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Thursday, October 11 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Twitch and Gaming

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Brendan Keogh
Drawing from interviews with students of undergraduate videogame development programs in Australia, this paper considers how amateur videogame developers navigate the greatly altered environment of videogame development and distribution. The videogames that amateur developers have always produced informally at the margins of game culture are increasingly likely to be picked up and distributed beyond their initially intended audience by fan-producers on Youtube and Twitch.tv, and this produces unique challenges for amateur and aspirational developers.

Students spoken to for this paper expressed both excitement when their game received unexpected popularity, but also an anxiety or frustration about how their game would be discussed and framed. Often, players would critique the game as if it was a commercial product, not the work of a student with limited resources. Further, the experience of amplified exposure was experienced unevenly across the genders of students spoken to for this study, with non-male students more likely to encounter negative receptions of their game.

By exploring this new dynamic between student videogame developers and fan-producers, this paper points towards the importance of accounting for a broader range of videogame development practices beyond simply the creation of commercial products. The work of amateur and aspirational videogame developers, just like tweets and blog posts and videos, both perform and mediate online identity, and requires considerable and ongoing labour from individual videogame creators to navigate.

Mia Consalvo, Marc Lajeunesse, Andrei Zanescu
This project uses auto-ethnography to understand acts of live streaming gameplay. Three individuals researchers set up a Twitch channel, configured broadcasting software, selected games, promoted their channel, and live streamed themselves for a period of 3 months. Sessions were recorded, and field notes written following sessions.

Rather than gameplay, streaming itself became our central focus, encompassing extensive “behind the scenes” work: channel set up, bot integration, monitoring analytics, and installing and managing technical equipment. Game playing took a significant amount of time, but was re-conceptualized not simply for ludic enjoyment, but also to attract and interact with potential viewers.

Successful streaming is shaped by technical expertise and access, as viewer expectations and the quality of the product as mediated through multiple technological pathways force streamers to conform to community norms. Even as beginning streamers we willingly put in long hours of embodied, affective labor, cultivating personas to build followings that could (hopefully) translate directly to increased viewership. Finally, we witnessed the increasing gamification of Twitch. Offered immediate access to “stream analytics,” we all participated and began strategizing how to “earn more badges” despite our transient status.

This group auto-ethnography demonstrates the strong pull of technical components such as the Twitch platform to engage in such activities, as well as the growing community norms surrounding streaming that can seem impossible to resist. Our experiences also demonstrate the value of engaging in self-streaming as a practice to better understand it.

Tiernan Joseph Cahill
Twitch.tv has become an important platform for video streaming, especially of games, with more than 100 million monthly users. The structure of content on the platform, which merges live video feeds with chat rooms for user feedback, problematizes existing theoretical frameworks for understanding the roles and hierarchies of different types of users. Combined with efforts to monetize user engagement for the benefit of both platform owners and user-generators of content, there is a need for greater understanding of the new interaction paradigm introduced by the platform.

The present study introduces a framework for systematic, quantitative analysis of user interactions in the chat rooms associated with Twitch channels, as well as a preliminary data set. Social network analysis techniques are used to analyse the centrality and homophily of different classes of users, and the theoretical significance of these observations is briefly discussed.

Mark Richard Johnson, Jamie Woodcock
The website and platform Twitch.tv is the overwhelming market leader in the live broadcast (“streaming”) of user-created videos over the internet, known primarily for the streaming of video game play. In both 2016 and 2017 over two million people regularly broadcast on the platform, resulting in over a million years of video content in total viewed by over one hundred million people (Twitch, 2017). The deep newness of this phenomenon, alongside the many elements that constitute it, make it an important site for studying digital labour, co-production, and gaming culture. In this paper we focus on three elements of the conference theme: the shifting political and creative economies of streaming media, in our case Twitch; social media, platforms, podcasts, and actors in online networks; and the materialities of data, in our case a million years of video content. Specifically, we consider the entangling of the technical and social dimensions of the Twitch phenomenon: how these elements shape the labour of Twitch streamers, audience engagement with the platform, and Twitch’s wider position in contemporary media production. To do so we draw upon semi-structured interviews with over one hundred professional streamers on the Twitch platform, lasting between ten minutes and one hour, alongside at least one hour of ethnographic observation from over two hundred Twitch channels and ethnographic work from almost a dozen gaming events in the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and Poland in the past two years.

avatar for Mia Consalvo

Mia Consalvo

Concordia University
Mia Consalvo is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia University in Montreal. She is the co-author of Real Games: What's Legitimate and What's Not in Contemporary Videogames (2019) and Players and their Pets: Gaming Communities from Beta to Sunset... Read More →

Thursday October 11, 2018 4:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Drummond West