Twitch: The Future of Social Gaming?

The gaming industry is one of the fastest evolving and growing technologies in the world. The first video game was created in a science laboratory in 1958, and in the 57 years that have followed we have made unimaginable leaps and bounds in the field. Currently, video games are making another huge transition into the fields of virtual reality and social gaming. Virtual reality has been the highlight of every digital gaming convention since 2012, when the Oculus Rift was announced. The technology is fast to improve, but is still off the consumer market until 2016. Social gaming, on the other hand, has made enormous leaps and bounds. The most popular and well known social gaming platform is Twitch.tv.

Twitch was started in 2011 as a spin off of Justin.tv, a general streaming website. Twitch focused specifically on gaming content – specifically walkthroughs, esport competitions, and creative personalized content. By 2013, Twitch had become immensely popular, with over 45 million unique viewers. Amazon.com acquired Twitch in 2014 for 970 million dollars. In 2015, Twitch has more than 1.5 million streamers and 100 million viewers per month – an outstanding number that makes it one of the most highly visited websites on the internet. Twitch has an almost monopoly on the esport and game streaming market. Although YouTube just released their version of Twitch (YouTube Gaming), it has had a negligible impact on Twitch’s large following. Twitch is forecastable to be the biggest steaming site for a long time.

So, how does one use Twitch? I felt the need to actually give the platform a try myself and see how I liked it. Setup was surprisingly easy – I logged on to twitch.tv on my laptop and connected to Facebook to set up my account. The homepage as well as personalizing my account was easy to navigate.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 8.06.12 PM
My Twitch Homepage

After creating my account on Twitch, I turned on my Xbox One and downloaded the Twitch application off of the store. Once downloaded, it had to connect my Xbox to my twitch account, which I did by entering a code that showed up on my Xbox into a box at twitch.tv/activate. After that, set up was simple. The only problem I ran into was my own fault, as my internet connection was too slow to stream until I kicked everyone in my house off of their computers. The internet connection is often a problem in my house. I streamed two games – Gears of War Ultimate Edition and Batman Arkham Knight. Since it was my first time, I did not gather any audience, which means I did not get the full experience. But, I did have a ton of fun. Below are my two Twitch streams!

Trying Twitch with Gears of War

Trying Twitch with Batman Arkham Knight

Since I am extremely new to this platform, I believe that I could not understand all the positives and negatives of streaming, as I have no followers or friends that also use Twitch. Instead, I reached out to a very popular, well known, and talented female gamer named Trisha Hershberger. I first heard of Trisha a few years ago, when she started hosting for the YouTube channel SourceFed, which posted short videos about all different types of news. Trisha was almost always covering gaming news, which included visiting popular tech conventions and playing the newest games and systems. Trisha eventually left SourceFed to pursue other interests and create her own production company. She now spends much of her time creating content for her Twitch channel. A great example of her bubbly personality while streaming can be seen here.

She does a wonderful job interacting with her audience, as well as showing off the best parts of the games she plays. I was lucky enough to correspond with her over email to ask her about her experience as a female gamer and her opinion on the future of gaming. Below is my Q&A with the lovely Trisha Hershberger.

tumblr_n9324wu59n1slbc0no1_1280

Q) Do you feel as though being a woman makes joining and being accepted in the gaming industry harder? Have you had any experiences with that?

A) I feel that being anything other the traditional gamer stereotype makes being a part of the gaming industry harder. Whether it’s because someone is the wrong age, race, or gender, anything “other” is seen as an outsider and is automatically less welcome. Harsh comments, false judgments, and constantly being asked to prove oneself, are all par for the course for anyone who is not a young, white, slightly awkward male. Statistics show that the modern gamer is both male and female, comes from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and middle-aged, but you would never know this from conversations that occur within the community.

Q) As technology becomes more advanced, gaming has become more social with platforms such as Twitch. What are your opinions on Twitch and streaming as the next “norm” in gaming? How do you think it will change the industry, if at all? Does being a female make using Twitch more difficult because of gender harassment?

