Taking on Twitch

Della Johnson | Staff Writer

Xavier Lipsey streaming Minecraft on Twitch

Real-time broadcasting has found its way into the daily routine of high schoolers.

Live streaming – -specifically video game streaming — has quickly become the entertainment of choice among teenagers. Platforms such as YouTube Live and Amazon’s Twitch provide extensive spaces for creators to cast video directly to their audience at the exact time they are filming, allowing for direct contact and unedited action. While live streaming was invented in the 1990s, it has just recently reached its peak popularity with help from the younger generations.

During a typical stream, the creator interacts with their audience: answering questions, saying hello, asking for feedback. And their audience continuously responds through a chat function in real-time. This type of contact diverges from the classic platform of an online edited video such as those commonly seen on Youtube. In recent trends, video creators that do not live stream are receiving less interaction from their subscribers than those that do.

Junior Kaylee Rennekamp has been watching streamers since one of her favorite content creators, Markiplier, began live streaming. She enjoys the contrast from regular YouTube while getting to know who she’s watching.

“I think one of the main things that’s obviously very different is the interaction,” Rennekamp said. “It feels like you know the person and you get to know their schedule, like when they’re going to stream. And then you just expect that in your day, so they become a part of your day to day routine. They’re part of your life, and that makes you feel a lot more comfortable and have more of a purpose with what you’re [watching] and feel more comfortable with them.”

Rennekamp also appreciates how reactions between chat and the creator play out, such as when someone watching comments a joke and then everyone on the stream “laughs about it.” Sharing an exchange of emotions creates a through-screen connection that has not quite been established on media platforms that don’t offer a live streaming feature. Rennekamp has also personally interacted in the chat function, utilizing the donation function to support some of her favorite creators. She once donated to creator GeorgeNotFound because she “just really enjoyed him and wanted to send him a nice message,” to which he gave a personal reply, saying “‘thank you so much.’”

Building strong bonds with streamers and live content creators may have a constructive impact on the viewer as they watch content that incorporates real-life communication skills. Rennekamp has noticed the tendency of herself and her peers to gravitate towards constant entertainment, and watching alongside her favorite creatives has helped her do something more productive and beneficial with her screen time.

“Our generation just has this main focus of kind of needing to busy ourselves, which is not a bad thing,” Rennekamp said. “But having a positive thing to busy ourselves with — it’s definitely improved my mental health, and I’m sure plenty of other people’s. I have trouble focusing, but for [live streams] it’s really easy because you can do other things on your phone while you’re watching them. It’s just nice to have their voice in the background because it’s something you’re familiar with. And if you get bored [of watching the stream], you can always come back to it.”

The world of live streaming for a high school student does not end at watching, though. For junior Xavier Lipsey, the idea of starting his own channel and filming himself playing video games was more appealing. Lipsey has been streaming for a year on his Twitch channel JavierXol. Each of his live streams averages around two hours each. He often streams games that are trending:  Among Us, Minecraft, and Phasmophobia, to name a few. But he does not just follow every trend; his main criterion for choosing what games to feature on his live streams is that he has to enjoy it himself.

“I try to play what people are going to watch,” Lipsey said. “But I also try to play what I’m going to enjoy and what I can laugh with friends on and have fun. Because, if I’m not having fun, nobody’s going to want to watch that. When you’re genuine and friendly, and you have that chemistry [with the people you play with], and you’re just funny, people like watching that.”

Playing with a group of friends is extremely common in the streaming community. With the right energy and humor created by the relationships between the players, they can garner a large following. Still, even with the Twitch algorithm figured out, Lipsey stresses that the main focus of his channel is just for fun and for memories. After he’s finished with a live stream, Lipsey can upload highlight clips and funny moments to his channel. He does this not just to show off his skills to potential followers, but also to save them to watch on his own.

The moments of streaming he saves and the people he interacts with in his chat are able to give Lipsey enough momentum to keep him uploading on a regular basis. He said appreciating the ups and downs of his hobby as well as the excitement while playing has encouraged him online and in real life.

“It’s kind of hard to keep streaming,” Lipsey said. “I have really good days, and then I’ll have a day where maybe it’s just me and my friend. But once I’m done and I’m going back, watching the clips, I’m seeing how much fun I have. Whenever I have people just come into my chat and I’m talking to them and create an actual friendship with them — it motivates me to keep going. One of the main reasons I didn’t start [streaming] is that I didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there. It gives you a lot more confidence — there’s nothing to be worried about.”