Home Cyberpsychology & Technology Streamers Transform Serious Moments into Humour, According to Study

Streamers Transform Serious Moments into Humour, According to Study

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In recent years, the digital landscape has witnessed a significant transformation with the rise of game-live streaming platforms like Twitch. These platforms have become a hub for millions of viewers and streamers, creating a unique blend of entertainment and community engagement. Central to this evolving ecosystem is the role of humour and comedy, which has emerged as distinctive cultural phenomena within the live streaming community. The findings were published in the journal New Media & Society.

Websites such as Twitch.tv, Douyu, and Niconico have revolutionised how digital games are consumed and how digital gaming communities are formed. Twitch, in particular, has grown rapidly, especially during the Covid pandemic, reaching millions of streamers and hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide​​. This platform offers a unique interaction between media creators (streamers) and media consumers (viewers), fostering a sense of intimacy and community through live interactions​​.

Streamers on Twitch engage in various activities to maintain viewer interest, including real-time conversations, offering rewards for donations, and building off-platform communities on sites like Discord and Reddit. One of the key elements that streamers use to engage their audience is humour​​.

The study by Mark R. Johnson explores how humour functions in this context. The research highlights that humour in live streaming often emerges from the subversion of serious in-game content, transforming weighty or emotional moments into sources of amusement. This transformation can be seen in how streamers and viewers react to narrative elements in games, often turning serious or shocking moments into opportunities for jokes and light-hearted commentary​​.

For instance, in the game “Cyberpunk 2077”, a scene intended to shock players by depicting a character preserved in ice for organ harvesting was met with humorous reactions from streamers. Comments such as “that doesn’t look like fun” or “that’s not a good way to spend an evening” were common, highlighting how the intended horror was overshadowed by the pursuit of humour​​.

Johnson’s research presents several case studies to illustrate the dynamics of humour in live streaming. One notable example is “The Dead Rabbit” from the game “The Last of Us.” During a stream, a heartwarming scene featuring a rabbit in the snow was abruptly interrupted by an arrow killing the rabbit. The streamer’s genuine shock and emotional reaction quickly became a meme, reused in various humorous contexts across the internet. This case exemplifies how a moment of genuine emotion can be repurposed for comedic effect, contributing to the unique culture of “stream-humour” on Twitch​​.

Another case study involved streamers’ reactions to in-game events or platform dynamics. The research showed that anything from serious game moments to platform rules could be subverted for humour. Streamers often mock the possibility of being banned or make light of community standards, creating a playful yet sometimes antagonistic atmosphere​​.

The study also delves into how Twitch’s platform infrastructure and culture influence the forms and functions of humour. Twitch’s chat functions, emotes, and badges play a significant role in shaping the humour that emerges during streams. Emotes, in particular, allow viewers to express reactions and create in-jokes, further enhancing the communal experience of humour​​.

Johnson argues that the humour on Twitch is not just a form of entertainment but also a way to navigate and negotiate the platform’s power dynamics and community norms. Humour can serve as a tool for both inclusion and exclusion, shaping the social fabric of the Twitch community. The study echoes previous research highlighting the centrality of humour in live streaming and extends it by providing a detailed description of the different modalities of stream-humour and their implications​​.

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