Twitch Streaming and Human Connection

I’m a little behind the times, and so I’ve only really just figured out what Twitch is. I’ve always known it to be a streaming platform for gamers, but I’ve never really had a reason to tune in to anyone’s channel.

This autumn has seen the release of many games that have peaked my interest, and so YouTube clips eventually lead me to streams from dedicated full-time gamers. Most are working for tips, as any live performer would, with the more established streamers making a living from subscribers (patrons) and sponsorships.

I remember Twitch being criticised last year for allowing non-gaming streamers on the website, largely because this came in the form of “hot girls” in low-cut tops talking to their camera for tips. It was thought that these streams would take audiences away from the gaming streamers, but the website appears to be as popular as ever.

These non-gaming streams spawned sub-genres such as Music & Arts, Just Talking and Game Shows. Also ASMR — Gently crafted soundscapes to help you relax and sleep.

As someone who dabbled with live streaming around ten years ago, I completely understand the appeal of performing and reaching out to an audience.

Back then it was basic webcams and cheap USB microphones on a now-defunct platform called Blog TV. I never tried to make any extra pocket money from it, but my friends and I put together a 48-hour long livestream to raise money for charity.

Even though huge pockets of that were broadcast were unplanned, I remember having so much fun scheduling segments from various artists, performers and guests — All talented friends who, like me, just wanted to be noticed for a moment whilst doing something to help others.

We switched between webcams to different areas of my attic bedroom that had been converted into an amateur studio. It felt like a reverse Wayne’s World for the digital age.

Life happened, as it always does, and so I stopped streaming — But it was fun while it lasted.

During our two-day livestream we were featured on the front page and peaked at around five-hundred viewers, which is a drop in the online ocean compared to the number of viewers that top Twitch streamers get nowadays.

As I type these words, the two most watched channels in the world right now have 50,000 and 25,000 viewers each. They’re playing the games Fortnite and a little game you may have heard of, called Chess.

The most beautiful thing about this is that twice as many people are watching masters play chess than are watching a Fortnite streamer. I guess you can’t beat the classics.

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The overall Twitch community doesn’t seem to be too healthy, but like all digital social circles it’s hard to pin-down exactly who the average Twitch user is. Some streamers will have an obscene chat, filled with memes and bigotry — Whereas others will have a positive chat, filled with memes and love.

So I guess memes are probably the common trend, and you cultivate a community that reflects your personality.

I find it difficult to keep the chat open whenever I’m watching a stream, because it’s usually a barrage of nonsensical noise, with people looking to connect to the host.

That’s the really interesting thing about live-streaming — The connections people are looking to make.

In the digital age we’re all just looking to connect to others. Every time we post a Tweet, photo or update, we’re asking for people to notice us. We want to be recognised, seen and heard in an increasingly loud world.

As much as I keep this daily blog for personal reasons, I can’t deny that my heart is warmed whenever someone likes a post or comments on some nonsense I’ve written.

Social media induced endorphins man; The real drug that’ll get you.

Streaming though, particularly on Twitch, is a raw and extreme version of that connection. Sure you can glam yourself up, change how you behave and even adopt a persona, but ultimately you’re putting more of yourself out there for the world to see than in, say, a photo on Instagram.

You’re live, you’re unfiltered and you’re asking to be noticed.

I think it takes a dash of ego to be a successful streamer — To plug away for so long in order to gain an audience. But I also think that bravery is a crucial trait, just because of how exposed you leave yourself to a faceless crowd.

I’ve seen explicit and inappropriate things in Twitch chats, largely directed at female streamers who’re just trying to play a video game and, presumably, not looking for men to describe how they would get into her pants.

But I’ve also seen the uplifting — The harmless communities formed around a shared interest and personality, the stories told to each other, and the games played together.

The most interesting part of this platform, for me, is the new streamers. The people who’re playing to an audience of less than five, but are still trying just as hard to gain a following.

This next bit is going to sound a little creepy, but imagine me approaching this with Louis Theroux levels of inquisitiveness and it’ll seem a little better.

