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How Twitch is the New Arcade

Once upon a time, there were places around the world that were safe havens for kids, places that were untouchable by the parental units. They were arcades, outfitted with the latest and greatest games: an 8-bit revolution that stretched well into the 90’s as a high time for social gatherings. For me, going to an arcade meant a day of fun. Most of the time it was for a birthday, whether it was mine or a friend’s or just one of the kids on the block. [wp_ad_camp1] It meant pizza and soda, presents and ball pits. The best part was the arcade cabinets. That was how we would demo games during the 80’s and 90’s. Sure, we had Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and mom-and-pop shops for rentals. However, nothing could beat the arcades. Arcades were how knowledge was passed and prestige was earned among your peers.

For most people reading this, it may come as no surprise. There is a generation now that understands that these places exist, but doesn’t grasp the importance of them. To this generation, it’s a digital world, and times have changed. Not everything has changed though; the desire to be the best is still ever present. No longer are you queueing up to beat the champion of Mortal Kombat with a quarter on the screen or looking to beat the high score on Pacman. With places like Twitch, Youtube Gaming, and Mixer, streamers are the unbeatable foes that viewers will chuck their opinions at to get a reaction. Online streaming professionally and socially is on the rise and there is a growing crowd that is there for pure entertainment or to troll.

Although it hasn’t been that long, it feels like forever ago. I remember everyone would crowd around the game cabinets to watch others play and learn from their triumphs or follies. That’s how you got better; some guides were available, but most of the time it was trial and error. With each quarter being one life, you were limited to skill and skill alone. Streamers today make extra money by social engagement with fans of a game franchise, while the idea of lives and credits have all but become extinct. Today’s credits are presented in the form of tips, giving the streamers time to play by supplementing their income so they don’t need to work a regular job.

On average, you’ll run into two types of streamers. These types cross over each other at times, but most have a particular strength. They are the teacher and the actor.

The teacher: a streamer who spends their time focusing on the mechanics and strategies of the game. Their goal with streaming is to pass on knowledge and help others “get gud,” a common phrase amongst younger players as an end-all for arguments over what was the proper play. It also falls into the category of hard work and effort, i.e. “If you expect to raise in ranks this season, get gud.” A lot of players watch streamers for tips and tricks, much in the same way older gamers read guides or talked with friends. The advent horizon of online streaming did away with those means for most, giving gamers an immediate source for any inquiry.

 

Then there is the actor. Most of the actors are influencers in the gaming community. They tend to lean on their charm and character to draw an audience. Whether it’s by wearing a wig and sunglasses or a bag on their head. With most, usually women, it’s their attitude that can be the draw. You saw these people in the arcade as well. My first thoughts go back to the over-emphasized “cool guy” Lucas Barton in the film The Wizard. I remember idolizing him; he had the power glove (a highly coveted item for the NES at the time), shades, a long trench coat with the sleeves rolled up, and he knew 97 games. These were the people who drew a crowd. The goal of the actor is to use her or himself as a brand in order to generate hype around news and announcements for franchises.

Some of the biggest streamers today have thousands of loyal fans that join in daily to hear commentary and experience games as a community. While arcades are now a dying form of entertainment, the feeling derived from gaming with others is as strong as ever. Insert coin to continue…

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