“Popular culture is made by the people, not produced by the culture industry.”
– John Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture 1989
Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming all have a niche but growing popular culture that is developing deep in the core of there websites…this being Live streaming. Live streaming or often referred to as ‘streaming’ in the simplest definition is the ability to stream media simultaneously recording and broadcasting that to the internet in real-time. Streaming alongside Esports has climbed in popularity 10 fold over the last 10 years with many major companies and marketing agencies taking an interest in the concept of the “rapidly growing live-streaming multimedia phenomenon” (Z.Hilvert-Bruce, 2018 p58-67) for example Microsoft (Mixer (shutdown RIP)), Amazon (Twitch), Google (YoutubeGaming), Facebook (Facebook gaming).
GLOBALIZATION: Imagined communities
Firstly, we will look at one of the most prominent reasons for the surge and retention of twitches popularity which is the theory of Imagined communities. Presented by Benedict Anderson this theory in layman’s terms is the feeling of being an individual that is apart of a group that shares similar values, interests, or beliefs. Even though you may never meet another member of that group.
This is evident in how Twitch operates, Twitch has designed its platform with a text-based chat room which allows the audience to interact with the broadcaster. This also allows for the broadcaster to interact with the audience by asking and answering questions and in general involve the audience in what they are doing. Because of this twitch and its heavily community-driven ideas has ‘made it possible for rapidly growing numbers of people to think about themselves, and others and to relate themselves to others, in profoundly new ways’. (Anderson 1991, p36)
Before we move on from the theory of Imagined communities I’d like to quickly mention the theory of the Utopian view of ‘the ‘global village’ suggests ‘… that people of the world
can be brought closer together by the globalization of communication, no matter how far apart we may live’ (O’Shaughnessy, 2012, p 459) is extremely prevalent in Twitch and live streaming as a whole. Twitch allows users all over the world to ‘Share in each other’s lives’ (O’Shaughnessy, 2012, p 461) through not only playing games but also a very popular genre of IRL (In real life) streaming. With this, there are now many major companies and political leaders who are getting involved with twitch which plays an ‘Important role in informing people and generating discussion about events and issues worldwide’. (O’Shaughnessy, 2012, p 461)
Cultural proximity and esports
Twitch often shares its success hand in hand with sub-genre known as electronic sports (Esports) in particular the League of Legends Esports. The League of Legends Esports is split up into regional competitions being the NA (LCS), EU (LEC), CH (LPL), SK (LCK), OCE (OPL), JP (LJL) and many others. With this, the winners of the spring and summer splits move on to the final competition being the League of Legends World Championship a multi-million dollar tournament.
Esports similar to the more mainstream sport has an extremely common theory behind it being cultural proximity. As Straubhaar explained cultural proximity is ‘‘: : : the tendency to prefer media products from one’s own culture or the most similar possible culture’’ (J. D Straubhaar, 2003, p. 85) which is evident with the number of languages these competitions are broadcasted in. If League of Legends Esports alongside the many others are only presented in English the rest of the non-English speaking communities would be less likely to watch and engage with the media. This is shown in the ‘The Esports Observer’s Top 10 channels for last week‘. With the Korean, Spanish and French broadcasts all amassing over a million watch hours during the 2018 Worlds Championship with notable mentions going to both the German and the Portuguese following close behind with 567k and 496k respectively.
I hope you have enjoyed this little crash course on some of the theories behind Twitch and Esports popularity. Feel free to comment below if you have any further questions about the theories or anything discussed! I’ll happily get back to you with a response.
Fiske,J. (1989) Understanding Popular Culture [online] Available at: https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Understanding_Popular_Culture.html?id=JQx8qNNnkhsC [Accessed 15/08/20]
Hilvert-Bruce, Z., Neill, J., Sjöblom, M., & Hamari, J. (2018). Social motivations of live-streaming viewer engagement on Twitch. Computers In Human Behavior, 84, 58-67. [online] http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.02.013 [Accessed 15/08/20]
Anderson,B (1991) Imagine Communities: Reflections on the origin and Spread of Nationalism, p36 [online] https://books.google.com.au/books/about/Imagined_Communities.html?id=4mmoZFtCpuoC&redir_esc=y [Accessed 15/08/20]
O’Shaughnessy, M. (2012) ‘Globalisation’ p459 [moodle] https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/2425476/mod_resource/content/1/W2%20BCM111%20oshaughnessy-2012-458-471.pdf [Accessed 15/08/20]
Ksiazek, T.B, Webster J.G (2008) Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media p486 [online] https://webster.soc.northwestern.edu/pubs/Ksiazek&Webster%20(2008)%20Cultural%20Proximity.pdf [Accessed 15/08/20