'Aspiring streamers are willing to push themselves hard' – new study looks at what makes a successful streamer

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New research by Goldsmiths, University of London with researchers from the London School of Economics, has looked into what it takes to be a top video game streamer.
The study explored the ‘highly demanding’ schedules of streamers (like Ali “Gross Gore” Larsen, pictured) aiming to be successful in an increasingly competitive market.
Interviewees described the meticulous planning that goes into scheduling a stream on a site like Twitch, as well as online discussions and the pressures of developing a unique social media brand.
With a ‘surprising number’ of full-time teachers and nurses among those interviewed, some reported working 24-hour streaming shifts and 70-hour weeks, with others streaming through the night while also working full-time.
“We were interested to find quite how hard streamers work both when trying to make an impression in the industry, and once they turn professional,” said Mark R Johnson, who conducted the study as a Computing postdoctoral fellow at Goldsmiths.
“It’s such a competitive space that many will work very long hours for months or even years to set themselves apart. Others will prepare conversation topics for their next stream, spend huge amounts of time on social media building their brand and work with games publishers to arrange deals for games they can broadcast.
“When you have around two million regular streamers and a platform as open and relatively free of rules as Twitch, aspiring broadcasters are very willing to push themselves hard in order to make it to the top.”

“When you have around two million regular streamers and a platform as open and relatively free of rules as Twitch, aspiring broadcasters are very willing to push themselves hard in order to make it to the top.”
Mark R Johnson, Goldsmiths

Unsurprisingly, the research also found that being sociable, chatty and having a flair for networking are the most important characteristics of a successful video game streamer.
The researchers found that the ability to network and be sociable was most valued among top video game streamers.
One interviewee said: “To be a success in this industry you need to be a social butterfly.”
Another added: “The whole point… is I like people to feel welcomed, able to talk, and to feel like they can contribute to the conversation.”
Mark R Johnson commented: “The most successful gamers on Twitch are not necessarily those who are the most skilled at particular games, but those who are the most witty, gregarious and engaging. Of course, a deep knowledge of games and gaming culture is highly beneficial, but it is undoubtedly the social gamers who do best.”
Twitch has some 15 million daily active users, over 2.2 million users streaming content each month and an average of 106 minutes of content watched per person per day.
The research was based on 100 interviews with professional video game streamers, conducted by Mark R Johnson, Computing postdoctoral fellow, Goldsmiths, University of London, with Jamie Woodcock, fellow at London School of Economics and Political Science.

5 more findings from the streaming study on streaming

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  1. Previous occupations of streamers include software developers, graduate teaching assistants, IT techs, nurses, teachers and casino dealers.
  2. A lack of formal training/education on offer to streamers meant that many had developed their abilities independently. For those who grew up with digital technologies, this was not seen as a challenge.
  3. Once established, they scale back the amount of streaming, but still spend time (5-6 days a week) preparing technical set ups, discussion topics for the audience as well as admin tasks like answering emails, maintaining contacts, networking and so on.
  4. Current streamers are on the ‘ground floor’ of a massive new media platform and global social phenomenon, about which they felt quite privileged.
  5. Twitch and streaming will only continue to grow in future years, say the streamers, with one saying it’s ‘way more plausible to become a professional streamer than a professional sports player’.

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