With the number of Youtubers and live streamers rises, the variety of content on the platform also rises significantly. There are people who would donate money to see a streamer sing their favorite song, eat their favorite food, or do a life-risking dare. Different people have different interest, therefore there is always someone who is willing to watch the oddest live streaming. Among all kinds of live streaming, gaming live stream has always been one of the most popular kinds of live streaming content since the invention of it. Until I actually started to watch streaming, I couldn’t imagine why would people want to watch other people play a video game, and sometimes even pay to watch a game they can easily access on their own. In Smith, Thomas “Live-Streaming Changes the (Video) Game.”, he described video game as an active entertainment. Without turning on the video game console, you will not have any fun with the black box. But nowadays, different ways of engagement for gaming has been developed and has also become one of the biggest commercial opportunities for investments. Develop from Thomas Smith’s research, I want to understand the phenomenon, how live streaming has shifted the activity and passivity of traditional entertainment like television and gaming.
Live-streaming refers to online streaming media simultaneously recorded and broadcast in real time. People who live stream either by hobby or profession, are known as streamers. Professional gaming streamers often combine high-level play and entertaining commentary, and earn income from sponsors, subscriptions, and donations. One of the most popular gaming live stream platform today is Twitch.tv. Twitch is a live streaming company owned by Twitch interactive, a subsidiary of Amazon. Twitch primarily focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of eSports competitions, in addition to music broadcasts, creative content, and more recently, “in real life” streams, like the more and more popular eating live stream. As of May 2018, Twitch had 2.2 million streamers monthly and 15 million daily active users, with around a million average concurrent users.
I started to watch the gaming live stream from 16 years old. More specifically, I was obsessed with League of Legend at that time and can’t sleep without thinking it. Spending an average of two to three hours watching limited youtube videos of game plays every day, I was not satisfied with the content I can find on Youtube. Most of the game plays on Youtube are outdated and not suitable for the current meta because the skill of each champion is modified by the game maker every week. In order to keep myself up to date with the newest update, I found a live stream service, Twitch, where a lot of League of Legend players streams on. From professional eSport gamers to amateur players that entertain people by their troll plays, Twitch has all I want to watch. From there, the average time I spent on watching Leauge’s content dramatically increased. Now, five years have passed, I still watch people play video games daily, but my intention of watching gaming live stream has shifted from trying to enhance my skill through observing elites gameplay to watching gaming live stream is a kind of entertainment on its own. Although I am not actively playing video games anymore, watching video gameplays are still a huge entertainment for me, just that the relation between me and video game has transitioned into a passive engagement as Thomas Smith would describe in his research. Strangely, watching gaming live stream has become more enjoyable than playing the game now. I start to wonder whether the content on my favorite gaming live streams has changed? Did the community force a change or other live stream services affect the development of gaming live stream? Am I the only one that loves watching more than playing games?
With this many streamers every day, different type of streamers slowly develop their own community. According to Smith, Thomas’s “Live-Streaming Changes the (Video) Game.”, within the gaming community, we can categorize the communities in the gaming live stream industry to E-sports, Speedrunning, and Let’s Play community. Each community has its supporter, but among the three groups, Let’s Play community is growing the fastest and it is also the one I enjoy watching the most. “Let’s Play” broadcasts are more informal than e-sports matches and much of the entertainment comes from the process of each game rather than how to play the game. This type of live stream focuses on entertaining rather than competitive skill play. Streamers not only talk about gaming knowledge but also their personal life to create connections with the audience. This type of live stream becomes more and more popular and starting to threaten the E-sport community which has always been the most popular type of gaming community. One of my favorite gaming streamer BunnyFuFu, who is a former professional League of Legend gamer, is one of the examples that transition his streaming content from competitive gameplay to entertaining gameplay for better engagement.
