams on without, at bare minimum, an audio feed of the player, and the chat box is constantly updated with messages from eager viewers. In a mass medium most often considered inhuman, robotic, or purely digital such as videogaming, has foregrounded the human element, and doing so has distinguished it from other streaming services.”

Anderson explains that the nature of streaming is based not on the game, but human interaction with the player. In her opinion, the game being played doesn’t even matter, what engages the audience, and makes them continue watching is ability to interact with the person playing the game and the other audience members. 

“If there is a corporeal element to the game streaming experience, it involves both players and viewers”

The main examples Anderson uses in the article are clips from the most watched events on Twitch, large Hearthstone and LOL competitions. This makes sense as these events are the core of Twitch and broadcast on the front page of the website. He uses these popular examples as a standard and is able to determine the cause of failures in less popular channels by contrasting the styles of the popular vs. unpopular content. 

What I learned from this article is that there is a clear difference between Twitch streaming, gaming, and other broadcast media, Twitch is not the same as a television show because it provides direct feedback from viewer interaction inside the content. Even though more and more shows have some level of view interaction, viewers do not affect the actual output of shows in progress on live television. Twitch is also not a game. The game itself doesn’t really matter, it is the players/performers. Twitch is a brand new middle ground between interactivity and performance art, and that means it cannot be examined as either a function of gaming or of television. Twitch is no game, but it is also not just a show.

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