Digital Ethnography: Twitch, Overwatch and it’s most popular streamer.

Understanding the Twitch community

In today’s age, video games have become more mainstream and considered less of a “nerd” hobby. The recent shift from gaming on consoles like PS4 and Xbox One to PC gaming has help shape a new online communities where gamers meet and watch other gamers. The combination of both the mainstream idea video games and the shift to PC gaming helped birth the primarily  video game broadcasting service known as Twitch.tv. The study of Twitch as a digital meeting place for different gaming communities allows the exploration into live-stream gameplay. Each full of their own quirks, phrases and memes that make their identity different  from other communities on Twitch. Twitch separates these different gaming communities in the most logical way, separating broadcasters by video game. This enables the viewers to pick specific content they wish to view, which is often game they enjoy watch and or playing.Once they pick the video game they want to watch they are redirected to the broadcasters that are playing the game, most entertaining broadcasters often making the top of the list. Twitch is unique in regards to how it is navigated but holds the same features that a video based site would offer such as YouTube. Twitch, however, differs from YouTube due to the content of broadcasts being mostly video games, with a few exceptions.

twitch

The digital gathering place inside Twitch

The digital hub of the Twitch community gathers during live gameplay is simply known as Twitch Chat.The chat which is displayed to the right of the game being streamed is exclusive to the broadcasters stream and is only visible when watching a specific broadcasters stream. This creates communities that are tightly knit where people interact with the broadcaster and individuals in the chat also interact with one another.  What is also observed is  the activities that occur are much similar to if the people in chat were sitting on a couch in the same room as the broadcaster. The communication between viewers  is achieved through the chatroom side scroller which can be riddled with anything from gameplay instructions given to the gamer currently streaming to someone being a troll (An annoying member of digital society). The language used is generally the jargon used by most teens and young adults which includes but isn’t limited to: profanity, shoutouts, use of stickers and thumbnails, cheers, and nothing is formal. Common abbreviations such as LOL, GTG, and other forms of chatroom/text language are used but there are also terms that are used exclusively by gamers being used such as “tryhard”, scrub, a casual, noob and weeb, for example. These terms are commonly used in a joking or derogatory fashion. The user that everyone is watching play the game, is also being updated live as well with all the comments posted in the chatroom, as well as new subscribers and donations. The only voice of verbal communication is the user playing the game and will regularly respond to the chat room in the middle of game play. This creates a type of call and response that is much quicker than other broadcasting services like Twitch and sets it apart from other services; which generally have most of its content pre-recorded and then subscribers comment with each other and to the channel maker, creating a delayed discussion. The use of live commentary makes a more intimate experience for the viewers and allows the broadcaster to have conversation with the viewers in real time.

The origins of Twitch

Broadcasting video games is a relatively new idea, according to Mike Rose of gamasutra.com Twitch originated as a site called Justin.tv. Justin.tv was originally used as a broadcasting service that allows streaming of everything except defamation, pornography and copyright violations. When the creators realized that their service was primarily being used for video games they created Twitch.tv in June of 2011. In 2014 the owners of Twitch and Justin.tv combined the two into Twitch Interactive. Twitch now allows people to broadcast hobbies like cooking, drawing and instrument playing; but the content is still dwarfed by video game content.

The digital artifacts created through the community

Being a live stream oriented community, most of the digital artifacts created are unique to each channel. Generally coming in the form of memes or gifs, only the most popular of streamers have artifacts that reach the mainstream gaming community. The most notable to date is Kappa. It was used by so many broadcasters that Kappa, which is an emoji exclusive to Twitch.tv is often used outside of the site. When someone uses the word kappa they are implying sarcasm or trolling depending on the context. Rituals that make Twitch unique are community of people are meeting on chat rooms during live gameplay. It is an inherent ritual to Twitch as a whole, which capitalizes on the here and now nature of content. Since the content is live, all comments made are in the now and it creates a sense of urgency to have everyone watch and join in as well. Common celebrations that are identified in Twitch vary from game to game but much of them are centered around in-game achievements, funny moments or mistakes that the players watch.“Rage quiting” is a humorous instance of a player getting so frustrated with the gameplay that they freak out and quit the game or break devices that make it impossible to play the game at the moment such as T.V.s, monitors, and controllers.