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I’ve found myself scrolling to the least-viewed streams of a game and tuning in. In some cases I’m the only viewer, and the person is just sat there, playing their game. Then, after a few moments they notice they have someone watching (me), and so they begin a performance.

They start to commentate themselves, and make a few forced jokes. You watch them transition from someone practicing a routine at home, to performing that same routine on a stage, as they shift from one version of themselves to another.

It’s fascinating to watch, but I don’t linger for too long, as the interaction is all one-sided. They talk into a microphone and I watch, both of us gaining some kind of distant human connection for a moment before parting ways for good.

As I said, a little creepy, but it’s so intriguing to witness a live version of someone looking to fill that basic human need of connection. And not only that, but at its very root.

Watching someone stream to an audience of two is like noticing that someone in the room wants to say something — The connection isn’t fully formed yet, but they’re trying, in order to connect to others. And in that seed for potential interaction you see a familiar struggle — You see yourself and everyone you’ve ever known.


Today is Wednesday, November 28th and my cat jumps at windows to get the bird, but she never gets the bird.

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A List of Lists

Writing clickbait is something I can never bring myself to do. In the age of attention, we should only devote precious online energy to those who have taken the time to pique and hold our interest. These come in the form of YouTube channels, well-written blogs (not this one), news outlets who’re still fighting the good fight, podcasts and dedicated personalities.

Something that shouldn’t grab our attention, are headlines such as:

8 WAYS TO GET BOYS TO LIKE YOU, NUMBER SIX WILL MAKE YOU CRY TEARS OF LIQUID DIAMONDS

You see, why display one number numerically and the other as a word? Why promote a topic that prays on the anxieties of being a teenager? And why promise tears made of liquid diamonds when we all know that emeralds are the most precious stone one can squeeze from tear ducts?

These list articles are usually the digital equivalent of woman-hating, women’s magazines. The sort that say you’re hideous just because Chris Hemsworth wouldn’t date you, and so you should buy these specific beauty products in order to bag yourself a Marvel superhero.

They’re exactly the same because adverts relating to the topic they’re talking about are often strewed around the page, or even hidden in plain sight within the article itself.

These lists are the most basic-form of CONSUME-based advertising, and don’t deserve our attention. They make young people hate themselves, even more than they already do, and peddle cheaply made products as a solution to all of your problems. A more honest clickbait headline on these websites would be — 8 Things You Should Buy or Our Shareholders Will Throw Sacks of Diamonds at Our Heads Until Death

Why are they always going on about diamonds in these list titles?

TOP 50 STAR WARS MOVIES, RANKED!!! YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT WE HAVE AT NUMBER ONE!

It’s Empire Strikes Back. It’s always Empire Strikes Back. These lists would genuinely be more interesting if they went with something like The Phantom Menace or Dexter Jettster: The Animated Adventures.

Media is subjective, one person’s Fantastic Four is another person’s Thor: Ragnarok. Nothing is gained by one individual ranking 25+ media products in a list, with a single sentence following each entry.

Opinions of reviewers and critics do matter, as they can help judge if we should spend time/money/energy on something.

However, if you’re deciding whether or not to watch something based off of one line in a list of RANKED media texts, then you should just consumer all of them. You don’t care about how good something is, clearly, so you should guzzle them all down like a greedy little media goblin.

That sounds mean, maybe I deserve some backlash for that comment. Like 10 Times Matt Went Too Far With His Words: RANKED, or something — A real sick burn.

I’m only being mean because you deserve better. Find a reviewer you like, or even better, find several. Find someone who will at least analyse the film in a 10+ minute YouTube video, or have the decency to write a 1,000 word review.

Sure, it takes time, but far less time than you’ll spend endlessly scrolling through a timeline that’s 50% advertisements and 50% Becky complaining that her fourth engagement has been called off. Maybe it’s not them Becky, maybe it’s not them.

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NINE TIPS FOR GETTING MORE LIKES ON YOUR INSTAGRAM: HOW TO BE RELEVANT IN 9 EASY STEPS

These are the preaching to the choir advice lists. The blind leading the blind in a race to the bottom of the attention tree.

