It’s no secret, the way in which we’re consuming content is rapidly changing. The concept of the collective digital experience is here, and Twitch is leading the way. Everything we read is being broken down into bite-sized content and people are watching other people comment on other people playing games; it’s all very postmodern.
This phenomenon is what Twitch is calling “multiplayer entertainment” and centres on the close relationship between the content creator and fan, who are able to chat and communicate in a digital space whilst viewing the same online experience.
In a study looking at why people watch others play video games, research found that feeling a sense of community in the watching experience not only increases how much people watch streams, but perhaps more importantly, was also the strongest determinant of following streamers and subscribing to their channels. Community is hugely important to humans, particularly in this increasingly confusing, contradicting “always connected, yet disconnected” world that we live in.
The ‘engine’ that powers Twitch is the streamer and the community interacting and coming together to create something unique. The audience now has much more of a say in the content that they’re viewing. It’s gone from being a relatively passive, solo affair, to being something much more interactive and controllable.
One of the best examples of this is Twitch Plays Pokemon, a channel set up with an emulator running the original Nintendo GameBoy version of Pokemon Red, which is broadcast on Twitch. People can then enter the game’s commands – up, down, left, right, A, B, Start – in the Twitch channel’s chat box, which will be translated into in-game results. As there are up to 70,000 users trying to enter commands all at once, the channel essentially employs the Infinite monkey theorem: greatness will happen eventually if you have enough time and patience.
Ninja, one of the top streamers on Twitch was watched for over 150 million hours in 2018, with the platform having over 15 million daily users and 245,000 users simultaneously watching a single channel, and the average user viewing for 95 minutes per day. Multiplayer entertainment shows no signs of slowing down, and if the numbers are anything to go by, this way of viewing content is becoming more and more normalised and integral to our lives.