Yesterday, “playing the stock market” took on a whole new meaning. On new Twitch channel Stock Stream, Amazon engineer Mike Roberts entrusted his $50,000 savings to the chaos that is Twitch chat, where thousands of anonymous users invest it in what they please.
Roberts says it’s the world’s first co-op, multiplayer game that uses real money to play the stock market. Over 170,000 viewers have watched his funds rise and fall with the whims of Twitch chat. Participating is as simple as writing “!sell” or “!buy” and whichever stock you want. Every five minutes, the game executes the top-voted action with Roberts’ funds. The highest-ranked players most accurately predict the best selling and buying decisions. His inspiration was, of course, the popular crowd-sourced Pokemon channel, Twitch Plays Pokemon.
Stock Stream is an experiment. Roberts wants to know what strangers will do with his hard-earned savings. Would trolls blow it? What stock will they vote for? “I thought people were just gonna waste money,” Roberts said. “That was my first thought.” He decided against a clear objective, like doubling the funds, because then, trolls would have a stronger impetus for sabotage.
“If I lose half of the money, the game is over,” Roberts said. The most he could lose, he explained, is $25,000. If a day trader’s account’s funds sink below that, they can no longer trade. It’s a FINRA regulation. The silver lining is that, if he does manage to blow $25,000 on the experiment, at least it’s tax-deductible.
Between last night and this morning, Roberts’ stock portfolio was up about $100. As interested viewers flocked to the channel, it seems like wiser trading decisions proved more popular.
Stock Stream’s chat is tame, but—excuse the pun—invested. In just one day, several Discord servers have cropped up around the channel. A recent voting sequence had 49 players vying for Tesla stock at $338 per share. At the last minute, the cheaper option, Advanced Micro Devices, won out with 50 votes (it started the day at $11.46, and was down $0.25). Roberts had $22,611 cash left.
On occasion, a player has an outburst, alleging that Seaboard Corp is only a fashionable choice because it’s expensive per share, or that the chat’s full of incompetent, novice traders. A viewer commented, “We’re down 11K already, with shitty shares.” Another asked, “Do any of you actually know anything about stocks?”.
“I wanted something with real-world effects, real-world consequences for what you type into that chat,” Roberts said, surprisingly upbeat. When asked what he was planning on doing with the money prior to Stock Stream, he said, “Nothing, really!”.