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

Convergence of Rhetoric, Labour, and Play in the Construction of Inactive Discourses on Twitch

Alexandra S. Catá
From the journal Digital Culture & Society


Twitch is a complex space that involves both laborious play and “playbour” through the commodification of streamers time and the gamification of streamer interaction through emotes and bits. As a result, this creates a rhetorical space where celebrity, race, and gender are tension points that reflect disproportionate power structures on Twitch. Coupled with the fact that Twitch also functions as the main broadcast platform for esports tournaments, understanding how streamers rhetorically position themselves and interact with audiences as content creators, streamers, celebrities, and, for some, esports athletes it is important as video games increasingly become a mainstream form of entertainment. In addition to examining streamers, we also need to understand how average audiences, both casual, non-competitive gamers, and mainstream audiences will consume and react to streamer discussions and discourse and how that impacts attitudes in the community, particularly in relation to toxicity towards minorities. My paper uses Tyler “Ninja” Belvin’s statement “I don’t play with female gamers” (Frank 2018) as a rhetorical case study for examining rhetorical power, celebrity, and privilege on Twitch. I ultimately argue that Twitch is a site of laborious play and “playbour” that perpetually remains socially inactive in supporting and accepting minorities on the platform. To support this argument, I use Carolyn Miller’s “Genre as Social Action” (1984) to situate the rhetorics around this situation using her features (context, recursive patterns, discourse, mediation, and exigence) to analyse two interviews with Ninja, labour and commodification structures on Twitch, and Twitch chat. Through these, I identify the rhetorical implications of Ninja’s statements, how it affects the Twitch gaming community, and reveal a complex power structure that ultimately fails to acknowledge the streamers’ rhetorical power and influence while continuing to perpetuate toxic gaming attitudes towards minorities.

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

© 2020 by transcript Verlag