While there’s nothing wrong with a blog being about blogging tips and advice, you should always be adding something new to the conversation, and not just the same regurgitated methods that are second-nature at this point. 

Follow people, like things, engage, interact, make yourself famous by sheer distant connection kid, and you’ll go far in this digital playground.

So many blogs I see are about blogging, and made entirely of lists about how to blog and use social media. Surely they’re just a network of people who’re following and liking each other’s content, even though it’s virtually identical.

If you want genuine advice, you should find successful blogs and see what it is you like about them, what it is they do well and what can be improved on. It’s the whole “do as I do, not as I say” thing.

Very few people will give you decent blogging advice, because it’s all been said before. You should check out popular, focused bloggers, as they’ll be leading by example.

This is not a popular or focused blog.

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FOUR THINGS EVERY SELF-RESPECTING INTERNET USER SHOULD HATE

Finally there’s the hate-filled, holier-than-thou lists. The people who think they’re so smart because they’ve figured out the structure of a successful format and yet fail to fully capitalise on the medium. They tell themselves it’s because they’re principled, when in reality they know very little about pop culture, and so can’t write a list worthy enough of attention.

I’m talking about the people who will write lists about lists because they think they’re being “meta” or “edgy” by pointing out what everyone already knows anyway — The facts of the internet that people choose to ignore so they don’t go completely crazy with modern, digital living.

He’s probably sat somewhere right now, typing out another one of these so-called “lists”. I bet he’s getting pretty close to the end as well, and is trying to think of a big finish that strikes a balance between humerous and poignant.

He’s probably worrying if Chris Hemsworth was a good example of a popular attractive male, because he doesn’t have a clue what people like or want.

He’s now thinking that he can’t finish with something like that, because a simple call-back doesn’t cut it anymore and every single reader has already figured out that he’s talking about himself, so the twist has been and gone.

I suppose I could just end it by saying that writing clickbait is hard, and even though there are far better ways to spend our time, the people who write it are probably just like you, only without the plague of neurosis.

Yeah, that’ll do.


Today is Monday, November 19th and don’t you dare give that yellow-haired, ex-wrestler the time of day.

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AMC: The ‘M’ stands for ‘Movie’

With announced TV-movies for both The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, it’s as though some new, young executive at AMC has just discovered that long-form series aren’t the only medium for storytelling.

You get a movie, and you get a movie! All our beloved franchises get a movie!

As far as The Walking Dead goes I think this is the right decision for the brand. Robert Kirkman and co have established his world as the zombie fiction universe. We live in the age of franchises, more content is only a good thing. Hardcore fans will watch everything regardless of quality, and word will get out if a specific film or series has a narrative worth watching.

AMC did their usual bait and switch last Sunday, as they had teased the “departure of Rick Grimes”, declaring episode five of season nine as “Rick Grimes’ final episode”. I’d fallen for their tricks before (Glenn, dumpster), so I knew the character wasn’t going to die. But I was curious to see how they would write him out of a show in which death walks on two legs and is around every corner.

Rick has been taken somewhere else in America, so that Andrew Lincoln can star in three films set in The Walking Dead universe. The latest episode was the best written in some time, in fact, this whole series is the strongest the show has felt since season five.

On top of this, they’ve introduced a major time-jump after Rick’s departure, as a way of soft-rebooting the characters and allowing for completely new narratives. This is, presumably, thanks to new show-runner Angela Kang.

I can imagine a world where the old show-runner remained, and we then had a subsequent twelve episodes of our cast crying about Rick. A (minimum) five year time jump allows for the characters to change, and have moved on from the leadership of Rick Grimes. Although I doubt his memory will be at all forgotten.

These movies can be good if they’re kept to small, personal stories — Reminiscent of the first series of the show. Some of the best narratives in modern fiction have been low-concept, character-driven stories, set in high-concept, often post-apocalyptic worlds.

