Celebrities are Now Streaming on Twitch: For Better or For Worse?
In the 90s and 00s, the typical gamer was depicted as a nerdy, unsociable loner who spent most of his/her time playing games. Fast forward to the present and we see many big names in the video game industry like Michael “shroud” Grzesiek and Lily “LilyPichu” Ki who stream themselves playing various games on the popular streaming website Twitch and whose popularities surpass even those of some mainstream celebrities. However, there has always been a big distinction between “internet celebrities” and mainstream celebrities… that is until recently. Throughout the year, there has been an influx of established celebrities streaming themselves play games on Twitch, like decorated rapper T-Pain and NFL wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster.
Does this mean that video game celebrities can be considered mainstream or is this just as simple as mainstream celebrities liking video games? Video gameplay has long been a favorite in the online realm with Twitch bringing in over 15 million unique viewers every day. Not only that, individual streamers like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins averaging around 30,000 viewers each stream. With such online popularity comes sponsorships, brand deals, and ultimately, money. Because of his following, Ninja has brand deals with industry giants like Red Bull, Ubereats, Adidas, and Microsoft, just like many “conventional celebrities.” With his brief deal with Microsoft, Ninja apparently made between 20 and 30 million dollars, which is huge considering that he was only with Microsoft for around a year. In comparison, Devin Booker, the star player of the Phoenix Suns in the NBA and fellow Twitch streamer, makes around 30 million dollars a year. Looking at these salaries, it is obvious to see that there are online celebrities who make the same or even more than many mainstream celebrities. While salary doesn’t necessarily determine popularity, it does raise the question of whether internet celebrities can be considered as a part of the mainstream as well.
Many people in the streaming community feel that Twitch, Youtube, and other streaming platforms are ways that enable regular people to become celebrities of their own. It’s a way where anybody can start streaming and if they work hard enough they can grow a sizable audience, everyone is on an equal playing field. A lot of media coverage about Twitch has been about how Twitch celebrities are becoming more like regular celebrities, examples of these are streamers like Ninja and Pokimane. Yet, there are large parts of the streaming community resisting Twitch streamers who go mainstream as they feel that isn’t what Twitch is, as it was made specifically to be ‘not mainstream’. So when celebrities enter Twitch, it’s not hard to imagine that there is a sour taste from that part of the community. One of the reasons people find celebrities on Twitch unsettling is how these celebrities didn’t need to grow an audience like everyone else since they already had one. Up and coming streamers who grind to grow their audience may find this frustrating and unfair to them. The negative reaction of celebrities coming to Twitch is that they have an unfair advantage over everyone else, they are bringing the mainstream to the site, and they aren’t really adding anything new to the website.
Many people may think negatively about these celebrities, yet there are plenty of people who feel the opposite for key reasons. First being that there are many people who think that this is good for the website as these celebrities are bringing their audience, who may not have known what Twitch is. Many of these celebrities are playing with established Twitch streamers and many of those streamers don’t have a problem with but instead welcome it. Dr. Lupo and Pokimane aren’t complaining that they are on a stream with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that has over 400,000 viewers, it’s only going to expose them more to a mainstream audience. Another reason why many people argue that Twitch is already in mainstream media, due to its popularity and the fact it’s owned by the mega-corporation, Amazon.
Overall, the flux of celebrities coming to Twitch has divided the community but brought new conversations within it.