Games have been with the world for a particularly long time, having existed as far back as the 1950’s, where academic computer scientists and brainy boffins constructed basic games on their beefy, enormous computer systems for the simple purpose of furthering their research in their education, or doing so for the sake of fun. Now, that concept of fun has expanded from the labs of universities to the World Wide Web and our slimmed down, but still rather beefy, computer systems; they are a part of our society now, and society has grown to accept, as well as love, games and the industry that’s been constructed by those that played them. So much so, for that matter, that games are now a pathway to a new kind of career: a career that would seem trivial and impossible in the earlier years of the 21st century, but in our present day, the prospect is all the more achievable. That career is Streaming.
To be more specific, it’s video game streaming; the idea of playing a game, or a selection of games, live on an online streaming platform for viewers from across the globe to witness and donate varying sums of money to. The most well-known platform that supports this kind of career currently is Twitch, which according to a Mediakix article, it rakes in “…an estimated $23 million in total yearly revenue…” (Mediakix Team, 2018) just from the donations of the platform’s top 10 streamers. This number can be rather baffling and hard to believe, considering that all of this cash stems from the idea of someone sitting down and playing video games in front of a live audience, but, it’s all true. Take for instance the site’s top streamer Richard “Tyler” Blevins, who is known online under his nickname ‘Ninja’; he gained his claim to fame through regular streaming of the game Fortnite, a game that is currently trending and was rising to its own popularity at the same time Ninja was building his streaming career. According to Mediakix also, “His [Ninja’s] prowess and rapid success enabled Ninja to become the first Twitch channel to amass 10 million followers” (Mediakix Team, 2018) which according to the same site, he earns an eye-watering $5,417,447 annually, making him “…the highest earning Twitch streamer” (Mediakix Team, 2018).
Looking at this, it might be rather difficult to grasp how that much money can be made from just playing video games live, but the process of gaining this much is not impossible, as a streamer can earn cash from a multitude of options available to them; these options include: subscriptions to the streamer’s channel; donations from the viewers; revenue from frequent advertisements on the stream and sponsors from third party companies & websites. That is correct; popular streamers get paid by other companies to be sponsored by them, which would make sense from a business point of view, as the companies’ brands would be advertised to hundreds of thousands of viewers, every time they stream. According to James Loke-Hale from Tubefilter “Sponsorships, which on Twitch often show up in the form of streams where gamers are paid to play specific games, can earn them anywhere from one cent to $1 per viewer per hour” (Loke-Hale, 2018). Considering that earlier in this essay it was stated that Ninja has over 10 million followers/viewers watching his streams, it can be rather safe to assume that it makes sense why Ninja earns such a large sum of cash every year.
However, the life of a streamer isn’t always an easy one, as even though it may seem like it’s an effortless career that anyone could get into, it still has its own drawbacks. Much like a singer or comedian who’s performing live, the person performing has to have some kind of ‘entertainment value’ to them when you watch them; they have to bring their own unique skills to the table, as well as make these skills stand out above the crowd. Another piece that can be difficult about streaming is that there is a lack of feedback, as according to DicloniusGames from The Level Up Network “While I’m close to 20 followers and have over 200 total views, I don’t get much feedback. Whether it’s during the stream or after, I don’t get much interaction with people who watch. According to one of my followers, he told me it’s almost impossible to get ‘lurkers’ (people who say/do nothing but watch the stream) to interact and talk with you, which I’m finding to be true. “ (DicloniusGames, 2017). What can be told from what they’ve said is that if you’re looking to try and better yourself while streaming, getting constructive criticism from your watchers can be difficult. Another thing to note is that you must be consistent with your streaming schedule, much like a TV show. It’s a necessary part of a streamers general structure, as according to Dan Long of StreamSpread “Pick days and time to stream and stick to that schedule. Don’t show up late or not show up at all. People will expect you to be there and they will plan their day around your show, don’t disappoint them.” (Dan Long, 2018). So, ideally if you were going to take up streaming as your career, you would need to have a consistent schedule that you would have to keep to every week. This can be rather tiring and can cause stress from having to please thousands of people every week, all the while trying to maintain a likeable personality for people to watch. A streamer’s life can be difficult, but these risks must be put into mind when you’re planning to become a full-time streamer.
So, with all of this in mind, someone could ask “Why do we watch streamers?” Some would see it as pointless since you could easily just get whatever game the streamer is playing and play it for yourself, but, there has to be some kind of appeal with this considering thousands upon thousands watch and pay these people. According to Ivan Simic from .Me, he believes the answers are: “Skill of the players who stream”; Being part of a live, social experience Entertainment from the streams” and “the chat channel and the game itself” (Ivan Simic, 2017). These reasons are all fair enough, as in a way it is much like watching a live TV show, except you get the added bonus of socialising with other people who are watching the stream with you; you become a part of a group, sharing your ideas and opinions with everyone else as well as have some kind of active role within the stream itself, socialising with the one who’s actually streaming in front of you. Another good note that Ivan brought up was that people tend to watch the streamer for their skill within the game; some watchers of the stream may also have the same game as the streamer is currently playing and they might be watching them to see what they do within the game and learn from it to help better themselves, whereas others may just watch the streamer for the fascination of how this person can be so good at the game.
To conclude this investigation, streamers have become more than just a form of entertainment within society; they’re now viable jobs that people can actually take up and be paid for, just for playing games live in front of a bunch of anonymous users. In a sense, it could even be said that the games industry has made the impossible careers, possible.
Streamers & Their place in society
Mediakix Team. 2018. Mediakix | Influencer Marketing Agency. [Online]. [29 November 2018]. Available from: http://mediakix.com/2018/09/how-much-do-twitch-streamers-make/
Dan Long. 2018. Medium. [Online]. [29 November 2018]. Available from: https://medium.com/streamspread/7-things-you-need-to-do-to-make-twitch-streaming-your-full-time-job-8d8f9705c7be
DicloniusGames. 2017. The Level Up Network. [Online]. [29 November 2018]. Available from: http://www.thelevelupnetwork.com/blog/the-difficulties-of-being-a-twitch-streamer
Ivan Simic (2017). Domainme. [Online]. [29 November 2018]. Available from: https://domain.me/videogame-streaming/
Loke-Hale (2018). Here’s A Candid Breakdown Of Exactly How Much Money Twitch Streamers Earn Per Month. [Online] Tubefilter.com. Available at: https://www.tubefilter.com/2018/10/10/twitch-streamers-earn-per-month-breakdown-disguisedtoast/ [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].