Video games and Solidarity

Gaming has evolved over the years. What was once a novelty is now one of the biggest industries in the world. In fact, Variety highlights how video games could be a $300 billion industry by the year 2025, as both console and PC manufacturers continue to push the envelope when it comes to innovation and technology.

However, it isn’t only gaming that has changed – how we play games has also morphed into something completely new and is reconfiguring the entire experience. Technological advances have made it so that almost anyone can start a stream with minimal resources. Case in point, popular Twitch streamer Shroud revealed that he knew close to nothing about streaming when he first got started. A friend of his even had to teach him how to set it all up.

Today, it’s much easier for anyone to be a streamer. Someone who is just starting out doesn’t necessarily need to buy a pricey camera, as the Twitch app has updated its software and now allows you to turn your phone into a streaming device and a substitute for traditional web cameras. Because being seen is just as important as being heard, a high-quality mic is crucial and possibly the largest investment for streamers (next to their gaming rig). The Blue Snowball iCE is known for its excellent audio quality, accessibility, and ease of use thanks to its plug and play capabilities. IGN even touts it as the ideal choice for beginners looking to upgrade their setup. This kind of accessibility is part of the essence of streaming – it’s about giving everyone their own platform.

But how did we get to this point and how has this affected gaming beyond the financial benefits? Beyond just producing quality content, streaming has turned gaming into an act of solidarity.

Everyone Has a Platform

Photograph by Anurag Sharma.

Many may not realize it, but YouTube had a hand in influencing the gaming industry as we know it. During the site’s infancy, YouTube was nothing more than a collection of random videos on the internet. However, in 2008, when a YouTuber called Blame Truth posted a video of him playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare with accompanying commentary, it changed the game. This was the first video of its kind that got any form of traction and kicked off a genre that we now know as Let’s Play. The idea behind a Let’s Play is simple: you watch someone play video games. I remember watching one of these types of videos and I couldn’t help but remember a time when I used to go over to my friend’s house and I would watch her play the original Super Mario on the Famicom — how watching her jump over every crevice gave me as much excitement (sometimes even more) as playing the game myself.

Since then, gaming content has evolved to the point where you can watch and interact with people playing video games in real-time. The age of streaming is upon us and it isn’t going away anytime soon. Streaming sites such as Twitch have made it easier to turn your hobby into a career. But beyond money, streaming has also made the act of playing and watching video games more communal — it is a modern act of digital solidarity.

Streaming as an Act of Solidarity

Photograph by Robert Nagy.

Many of us have distinct memories of going over to a friend’s house and watching them play video games. And to some extent, that is what streaming is. However, instead of just a couple of people watching you play, it’s thousands of viewers across the world. This has made even the single-player gaming experience one that is communal — a shared joy over the love of this digital genre. But it doesn’t end there, as streaming has also made it possible for thousands of people to play a game all at once, driven to achieve one goal.

This solidarity is best seen in Twitch Plays Pokémon (TPP). TPP was an experimental stream that Twitch broadcasted back in 2014. It had a simple premise: the site would host a game of Pokémon Red controlled by everyone watching on the stream via two modes: democracy and anarchy. Democracy was when the input that got the supermajority of the votes (around 67% to 90%) would be the one that gets punched into the game, while anarchy only required a majority of the votes. When I first heard about this, I immediately assumed that it was a gimmick that would be over before they beat the first gym. There’s no way you can get people on the internet to cooperate. Any YouTube comment section could tell you that much. And while it was a bit bumpy at first (Pokémon were being released or characters would just go around in circles for hours), I was surprised to find that Twitch users eventually came together and finished the game in less than a month. This was a good indication that human beings could come together and cooperate when the situation calls for it — an example of modern solidarity over the digital space.

JBinkley lives in Utah and is bound to serve her two dogs Nook and Cranny. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry that she hopes to finish by the end of this year.

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