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The Twitch Conundrum

       Hello everyone, and welcome to the first of my Twitch Plays Pokémon mini-series. Now I know that I said that these would be released over the past month, but of course, that didn’t happen. With that being said though, it’s been nice to watch a bit more of the series, and its progression, and to consolidate my thoughts on what I think of the whole thing. I figured now would be a good time to post my first of a few blogs on my thoughts about it. A few weeks ago, I posted an introduction to what the series will entail. Today’s blog will be about how the modern-day video game culture has built up the idea of the individual in the context of connected gaming. Now, with that being said, please enjoy the blog and feel free to share your thoughts below. I’m writing to get my thoughts solidified on the issue, and hearing other perspectives on the topic is more than appreciated.

       Twitch, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a website where you can stream yourself playing videogames, or watch others play games as well. I enjoy Twitch, but one of the aspects that I don’t like about it is that it follows in this recent trend of making gamers feel like they have to represent a certain “persona” constantly. 

      
       What do I mean by that exactly? Well, it seems like now instead of gaming to have enjoyment for yourself, people are becoming more and more interested in gaming to share their experience with others. One only needs to take a quick look at the PS4 for the evidence of gaming’s shift to a more wide-spread entertainment focus. I’ve also experienced this phenomenon on a personal level too. My friends and I often use Twitch to watch players play games, and in order to get better at games. This is especially true for ones like League of Legends for example. One of the best ways to get better at that game is to watch some really good players play it. Inspired by some of the streamers, we will occasionally stream some of our games, but of course we’re not amazing at the games we play. It’s interesting too, in that every time we stream our games, there is just a forced atmosphere behind our enjoyment, and that’s something that I dislike personally. 

      
        Now the line between a healthy persona and an egoist one is an iffy one. Everyone likes different things and different people. However, as time passes and we as a collective society become more accustomed to having things like Twitch be a part of our lives, the more we write and choose what our societal norms are for the site. Personally, I think that a healthy persona is one that can spend an appropriate amount of time commentating on the actual game at hand, and not talking about themselves. A lot of “egoist” streamers seem to be ones that are trying to sell themselves as a “brand” instead of selling the entertainment that the game is supposed to be providing. 

                                                     
       This brings me to a question that keeps coming up in my mind when I think of this topic: Aren’t games supposed to be about the gamer? What happened to that attitude? Now this isn’t a critique of the gaming industry as much as it is the consumers and the consumer counter-culture that is Twitch. This complexity in how deep and meaningful we want our games to be for us naturally, leads to a lot of complexity in our interactions. For example, I was playing a game of League recently that was considered a “ranked game.” This means that it had quite a bit of meaning for some players, and that it was one that people were generally trying their best in. However, there was one player who kept trying to screw up the teams, and rationalized it because “it was better viewing for his YouTube subscribers.” This really frustrates me, because it shows a player who is losing their ethics, in order to make a quick buck. If that’s a trend that’s going to start occurring more in gaming, then count me out. 

       Before writing this post, I approached my friends about it, and asked for their thoughts. Their main question was, “how can you be egoist in an inter-connected world?” It was a fair question, but it’s one that I feel like I can answer to an extent. Egoism in an inter-connected world is interesting in that instead of using those connections to make friends or to make somebody else’s experiences better, an egoist might be using these connections to sell themselves. 

       Overall, when I think of different game streamers and their usage of Twitch, I think of a popular phrase I learned in a social media course I took. The quote is: “social media has made us friends with everyone and no one at the same time.” I think this quote is really accurate when it comes to the shift away from local multiplayer, and to online multiplayer. While we as gamers have what feels at times like a limitless range of opportunities in our games now, especially in how we connect with people, we also are at times sacrificing the fun of others, and ourselves, in order for a form of instant gratification. Tying this back to Twitch Plays Pokémon, this can be seen in how we enjoy the series because it is something weird and interesting, but it can also be excruciating to watch. Game developers pay attention to what we as consumers like, and while I really do like Twitch Plays Pokémon, I hope it’s just a passing fad, instead of a change of direction for gamer culture. 

     
                                          (I do love the memes that came out of it though)

        That’s all for today’s blog. What do you think of Twitch Plays Pokémon and of Twitch in general? Do you agree or disagree with my views. Please feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Thank you for reading!

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