Video game streaming has become a massive industry in the past decade, with the top stars making millions from their Twitch channels alone, before endorsement deals, sponsorship and tournament earnings are taken into account.
To those on the outside, or even avid audience members taking in streams on a daily basis, the question that needs to be asked is how did this culture emerge and what does the future look like for game streaming as an activity?
Gaming has been a popular pastime since the 1970s, but its status as a mainstream phenomenon has only been achieved relatively recently thanks to a combination of different factors.
Likewise it was only possible for game streaming to rise to prominence thanks to a combination of infrastructure and public interest.
Videos featuring footage captured from games were shared online from the early 2000s, with YouTube’s arrival in 2005, coupled with ever-increasing network speeds, helping generate demand for gaming content.
Live streaming services followed suit shortly after, with Justin.tv’s launch in 2007 and its subsequent spinoff as Twitch.tv giving people around the world a place to broadcast in real time, without having to worry about editing clips together.
Today the average concurrent viewership for all Twitch channels regularly exceeds a million, with rival platforms like YouTube gaming also commanding smaller but no less significant audiences.
From shooters like Fortnite and Counter Strike: Global Offensive to slot games like those found on Casumo online casino, today it is possible to watch an almost unlimited variety of gaming experiences, streamed live on desktop and mobile with ease.
Now that you have a rough idea of how streaming evolved and where it is at today, it is worth asking what it is that keeps people so engaged with a seemingly counter-intuitive activity; that of watching someone else play a game.
Part of the appeal comes down to the interactivity of the viewing experience, which is made possible thanks to the live chat functionalities offered by Twitch and other popular streaming platforms. Viewers can leave comments for the streamer to read, have conversations with other people and become part of a community.
The chat functionality has been harnessed to achieve some pretty incredible feats for something so seemingly simple. Viewers have collaboratively attempted to conquer a variety of games, including Pokemon, Dark Souls and even chess.
When watching traditional sports broadcasts, which are the closest equivalent of game streaming, none of these interactive elements are available.
Another reason for the rapid rise of game streaming as a pastime is that the most popular streamers are effectively celebrities, with huge followings of fans from around the world willing to tune in day after day to see them play, often for hours at a time.
At no point in history has an audience had such unfettered access to the lives and experiences of the rich and famous; this is especially true in the game streaming community, where there is something of an arms race with regards to meeting gruelling streaming schedules to keep people happy.
Game streamers also occupy an interesting middle ground between sports stars and TV personalities; they usually have to be charming, outrageous or engaging in some way in order to get people interested, while also exhibiting a degree of skill that is at least above average, or ideally world class.
Game streaming is still a relatively new phenomenon, and no doubt one which will continue to explode and expand at a rapid rate as a new generation of entertainment consumers grow up with very different viewing habits and expectations than their parents.