Twitch: the colossus of video streaming

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In the beginning there was the internet, full of wonder and promise. Originally nicknamed “The Information Super Highway”. Where would we be without? I cannot think of many things in my life now other than sleeping and eating that do not in some way involve the Internet such as it become engrained within the worlds core structure.

The largest and most recognised video site in recent memory has of course been “YouTube” with its anything goes (within acceptable standards) attitude to online videos. They can be anything from the mundane to the downright hilarious. Self-help and personal improvement has never been stronger in a visual sense than it is currently with the plethora of material at your fingertips.

I am waffling a bit but all this does have a point. Recently Facebook have agreed a deal worth $16 Billion to buy “Whatsapp” due to the 2 Billion strong users that it connects to. In certain aspects it is currently trumping SMS messaging as the new medium for chat with family, friends and colleagues. The ability to send photos, videos and multi chat is something that Blackberry flirted with but that hinged for many users on money.

YouTube was also another example of an innovative concept that was snapped by another huge corporation for its marketing potential and global pull. The fact that there is a dedicated TV show on the UK network Channel 4 / E4 that trawls YouTube for the funny, bonkers and everything in between should highlight the level of love and awe we as a society have. It can make people instant stars in a way that would have been impossible before. Musical careers have been forged (Rebecca Black – the less said the better), people inspired and all the while maintaining its calm sense of self. The core identity of the site has not changed much in its years of service.

Now to get back on topic, in the epic wake of YouTube and its recorded goodness, there were tonnes of montage videos of people doing game reviews, highlighting their talents and trying to show that they are the best in their particular field. In June 2011 to friends Justin Kan and Emmett Shear developed a spin off website of the popular site Justin.tv with a sole focus gamers and the things they love most……..games (not boobs, dirty readers! Shame on you!). Twitch.tv was born and now it meant that anyone with a broadband connection and the ambition of showing off their talent for the world to see in real time became possible.

At the last count there were up to 35 million people viewing the site at any one time with the average duration watching streams to be 90 minutes per day. Due to sheer volume there have been issues in the past with Lag and server connectivity which can only show what an impressive an influential site it has become. With the rise of e-sports all over the world thanks to games like Command and Conquer, Age of Empires, Minecraft, League of Legends, DOTA2, etc. It seems that anyone and everyone that wants to participate can. With its presence on computers and now iOS and Android in the form of apps it now means that fans have a 24/7 platform for their game viewing needs. As of 2014, Twitch is the fourth largest source of internet traffic during peak times in the United States, behind Netflix, Google, and Apple. Twitch makes up 1.8% of total US internet traffic during peak periods.

I think many people that watch Twitch like myself allow themselves the luxury of thinking that they could do this streaming lark as a career or even for fun, but it dawned on me that while it is a great place to highlight yourself, it can also be a place where the troll is king. Several streams I have seen in the past have been both hateful and vitriolic in terms of the language used towards a streamer. There is an inherent irony however that in order to make such comments to the streamer you need to either donate to them or subscribe to the channel meaning that you are paying to abuse someone. The cynic in me finds this to be a very amusing look at the keyboard warrior that wants to be mean but first pay for the privilege. Does this make it right of course not but one could also consider it to be “Ass Hole Tax” to people willing to do it.

Don’t get me wrong most of the community are full of love and I to have many streamers that I really like watching, for their skill, the community interaction and more often than not the music being played in the background. Currently I have like many other people have been enjoying the LCS spring split (League of Legends tournaments) and at one point noticed the Riot games stream to be have 142 thousand live viewers. To put that in perspective that is more people than go to watch Barcelona play football at the Nou Camp. But even when the tournaments are not on the players are answering questions and having a good time playing games all day (ahh to live the dream).

Another feather to the Twitch bow is the increased number of charity streams that have been occurring. The most recent one that I saw was a speed-running marathon that lasted 7 days with no interruptions and featured both games new and very, very old. My highlight was watching someone complete Punch-Out 2 blindfolded. That particular event managed to raise over $1 million dollars for cancer research and shows that gaming is no longer the strange obsession only to be uttered in whispers tones in the darkened rooms of yester year. I suppose that some could say it was a natural progression for streaming to become mainstream what with the increased Internet speeds that are hitting our homes and getting better all the time. But it also feels to me that now with 1080p streaming for some casters that you feel immersed in the games and are along for the ride with the player. If anything it makes we want to get better.

To sign off I think that while Twitch does have a monetary aspect that people can pay if they want to interact with these celebs of the gaming world the fact is you do not need to sign up to chill, kick back and watch some of your favourite games. If you learn anything from the streamers you are watching then Twitch has done its job. But more than that it has also opened the world to people that were not sure that playing games could be a lucrative and productive career. My best piece of advice is to go have a look with an open mind, find something you are into and just enjoy. Long live Twitch and its ever expanding family.

If you want to try it and see go to www.twitch.tv

Cheers for reading

Redonkulon (Tom)

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