Gaming Social Networks: Redefining the Medium

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Any serious gamer will know what Twitch is – however, I’ll break it down for any ‘casuals’ out there. Twitch is a website, app and tool for professional gamers and streamers to connect with the wider gaming community, by the medium of realtime livestreamed gaming. This can be either done by an individual, or by a games manufacturer for the sake of eSports (for example, the Overwatch League is streamed exclusively on Twitch). But to be able to stand on its own two feet, it must be able to compete with the likes of the multimedia giant YouTube, which already has a large prescence in the gaming community.

To a degree, Twitch has generated some of the biggest streaming names out there right now, such as Ninja or Shroud, and it’s big business, with the above streamers earning figures upwards of one million dollars. Companies, both within the gaming industry and outside of it, utilise the platform. The world’s most valuable company, Amazon, now owns Twitch. So what sort of games are streamed? Well, it can be anything; from Fortnite to World of Warcraft to Pokemon. As long as there is an audience interested in watching the game, it’ll be streamed. But is there an audience? Well, yes. At the time of writing this article, there have been an average of 1.5 million viewers at any one time watching the platform in the past 7 days, so people are definitely using it to watch their favourite streamers.

But why is it so popular? Why not just use YouTube or stream on Facebook Live? The answer is simple. The layout of Twitch lends itself to gamers. The interface has about two thirds of the screen with the streamer’s content on it, along with a sidebar which fans can use to communicate (or just spam) the streamer with memes, stickers, gifs; you name it, you can post it. The service also gives viewers the opportunity to donate to their favourite streamers (a secondary stream of income for most streamers, as big names are sponsored). You can search for games, streamers, content, whatever you play, there’s a stream for it.

So now we can view our favourite games and pick up some tips from the pros, how do we communicate with teammates? That’s where Discord comes in. Discord is the social network for any serious gamers. It allows teams to communicate succinctly while playing their favourite games. Many games, especially on console, have a limited communication range, whereas Discord allows this more succinctly, with text and audio communication. Discord is perfect if you need to discuss something with someone without talking to the whole team, as you can mute people from the chat or singly talk to someone. Another benefit of Discord is it allows you to link all of your accounts together, to have all of your gamer friends in one place, as well as another channel to communicate with streamers, as many occupy their own servers where they chat with fans and look for teammates for their Twitch streams. Although Discord does bring your existing gamer buddies together, it can be difficult to find new ones, as their networking features aren’t ideal. There are no suggestions or anything of the sort, which platforms such as Playstation Network or Xbox Live provide by facebook friends etc.

However, if you are serous gamer, these two apps had better be part of your setup, as they will enhance your gameplay experiences and help you improve your skills and communication, and help you win more matches.

Twitch and Discord are both available to download on PC, Tablet and smartphone now.

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Masters chemistry student and Editor for The Edge. I'm into gaming, music and TV; Essentially anything pop culture is my kinda thing.

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