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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by transcript Verlag September 17, 2020

Feeling for an Audience

The Gendered Emotional Labor of Video Game Live Streaming

Bonnie Ruberg and Amanda L. L. Cullen
From the journal Digital Culture & Society


The practice of live streaming video games is becoming increasingly popular worldwide (Taylor 2018). Live streaming represents more than entertainment; it is expanding the practice of turning play into work. Though it is commonly misconstrued as “just playing video games,” live streaming requires a great deal of behind-the-scenes labor, especially for women, who often face additional challenges as professionals within video game culture (AnyKey 2015). In this article, we shed light on one important aspect of the gendered work of video game live streaming: emotional labor. To do so, we present observations and insights drawn from our analysis of instructional videos created by women live streamers and posted to YouTube. These videos focus on “tips and tricks” for how aspiring streamers can become successful on Twitch. Building from these videos, we articulate the various forms that emotional labor takes for video game live streamers and the gendered implications of this labor. Within these videos, we identify key recurring topics, such as how streamers work to cultivate feelings in viewers, perform feelings, manage their own feelings, and use feelings to build personal brands and communities for their streams. Drawing from existing work on video games and labor, we move this scholarly conversation in important new directions by highlighting the role of emotional labor as a key facet of video game live streaming and insisting on the importance of attending to how the intersection of play and work is tied to identity.

Published Online: 2020-09-17
Published in Print: 2019-12-01

© 2020 by transcript Verlag