So reading this article by the Washington Post and written by Nathan Grayson, I felt a strange kind of connection to the entire topic; after all, before I was a blogger or musician or writer, I was an avid streamer and uploader on Twitch and YouTube respectively. The logo for this blog was even designed for me by someone in my network back in those days. And, geez, those were the days. Those days are long gone, for me at least, but reading this article, it makes me realize that the game is still afoot, and as a “veteran” of the “industry”, I figured I’d offer what I could to the topic, and potentially my own jaded conclusions.
The Key Function: Community
Ashley “Ashnichrist” Christenson said, in her comment in the article, that “I think streamers over on Twitch have this idea like, ‘Oh, I’ve got my own community,’ … It’s more so that you’re like a lightning rod within the overall Twitch community that has some ability to attract other people to you within that space.” This analogy works with me for describing the generalized communities on Twitch, as particular figures in communities rise like figureheads for the entire group they belong to; in my experience as a speedrunner, usually one or two people per game would grow into the “face” of the community. I got lucky enough to have my turn last winter, as I was the world record speed-runner of the game Sayonara Wild Hearts. Members of the admittedly-small community would come to watch me attempt to claw my way into first and shave seconds off of my own time.
YouTube… has the algorithm, as Ryan Wyatt says in the article, which has historically had flaws and unexpected effects that are documented across the internet. For years, it favored genres like animation and comedy, then long-form content, then consistent uploads like gaming videos, and now that I’m out of the game, I don’t even know how the algorithm works. What I do know is that claiming the algorithm is a suitable way to push somebody to the top is overlooking the thousands, likely millions, of people who have never made it above the surface despite their best efforts. Additionally, the article notes that YouTube is missing important community functions and features, which will need to be rolled out quickly if YouTube is to keep up with Twitch in the streaming scene, where community is one of the biggest factors in a streamer’s success.
I’ll be honest, as somebody who’s been in this since he was 10 years old, I may have a skewed perspective. The YouTube of my day was a chaotic wasteland with no streaming options and less professionalism, and Twitch was relegated to charity streams and speedruns, if anyone was using it at all. I see all this talk about revenue sharing, and contracts, and business decisions, and I can’t help but think about kids like me, watching all this happen, dreaming bigger than I did, and wasting more of their life than I did trying to be the next big Ninja, or Dr. Disrespect. Somewhere in the algorithms and money, I think both platforms lost sight of the most important thing; the thing that this entire post wound up being about: community. The war between platforms for creators and market share shouldn’t be one fought with contracts. What made these platforms great, and what they’ve lost sight of, is the communities and small faces who care and make the best content they can. Let’s try finding that old-style peace.
(climbs down off soap box)