Launched in 2011, Twitch is a platform primarily used for streaming video games. The homepage showcases video game streams, art tutorials, and more. The agenda of streamers may vary. Some people use it for the income while others use it to teach. Twitch has over two million unique streamers every month. On any given day, there may be up to two million concurrent users. Due to the size, Twitch streamers can create large groups of followers, and interactions between these groups create Twitch culture.
Competition[edit | edit source]
Twitch has some similarities with other video services. One can browse through the homepage and discover new streams separated by the game or activity. One can also follow streamers to get notifications whenever they begin streaming. The major difference is the interactive aspect of streaming. Things like YouTube videos are edited and released. This experience helps create high-quality videos, but the appeal of Twitch is different. Instead of comments, a live chat allows streamers to interact with viewers. Streamers can then instantly adapt their content to their audience. The experience feels personal and unedited, an experience YouTube videos cannot touch. A couple of statistics show that Twitch is the dominant streaming service. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Twitch had 27,000 concurrent streamers vs 7000 concurrent streamers on YouTube. Twitch had an average of 788,000 concurrent viewers compared to YouTube's 308,000 concurrent viewers. Periscope had 80,000 concurrent viewers and Facebook Live had 27,500. Twitch currently dominates the market in the number of viewers and number of streamers.
Community[edit | edit source]
The Twitch community is divided into three categories: viewers, broadcasters, and influencers. The viewers make up about 15 million daily users. The broadcasters make up about 2.2 million users. The influencers make up the most popular 5 percent of broadcasters. Most of Twitch users are male within the age range of 18-34. Due to the size of Twitch, most of the money made comes from advertisements.
One interesting aspect about the Twitch community is the diverse groups of people that form followings. One person can easily form a niche community of a hundred people because of a personal interaction with the viewers. In a local area, one activity may have no interest. Twitch has made it possible to connect with others that have interest in that activity across the world.
Very popular twitch streamers have to be wary of their public image. As internet celebrities, they have to watch what they say as they can divide communities of millions. Ninja is the current most popular streamer with more than ten million followers. He appeals to millions his entertaining streams of Fortnite. In August of 2018, he stated he would not stream with female gamers in order to avoid rumors. Out of context, people could take this the wrong way, but just this one statement has sparked many articles from gaming websites; even BBC. Different people from across the internet had an opinion on this subject just based on one person’s word.
The Twitch community has some controversial elements. Extreme followings may cause people of some communities to bully others. One form that gained popularity is swatting where a person calls the police on a streamer while they are streaming such that they invade the house while they stream. Streamers can use extreme methods to gain viewers. People criticize the use of ‘booby streamers’, people who focus the stream more on their body than on the content. The viewers following enjoy the attractiveness of the person and some people feel this lowers the quality of Twitch as a whole.
The Validity of Streaming as a Career[edit | edit source]
Twitch streaming is a very competitive field. Only 58 streamers currently have more than 1 million followers; and several of those accounts are for organizations not individuals. Even further down only 216 individuals had more than 500 thousand followers. With over 2 million unique streamers per month, there is a stark gap between the top and the "middle class" streamers. Many of these channels are intended solely for entertainment purposes, but career streaming is on the rise. With sources of income spread across donations, sponsorship, and subscriptions, there are a number of ways to make money on twitch. However, Twitch takes a 50% cut of subscriptions before tax. Company sponsorship's are only given to those with high viewer counts, long term commitment is required before a channel even starts to profit. There is no metric to tell how much money a stream is making since subscribers and income are not disclosed. However, its clear that a broad majority of streamers are not in a profitable situation over working any normal job. Many low viewer streamers funnel 8-12 hours a day into their efforts for little payoff. It's a high risk high reward situation when top streamers can earn more than $500,000 monthly.
