For a lot of people, one of the appeals of coming home after work is getting to sit down and watch hockey, or football, or baseball, or any other professional sport, but with this pandemic going around, most major games are completely cancelled, which can be really upsetting. You’re stuck at home, you’ve got a ton of time, and now you can’t even enjoy the thing that occupies the majority of your downtime. So now what do you do?
Some people are listening to podcasts. Some people are reading books, or catching up on movies and tv shows they’ve missed. Some people however, have been turning to a little website called Twitch.tv.
If you’re looking for something to watch which will replace that same feeling you get from watching professional sports, that’s a great place to start, and you may even find something extra. Now obviously everyone watches sports for different reasons, but there are some common threads between them, and a lot of different factions of Twitch do offer those same experiences.
Competitive Gamers are extremely exciting to watch compete with each other. These people have studied the games in question and know how to move and perform at any given moment in order to ensure a win. They’ve got reaction times far faster than most people, and just like a baseball player, they have to adapt to what the pitcher or batter is doing, in order to know where to hit the ball, where to run, when to run, all that stuff, just… in a video game. There’s also team games, and you can follow the stories of each individual player, and root for a team you identify with, and be a part of a community surrounding that team, which is what most sports fans love; that sense of community. “Sure we’re all here to enjoy the same game, but the people I’m rooting for are just better at the game than the team you’re rooting for. And if my team loses, I still love them.”
Speedrunners are always a mixed bag for me. These are people who, similar to competitive gamers, are pushing themselves and their abilities to the limits, but the difference here is that instead of going up against another person, they’re competing with their own best times beating the game as fast as possible. There’s two different subsets of speedrunners that I’ve seen personally. Those who are at the top of the leaderboards, and whose gameplay is almost like art, and those who are just starting to learn a game. Both have their appeals. You can follow someone’s progress as they’re starting out, and learning things, and you can watch them grow and get better, and maybe after a while, they may even wind up at the top of the leaderboards themselves. It’s great to see your favourite games being utterly demolished by people much better at it than you, and it’s also super exciting to see someone come out of nowhere and work hard and claim that world record. Even just seeing the current WR holder beat their own record is always exciting too.
Some people just play the games casually, which is fun too. It’s nice to watch someone play something without stakes sometimes. It’s like going to the beach, and watching your friends playing volleyball together. It’s more about the fun than the actual gameplay here. In fact, people will do what’s called “blind” playthroughs, which is essentially just playing a game for the first time, and having no knowledge of what it entails or what they’re getting into. A lot of us are nostalgic for the first time we ever picked up a Mario game or a Pokemon game as a kid, and being able to watch someone else experience that, and seeing their first reactions to the moments that you loved, is almost as good as somehow experiencing it for the first time yourself, again.
Of course, gaming isn’t the only thing that’s on Twitch. There’s people who do baking streams, or workout streams, or musical performance or art streams, or even just sitting there and talking to “Chat” about whatever comes to mind. And that’s the biggest thing about Twitch that I personally love. No matter where you go, or who you’re watching, there’s always an element of interaction there. You can write in and comment on what they’re doing, and they can see that in real time, and react to it. They can have a conversation with you while they’re baking, or playing a game, or whatever they may be doing. You can talk to the other people who are watching and connect over similar interests. You can tell people what’s going on in your life, and ask for advice, or just hang out, and in times like right now, when people are the most isolated they’ve ever been, it’s one of the few things we can do to still build a sense of community.
Sure, watching a stream isn’t quite the same as watching professional sports, but there’s so many different facets of so many different kinds of streams that can be quite reminiscent to sports. And I meant hey, at the end of the day, watching sports, and watching gamers, really isn’t that different at all. After all, either way, you’re watching someone else play a game, and that’s totally fine.