I sometimes have a hard time morally justifying watching Twitch streams


#1

Last week after playing some PUBG I decided to watch some Twitch streams of the game. The first stream that popped up was on the front-page, and the streamer mentioned that he “usually goes for about 12 hours, but because I’m on the frontpage, it’s going to be longer.”

I’d known before then that most popular streamers need to maintain schedules of 12 hours a day (or more), six or seven days a week, but actually hearing him say this in a manner-of-fact way made me really think about if it was moral for me to be watching the stream.

If streaming is a business where in order to scrape by (not even be successful, but scrape by), you have to be streaming 12 hours a day, every day, is that something I want to be a part of as a consumer by participating in?

I’m honestly not sure where I fall on it — nor am I sure that it will eventually sort itself out. Where do you fall?


#2

It’s such a scary environment - the amount of time and energy it takes to just make a living as a streamer is unbelievable, but it’s also a thing I really would like people to be able to make a living doing. I think the onus is really on Twitch to make it a sustainable thing, because the fact that they are able to make money off of people who are nearly killing themselves to make a living is really gross. The model right now rewards streamers who forego bathroom breaks and food because people don’t want their entertainment to be interrupted, and that is a really bad incentive for really harmful behavior.

So… I said a whole lot of nothing. I really want streaming to succeed! But I hate what it takes to succeed.


#3

The thing about streaming is that people who are under a certain amount of viewers/subscribers feel like they have to be constantly on in order to gain new viewers. While they aren’t wrong, it isn’t the only way to gain viewers. Most of the streamers I watch decided to START with healthy stream/life habits and are flourishing, but that requires that they work a second job at first to pay the bills/ have a significant other that is willing to support them while they get their small business off the ground. You could say that by watching the streamers that think that they have to stream for so long you’re helping them along to that goal of being stable without needing to put in so many hours, but making that decision (to value their time and health) is unfortunately up to them.

Also you should consider that with almost every small business that opens up the owner is pulling similar hours to get it up and running. A lot of that work is maybe behind the scenes and they try to keep “open hours” 9-5, but building a business from scratch is A LOT of work. Streamer’s work though is a lot more visible. In both of these situations the answer is Support Small Businesses because then eventually they can even out the amount of work when they have enough patronage.

Personally I’m deciding to start off on the right foot and stream when I can (around my school schedule) and not for crazy hours, so in the off chance I do ever take off there isn’t any pressure or expectation that I’ll be pulling 12 hour marathons every day, cause that shit ain’t tenable!


#4

You’re right about this falling on Twitch.The streaming guidelines don’t discuss or mention healthy streaming habits. Nintendo consoles at least tell you to take a break after a period of time.


#5

More than that, though, I think it’s Twitch’s responsibility to make sure that a channel can succeed while still allowing a streamer to work normal hours and take breaks. They could mandate breaks and require that a streamer pause for 15 minutes every 4 hours (for example) but that wouldn’t solve the problem of people switching channels and never coming back. I don’t have a good answer to this myself, but I also don’t think the current model is sustainable (nor is it fair!) and I think the community at large needs to start holding Twitch accountable for the environment they’ve created. Whether intentionally or not, Twitch spawned the way things are now, and that’s something they have to own.


#6

Really, really good thread. There’s definitely a discussion to be had about this.

I’m an ex-games industry guy myself, with several stints in QA under my belt. The last of which was with a major publisher doing in-house QA for one of their developers. Like with many things in the game industry, streamers get hit with the “passion” argument.

Like you have to show your audience how important it is to you by abusing your body for hours and hours, or you have to show the company you work for that you’re passionate by doing 70 hour work weeks testing the same modes and maps to the point of mental exhaustion.

It’s utter bullshit and I cannot support this sort of thing in good conscience.


#7

So I had a real ethical dilemma moment with this when it came out that MANvsGAME’s ridiculous marathon streams were in fact the result of pretty rough drug abuse.

I think in the end, it’s a matter of finding streamers who seem to have a better work/life balance down with this stuff - most of the people I watch regularly are pretty good about keeping the streams to a full-time (ish) number of hours. I think with gaming culture (and even media in general honestly) there’s kind of a glorification of binging that’s leading people to push themselves way too much.

I also think Twitch should 100% start to get messaging out that discourages gigantic marathon streaming as well. People have actually died, soooo…


#8

The thing is I personally watch streamers that DO take bathroom breaks ( and run adds during those breaks!) and can support themselves, so it is possible! Its more a culture thing IMO, and currently there’s a great move from some of my favorite streamers in the Destiny directory to push for a better work/life balance. Thing is that Directory isn’t huge so who know’s how long it will take to spread out from that!


#9

I expected this thread to be about how twitch chat is typically one of the most volatile places on the the gaming side of the internet oops. Umm. I definitely don’t think you have to be streaming that long and none of the streamers I follow do. I think there are diminishing returns on longer streams. Someone who is going to donate once in a 4hr stream isn’t likely to donate 3x over a 12hr stream. I think many of these all-day streamers exist bc they’re trying to make it fulltime as soon as possible instead of easing into it over time, starting as a hobby. Others seem addicted to the growth. Like… I follow streamers who are doing it as their sole source of income who only gather 200-400 viewers and stream for 4-7 hrs a day.


#10

I hear you. Trying to figure out how best to participate in ‘asynchronous labor’ as a consumer is a complicated, knotty issue, and one that’s inextricably bound up with a lot of how attitudes toward labor have changed in our time. (There’s a really good article on it here, if you’re interested.)