Technology[edit | edit source]
The technology and network capacity to power one of the largest live video distribution systems in the world only recently became viable. Video from streamers is taken in as RTMP, and then transcoded into HLS streams. These HLS streams are then geographically distributed to avoid lag for international users. One more recent feature even archives the incoming videos as VODs (Video on Demand). The chat system sends hundreds of billions of messages per day, and includes Twitch's own communication protocol and the bot friendly IRC protocol. Messages are distributed using raw TCP sockets as well as the WebSocket protocol. Messages are even filtered for bans, illegal phrases, spamming, and more. Twitch also employs a customizable web API, with intent for channels to have as many options as possible to set apart. This Api includes support for both Mobile and desktop web applications.
Gender Equality[edit | edit source]
Harassment[edit | edit source]
The demographic of the gaming community has largely changed over the recent years. The proportion of female gamers in the gaming community has gradually increased to near-even proportions. Despite near-even proportions, there has been an ever-present culture of "toxic masculinity" within the gaming community.  This comes in the form of either implicit sexism or explicit harassment. These forms of harassment are so prevalent within the gaming community, that many female gamers have employed the strategy of not revealing their gender or saying anything while playing the game. As 81.5% of Twitch users are male, harassment against females has become a key and omnipresent issue for the Twitch platform. Researchers from Indiana University found that female streamers are routinely objectified. 
Twitch has gradually been shifting back towards the original ideals of its now deprecated sister site, Justin.tv. The "IRL" section allows for "non-endemic" content, or general non-gaming content. The introduction of this "IRL" category has facilitated the "booby streamer" business model, where female streamers dress in revealing clothing and "sit pretty and solicit compliments from fans or insults from trolls in exchange for subscription money".  Female streamers who utilize this business model make up a minority of the female streamers on the Twitch platform. These streamers are often criticized and harassed for using their sex appeal, instead of their skill in gaming or personality, to attract viewers. Female streamers who do not utilize this business model are often shoehorned in with this group, and are often harassed in a similar fashion.
|“||Not all women are trying to sell the sex image to grow their brand, and it’s becoming impossible to tell people otherwise because the instant prejudices a lot of people have for women on Twitch is exactly that,||”|
—Djarii, a Twitch Streamer
|“||...I do feel like it's harming other streamers who don't do those things because I get called an 'egirl' or a 'thot' and I feel like it's undeserving and I feel like people are like this now because of what's going on||”|
—xChocobars, a Twitch Streamer, on the streamers who utilize the 'booby streamer' business model
This harassment has sparked a heated debate: should sexual content be allowed on the platform? If not, why aren't this restrictions being enforced? According to Twitch's community guidelines, "nudity and conduct involving overtly sexual behavior and/or attire" is explicitly prohibited.  These guidelines were poorly enforced, leading to streamers calling for clarification on what is considered acceptable behavior on the platform and proper enforcement over overtly sexual behavior.  Streamer Steven "Destiny" Bonnell, contends that this sexual content has no place on a live-streaming site centered around gaming.  He contends the responsibility rests solely on Twitch, as they have the power to shape the culture of the Twitch community.
|“||It’s amazon’s call ultimately, or whoever is managing the twitch department. It’s ultimately their call which direction they want to take the platform. I just wish they would make a decision and move in that direction, rather than leaving us all in limbo and then acting surprised when people are getting harassed for it.
—Destiny, a Twitch Streamer
The issue of harassment has also brought to light one of Twitch's biggest issues: transparency. Initially, the "IRL" category was largely an experimental one, where streamers would push the boundaries of the community guidelines.  As the community guidelines for this category were purposely left vague in order to "give the community the freedom to express themselves", streamers were left unsure if their behavior would warrant a ban or suspension. Often, people are not sure what they are banned for and why they are banned for a specific duration of time.