A) I love Twitch. I think it’s an incredible platform for gamers to be able to showcase what they love about games and for viewers to find really fun content. It has already changed the industry in many ways. There has been a shift from video game “reviews” to “Let’s Plays” and from watching pre-recorded content to live. Yes, that live interaction does invite organic communication, both good and bad, but I think twitch is set up very well to allow broadcasters to build their own communities the way they want. As a streamer, I can ban certain words from chat and appoint moderators to take care of anyone who enters the stream to cause trouble or harass me or others. I really love my twitch community.

Q) How did you start your interest in gaming? Did people discourage you when you were younger? How did you get over that obstacle?

A) I fell in love with video games from a very young age. I was a bit of a loner and not very athletic. Video games allowed me to go on adventures by myself from the comfort of my own home and that was incredible! My parents were reluctant to encourage my gaming, because they felt I should be reading or playing outside instead, so my first console (NES) was also the last they purchased. At that time, I started playing games on my PC, which I needed for school anyway 🙂

Q) What do you personally think the future of gaming is going to be like? Is VR the new normal, and do you think it is getting easy for women to jump into such a male dominated field?

A) The future of gaming? Hard to say, although I do not think it will be VR. While VR is incredibly fun, I believe it will be like 3D tvs and movies, a fun accessory for those who can afford it, but never necessary. I believe we’ll see a lot more games that teach us through experience. Is it easier for women to jump into this field? Everyone who is outside the norm, who makes a name for themselves gaming, is helping pave the way for others to come.

As you can see, Twitch is a fantastic place to form and interact with your fans, friends, and community. It can be tailored to fit your individual needs, as well as record your livestreams in order for you to share later. Twitch is as addicting as social platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter – it allows gaming (a stereotypically lonely activity) to become a rewarding, social interaction. Twitch is the first gaming addition I have used that held my attention and that I am excited to use again. Social gaming is definitely the future of gaming.

 

Do Online Comments Cause More Harm Than Good?

The age of the Internet has caused a lot of change. One of the main changes is that you can easily communicate with masses of people over a faceless screen. You can say anything you want to without taking authority, or being in person. The age of the Internet created an age of anonymity, in which you can speak freely without any fear. But, does this cause more harm than good?

As a huge advocate of an open internet, I believe that censoring or not allowing comments overall is a huge mistake. The internet is the one place that allows people all over the world to find others who might have a similar obscure hobby or niche.  I know I have personally made quite a few friends on websites for video games and from Reddit that I would not have met without comment boards. The anonymity of the web allows those who feel like they don’t fit in to find a group. Many of my friends who came out as gay or queer found the support and encouragement to do so through the online LGBTQ community, which is notoriously supportive and accepting of others.

On the other hand, many people go too far with the freedom of speech the internet gives us. There are people who use their nameless persona to attack and hurt others, which is known as “trolling” or “cyberbullying”. Cyberbullying became a thing when I was in 5th grade. Cyberbullying is defined as “…when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones”. Cyberbullies use their technological screen to hide their faces behind in order to torment those they dislike. There have been several occasions of cyberbullying leading to self-harm and suicide. Below is an infographic on how serious cyberbullying is.

Cyberbullying-Hazard-or-Hype-Infographic.png

People who find their fun at telling others to “kill themselves” over the internet are absolutely atrocious,  but do not make up the majority. To be fair, cyberbullying can be prevented by not putting yourself on the internet at all. If you do not have a Facebook, or post videos on YouTube, or upload blogs with your name on them, it is very hard to be targeted. We as users of the internet have to be informed that by writing and participating, you put yourself out to be reacted to. These comments or reactions could be good, bad, or irrelevant, but you have to know there is a strong possibility of receiving feedback. Awareness is one of the first steps to prevention!

Felicia Day: Professional Geek

Felicia Day is one of the first people to make being a geek something to be proud of rather than ashamed. She’s a woman of many talents, ranging from gaming, to acting, to writing, to producing her own YouTube channel. Felicia was born in Alabama and was homeschooled with her brother, Ryon, for most of their life. She chose to go to University of Texas at Austin at the age of 16, after winning a National Merit Scholarship and being Valedictorian of her class. After college, Felicia moved to LA to pursue a career in acting.

