Twitch is an online stream-viewing platform that congregates viewers and streamers and focuses on video game streaming. It started in June 2011 as an alternative version of Justin.tv, another similar online streaming platform, focusing particularly on streaming users playing video games. Twitch was recently acquired by Amazon, and is headquartered in San Francisco, CA. Because of the nature of the viewer/streamer relationship, often times streamers will put large amounts of hours into streaming for their audience, neglecting their own personal mental and physical health. This among the lack of proper moderation of Twitch's chat feature pose ethical concerns for the website.
Twitch started in June 2011 as a streaming website featuring video games. Its popularity has spiked in the recent years, reaching 100 million viewers a month in 2015. In August of 2014, Amazon stated it would buy Twitch for $970 million. Since then, Twitch Prime has been introduced as a premium Twitch membership option, giving users the option to link their Amazon account with their Twitch account for bonuses such as video game loot.
Twitch’s site content is divided up into different sections--on the home page, there is a large carousel featuring various streamers, and a listing of games sorted by popularity (current number of viewers for that game) that you can watch on Twitch below the carousel featuring streamers. On each streamer’s channel, there is the option to “follow” that streamer, which notifies the user when that streamer begins to stream. In addition, users can choose to donate or “subscribe” to their favorite streamers. Subscriptions, which are $5/month per channel, provide added benefits for viewers of the channels they’re subscribed to. Subscription benefits include customized channel-specific emojis, no advertisements, and other custom benefits of the broadcaster's choosing.
58% of Twitch users spend “more than 20 hours a week watching videos on its site”. The majority of Twitch’s userbase is male (needs verification). Users often interact with the streamers in Twitch chat through a series of Twitch-specific emojis. There are no site-wide moderators of Twitch, only channel-specific moderators, if the streamer knows other trusted individuals who are willing to help out. For most small-name streamers, the streamers must create their own channel rules, and discipline any viewers in chat that aren't following the rules. As a result, at times, chat can get a little out of hand. There have been several instances in which streamers have reported receiving harassment from their viewers. In other instances, even channels with more viewers can experience problems. In one case, a diversity panel at TwitchCon received slews of racist remarks in the chat. One would think that automated bots would be able to fix this--Twitch has an automated bot service in place for its broadcasters, but it requires set up, and it's a bit tricky to get it set up. There are third-party bots such as Nightbot and Moobot that broadcasters can use to moderate their stream chat more effectively, but those bots take time to set up as well. If only the automatic moderation was a bit more broadcaster-friendly to set up, perhaps we would see a decrease in chat harassment. As Floridi would suggest, "instead of making the agent adapt to the environment, you make the environment friendly to the agent".
The majority of Twitch users are passive viewers, stopping by streamers’ channels only to watch. Some viewers interact with the streamers by typing into the stream chat, where the streamer can view all of the messages being sent in their channel chat and sometimes reciprocate the viewer interaction. Other viewers might also be streamers, or moderators.
Less than 5% of the Twitch userbase stream. (Needs verification). Most of the time, Twitch streamers’ main goal is to make some sort of money off of streaming, whether it be from ad revenue if their channel becomes popular enough, or subscriptions and donations from their viewers/fans. In all cases, a large amount of viewers on a particular channel makes it substantially easier for the streamer to be able to make money.
How has this changed the Twitch community? Better/worse form of currency? Better/worse for streamers/viewers? Analogous to BitCoin?
When Private Becomes Public
Talk about "IRL Streaming" and the breach of privacy of the streamer. When is it appropriate to live stream? When is it not? Talk about the one-way street it creates where viewers know copious amounts of info about the streamer, but the streamer knows next-to-nothing about their audience (other than what they share in chat).
What security concerns arise when streamers have their cameras on ~24/7? Stalkers? Violent stalkers? Slippery slope...