The Walking Dead is a universe filled with sprawling narratives, hundreds of characters, and plenty of comic books to still be adapted. Making TV-movies as spin-offs, that feature the central protagonist of the entire show, makes perfect sense for the franchise. More of those stories can be told, and the world can grow at a faster pace, ultimately pleasing the content-hungry fans.

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But what about Breaking Bad? A show often, and rightly, cited as the best open and close narrative in TV history. Breaking Bad is the very definition of golden-age television. Vince Gilligan took a simplistic, genius premise and allowed both his story and characters to breathe over the course of sixty episodes.

Breaking Bad wouldn’t have the same effect across a two-hour story. There would be room for all of the big scenes, but entire characters, sub-plots and beautiful, small moments would be lost.

Now, rumours are that the film will be about Jesse Pinkman, following the events of Breaking Bad. Even though I think his character’s eventual fate would be best left to speculation, and that more time spent with Jesse would weaken his characterisation, I also didn’t think an entire show about Saul Goodman was necessary, but it remains compelling television.

My main issue here isn’t Gilligan’s need to return to his established universe, but that we’re to only get a couple more hours in it.

If AMC had announced a Breaking Bad sequel, with Aaron Paul as the lead, following the life of Jesse Pinkman ten years after his escapades with Walter White, then I’d be all-in. Gilligan has proven himself a highly competent storyteller, who has a real gift for long-form television narratives.

I’m worried that a TV-movie, two hours of new content, would either feel too rushed OR be kept small-scale, but leave us wanting more. No matter which it is, the Breaking Bad sequel film likely won’t feel as satisfying as a brand new full series, or it not even happening at all.

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Movies based on TV shows rarely work, and a successful transition in the opposite direction is more common. The fact that AMC are slated to be making them as TV-movies work in favour of the projects, as they will be kept on a smaller-scale and hopefully close to the narratives they blossomed from.

I’d like to see Vince Gilligan eventually work on something that isn’t set in the Breaking Bad universe. He can tell a similar story — Character-driven yet still about the deep world of organised crime — with a similar tone, and nobody would complain.

His ability to create richly unique and compelling characters is enviable, and so, personally, I’d like to see that brain put to use on a new story. However, we live in the age of franchise and bankable property, and unless your name is Stephen King, you aren’t going to get by as a writer on your name alone.

It could be that Gilligan has many ideas for other TV shows or movies, but AMC is throwing enough money at him to continue telling the stories of the people he originally dreamt-up a decade ago.

It’s as though AMC have remembered that the M in their initial stands for Movie, and so now they’ve decide to return to the roots of their original branding without thinking too much about the consequences.

No matter how I feel about them, they’ve peaked my interest enough for me to watch the movies of The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad universes, and that’s all that matters from a business standpoint.

People, like me, complain about the over-reliance on established franchises in modern fiction, but we only have ourselves to blame. We’re the ones who’re still shovelling it all down, like the filthy little content goblins we are.


Today is Thursday, November 8th and bigger things have happened in the last twenty-four hours, I just needed to write about something light. Stay safe, hold on to each other.

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The NPC Meme

Over the last few days a meme perpetuated by the far-right has been circling social media. The origins of the meme are 4Chan and the r/the_donald subreddit, and it has taken on many forms.

The idea of the meme is to label and brand any non-Trump supporter as an NPC. The far-right has been using this term for a while now, to describe anyone who doesn’t think the same way that they do. NPC is a video-game term and stands for Non-Player Character. The far-right are using this term because they believe anyone anti-Trump to be a brainwashed sheep, who is incapable of independent thought.

Last week they began making Twitter accounts that were “parodies” of anti-Trump folk. They started operating them individually, and used them to spread misinformation about left-leaning people, centrists, independents and moderate conservatives — Basically anyone who isn’t aboard the Trump train.

Over the weekend, many of these accounts were suspended by Twitter, largely for breaching the policy of you needing to be a real person or business. As well as rules they have against trolling, bot-accounts and misinformation (or “fake news”).

The New York Times put together a little collage of some of the hundreds of accounts. I’ve included it below, for some clarity.

