videogame snapshots

In Chapter 10, Bogost discusses the advent of easy-to-use consumer cameras and photography as an analogy to where videogames might go. Essentially, in the 19th century, a fair amount of expertise was required to take a photograph. Eventually the technology became easier to use to the point where the everyday person might be on either end of the camera. Bogost explores the idea of an analogous kind of game creation. Just as being forced to sit through a slideshow of someone’s wedding or vacation photos or watch a video of a 5-year old’s birthday party would be painfully boring, a personal videogame might have a very limited audience. I.e. maybe a videogame becomes a way of memorializing some event, just as photos or videos do. To this end, Bogost writes, “The future of videogame snapshots will require platform creators to show their potential users how to incorporate games in their individual lives. The results could prove important. The snapshot didn’t just popularize photography as disposable, it also helped greater numbers of ordinary people appreciate photography as craft. A successful game creation platform is one that fulfills such a role” (76).

Minecraft seems the most obviously example of a successful platform in these terms. See Slyder’s post on this . However we might think more generally about the practice of creating mods. There are many modding communities out there. Here’s one example. There are also YouTube channels that cover this business. This one has 500K subscribers. In other words, there’s a significant community here.

However I am interested in a related cultural practice which I think is actually closer to photography and video: online sharing of video game play. Take a look at Twitch.tv, which boasts some 45 million gameplayers sharing their gameplay every month. Here you can watch recorded video of people playing games or participate live in their gameplay by communicating with the players. Take a couple minutes and browse through this material.  How popular is Twitch? Take a look at this report.

From a personal perspective, I can tell you this is what my 13-year old son does. He doesn’t watch much TV. He has almost no interest in movies. He does read a lot (he’s about 7000 pages into the Wheel of Time fantasy series). He plays a lot of videogames, evenly divided between xBox, minecraft, and other cheap steam/iphone games. But he also spends a lot of time watching these gaming videos. To him, they are much more interesting than what TV has to offer. And that makes something like Twitch different from family photos.

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4 thoughts on “videogame snapshots”

  1. For some reason, something about this Twitch link irritates me. I find it rather creepy to be sitting there and watching what other people are doing as they are doing it, but yet they are not addressing the camera in any way. Although I am into television shows, such as “The Real World,” which films day to day life of a bunch of random strangers thrown into a house together for several weeks, much of it consists of the cast members being told what to do and how to react. In the case of Twitch, it seems a bit bizarre watching people in action like being a fly on the wall. I could never see myself ever watching it, or even participating in such an event. In its relation to video games, however, I think it kind of ruins the fun of playing a video game yourself. You can visualize on Twitch what the people are doing when they are playing the game and possibly get insight into how the game works. In my own opinions, I think playing a video game is a learning process where you start off as a beginner who has never played a game, and, through trial and error, you work your way up to being able to master the game. Watching someone else do what you could learn on your own, to me, defeats the purpose of even playing a video game.

    1. Twitch certainly is voyeuristic. I’ve watched a few channels and it seems the player is often addressing the audience. So it’s more like a performance than spying. It’s not especially appealing to me either. But I’m not a big gamer.

  2. I agree with amandas93. TwitchTV does draw a fair audience that religiously follows different players, some of them garnering enough viewers to compete with some network television. However, I think society’s obsession with watching others is a lot more similar to playing video games than you think. People play games to project their thoughts and emotions. I won’t lie and say I haven’t released stress from work on games like Grand Theft Auto. Now some people enjoy watching other people play and release their stress and anger for instance, Rooster Teeth’s Rage Quit series, where a gamer records his anger and frustration with certain games.

    These streaming/youtube “shows” is like watching reality tv for some gamers. I have been known to watch someone else play a game while i’m playing the same exact one.

    Also take a look at the infamous twitchplayspokemon experiment. Looking at the replays, its difficult to imagine that all these people have actually completed a game. This experiment was able to test the viewers on their ability to collaborate and finish a long game.

    http://www.twitch.tv/twitchplayspokemon

  3. Twitch is an interesting phenomenon, and since the opinions here are mostly negative of it, I’ll tell you some reasons why I enjoy watching certain streams on Twitch. The first thing you have to realize is that this site is open to anyone who wants to stream, and the vast majority of it is very dull and boring, and as a result, those channels don’t get very many views. Now these channels are usually the ones that amandas93 used as an example where they just sit there and play, don’t interact with their audience, etc. Now as a stark contrast from that are the most popular channels, where the streamer does quite a lot to entertain viewers and keep growing their audience (as a quick aside, if you were unaware, Twitch streamers, much like YouTubers, can earn money through ads on their streams, and the largest streamers use this as a pretty decent chunk of their income. Most supplement it with other means of income though, including a YouTube channel). So entertainment is one for sure reason that Twitch streamers are popular.

    Another however is to learn. I’ll use the example of League of Legends players since its what I’m familiar with. If you check the largest live Twitch channel at any given time, it is 99% of the time a League of Legends channel. The game has a ranked ladder divided into divisions with players in the the top League consisting of only 0.02% of all ranked players. The less experienced are attracted to these players’ streams to learn what they do and pick up tips and tricks to improve their game. The professional players particularly attract the largest audience, and attract loyal fans because of their play and/or their personality. You’ll find that even the players who play at the top level also strive to be entertaining or interact with their fans.

    I feel like overall, viewers are attracted to feeling like they are apart of something bigger than them. They participate in strange events like “Twitch Plays Pokemon” for this reason. They become loyal to certain streamers, pay somewhere between $0.99-$4.99 to become a “subscriber” and receive certain perks for doing so (such as a chance to play with the streamer in certain games, emoticons not available to any other viewer, or even chat privileges, as some streamers only allow their subscribers to chat). Twitch.tv isn’t for everyone, but for a lot of people, watching others play videogames is far more entertaining than the things that are on TV. Personally, I don’t watch TV at all anymore except for Football and Hockey games. I watch Game of Thrones online, and everything else on Netflix. I would even go as far as saying that one day, Television will die out altogether to the internet, but these are just my opinions.

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