Streamers on Twitch have expressed concerns with the way viewers interact with them on the site. One reddit user, Euryale11, asked others for advice on how to deal with the internet stalkers and haters that have plagued her since her she gained popularity on Twitch. She has claimed that some of her viewers, "would look up [her] IP.... Spam [her] address irl on the stream [and]... Threaten to post pictures of [her] online, while photoshopping [her] naked" Euryale11 isn't the only streamer that has had trouble with hate and stalkers on twitch however. Although females are in the minority on Twitch, they are easy targets for hate and therefore experience much more of it than males on the site. One stalker, Obnoxious, targeted dozens of women on the site, gaining access to personal records and using it to hack accounts on sites such as Amazon, sending "gifts" to the women's houses, and ,in one case, even dispatching a SWAT team to a woman's house . Although the site does have a way to report a user, internet trolls always seem to find a way around the block, many times simply creating a new account.
At times, streamers can spend too much time at their computer streaming, not giving enough attention to themselves for breaks. This can pose both physical and mental health problems for the streamers, some of them citing feeling depressed, anxious, or deprived of sleep because of the desire to keep fans engaged on their channel. In some rare cases, streamers can die, sometimes from stream-related issues. On February 19th, 2017, Brian “Poshybrid” Vigneault died from unknown reasons after streaming for 22 hours straight in order to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation. In another case, Twitch streamer “Applejacked” seemed to have a mental breakdown on stream after staying awake for 50+ hours before having his stream get shut down by Twitch.
"I destroyed every relationship I had with my family and friends for “the dream.” I'm currently working to fix all the damage from it."
Every month, more and more users discover new ways to make a living online. This can take the form of Twitch, YouTube, or any other media service that allows the creator of the content to collect revenue from producing their media. Obviously, the more successful their channel is, the more they get paid; this creates a heavy incentive on making content often and unique enough to gain (and hold) users. There is a popular mantra that floats around the Twitch universe: "Always Be Casting." This refers to the importance for a Twitch-streamer to be constantly online producing content for their community.
However, with this increased volume, it is more and more difficult to hold onto your "loyal" viewers - let alone start a new channel. The two most common feelings for Twitch streamers are:
- The more time and effort I invest into streaming equates a direct relationship to my success.
- Any time I take "off" (away from streaming) might lead to the loss of viewers and subscribers.
Firstly, the relationship between time streamed and success is anything but direct (denoting a 1:1 ratio). There are so many components that effect the success of a channel. Time alone will not breed success - consistency, loving your audience, and building a community are some of the most popular suggestions on how to achieve success.Secondly, time away from the stream is also not directly related to a loss of popularity. The entropy of the audience is impossible to predict, and therefore it is futile to expect to never lose a viewer. Loss/changing interests, time schedules, parental pressure, and a million other variables can all impact a viewer's ability to continue watching your stream.
Just like any other occupation in life, "Get Rich Quick" methods do not exist. Streaming for ungodly hours consecutively, forgoing eating and drinking, or neglecting personal hygiene will not bring you success. And even if it did, you might not have friends in real life or the health to enjoy it.
“Always Be Casting” is a powerful, effective way to grow an audience, and the only one who can turn the camera off is the person who benefits the most from keeping it on.
- Wall Street Journal Needleman, S.E. (2015). “Twitch's Viewers Reach 100 Million a Month”
- Business Insider Kim, E. (2014). “Amazon Buys Twitch For $970 Million In Cash”
- Business Insider Eadicicco, L. (2014). “10 Facts About Twitch, The Company That Amazon Is Buying, That Will Blow Your Mind”
- Polygon Campbell, C. (2016). TwitchCon diversity panel deluged with racist chat”
- How Intelligent is Artificial Intelligence? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcoa7OMAmRk
- Reddit (2015). “Getting bigger on Twitch and scared of stalkers ”
- New York Times (2015). “The Serial Swatter”
- Kotaku D'Anastasio, C. (2017). “For Twitch Streamers Who Spend Their Lives on Camera, It's Hard To Know When To Stop”
- Kotaku Grayson, N. (2017). “Twitch Streamer Dies During 24-Hour Marathon Stream”
- Reddit Reddit. (2016). “Streamer applejacked has been awake for 50+ hours and clearly something is horribly wrong”