The video streaming platform Twitch has a culture of its own with its codes, slang, memes that can be confusing for the casual viewer. Especially when he woke up at 2 AM and launched a random stream.
Yesterday, after a bad nightmare woke me straight up in the middle of the night, I decided to calm myself down by watching a random Twitch stream. I picked a game that looked cool from the homepage, and I ended up getting way more than I bargained for. The game was Battle Brothers lightly played by SimCopter1. I say lightly because he was frequently interrupting his game to read comments from the chat and respond to some questions. Most of them didn’t have anything to do with the game played and sounded like small talk between long-time friends. It felt like I inadvertently entered a dive bar full of regulars just because I liked one of the paintings on the walls. Still, the streamer’s voice was actually pretty soothing, and the lack of action meant that I could do something else at the same time.
Until a stranger gave $5 to the streamer on my behalf. At the time, SimCopter1 was running a subscription counter stretch goal to put on beard ornaments. Someone decided to fork about $200 to speed up the process, and distributed about 40 month-long subscriptions to the channel (each worth $5) to pretty much anyone watching the stream without a subscription, including me. Those “sub gift bombs” happen infrequently, and almost only in very popular stream channels, and I felt put on the spot since I knew nothing about the streamer nor the people hanging around. Of course, nothing was required of me, I was just a mean to an end for the person who gifted me the subscription, but I still felt uneasy being involuntary part of a grander scheme I was unfamiliar with.
I even had to ask in the chat what did the subscription entailed to, and the streamer himself answered me during one of his numerous Q&A breaks. It isn’t even that big of a deal: access to the chat custom emojis put out by the streamer, a visual display next to the nickname in the chat, and access to any eventual exclusive content the streamer makes available. Which, for the occasional Twitch viewer that I am, has absolutely zero value. I hide the chat most of the time anyway, and I’m only actively following a single streamer that I knew before he started streaming.
Overall, it was a surrealist experience to be forcefully thrust into the limelight of an almost intimate setting (although 500 concurrent viewers for a late-night stream is far from intimate) of a group of seemingly long-time friends with their private jokes and overall culture and history I knew nothing about, and wasn’t there for in the first place.