Privacy[edit | edit source]
Doxxing and Swatting[edit | edit source]
The methods that people use to harass other people over the internet has evolved over time. Two particular interrelated techniques are techniques are doxing and swatting. Doxing is the act of collecting personal information of a specific individual from public databases and publishing these details to the public.  Once these details have been published, this individual may be targeted with methods of harassment like swatting. Swatting is the act of calling in a threat to an emergency service to another person's address. Pranks have become a particularly popular subculture within the internet and swatting has become a malicious form of them. Paul "Ice Poseidon" Denino was a Twitch streamer who thrived in this subculture. He would often invite viewers push the boundaries of the community guidelines with him. He made a name for himself by airing out much of his personal details to the public and encouraging viewers to come "stream snipe" him, or, in other words, pay him a visit while he was streaming. However, his Twitch career came to an end when a viewer called in a bomb threat to a SWAT team to an airport he was in while livestreaming. Twitch promptly permanently banned him from the platform, yet swatting still remained as a method for pranking and harassing other Twitch streamers. Swatting is incredibly dangerous; on one occasion, a person has even been killed in a swatting incident.  The inciter has been recently charged with involuntary manslaughter, highlighting the gravity of the situation.  The Online Safety Modernization Act of 2017 was a proposed measure to outline punishments for doxing and swatting and provide funding for the research and investigation of other internet safety issues.  So far, the bill has not made any progress through the House floor. 
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|“||...I realize that some people watch you for hours almost everyday so they feel like they already have a relationship with you or they know you well but sometimes they don't realize that it is only one-sided.||”|
—pokimane, a Twitch Streamer, on the viewer-streamer relationships
With the rise of social media platforms, it has been much easier to communicate and interact with your favorite celebrities. Twitch is one of the few sites that have provided a platform that makes way for a new type of celebrity: the internet celebrity. As Twitch streamers get more and more popular, they often find themselves the victims of parasocial interactions; viewers come to think of the Twitch streamer as their friend. This relationship is facilitated by the very system that Twitch is built upon: a streamer's interaction with their viewers. This is exacerbated by the fact that viewers often watch streamers for long periods of time, making it even easier to fall into the trap of these parasocial relationships. This one-sided connection may seem innocuous at first, but the more extreme cases have proved themselves to be quite the headache. In some cases, some highly devoted fans work to obtain the address of their favorite streamer and pay them a visit.  Some viewers have even banded together to form a community around stalking their beloved streamers, tracking not only their social media movements, but the social media movements of their family members as well.
|“||No one should expect friendship beyond a passing reply to a comment in chat. Some streamers have to interact with chats with upwards of 30k viewers, expecting or wanting them to form a bond with even just one of you because it's what you want is incredibly vain and stupid.||”|
—Happyfeet_I, a Redditor, on the topic of parasocial relationships
Mental Health[edit | edit source]
Burnout[edit | edit source]
|“||The expectation that everyone who ever made it on the Internet’s gotta be constantly connected to their fans all the time 24 hours a day... is insane. It’s unreasonable. Nobody can fucking handle it. Nobody. God. You have no idea how many of my friends are in therapy just because of this job.||”|
—TotalBiscuit, a Twitch Streamer, on streaming
Burnout is a rampant issue for content creators on the Twitch platform. Due to the competitive nature of Twitch, consistency is something that is almost required to maintain an audience. If you aren't streaming, viewers will just find somebody else who is. Because of this, taking a well-needed break can lead to a drastic drop in viewership. To avoid this, streamers often have a strict streaming schedule that they follow. In addition to this, many streamers who build their community playing a certain game often find trouble maintaining their viewership numbers when they move on to playing a different game. The nature of viewership on Twitch seems to disincentivize taking breaks, and incentivize playing the same game day in and day out. It's not surprising to see many streamers suffering from burnout when they have no room for breaks and are stuck going through the same repetitive grind everyday.
|“||But now, it burnt me the fuck out. I have gone from chilling and kicking the shit with you guys to being self conscious of myself not being entertaining or up to the standards of other communities. Almost like I needed to constantly defend what I built. It made me sour. It also made me realize that I needed a break and more focus on my life. As much as I like streaming, it is all I do. Before you say you only stream 6-7 hours a day... streaming isn't just an on-air job. Like, be realistic here people. It is lirikFR lirik here, not fucking Game of Thrones HBO production staff. Jeez.||”|
—Lirik, a Twitch Streamer, on burning out
As the streamer builds their audience, the pressure to entertain grows. This leads to a vicious cycle of constantly trying to come up with new ideas and one-upping their previous streams, eventually leading to a breaking point.
