How important are video game streamers? Discussions of this nature often appear whenever one of them messes up or gets some amazing opportunity we wish we had. Many of the most popular streamers also seem to be quite polarizing in terms of how people view them. A quick search of "Ninja fortnite" reveals this point exactly.
Let's get right into some of the overall positive things those who stream popular games bring to the industry, and then look at how they often sour it.
Streaming is a form of entertainment. As such, some streamers entertain by being knowledgeable about their game and performing at high levels of play, while others rely on their personality to attract and maintain viewers. This is quite a subjective point, because arguably what entertains someone is largely dependent on what they like, and this is obviously broad.
I will use myself as an example. Ninja is a streamer that I cannot handle, mainly because when he rages in frustration, I do not feel like there is enjoyment in the game and rage tantrums are not my style. This has nothing to do with his skills, which are outstanding, but rather a personality clash. One of my favorite Twitch Streamers is xChocoBars, because she has a calm demeanor relative to other streamers. Two of my favorite games to watch are ones that she plays, which are Fortnite and Hearthstone, and she uses strategies and decks that I gravitate towards. Most importantly, she is far more skilled than I am at both games, and so for me, the entertainment factor exists also in learning.
Another of my go-to streamers is Willie Dills, co-host of the popular Hearthstone podcast "The Angry Chicken." I not only enjoy his personality, I love how he articulates his thought process at high levels of play. The same can be said of other streamers who educate as they stream.
This idea of learning from streamers is something akin to education. Perhaps instead, the best way to describe it is exposure, or experience. Watching higher levels of play instils me with a sense of confidence in my own abilities that is totally unjustified. When I watch Willie Dills make a great play and explain his reasoning, I learn more as a player. When xChocobars plays solo or in a team, I again feel as though I am learning, or at the very least, see something that I want to emulate with the goal of improving. It encourages me to load up the game and see if I can do the same thing, and it makes me a better player as a result even if that unjustified confidence blows up in my face.
A third positive streamers bring is better time management. As much as people would love to spend more time playing certain video games, the reality is that most do not have that luxury, myself included. Watching these individuals, either live for a while or in a highlight reel, often gives the same satisfaction as if I had played a game myself for a while.
In this sense, streamers as entertainment are positive in the gaming world. They not only provide exposure for the games they play, but in turn they encourage me to play in more skilled ways and save time and money on games I can't fully invest in.
There are a few points to mention here. First, we begin with conflicts of interest that arise through sponsorship deals. Much in the same way that I genuinely believe that most celebrities would not actually drink a certain "energy drink" that begins with the letter "R" and ends with "-edbull" if not for the piles of sponsorship money they receive, there are many streamers who are paid to play a games that would otherwise not do so were it not for the paycheck.
This is a small complaint in the grand scheme of things, because sponsorship exists everywhere. It is ridiculous to assume that we should hold streamers to higher standards than celebrities, athletes, and even politicians bought out by lobbyists. It is in many ways a significant goal to be such a successful streamer as to have the opportunity to take a sponsorship deal.
With that in mind however, we as consumers need to be aware that streamers are being bought and used to promote games they otherwise would not play on their own. The most recent and powerful example of this occurred with World War Z, which boasted strong launch numbers in terms of sales and Twitch viewership, because the publisher had paid popular streamers to play its game. Once the job was done and the streamers were free to go back to games they enjoyed, viewership in the game dropped by a massive 80%. The same issue was present when EA reportedly paid Ninja $1 million to play Apex Legends. The line between advertising and dishonesty is fine in these cases, and I see it falling far more towards dishonesty. With that said, it is ultimately up to the consumer to do their own research, but streamers should help this by being up front about who pays them.
Next, there is something to be said about Ninja's comments that some streamers and their audiences are ruining Fortnite with their negativity. This is a tricky point to consider, because in many circumstances the loud ramblings of a minority in an echo chamber can be misconstrued for the general attitude of the majority. The impact this has on the long-term health on the game depends on how influential certain "influencers" are, and if their negative opinions really do impact the game. Personally, I find it a non-issue in most cases. There are always some people who complain about everything, it is simply in their nature. With streamers, there are also some who entice and keep their viewers high by stirring the pot, which works perfectly with complaining.
A recent example where this has been prevalent was with release of patch 8.2 in Fortnite, which some streamers proclaimed that the changes made only appease casual players over competitive professionals. This too is not something I would worry about, because as stated, some people will always find something to complain about. You could offer some of these streamers a literal pot of gold and there would be comments like "Great, how am I supposed to get this heavy thing home?"
The reality is that in that case, there is already a long-standing debate about the viability of Fortnite as a competitive game in the long term, but this stems from the RNG nature of chests and other variables that skill along cannot account for, from things that are fundamental to the very nature of Fortnite.
Overall, there are clearly good and bad effects streamers have on gaming as a whole, and we did not even cover some of the worst types of streamers, those who are offensive and abusive against others. However, in general, it seems those kinds of streamers do not last long as streaming platforms crack down on inappropriate behavior. I personally see the positive attributes outweighing the bad, and as such, strongly believe that streamers have an important position in gaming culture in the future.