Twitch Review: Not Just EntertainmentI decided to write about my experiences on this topic, and what I have witnessed over the years since I joined Twitch. Its titled 'Not Just Entertainment' because I am about to explain why Twitch is an important social tool for networking, making friends, and even therapy.
I joined Twitch thanks to my friend TheGingerGinger introducing me to it when he started streaming. My first experiences were watching him play The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. I got addicted to watching because the game's specialty was its unique runs every play through. This lead me to searching for other people who also played that game when Ginger was offline. That was when I found CobaltStreak and Richard_Hammer. I checked out a few others who were also playing it, but these two just had a charm about them that kept me hooked, especially when they did things together. I was now addicted to Twitch.
Before I knew it, I was "wasting" hours of my day on Twitch enthralled by all the content I could pick from. The variety of games and streamers is endless to search through, and I love it. Perhaps there is a game I like to watch, but the streamer isn't really a personality I enjoy... so I move on to another streamer playing that same game until I find one who's personality fits with me. Personally, as you've read in my other blogs possibly, I am drawn more to 'positive' vibes. Mind you, there are quite a few... ahem... questionable streamers I thoroughly enjoy as well; and they're self-proclaimed assholes.
The difference between a controversial personality I like and one I don't, is how they talk about others. A streamer who makes dirty jokes and aggressive banter with their mods and regulars is actually alluring to me because it shows a sense of trust and kinship with them. Richard_Hammer was one of these types. Then there is a streamer who curses every other word to be edgy... talks down about other streamers... makes fun of people in their chat who they don't like... THAT is a streamer I will avoid in a heartbeat. So by all means, the "asshole" persona can absolutely work on Twitch; if you do it properly. The key to that is... you can be gruff, swear sometimes, playfully trigger your chat, critique the games you play, and still treat your viewers with respect and gratitude. Being a genuine dick to your viewers will only attract trolls to your channel who want to spam the chat, make fun of you in return, and contribute nothing productive to anyone. Sure you'll still get views, follows, even money... but I doubt you'll have as much loyalty as other streamer's communities.
That leads me to touch on the main subject of this blog. Twitch communities, and how they affect people on a personal level. When I started to expand my viewing away from just Binding of Isaac, I came across my first real "community" on Twitch. This was a Dungeons and Dragons stream called HowReRoll (see my other blogs for more on this stream.) My very first impressions there were positive; the mods welcomed me, the viewers welcomed me, and the streamers welcomed me. My voice wasn't lost in an over-active chatroom this time, and it gave me the opportunity to actually get to know the people in that community with my regular visits to the stream. If it wasn't for HowReRoll, I wouldn't have the genuine friendships with some people I have now. I made several friends in that community, some of whom have aided me in my times of need, and some (such as Bane) who I actually plan to meet in person after I move because I'll be closer to them.
To be able to go into a chatroom of a stream and say hello, and have the streamer greet you back and genuinely pleased to see you... its very nice. Sure, not all streamers can do this after they have reached a certain growth in their channel (because chat becomes far too fast to properly speak to everyone), but they find other ways to keep up with their regulars such as 'Sub Only Discord' channels for example. If you are a streamer... I CANNOT express enough how important genuinely talking to people in your chat affects them. You never know what your viewers are going through or how they are feeling; its possible they are depressed or just had a really bad day. So they open your stream to distract them from their own harsh realities, and just a smile and hello from you to them could totally change their mood. Some people will be excited by the fact a streamer they enjoy actually noticed and engaged with them as a real person. That's the magic of Twitch compared to YouTube. The social connection will draw in and keep people there who might be lonely. Sure, Twitch is obviously known for its entertainment aspect. But I think people under-estimate the power of the social side. I'm certain many of you reading this blog now can say that you have either made a friend on Twitch (whether that be the streamer, or someone in the chat community), or that a stream has been a tool at helping you not feel alone because you know if you felt like chatting... there would be someone somewhere on Twitch who would chat with you.
I've witnessed over the years both friendships and relationships blossom thanks to Twitch that otherwise wouldn't have happened. I'm not even talking about just the streamer themselves. The community some streamer's build can grow into a tight knit group of people with similar interests. They'll begin recognizing each other with regular visits, and slowly get to know one another's personalities. I've seen how closely Mods can bond, and become protective of "their" streamer and community. Its amazing to me to just sit back and watch strangers bond on such a level online. I even watched a streamer named Kismet use all his tips (as told to viewers) from Twitch to take his Mods to Twitch Con with him for all their support of him and his stream. STRANGERS bonding online over games, and then coming together to support one another so they can all meet in person and enjoy a trip together for something they all love? Absolutely beautiful to me.
This is where I will touch on the 'therapy' aspect I mentioned earlier. I can personally say I have witnessed several cases of genuine despair from both streamers and viewers. For example, maybe a streamer just lost someone important in their life. You can see on their face how sad and broken they are, and yet they found the strength to still stream. Why? Because like in the physical world... being with people you know care about you can be healing. When we're facing loss, the last thing we want to do is feel alone. So a streamer turns on their stream, and usually (depending on the community) they are welcomed with genuine support and love from their viewers. That can make anyone feel better. Its not just the streamer who gets support either. If a viewer mentions in chat something they are going through, perhaps a health problem, I have seen the streamer call for a show of support for that person (in the form of positive emotes usually) to let them know they aren't alone in their struggles. I witnessed one person who was struggling with cancer and chemo treatments say that visiting that stream and its community helped get them through the constant sickness and eased a lot of their suffering. This is the positive 'therapy' social aspect of Twitch that I've witnessed, and I'm barely touching on what I've seen.
Like any place in the world, you will have your bad people/streamers too. Ones who lie or deceive their viewers into getting more money for example. Assholes are everywhere in the world though. My experiences are just a tiny fraction of the Twitch community in my years spending time there. I have seen that while there are lots of 'troll' and 'gimmick' style streamers there... if you look, you can easily find a community you can fit in to and maybe even make a friend. Smaller streams are usually better for this, as the chat's are slower and people can keep up with communications among one another easier. But don't automatically dismiss larger streamers for this; I've seen more than a handful of high view streams still have a functioning chat community and an interactive streamer who does their best to at least greet you.
So if you're lonely, and looking for more of a community style atmosphere online along with your entertainment... Twitch is a great option for you. I know it was for me. There are even 'community' categories now that cluster streamers of similar interest or personality into one place for you to find easier. My personal favorites: 'Variety Streaming', and 'Positivity'.