Unless you’re doing some kind of performance art piece or are—not that I would know anything about this one—looking for an excuse to make your habit of constantly talking to yourself seem less weird, you probably want viewers when you stream. Twitch just added a new tag system that’s supposed to help facilitate that, but streamers aren’t entirely on board with it just yet.
The tag system takes the place of Twitch’s old communities feature, which let streamers join and create groups dedicated to specific interests, games, genres, or whatever else they could think of. In its place, it introduces a series of Twitch-curated tags that can be applied to streams. These include everything from basics like “competitive” to specific speedrun categories like “100%” and “Any%” to identities like “LGBTQIA+.” Twitch’s IRL and Creative sections has also been replaced by a series of more specific non-gaming tags like “art,” “food & drink,” and “beauty & body art.”
It is, on paper, a more consistent system than communities’ haphazard mishmash of often-redundant custom groupings, but many streamers say they miss the flexibility—not to mention the specific communities they built.
“Already don’t like tags as much as I did communities,” a streamer named SonicGhost said on Twitter. “There are a lot less tags that describe a stream compared to communities. There was a community for every type of streamer.”
“The tags are not good to me, the communities were better,” said streamer Taichi85. He explained that he was an admin for a community of six Italian streamers and that it was the only way for potential viewers to recognize them as a unit, because stream team functionality—which can serve a similar purpose—is only available to Twitch partners. Now there’s an Italian-language tag, but nothing that recognizes the community Taichi85 helped create.
Streamer RaisinBrann, who made a community for her representation-focused organization Brown Girl Gamer Code, said she is in a similar boat. “I feel less motivated to stream now,” she said. “There’s no real way to identify the content for BGGC. Our Twitch page does more that just play games. We have segments where we highlight [black women] in the gaming industry and learn about them, amongst other things. There’s no way to identify that.”
The tags Twitch rolled out with, she said, are too generic. “What little diversity was on Twitch is now way harder (damn near impossible) to find,” she said. In her eyes, Twitch’s decision to universally pave over communities with tags displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how people used communities in the first place.
“The communities feature was more than just things people tagged to their streams,” RaisinBrann said. “They were designated safe spaces for a lot of us who don’t even have spaces like that at home/work/school/etc. I’m hurt, y’all.”
Twitch is currently taking suggestions for new tags and plans to add more variety to the system on a monthly basis. For now, though, some streamers feel like they’ve been left out in the cold.
“Lmao, nine super granular MOBA tags and still no Indie Games classification on Twitch,” said Twitch partner and Sandbox Strategies influencer relations specialist SeriouslyClara. “I was definitely all for tags and seeing how it shook out, but this start is kind of rough. Yes, let’s help MOBAs get more visibility, by all means. And make sure ‘Meme Runs’ and ‘Omaha Hold’em’ finally have a place. Phew! Couldn’t live without those tags. But ‘Indies?’ Nah.”
While the tag system does include specific genres, they only point to pages populated by particular games, not individual streams. The lack of stream-specific genre tags has been a big sticking point for some streamers.
“So real quick, who picked all the new tags for Twitch?” said Twitch partner Angrypug. “How are so many basic tags missing. I mainly play horror, many people play battle royale, etc. Where are these kinda tags? I went through the whole list and didn’t find one I wanted to use.”
Others who play more obscure genres like simulations and 4X strategies have expressed similar, even more urgent concerns.
Twitch appears to have missed a few other spots, too. “Your new tag system is great, but we need tags for gamers who play with disabilities,” said AbleGamers COO Steven Spohn, voicing a sentiment that’s been echoed by accessibility focused streamers, as well. “Please consider tags adding: Disabled Gamers, People with Disabilities, Assistive Technology, Accessibility / Accessibility Options.”
Artsier streamers, who now have a bunch of new tags to work with beyond blanket categories like “creative,” are also approaching the change with trepidation. Twitch partner MeowSparky pointed to the fact that, with creative activities broken into smaller sub-sections like “art,” “music & performing arts,” and “makers & crafting,” they’re now buried by games that individually pull significantly more viewers on Twitch’s monolithic categories page. To find them, you now have to do some digging.
“A new user won’t even know that creative streams exist as it’s not shown on the categories pages at all,” she said. “Scroll for ages and still no creative categories are shown. A user has to type ‘cooking’ or ‘painting’ as a filter to find a relevant stream but most users browse, not filter.”
There is, to Twitch’s credit, a “non-gaming” tag that appears beneath all non-gaming categories, so you could conceivably click it from the icon of a more popular section that does appear near the top of the categories page like “just chatting” and then find creative streamers from there. Still, that’s pretty roundabout, all things considered.
And of course, a new, more standardized system means trolls are having a field day while Twitch works out the kinks.
“Scrolled through Twitch just now and noticed some folks already tagging their stream as ‘body painting’ in hopes of gaining more viewers even though they are just playing random games. One is even bashing body painting in their stream title,” said streamer and community manager Malkarii. “Twitch Tags 101: How Not to Use Them.”