By Jasmine Ferrufino

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been among the most long-standing social media platforms for artists to communicate with their audience. These platforms have set the bar for newer platforms. During Covid-19, I think humanity realized the importance of online communities when face-to-face interactions became impossible. Artists have moved towards live streaming to establish an online presence, many through Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube Live. But recently, I encountered some artists who are playing with Twitch.

Twitch was initially a live streaming service for video games that was launched in 2011.  But in 2016, they launched a feature called IRL (In Real Life) which allows any person to make videos beyond gaming. Artists are using this platform to make weekly videos to interact with people who enjoy their work and want to engage further. For example, artists like Drangonsandbeasties use the platform to make dragon sculptures online. Or Brielleartwork, who streams herself drawing. I guess the real question is, why promote yourself on a new (and still largely unknown) platform like Twitch when platforms like Facebook Live are more well-known? What does Twitch have that more popular platforms don’t?

In a TED Talk, Emmet Shear, the CEO, and co-founder of the company, gives an example that Twitch stream is like campfires, interactive and connecting. He says, “I want you to picture millions of campfires. Some of them are bonfires, huge, roaring bonfires with hundreds of thousands of people around them. Some of them, more intimate community gatherings where everyone knows your name.”  He explains that humanity is so used to doing activities they enjoy by themselves that they forgot how much they enjoy talking with others about it.  Twitch gives viewers this opportunity to log into this weekly or bi-weekly stream to talk to a community of people about activities they enjoy.

I recently watched a Twitch stream, where I experienced one of these fires that Emmet Shear talked about. Julie Kagawa, the author of The Iron Fey series, did a giveaway for an advance reader copy for her upcoming release of the Iron Raven on Twitch.  Julie Kagawa decided to play Don’t Starve Together, a customizable game designed to look like her fictional world called the Nevernever. She spent most of the stream answering questions and giving a tour of the world she built in the game. But the fun didn’t stop there; she used the chat features for people to feel more interactive. Twitch allows people more bits, a sort of point system when being in the stream for a long time. The more bits you get, the more features you can unlock. In Julie Kagawa’s stream, you can unlock ravens to distract her from playing or ask Puck, her fictional main character, to blow you a kiss on screen. Although Twitch is free, it has other features that can be unlocked by subscribing to the streamers. There are 3 Tiers that can unlock different emotes to be used on the chat designed specifically for this streamer. Julia Kawaga had stickers of her fictional characters like Grim and Meghan. If a viewer wants, they can also gift these features to another viewer on the stream. This kind of feature fosters community and also supports the streamer. While on this stream, I got to experience this community that Emmet Shear mentioned. People said hello on the chat, numerous emotes appeared, and everyone greeted each other as if they knew each other from past live streams. Even when I said I had to leave early, people and even Julie Kagawa said goodbye.  The environment and community made me want to stay and come back to another stream with them. I believe this is an outlet to look out for, especially during the era of Covid-19.

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