This week’s TSaT will be somewhat short and late (I’m not sure whether I will be losing a day or not), as I am writing it in the air above the American south, headed to Atlanta, Georgia before flying to a wondrous land: Ireland. This does not mean, however, that I will be breaking off or limiting my posts, however; I will be writing a full post out of the Land of Ire and Song. I wouldn’t forget you guys, those of you actually out there. For today, however, I wanted to talk fairly quickly about Twitch.
My first exhibit is the newest game from the ‘Twitch Plays Pokémon’ channel. The basic premise is this: A version of Pokémon Stadium 2, a game about teams battling monsters called Pokémon for whoever just left their rock for the first time (or Captain America), is started, and two random teams of three Pokémon are chosen to battle. During and after the selection of these Pokémon, people can place bets on which team will win, red or blue. Now here’s where the genius comes in: The first Pokémon come in to battle and those who bet can vote for what attacks their team’s Pokémon uses, which are randomly selected with weight added from the percentages of votes for each attack. The better now has the thrill of normal betting, the excitement of a Pokémon battle (which people will already pay for, as evidenced by the original games), the chance of the computer picking the wrong attack, and the challenge of convincing the other hundred voters to pick the right move which, considering that this is the internet, is somewhat more challenging than herding cats. Just watching it is exciting because you know that other people have stakes riding on each match. See? Genius.
The people who just play games, however, are also worth watching. The larger channels have established for themselves a sort of community, similar to what forums on the early internet tended to create. Just watching the comments is entertaining because the people know and tease each other. The Livestreamer gets to know them, and they get a glimpse into the Livestreamer’s community – the friends that they play with and hang out with outside of their channel. There are those who say that becoming a part of an online community is a sad thing, something for those who can’t make friends in real life, but our definition of ‘real life’ and ‘real friends’ are becoming out of date the more the internet develops its own quirks and endearing qualities. Is a friend that you can’t see or even one that doesn’t know what you look like less of a friend? Or is that a friendship based even more on who you are rather that what you look like than some that you have in ‘real life’? And isn’t what you do on the internet and places like Twitch very much a part of your real life, as well?