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.
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.
This article addresses the relationship between labour and learning a popular musical instrument like the guitar in the specific context of a video game. Most gamification theories promise that using a video game makes it easy to learn (Kapp 2012; Deterding et al. 2011). Even if this holds true, I argue that this kind of playfulness causes some backlash, which I observed during an experiment in which students played the music video game Rocksmith 2014. Learning and playing the guitar through the medium of a video game comes with diverse experiences as well as expectations that are closely related to the dichotomies between play and work, often discussed in game studies based on the famous texts by Johann Huizinga (2004) and Roger Caillois (1960). Learning any traditional music instrument requires much effort in several skill areas, for example, dexterity, hearing, sight-reading, and performance. In other words, it seems to be hard work and not at all playful like a video game. In this article, the various aspects of playful work and labourious play, found in both music education and guitar games, will be discussed against the backdrop of empirical findings including data from online interviews, research diaries and video recordings.
Research on the impact of gameful experiences on the automation of labour and value creation is in need of a critical reformulation. The results presented in this study developed from a critical reading of the current literature on gamification and its internal struggles. I question what the gamification of work is, this time including knowledge collected by decades of academic research in the field of digital cultures and society, converging in a diverse yet attuned corpus of neomaterialist, post-anthropocentric, anti-Humanist, and intersectional theories of politics, algorithmic cultures and social justice (see Braidotti/ Hlavajova 2017). Findings suggest the experimental development of gamification technologies materializes from an interest in governance through the automation of behavioural management, resulting in the forced correction of non-normative bodies through self-optimization. Beyond colonial, anthropocentric binaries, gamification’s genealogy is not found in the overcoming of the Eurocentric distinction between work and games, but in the algorithmic architecture of techno-capitalism.