Since the rise of YouTube, many channels of ‘Lets Players’ have shown how games can be completed in a certain way, or the fastest time. But since the rise of Twitch from 2011, it has grown into many avenues, where even some players earn a disposable income from it, and even a viral phenomenon.
Twitch started as a simple ‘video game’ category from another site, justin.tv, which offered many other categories for streaming video such as sports. But the gaming category exploded into its own. Alongside this, there would be uploads of speed runs for many games from Speed Demos Archive that would show players attempting ‘world records’ of games completed in the shortest time, whether it be by glitches used, or having objectives such as a 100% play-through, which would mean everything collected and discovered.
Eventually, ‘Twitch’ was set up to cater for this category, which shows live speed runs attempted, along with charity fundraisers, such as the ‘Awesome Games Done Quick’ event in January, which managed to raise over one million dollars over 7 days.
Speedrunners such as ‘Cosmo Wright’ has earned world records such as ‘Ocarina of Time’, by completing it in a mere eighteen minutes by exploiting a ‘warp glitch’, which is an error in the game’s code which he can then exploit.
His own channel on Twitch here, usually shows his attempted speed runs, and also research into finding any more glitches to help any future runs.
A feature of Twitch is the ‘subscribe‘ option, which enables the contributor to receive any ‘goodies’ from the player, such as exclusive ’emoticons’ to use in the chat box to the right of the video, no ads that will randomly show throughout the stream, and much more, dependant on the streamer.
You can create your own account and what you do is completely up to you. You can search for games, or if you’ve clicked on ‘Follow’ for any streamers, you can see if they’re streaming now, or any videos they’ve recorded.
Clicking on ‘Games’ shows a descending list, from the most popular games being viewed, to some that have either just started streaming or uninteresting to the watcher.
There’s no ‘premium’ account to create your own stream. Many of today’s PC’s are able to stream a video, and with the right software such as ‘Wirecast’, you can have your own stream with your own followers.
I attempted this a couple of times, and after only fifteen minutes of setting it up, I was up and running and broadcasting to the masses. Albeit only 3 watchers.
But the appeal of it is understandable. You watch it to see how you can either get through a specific part in a game, or how a favourite speed runner is attempting another record, or just to leave it as a screensaver on your TV in the background.
It’s addictive viewing, and having it implemented into the latest consoles is the natural step for Twitch.
Writing of Twitch, it would be impossible to mention the viral phenomenon which has occurred in the last month. ‘Twitch Plays Pokémon’ has had a peak of three hundred thousand players deciding where to guide the character next. It works by a simple emulator, with a script that links to the chat box. Here, anyone can simply type in and send ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘a’, ‘b’, etc. But with hundreds of thousands trying to grab the controller at once, you will usually see this when you come across the stream:
As of the time this was published, the stream has been going for eleven days, with a rare ‘legendary Pokémon’ caught and facing another regular Pokémon in a tower. Twitch have said that they had to move the stream to one of their dedicated servers, usually reserved for tournaments or charity streams in order to alleviate the latency and chat issues that have slightly plagued it in the past week.
So far, it has amassed over twenty million views in its short lifespan. But why?
It’s a fascinating concept; a large group of people coming together to try and complete a classic game all at once. Many have created Twitch accounts just to join in on the fun, while others seeing how they can deflect the character from moving further in the game by bringing up the menu.
There have been attempts to alleviate the constant confusion of commands that are only registered twenty seconds after they’re sent. It features a voting system, which gives the players the option to vote for one of two modes: anarchy or democracy. Anarchy mode registers the chat commands immediately, while democracy mode allows players to vote on the inputs and chain commands at once.
So far with players just reaching the halfway mark and eventually meeting the ‘Elite Four’, talk has moved to what game may come next. The next step does seem to be a generation two game for Pokémon, which would be the ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ variety that was released in 2000 to much acclaim.
Overall, its the appeal of what Twitch can do. It introduces speed running as a legitimate sport to the masses, while also showing concepts of a simple script being applied to a classic game of where anyone can take part.
It will be interesting to see where next Twitch can go, but with only two weeks of ‘Twitch Plays Pokémon’, in six months we could be seeing something similar to Zelda or Sonic be shown.