Why do so many people watch others play video games on Twitch? Because the fans don’t look much different from the celebrities. They all play the same games. In a world of muscle-clad athletes and beautiful pop stars, on Twitch all that matters are your skills and your wits.
Be funny or fast on the trigger, and you can be famous, too. It’s aspirational. That lets viewers identify with the stars they tune into, and that emotional connection keeps them coming back to cheer, laugh and commiserate. It’s more fun to rally around your peers than someone you could never be. And that loyalty helped Twitch get acquired by Amazon today for $970 million.
A teen alone in their room might feel they’re as likely to become a sorcerer or starship pilot as to end up like LeBron James, Serena Williams or Michael Phelps. It’s all fantasy, so why watch someone throw a baseball when they could be throwing fireballs?
While major league gaming is a popular wing of Twitch, humor and experimentation draw plenty of eyes and ears. Twitch’s personalities don’t necessarily have to be the best practiced players or even compete at all. Many stream games where there’s no real way to win, including the pixelated sandbox Minecraft. Yet creativity and comedy make the action irresistible. Just like a younger sibling watching spellbound over their older brother’s shoulder, Twitch viewers giggle and marvel even when it’s not their turn.
But they’re not alone. Twitch’s real-time chat validates their interests. They don’t have to feel weird for thinking games are cool. It’s okay to nerd out. Go ahead and draw some fan art. The running dialogue makes the bleachers feel like a lively place to be. Unlike stale, asynchronous comment reels on YouTube, Twitch gives an immediate gratification of community — a community its demographic craves, a community Amazon will need to keep independent and thriving. Internet celebrities are already overtaking traditional ones amongst teens, and Jeff Bezos’ company plans to capitalize on that trend.
Twitch beguiles many, even people in the tech industry. It can seem unfathomable that video games have spectators. But that’s the root of the misconception. Twitch’s viewers aren’t removed from the action. They learn tactics for their own play, revel in the inside jokes, and bond with fellow gamers. Twitch earned its near billion-dollar payday because it’s where nerds win together.
[Image Credit: Dyelinnes Via DeviantArt]