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This was an interesting subject to research. Especially as, just this week, Twitter released many of the account transcripts from its crackdown on state-sponsored Russian “bot-farms”. It’s important to point out that these bots come from “both sides”, in that some were anti-Trump and some pro-Trump.

It has been clear for a long time that Russia don’t really mind who is in power in the US, just that the American people are fighting against one another. They’ve started a war of misinformation without having to build a single, physical weapon. Sure, Russia stand to gain more with the Putin-sympathetic President in power. But even if Hillary had won, America would be just as divided, meaning a Russian victory.

I’m generally okay with people on the right poking fun at my political ideologies, as I also have the liberty to poke fun at theirs. I can see how each side believes that the other is living in a “hive mind” of identical opinions, because many of us do remain in our familiar echo chambers. So the far-right branding the left as NPC’s, actually makes a lot of sense from their perspective.

I would argue that the majority of the people making and using the NPC accounts spend their time on 4chan’s /pol/ and Reddit’s r/the_donald, and very little time anywhere else. Neither of these are news sources, as they’re simply message boards on which people can perpetuate the exact same thoughts, on repetition, forever.

Even my conservative relatives (I love them), have the common sense to watch Fox News. It might be a single news source, but it has a duty to report on a variety of subjects, and the world at large. Here are the current front pages of the far-right message boards, and the sorts of things that non-NPC, “free-thinkers” are consuming on an hourly basis:

FPTheDonaldFP4chanpol

I get my news from a variety of sources, and I even try to keep myself engaged with other voices when topics like this arise. For example, I watched a Paul Joseph Watson video to research this subject. I still can’t decide if he believes the things he says and just fails to see the irony, OR if he knows exactly what he needs to say in order to make a living from the far-right. Either way, it’s dangerous.

He used this voice-changing effect throughout his video to simulate the voice of a hive-mind NPC, but then used the same effect at the end of his video to ask his viewers to subscribe, follow and like all of his content. I almost spat out my coffee. And again, if he knows he’s doing it then it’s sort-of clever, but if he doesn’t then he’s a f***ing idiot, who probably thinks in his deluded mind that he’s the John Oliver of the far-right.

Even if you only get your news from ONE credible source, that’s still preferable to reading the comments of anonymous users and taking it as established fact. Reading through some of those threads on /pol/ was a bit of a nightmare, and I feel as though I need some lab-grade eye-bleach, but it proved something to me — The people who made the NPC accounts aren’t consuming any information beyond each other’s comments. It’s all just repeated statements, back and forth.

Yeah, we might all be living in our own echo chambers, but I think I know where the buzziest of hive-minds are. And ironically it’s the people who’re pointing the finger elsewhere. Please far-right, go watch some Fox News or something — Never thought I’d say that.

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The other interesting aspect of this story is the Russian-bot element. We know they exist in the form of state-sponsored farms, and we also know that far-right message-boards independently created the accounts of hundreds of NPC “bots”. They used these accounts to spread misinformation, and generally troll the electorate. Here’s a source.

I put it to you that the far-right edge-lords on /pol/ and r/the_donald, are doing Russia’s job for them. I’m not saying that they’re being paid by Russia, or that they aren’t Americans — Enough evidence suggests that the far-right acted on their own here. But I am saying that if Americans start making fake accounts in order to influence the opinions of those in the centre, or of vulnerable young people online, then further division will happen. Meaning that Russia get what they want, with even less effort.

The far-right (and I say far-right because I’m not talking about your average conservative voter) have become what they accuse others to be — A hive-mind of bot-accounts who’re seeking to change the views of others by repeating the same phrases over and over.

At least I, and many others (including, unfortunately PJW) have the stomach to put our names and faces to our opinions. We’re individual protagonists or antagonists (depending on your worldview) in a giant, massively-multiplayer online role-playing game called Earth. Anyone who hides on message-boards, who refuses to put a name to their face as they operate a bot account — Well they’re almost the very definition of an NPC.

Pot. Kettle. Black.


Today is Thursday, October 18th and does anybody have any eye-bleach? I need some very strong, weapons-grade, eye-bleach.

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