Depression[edit | edit source]
As content creators face this burnout, it's easy for them to feel like they're stuck in a routine. Streamers have a strict schedule, which may limit the amount of time that they spend on their personal lives. They may go out and hang out with their friends less often and stay inside and stream. As a streamer obtains fame, it becomes hard for them to distinguish between people who want to genuinely befriend them and people who want to use them for clout. With long hours, a repetitive routine, and little opportunity for their personal lives, it's not surprising that many Twitch streamers go through depression.
|“||Where do you meet new people? I never meet anyone new in normal life. And when people want to actually meet me through the stream, usually they have some hidden agenda.||”|
—Reckful, a Twitch Streamer
There has been a significant amount of action taken by streamers and Twitch to spread awareness about mental health disorders such as depression. Twitch created a special episode highlighting the issues of burnout and depression on 'Creator Camp', a series of livestreams and videos on various topics.  This episode features successful streamers who talk about the best practices on preventing burnout and avoiding depression. Twitch has also asked their content creators to spread awareness during Mental Health month and to have a talk about these topics with their viewers.  Some streamers even run charity streams; a former professional League of Legends player, Joedat "Voyboy" Esfahani, raised over $30,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in a 24 hour streaming session.
|“||Mental health. Depression. Anxiety. Bipolar Disorder. PTSD. Schizophrenia. Etc. These are not just made up concepts. Don't belittle, trivialize, or put down people who experience real struggles you simply can't see or comprehend. Educate yourself and look after your fellow man.||”|
—Voyboy, a Twitch Streamer
References[edit | edit source]
- Stephenson, B. (2018, October 24). Twitch: Everything You Need to Know. Retrieved December 9, 2018, https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-twitch-4143337
- Twitch Statistics and Charts. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2018, https://twitchtracker.com/statistics
- Perez, S. (2018, January 25). YouTube Gaming grew its streamer base by 343% in 2017, Twitch by 197%. Retrieved December 9, 2018, https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/25/youtube-gaming-grew-its-streamer-base-by-343-in-2017-twitch-by-197/
- Twitch Audience. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2018, https://twitchadvertising.tv/audience/
- Frank, A. (2018, August 15). Ninja explains his choice not to stream with female gamers. Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://www.polygon.com/2018/8/11/17675738/ninja-twitch-female-gamers
- Clark, P. A. (2017, December 29). 'Swatting' comes to its terrible, predictable culmination as man reportedly dies. Retrieved December 9, 2018, https://mashable.com/2017/12/29/swatting-death-andrew-finch/#Fa.2XEQSPsqf
- McKay, T. (2017, December 09). Some Twitch Users Are Getting Angry About So-Called 'Booby Streamers'. Retrieved December 9, 2018, https://gizmodo.com/some-twitch-users-are-getting-angry-about-so-called-boo-1821154185
- TwitchMetrics. (2018, December 11). The Most Followed Twitch Streamers, December 2018. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https: //www.twitchmetrics.net/channels/follower
- Twitch. (2018, January 18). Twitch Affiliate Program FAQ. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https: //help.twitch.tv/customer/en/portal/articles/2798445-twitch-affiliate-program-faq
- Kim, Tae. (2018, March 19). Tyler 'Ninja' Blevins explains how he makes more than $500,000 a month playing video game ‘Fortnite’. Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https: //www.cnbc.com/2018/03/19/tyler-ninja-blevins-explains-how-he-makes-more-than-500000-a-month-playing-video-game-fortnite.html
