One of our writers tries to come to terms with Twitch. Will he succeed by framing it as couch gaming in the modern world?
When I was younger (so much younger than today) I was pumped to find out that Doom 3 was going to be released, as I’d played every single iteration of old-school Doom that I could lay my hands on. PC, Playstation, SNES, and even the N64 version. I loved them all in different ways.
When Doom 3 launched, I bought it sight unseen, because back in those days people actually finished games before they released them.
This was the first time I ever plugged my computer into the TV. Console gamers of today possibly can’t understand what a big deal this was. PC-quality graphics are par for the course on huge flatscreens today, but Doom-3-On-TV (hey that rhymed) may as well have been actual VR for the effect it had on me back then.
I mention this because it was the first time that my wife watched me play a game all the way through.
DOOM 3: An Impromptu TV Series
I always thought that was weird, because why would she want to watch me play a game if she wasn’t waiting for her turn (OLD SCHOOL MARIO FANS REPRESENT!) or didn’t want to pick up any play tips? It seemed ludicrous, but as I am an amazing attention whore, I ran with it.
She was a fantastic gaming sidekick. “I think you might have missed some ammo back there!” she’d helpfully say (even though she knew I’d just say “I don’t need ammo” and take out a few zombies with my chainsaw just to prove my point). Then, when I died due to lack of BFG ammo, I’d playfully half-yell ‘DON’T SAY A WORD’ just so I could see her well-earned look of ‘I told you so’ on her beautiful face.
Of course, this was before we had any children, and we could just sit around all night doing this.
Wouldn’t it be great, I often thought to myself, if I could turn this into a job? Playing video games with people watching, and getting paid for it? Truly, that would be living the dream!
20 years later, and I never managed to make that happen. But I could now, via Twitch. I mean, if I still had the desire to and also didn’t hate modern gaming with a passion that would make even Jack Thompson (remember him?) tell me to dial it back.
But why bother?
In those days, I was the master gamer of my friends. Anyone had any game issues, they’d ask me about it. Call it a misspent youth, but I felt obliged to share my love of gaming with my (usually non-gamer) friends.
I’m just some schmuck, and not a particularly skilled or entertaining gamer.
Twitch: An Impromptu Web Series?
Why watch others play games?
Frankly, I find this preferable to my other experiences in modern gaming, most of which are ‘wait for an unfinished product to arrive and then somehow still get disappointed’.
Having said that, I don’t think that Twitch is actually trying to replace couch gaming in the modern world – but it sure has a lot of things in common with it: You’re watching someone else play live, you’re interacting with them (however poorly), and (in theory) they’re providing free entertainment.
A Twitcher called j_sat is probably the most famous Vermintide player in the entire world. He provides excellent advice for his viewers, and he even organises runs on the higher difficulties for newer players just to give them situational advice.
That’s pretty neat, I reckon. I wish there were more Twitch streamers like him.
I recently began hanging out again with an old friend who mainly plays PS4 games. He was showing me God Of War (the latest one), and he’d left the room to sort out his evening meal. I got bored and picked up the controller and started trying the game out for myself.
He overheard the combat, and yelled out which buttons to use.
It didn’t help. I was still crap at it.
I gave up and waited for him to return, so I could just watch him play while we were just sitting there hanging around, being lazy drunken slobs in his home.
And that’s when it hit me why my wife had watched me play Doom 3 all those years ago: She didn’t care WHAT we were doing. She only cared that we were doing it together.
Twitch: Couch Gaming For The Modern World?
So maybe that’s why people who aren’t like me enjoy Twitch – because they’re just all hanging out together, enjoying common ground.
I think that Twitch is couch gaming in the modern world, sure. But it’s also something entirely different as well, and I don’t have to like everything about it in order to be happy that it exists.
I mean, just because spamming the chat with penis-based ASCII art isn’t my thing, doesn’t mean that kind of thing doesn’t entertain other people, right?
For more like this, check out the five skills you may have actually learned from gaming.