Twitch is a social media platform where people can livestream themselves playing video games. Its streaming stars, who seem to dress mostly either in cosplay or for a day at Miami Beach, bring their fans directly into their homes and, in many cases, actual bedrooms. Twitch encourages its streaming stars to engage more personally with their followers. These “fans,” as they are called, can start to feel as though they have an actual relationship with the stars.
Connecting with others while playing video games apparently has its appeal, and monetary rewards. Top stars make as much as $120,000 per month. Twitch streamers with more modest followings can easily earn a living wage playing video games in full view of the world online. As one streaming star, Sweet Anita, told a New York Times reporter recently, “I laugh every day. I get paid to play video games. It’s a surreal world.”
Surreal doesn’t quite seem to capture it. Occasionally fans don’t see it merely for the money-making conceit that it is. Stalking is a common problem. One streamer known as DizzyKitten had the understandably alarming experience of one of her followers traveling from Washington State to her small town in Arkansas on the pretense that they were married. Others have received death threats against themselves and their families for considering moving onto a different platform. The online world rarely, if ever, stays online.