Part of what makes the issue so complicated is that we, as participants in an economic system that integrates with morality through neoliberal means, have internalized that we should ‘vote with our money’: that the best way for us to voice our approval or disapproval of a business’s practices (be they ethical, moral, environmental, political, what have you) is to make the decision to spend our money on companies we want to support, and not to spend our money on companies we don’t want to support. Sometimes this is plausible and efficacious; sometimes it’s impossible or useless. A lot of the time, it’s not the best way of accomplishing what one hopes to accomplish.

In this case, yeah, the culture and circumstances around streaming are predatory and nightmarish; the factors that allow for its superficially-worker-friendly asynchronicity also prevent streamers from engaging in traditional forms of labor organization, including unionization; participating in its production and presentation is in many ways an implicit endorsement of streaming’s medium and means.

But what I hear in your question is concern for streamers above all else, and boycotting streaming hurts streamers most of all. So I think the most direct and actionable response is: Ask streamers what you can do for them. Give directly to streamers by way of Patreons or Paypal. Find ways of supporting their work that’s independent from or alternative to the services that mistreat their ‘content creators’, but also listen to streamers about which services those are. In turning away from institutions that practice unethical or immoral treatment of workers, turn toward those same workers—because they know firsthand, and because they need to make a living.


#11

Huh. I never knew about any of this. I guess I don’t really watch career-y streamers, so this was something I just wasn’t aware of.

I certainly think that it’s a troubling thing for a streamer to feel like they need to be doing 12 hours on camera to even be noticed. I imagine the justification is that this is something they go into of their own free will, but it’s easy to think that this is a sort of environment where the pressure to do more, more, more could be overwhelming.

I hope it finds some sort of equilibrium where streamers can feasibly be successful and do normal kinds of hours.

As to the specific topic, I think @gewl above has some pretty good advice on how to be concerned about this and simultaneously still enjoy streaming.


#12

The problem is (and it’s covered in better detail by someone with actual experience in the grind on this Kotaku article) that unless you catch a good break, it’s almost required to put in a full eight hours (or even more) per day to even be able to get to the level of self-sustaining. We could all, as a forum, agree to not watch streamers that work themselves to the bone, but that wouldn’t stop them from doing that and would do nothing to help repair the culture that Twitch has cultivated that rewards such stuff.


#13

That’s more a problem with Capitalism though. Every new business, irl or online, needs to catch a good break to stay afloat. Starting a new enterprise is Fucking Risky and require a ton of work, but also people that start businesses tend to have some capital to start it with, where a lot of streamers just start with no plan or backup. Maybe twitch could change its wording a bit to make it more obvious that you are running a Business and should treat it as such? When you get affiliateship or partnership you have to fill out a ton of tax forms which at that point make it pretty clear that you are a Sole Proprietor.

I’m definitely with @gewl on this one though, supporting these people is maybe the only thing we can do right now, in the hopes that they can even out when they are stable!


#14

Totally agree that it’s endemic of capitalism on the whole, but given that this is such a unique industry (and, moreso, that Twitch has almost completely monopolized it) I think there’s some opportunity for them to intervene and try to improve the standards by which success is met in the business.Given that their business model relies entirely on the success of their streamers, I think it’s fair to demand that they meet those streamers halfway. It’s a few steps away from an Uber model of “they’re just contractors, so if their car gets wrecked, too bad for them!” and I don’t think it’s too far outside the realm of possibility to expect some improvement from the parent company.

EDIT: I should say, not too far outside the realm of possibility in terms of what Twitch could reasonably achieve if they wanted to, not necessarily that we should expect them to WANT to do it, because I think right now there’s not nearly enough incentive for them to do so beyond, you know, keeping people alive and fed.


#15

yeah, I think unfortunately the change is going to have to come from within the community. Any company will NEVER do things that could hurt its bottom line. So until a ton of people start getting sick and dropping off with no one to replace them Twitch won’t move a muscle. I think bringing it up and being a supporter that is vocal about not caring about a streamer’s hours could be a place to start, or helping explain to people that bitch at streamers that do have good work/life balance about how this is better even if their entertainment is “interrupted” for a few minutes.


#16

This is a fantastic discussion point. I can definitely relate and it’s notable that my favourite streamers to watch are all ones who have either set shorter stream times from the offset or who take regular breaks when they need to. They tend to be much more upbeat and natural, probably as a result of not forcing themselves to just keep going.

Even just casually streaming, I’ve felt the instinct to just keep going because a handful of people are watching and chatting - it’s hard to step away in much the same fashion as calling it a night when you’re playing games with a group of friends can be difficult.

I can definitely agree with @gewl’s advice with regards to speaking to streamers you enjoy and asking them how best to support them. Ultimately if you enjoy watching someone’s content (there it is) then encouraging them to look after their well-being and finding ways to best support them which allow them to keep doing that is probably a good course of action.


#17

I only really watch one streamer (SmiteTV) with any sort of regularity, and while he’ll occasionally do 12+ hour streams, he usually keeps things to about 4 or 5 hours but stream multiple times a day sometimes. He also seems like an outlier as he regularly gets about 300 views AND has around 300 subs (not including patreon folks), so he’s able to live relatively well while putting in around or just under 40 hours. (I may make a separate thread about the shows he puts on because they’re pretty coooool and deserve more views)

Though I know a lot of big streamers aren’t so lucky. Like it’s one maintain an audience of a few hundred but I can’t imagine the pressure that comes with trying to regularly stream out to 1000s.