The role that helped launch her career is often debated. Most meganerds agree that it was her portrayal of Vi on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She is also known for her roles in Bring It On Again! and her reoccurring role on Supernatural. She is currently completing a two season arc in a show called Eureka on the SyFy network. She

FeliciaDaySupernatural042220132
Felicia Day in Supernatural

However, Felicia is most notorious for her work on the web. Her first, and possibly most successful web series is The Guild – a show about socially awkward MMORPG gamers and there lives in and out of game. The show premiered on YouTube in 2007 and became wildly successful, later being put on major networks such as Netflix, Xbox Live, and Yahoo. Felicia both acted, created, and wrote for The Guild. You can find the first episode here. Her next big break was another online series, with much bigger names attached to it. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was created by Joss Whedon in 2008 and starred celebrities such as Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. Felicia Day played Neil Patrick Harris’s love interest, Penny. It was a three part mini-series that was another hit. You can see the trailer here.

Felicia’s most recent work is on her YouTube network, Geek and Sundry. The network is a host to many successful shows that are almost exclusively about nerdy hobbies. Some show topics include tabletop gaming, video games, and comic books.  She also recently wrote a memoir called Everyone’s Weird On The Internet (Almost). 

maxresdefault.jpg

Felicia Day continues to inspire girl gamers and geeks alive, and I admire her genius and innovation in the field.

 

Oculus Rift and Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has been the dream for decades. Whether seen in old novels, 80’s movies, or even cheesy cartoons, we’ve all been exposed to the wish of being able to be fully emerged in your media. Virtual reality has always been especially relevant to the gaming industry, as all users are trying to have a more interactive, immersive experience. There had been many futile attempts at commercializing virtual reality, but all those have failed. That is until this decade. The 2010’s have been the most exploratory towards Virtual Reality technology, and I hypothesize that by 2016, we will have one system on the consumer market.

VR versus-970-80
The four competing VR systems!

So far, the most promising system by far is the Oculus Rift. The Oculus was bought by Facebook in 2014, and has made leaps towards becoming a reality since then. At a pre-E3 conference, consumers learned that the Oculus is supposed to be ready to ship in 2016, and will come with the Rift, an Xbox One controller, and Oculus touch controllers. The Oculus will also be PC compatible. To see more about the Oculus Rift and the other competing systems, check here.

Virtual Reality will change video games completely. The way games are played will be completely changed – no longer will we rely on controllers, but on the movement of our bodies. Gaming will become less party friendly, and more concentrated towards the individual player. I believe console gaming will evolve to be more similar to “PC master race” in it’s exclusivity.

Data Visualization.

Finding data visualizations on video games is a non-issue. Video games are by definition a visual and kinetic process. They are an art form, although a vastly unappreciated one. For all those who do not know, for the first time in recent memory, famous art institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art have put video games on display. The Smithsonian had a famous “The Art of Video Games” exhibit, while MoMa has many video games as permanent display items. It should not surprise anyone then that there are plenty of very well done and beautiful data visualizations about video games, as they are both a controversial topic and an art form.

WhyGamingIsAPositiveElementInLife

Seen above is a great example of an infographic on video games, created by a user on Deviantart.com. I believe it is a great example of how infographics can help tell a story. First of all, the overall look and layout of the infographic is appealing to the eye. It groups information together, and easily shows important statistics that would be difficult to pinpoint in a long article. I also believe that the symmetry, especially the two controllers at the top, helps make great comparisons to what one would expect versus actual facts about video games.

Although I personally believe that this is one of the best ways to present statistics to readers, infographics do not lack shortcomings. One of the major shortcomings of infographics is that they do not always tell a complete story. With traditional journalism, you can easily have a beginning, middle, and end, filled with emotions and personal anecdotes. This is much harder to do in infographics, even if you do have some sort of timeline. There is a lack of personal understanding and feeling in an infographic. I believe that although data visualization is helpful, it does best with traditional journalism paired with it.

A website that does this very well is qz.com. I will attach a story below.

http://qz.com/540637/tesla-barely-delivered-more-cars-last-quarter-but-its-stock-still-went-through-the-roof/