- Soo, Douglas. (n.d.). Twitch Engineering: An Introduction and Overview Retrieved December 11, 2018, from https: //blog.twitch.tv/twitch-engineering-an-introduction-and-overview-a23917b71a25
- ‘Hey dude, do this’: the last resort for female gamers escaping online abuse - https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/oct/24/hey-dude-do-this-the-last-resort-for-female-gamers-escaping-online-abuse
- Twitch Advertising: Audience Statistics - https://twitchadvertising.tv/audience/
- Twitch Commenters Talk About Games on Men’s Streams, 'Boobs' on Women’s - https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/kb7yqz/twitch-commenters-talk-about-games-on-mens-streams-boobs-on-womens
- The Stereotype That Women On Twitch Are 'Asking For It' - https://kotaku.com/the-stereotype-that-women-on-twitch-are-asking-for-it-1822454131
- Twitch Streamer Djarii on Female Streamers - https://kotaku.com/the-stereotype-that-women-on-twitch-are-asking-for-it-1822454131
- Twitch Streamer xChocobars on Amouranth, a streamer who utilizes the "booby streamer" business model - https://clips.twitch.tv/DullCloudyPizzaAsianGlow
- Twitch Community Guidelines - https://www.twitch.tv/p/legal/community-guidelines/
- Calls for Twitch to police 'sexual streaming' - https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-42222939
- What is Twitch? - https://clips.twitch.tv/BoringAbnegateGoshawkBIRB
- Twitch Streamer Destiny on the harassment issue - https://clips.twitch.tv/SillyHomelySrirachaTakeNRG/
- Twitch’s contentious IRL section sparked the platform’s biggest debate in 2017 - https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/3/16845362/twitch-irl-iceposeidon-trainwrecks-female-streamers
- Doxxing and how to protect yourself - https://securingtomorrow.mcafee.com/consumer/consumer-threat-notices/what-is-doxxing-and-how-to-protect-yourself/
- For Twitch Streamer Who Got Swatted On A Plane, Notoriety Is A Double-Edged Sword - https://kotaku.com/for-twitch-streamer-who-got-swatted-on-a-plane-notorie-1794972701
- Police Kill 28-Year-Old After 'Swatting' Call - https://compete.kotaku.com/police-kill-28-year-old-after-prank-swatting-call-1821648110
- Suspect in fatal "SWATting" call charged with involuntary manslaughter - https://www.cbsnews.com/news/suspect-in-fatal-swatting-call-charged-with-involuntary-manslaughter/
- A new internet safety bill would ban swatting, doxxing, and sextortion all at once - https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/29/15888764/katherine-clark-online-safety-modernization-act-bill-announced
- H.R.3067 - Online Safety Modernization Act of 2017 - https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3067
- Pokimane on viewer-streamer relationships - https://clips.twitch.tv/CallousSquareTriangleOSfrog
- When Fans Take Their Love For Twitch Streamers Too Far - https://kotaku.com/when-fans-take-their-love-for-twitch-streamers-too-far-1794815112
- Twitch Streamers Discover fans Stalking them through Discord - https://www.dexerto.com/entertainment/twitch-streamers-discover-fans-stalking-them-through-discord-159379
- Reddit comment on the topic of parasocial interactions - https://www.reddit.com/r/LivestreamFail/comments/9rv19r/this_streamer_is_better_than_you/e8k2t79/
- Twitch Streamer xChocobars does everything (but use the bathroom) on screen - https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/twitch-streamer-xchocobars-does-everything-but-use-the-bathroom-on-screen
- Lirik addresses burnout from Twitch - https://www.reddit.com/r/DatGuyLirik/comments/7pd3kt/hello/
- Streamers And Depression - https://youtube.com/oS6zInjU67U?t=483
- Twitch Is Asking Streamers To Help Raise Awareness During Mental Health Month - https://www.forbes.com/sites/maxthielmeyer/2018/05/02/twitch-is-asking-streamers-to-help-raise-awareness-during-mental-health-month
- League of Legends Streamer Raises Over $30,000 For Charity In 24 Hours - https://esports.hollywood.com/league-of-legends-streamer-raises-over-30-000-for-charity-in-24-hours-c30bbf00a30d/
- Twitter - https://twitter.com/Voyboy/status/1071507639048130560