Gaming gains street cred

Kira Stiers

By Hannah Bauer and Sahana Raju

Students are Twitching. No, they’re not making short, sudden jerking or convulsive movements. They’re Twitching online.

“I just turn on a Twitch stream to see what people are playing and what I could be doing when I have more free time,” senior Michael Chen said.

Through the streaming site Twitch, millions of video game aficionados watch gamers playing their favorites from the streamer’s perspective or coverage of professional teams battling it out. According to ReadWrite, a technology news website, 45 million users logged on for 12 billion total minutes every month in 2013, over half of whom watched over 20 hours of gameplay per week.

While no gamer here is on a professional team, sophomore Matt Walters (full disclosure: a Griffin staff writer) and junior Steve Zhou rank among the top 1 percent of North American players in League of Legends, an online multiplayer game, Zhou said. Each said they would like to compete in future college tournaments as a hobby, but neither is interested in pursuing gaming careers. They agreed the game’s following will likely fade in 10 years.

“I don’t think it’ll ever be as big as football or soccer,” Walters said.

Posting on YouTube has become legit for professional gamers, fellow junior and gamer Chris Caudill said.
“A lot of people are making up to six figures these days just playing video games and putting them up on YouTube,” Caudill said.

Junior Yiyi Kuang cites his recent trip to a friend’s house to watch the League of Legends World Championship, staged in South Korea, as evidence of gamers’ commitment.

“The time zones were screwed up for that event so we ended up staying up until 3 a.m. to watch it,” Kuang said. “It’s really crazy that people are this dedicated to it.”

His interest in Twitch, by the way, is merely peripheral. It’s a bit like watching the occasional video on YouTube, he said. He estimated that he spends about 10 hours a week gaming.

Kuang described the relationship made between Twitch viewers and content creators as symbiotic. This connection is formed through a communal chat box next to each live stream in which the viewers can have direct interaction with gamers while they’re playing.

“People who are live streaming on Twitch talked some people out of suicide and out of depression,” Kuang said. “It’s a community of like-minded people who just want to be there to have fun and just to enjoy themselves.”

But are video games harmful? It depends, psychology teacher and gamer Thomas Maranville said. He recommended that parents monitor what their kids play.

“Some parents are oblivious to the fact that video games that are rated R are similar if not the exact same as movies that are rated R,” Maranville said.

Published articles about the effects of video games report mixed and inconclusive results from recent studies. A 2013 New York Times article, for example, describes a study finding a violent game produced short-term increases in aggression among Iowa State University students.

Maranville, who said studies producing positive results are about even with those with negative outcomes, said a game like Tomb Raider can help with cognitive development: “It challenges me to think.”

Freelance writer Sally Kim contributed to this report.