Bunnyfufu might not be the best player in the world, but his skill combined with his creative ideas that create insane gameplays is something that has never seen before. Here is one of his most famous and also one of the best play in League of Legend history from in 2014 season LCS regular game. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8qZy5Ce5XA
From the videos Bunnyfufu upload to his youtube channel in the past two years, we can see a very interesting phenomenon.
Michael Kurylo, better known as Bunny FuFu, is an American League of Legends player who retired from his professional career in League of Legend from Cloud 9 and turns into a full-time streamer on July 17, 2016. Up until May 2nd, 2019, Bunny FuFu has uploaded 834 youtube videos since 2016 January 9th, 2019. At the beginning of his youtube/streaming career, he was still a professional gamer. Therefore most of his contents were the highlight reels of his competitive matches. But from a video he uploaded on 2016 August 4th a video titled as “Ganked by Gyazo”, he started to add in funny memes and edits to his gameplay. His channel blew up rapidly since then. His career in professional competitive gaming might have ended at that time, but his bright future in his streaming career officially took off. As people commented below, “This was the beginning of Fufu’s good content”. Watching Bunny fufu’s video becomes an entertainment itself instead of a tool to enhance one’s skill. Until this day, Bunny Fufu has six editors to help him edit his streaming content into short compacted daily uploaded Youtube videos. More and more YouTubers try to replicate Bunny FuFu’s succeed in streaming, from the click baited title to the funny memes in the video, Bunny Fufu’s unique style of gameplay and the sense of humor are still what makes him stand out from others.
Mehdi Kaytoue’s “Watch me playing, I am a professional: a first study on video game live streaming” inspired me to think deeper when watching Bunnyfufu’s Twitch live stream. In Mehdi’s research, the team collects data from Twitch TV every five minutes to gather the most accurate and responsive data of the behavior of both streamers and spectators. They found several interesting results like, streams are more followed at the end of the week, which highlights the entertaining nature of these videos, content popularity on Twitch is more skewed than on YouTube, audience growth is highly related to major tournaments which match the author’s belief. All of the results Mehdi came to conclusion were very easily testified from my experience in watching Bunnyfufu’s streaming. Lastly, an interesting conclusion Mehdi stated is that watching gaming live stream is a new kind of entertainment on its own and sometimes is more preferably than playing the game. This idea matches with Smith Thomas’s research on how people engaged with the video game.
After researching on how the audience interacts with game nowadays, I want to briefly talk about the risk of the gaming industry. During my research on gaming live streaming, one thing I couldn’t avoid is the constantly appearing tragic news. Playing a video game isn’t the healthiest activity, especially when you play a video game for long hours without taking breaks. In 2017 March 15th The New York Times, Daniel Slotnik wrote an article about the death of a gaming streamer and brought attention to the bad influences of live streaming. “Early on Feb. 19, Brian C. Vigneault was nearing the end of a 24-hour marathon of live streaming himself playing the tank warfare video game World of Tanks when he left his computer to buy a pack of cigarettes. He never returned.” – New York Times. According to what Daniel described, the audience’s reaction also encourages streamer to continue any psychopathic behavior. Although watching live streams is a passive engagement with a video game, our support to the live stream can lead to a un-returnable result. The regulation on the gaming industry is still immature, we should not overlook the health issue in the gaming live stream industry.
Kaytoue, Mehdi. “Watch me playing, I am a professional: a first study on video game live streaming” WWW12: proceedings of the 21st annual Conference on World Wide Web Companion pp. 1181-1188., doi:10.1145/2187980.2188259.
Smith, Thomas “Live-Streaming Changes the (Video) Game.” EuroITV ’13 Proceedings of the 11th European Conference on Interactive TV and Video, pp. 131–138. doi:10.1145/2465958.2465971
Daniel E. Slotnik, “Gamer’s Death Pushes Risks of Live Streaming Into View, New York Times”, March 16, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/technology/personaltech/live-streaming-gaming-death.html
Mark R Johnson, “The impacts of live streaming and Twitch.tv on the video game industry” doi: 10.1177/0163443718818363