TwitchCon's Glass 'Streamer Zones' Make Streaming Nerve-Wracking

Illustration for article titled TwitchCon's Glass 'Streamer Zones' Make Streaming Nerve-Wracking

This year at TwitchCon, the show floor is playing host to a handful of box-shaped, see-through “Streamer Zones” where people can stream for their usual online audiences and also a real life one sitting mere feet away. If you’re used to streaming from the comfort of your own bedroom, it can be terrifying.


It’s one thing to stream for hundreds of people who are some variation of Way Over There, but it’s another to have 30+ people staring holes into your back as you sit at a PC and do your thing. “The World Is Watching,” read Intel-sponsored signs hanging ominously above each booth, like something out of a dang Black Mirror episode. Sometimes, people approach the glass and peer in with their faces nearly pressed against it. Occasionally, you see messages like this in chat:

Illustration for article titled TwitchCon's Glass 'Streamer Zones' Make Streaming Nerve-Wracking

“Hi from outside your booth,” is a heck of a thing to see during a high-pressure in-game situation. It’s hard to stay in-the-zone when you’re in the bizarro twilight zone that is The Streamer Zone.

I spoke to Franplayshalo, a high-ranked competitive Overwatch streamer, as she wrapped up a session, and she told me that it was definitely a unique experience.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” she said with an exhale. “At first I was fine, but then one of [the Twitch staff] told me there’d be people watching out there, and my nerves shot up.”

As a highly competitive player and performer, she wanted to make sure she lived up to expectations. It took her a bit, but she found her footing. “After a few games, I was like ‘OK, I can do this,’” she said. “‘It’s like any other day at home.’”


And then she got greeted by a small crowd of appreciative fans she knew from her chat. Probably not something that happens very often at home, but nice nonetheless.

Kotaku senior reporter. Beats: Twitch, streaming, PC gaming. Writing a book about streamers tentatively titled "STREAMERS" to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in the future.


Rather Unexpected

As a gamer and child of the 90s, I will never, ever understand the streaming thing as anything other than a rather sad indication of how lonely everyone has become.

I tried. I really did. I’ve watched one or two “lets plays” over the years... but mainly for practical reasons - games that didn’t have demos and I was thinking of buying, or games from consoles I will almost certainly never own.
So Later, I signed up to Twitch, and watched a couple of streamers whose youtube uploads I’d seen. I was expecting at least some sense of community - I expected chat to be full of people talking to each other... one big internet version of the old communal experiences we used to have, sitting on a sofa playing games together.

But the Twitch “community” seemed to boil down to... a legion of people all ignoring each other, and spamming things they hoped would get them noticed by the streamer, who was trying very hard to simultaneously pretend to be immersed in the gaming experience while having to constantly give “shout outs” to anyone who threw money at them.

And it’s not like they’re seeking the streamer’s attention because the streamer is somehow considered a celebrity. At least, not like it used to be with celebrities. Now, it’s just a means of validation. “I have been noticed by the streamer, therefore I have been noticed by everyone watching the streamer” is what it boils down to. Which is just... grim. It’s like some sort of weird strip club situation in which the stripper gets money every time she points at an audience member and reads out their name.

And then of course we have the fundamental screwy nature of what it is they’re doing. The more famous streamers are getting wealth and fame from... consuming someone else’s creative product. And not even the way a critic would; not offering a review, or critical analysis. Just... consuming it. While people watch. It’s like... like a restaurant critic who doesn’t actually write anything, they just stream themselves eating fancy food.

Now this... glass box thing? I’m just having these overwhelming flashbacks to the South Park episode with guitar hero, in which the kids get a record deal by... *pretending* to play music.