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Since its humble beginnings in 2011, when general-interest livestreaming platform Justin.tv spun off into its now purple-clad offspring, Twitch has gone through a series of milestones and trends, the latest of which involving Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay.
Twitch, formerly your favorite neighborhood video game streaming site, is an ever-evolving creature. From the growing community in 2014 banding together to play through the entirety of Pokémon together, to pop culture icon Drake dropping into Fortnite with Tyler “Ninja” Blevins years later, what is cool on the platform and what is old hat shifts every month.
As we turn into a new year, optimism and whimsy abound; there’s a face that has united viewers. Gordon Ramsay has crossed all boundaries — age, community, even language — to become one of the prominent people on the purple giant that is Twitch in 2022.
Gordon Ramsay on Twitch
No, the 55-year-old famed chef hasn’t become a live streamer, nor has he collaborated with a famous streamer a la Drake of yesteryear. Instead, ole’ Gordo has become a staple of multiple streamers on the site who are watching a slew of his old network shows, most notably “MasterChef.”
The most-watched Twitch streamer of 2021, Félix “xQc” Lengyel, has been at the forefront of this newfound trend. Streamers are opening up their show of choice as entertainment, with their webcams in the corner, as though they’re sports commentators. They casually commentate on the happenings of the reality show until that one episode turns into two. Then, it’s five hours later with Twitch chat bemoaning their favorite content creator turning off the show to play an actual video game.
While Ramsay is a near-deity at this point, the trend, like all others, has mutated. Old reality shows turned into more recent seasons. Reality shows turned into cartoons and anime. A few episodes of a show with commentary have turned into streamers using the media-sharing as an elongated excuse to fall asleep like a depressed substitute teacher using a movie to shut up a class of unruly children.
Although Twitch is no longer a niche internet hangout as it was when it began — the company is worth billions — not everything is suit and tie. At its core, past the pizzazz and numbers, the platform is still the Wild West, its cast of characters pushing the line of what is and isn’t acceptable on the website.
Since Twitch added the “Just Chatting” in 2018, effectively opening the floodgates for non-gaming content, the lawless land has become even more chaotic. We’ve seen streamers straddle inflatable pickles in hot tubs, document themselves causing havoc at public businesses, and drinking themselves to the point of blackout, all in the pursuit of creating profitable content.
In comparison, watching Gordon Ramsay scream at a foolish, younger cook who burned his salmon seems mundane. Streaming has become a business where even some top performers can’t rest on their laurels — always needing to adapt, striving to find a new avenue to go down to make sure their momentum doesn’t sputter to a stop.
A week of the mundane or stale content can lead to plummeting viewership, a loss of paying subscribers, or worse: becoming irrelevant in the anarchic Twitch hierarchy.
Anything and everything on Twitch nowadays is a way to fill airtime and stay ahead of your peers, be it a well-known name with 10,000 viewers every time you boot up your stream or someone speaking into the endless void. Once a new trend is found and proven repeatable, it is devoured until nothing left is on the bone.
The lawless land has become even more chaotic
At this point in the feature, I’d love to cozy up on my shiny, just cleaned soapbox and boast on how this trend of watching television shows and other media is the worst thing to happen to Twitch; to say how any streamer who partakes in it should get catapulted off the platform. They should be electronically shamed and walked through the streets as the arbiters of the morally high ground rain down tomatoes on their reputations.
I won’t, though. I can’t. As lazy and mindless as it can be, I’m not going to lie — I eat this trash up like it’s fast food. I know it’s terrible for me (and streamers as a whole if it begins a DMCA chain reaction), but watching an overdramatic reality show with an active chat is damn amusing.
Ramsay first made his presence known on Twitch years ago with Tyler “Trainwreck” Niknam. Trainwreck played reality hits of Ramsay on his channel in rhythmic succession, creating art out of watching a middle-aged British man belittle amateur chefs.
I was there, watching it all unfold, too tired after writing all day to play games but not tired enough to fall asleep. So I’d watch episode after episode of kitchen hijinks, the simple comfort of knowing what I was getting, making it easy to commit to while mindlessly scrolling on my phone.
The counterpoint, however, is the tight rope each streamer walks as they load up copyrighted media. While the views compared to the actual workload seem straightforward, the fear of a takedown from a billion-dollar company looms large.
As the trend has progressed, we’ve seen top personalities on Twitch such as Imane “Pokimane” Anys and Jeremy “Disguised Toast” Wang feel the wrath of the ban hammer.
Two-day bans, which created buzz and conversations across the internet, and effectively acted as free promotion for a return stream.
These media experiments have little to no drawback for the players at the top. They get bolstered viewership, and if given a slap on the wrist, they move on to the next thing. The dystopian nightmare for the platform as a whole, though, is that if the snowball doesn’t slow, an avalanche could cause actual executives at top companies to start policing the Wild West of Twitch more closely.
It happened with music, as a series of takedowns and worries of permanent bans sent streamers across the board on a mission to extinguish any broadcast with copyright music in it. The streamers hiding behind their dual monitor setups, in fear the Copyright Terminator would detect the time they played 30 seconds of a Drake song.
And, as intriguing it would be to imagine such a future, I don’t expect the same floodgates. As a few prominent streamers get banned, per usual, the flock will move from one trend to the next. While some will continue to stream reality television marathons, the majority will migrate to the next sensation.
I eat this trash up like it’s fast food
My take, though, is that the fusion between media and streamers on Twitch doesn’t have to be a dirty little secret. As the platform evolves, so can the content and how streamers interact with third-party media.
It can be transformative. 100 Thieves and G4 streamer Will Neff has hosted numerous film class sessions on his channel, breaking down the nuts and bolts of a media property alongside his chat. Offline TV’s Lily “LilyPichu” Ki interviewed famed anime film director Mamoru Hosoda to her sizable audience.
Streamers have collaborated with anime studios or official distributors to do sponsored watch parties. It doesn’t have to be so desperado yet. As it always is in life, the easiest route (especially with little danger) will be the road far more traveled down. A tightrope walk, though dangerous, sounds better than months of never-ending planning and compromises to fill a single day of content.
So, while I stew and imagine an impossible utopia where livestreaming and old media can walk hand in hand with one another into the future, I’ll go back to watching Twitch in bed.
Maybe I’ll watch someone from Russia watch a Marvel movie or, if I’m lucky, catch up with my favorite new streamer Gordon Ramsay.
Tyler Erzberger is entering a decade of covering esports. When not traveling around the world telling stories about people shouting over video games, he’s probably arguing with an anime avatar on Twitter about North American esports.