Have you ever wondered just exactly what people did in lockdown? When the world shut its doors and forced us to learn how to bake bread, marathon Lord of the Rings, or catch up on 10 years of video games, how did people congregate?
Outside of stifling video chats, cringe-inducing care reactions and condescending videos from celebrities, people have increasingly turned to streamers.
Streaming is a form of media still in its infancy, but many of the biggest streamers have made their careers on Twitch – a live streaming service that focuses on video game streaming, but is branching out into diverse forms of content.
Musicians, political pundits and comedians have also begun to pivot to the platform, which has shown its potential to cultivate large online followings.
Internet content is constantly evolving and changing, and an ever-growing slice of this content resides on Twitch and YouTube (among others), where online audiences tune in daily to watch their favourite streamers play video games, speculate on current affairs or ‘just chat’.
While some of the most prominent streamers out there are in far off countries, you might be surprised to learn that there is a thriving streaming community right here in Canberra.
For SledgeTeeVee – aka Michael – his streaming career started in 2019 on his beanbag with a broken leg. Using a small setup built on his PS4, he broadcast his gameplay with his mates.
Fast forward to 2022, Sledge has built an almost 2000-strong following on Twitch, fanning the social spark which primed his journey in the first place.
His preferences for stream retains the social aspect of streaming.
“I generally enjoy games I can play in a small group, along with single-player and retro games.”
Fitting a three-night schedule after work has been a committed effort on Sledge’s part but has allowed him to make friends with viewers across the country and overseas – but he is adamant his most rewarding achievements were his fundraiser streams, raising money for children with cancer, and mental health resources, among others.
For DuckieBoom – aka Melissa – her experience starting streaming in 2020 was about as close to Hollywood talent scouting as Canberra’s Reload Bar can get.
“After playing a few rounds, people came up to me and told me I had the charisma to start streaming!”
With 1.5 k followers on Twitch, Duckie sticks to the similar streaming schedule of 3 nights per week, finding online friends through her streams, and building a community focussed on supporting mental health.
Streaming whatever game interests her, the centrepiece of her streams is less the content and more her personality and the relationship with her viewers.
“It’s like a big party – everyone’s at my house!”
For both Sledge and Duckie, discovering streaming in the COVID-era has helped them and their communities fend off the isolation that comes with being stuck at home. This new way of connecting with audiences has its roots in older forms of media, but is also uniquely ‘now’.
Looking to the future, Sledge has thrived on the skills learnt from getting into streaming, and he is aiming to continue this journey and hone his craft.
For Duckie, things are a little different.
“I’m in the moment. I want to keep streaming in the long run, but for now, I’m just having fun.”