The dark side of Twitch community

The dangers that exist in digital communities are not just localized to the computer/phone screen, but also in real life. People have gone to extreme lengths to make streamers pay for revealing something as simple as their address. Many major streamers will have not just their gameplay displayed but also their actual selves being recorded as well. This has led to subscribers observing streamers to call the police on streamers. The most sinister viewers have called the police to report fictional actions of the broadcasters saying they are making bombs or holding someone hostage and many have been “swatted” which live streams the police raiding the gamers home and searching the house. When swatted, it is usually as an act of revenge or just simply for laughs. Raids rarely put the streamer in harm but sometimes the police officers uncover substances like marijuana and inadvertently get the streamer arrested. Most members of the community find swatting unethical and most broadcasters are smart enough to know not to reveal their home address.

swatting

Looking at Twitch’s most famous Overwatch broadcaster

Now that Twitch has been explained to even the most unaware about Twitch, it is time to for an indepth look at one of the more popular broadcasters in the Twitch community. MoonmoonOW is a broadcaster that began streaming video games in April of 2016. Shortly after the video-game Overwatch was released. The game which is a online multiplayer first-person shooter remains today as one of the top five most broadcasted games on Twitch. One could argue that without Overwatch, Moonmoon would not be the famous broadcaster that he is today. To understand the ways of popularity on Twitch only two basic concepts apply, the broadcaster is either highly skilled at a game or has a good personality and is able to entertain. Of course broadcasters can be a little of both but must be at least one to be successful. Moonmoon meets both of those criteria as both a highly talented Overwatch player and a very funny broadcaster.

Moonmoon’s community and digital artifacts

Shortly after Moonmoon began streaming he became one of the most popular Overwatch streamers on Twitch, this allowed him to get a subscriber button. The subscriber button allows his followers to say “ I find you entertaining, here is $5.00 to help pay for you to keep entertaining me. A lot of the time when someone gets a subscriber button they make streaming video games their full-time job. In Moonmoon’s case he followed this practice. Moonmoon streams video games 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and resumes at 10 p.m. to stream until 3 a.m. Monday through Friday. Essentially it is a full time job. There are other perks that come with a subscriber button both broadcaster and subscriber related. One of these perks are subscriber only emotes. Emotes which are Twitch’s version of emojis are exclusive to subscribers of certain broadcasters but can be used in any Twitch chat. Depending on the amount of subscribers one has the broadcaster can have dozens of emotes. In Moonmoon’s case he has 47 emotes. The emotes are typically used to troll, talk about something happening in game or when Moonmoon mentions a certain emote the chat spams it in response. Moonmoon’s most notable emote is purple lady Also known as moon2smug, the emote depicts the character Widowmaker which is one of the characters in Overwatch. Moonmoon has an emote for every Overwatch character but any of the Widowmaker ones are most commonly used in his chat. Other Overwatch broadcasters have created their own variations of the meme as well, Moonmoon calls this jokingly “trickle-down memenomics”.

moon2smugmoon2smugmoon2smug

Memes and Moonmoon

Memes are a big part of Moonmoon’s stream, his comical personality has created several phrases throughout the Overwatch community which are used when people communicate and troll when they are actually play Overwatch themselves. One of the notable sayings is, “Is that a pro Genji?”, Genji which is a character that is hard to master is often picked by people that can’t play him. As a joke people often say “Is that a pro Genji?” and this phrase was crafted by Moonmoon. Another saying that emerged from Moonmoon’s broadcasts is calling people dad. Most notably saying “Kdad” or “Thanks dad” people call each other dad when someone is telling someone how to play the game or if they are raging in the game of Overwatch.

Subscribing to MoonMoon

There are other perks to subscribing to Moonmoon as well, for example you get access to his discord server which is exclusive to his subscribers. Often he can be seen in the chat talking to people. Discord is a chatroom commonly used by the gaming community. Moonmoon makes occasional appearances in the chat and gives advice to players. He is overall a very funny guy but when it comes down to it, he cares about his viewers and answers any game related questions he can. Something unique to subscribing that a lot of Overwatch streamers cannot do due to the fact that they don’t have enough subscribers, is subscriber tournaments. open to any subscriber that can get a group of six subscribers together. The tournaments which are held on certain weekends are something that Moonmoon does because he truly cares about growing the competitive Overwatch community. Moonmoon, who commentates the the tournaments also broadcasts them on his channel. The winning team is actually paid in cash by Moonmoon. The idea is relatively new but there are already teams that have participated in several of his subscriber tournaments.

Overwatch community and Moonmoon’s influence

As a whole, the Overwatch community is seen as one of the more toxic gaming communities. While this may be true, between all of the trolling and goofs in Moonmoons stream is a group of people that are at the head of the Overwatch community.  They have real influence on the game and the way the game is played. In Moonmoon’s case he has helped players become better at the game just by watching him. He is considered one of the best Overwatch players in the world and similar to watching a sport can make you play and understand it better, watching him play Overwatch can improve you skills at the game.

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