Friday 27 March 2020

Our TV viewers have turned to Twitch during the coronavirus lockdown

Watching computer games or streaming

Formula One means so much to my son, it's hard to describe.  When he heard that the Formula One races had been cancelled due to the Coronavirus he honestly cried for an hour, under his covers, telling people to go away and leave him alone.

People have had cancelled holidays, trips, school and it can be upsetting.  For an autistic tween like our son Anthony, whose obsession is Formula One, it's awful. He's been looking forward to the season starting again since it last finished.  Last year we even went to the testing in Catalunya in the half term. Maybe just as well we didn't this year.

Football was also cancelled. Another blow.

But like many fans, he found solace in an Formula One race, organised by the 'organisers' of Formula, with some of the drivers... driving artificially through their games consoles on Twitch.

Twitch is the world's leading live streaming platform, most commonly used by for gamers but no that alone. It's a bit like live youtube. There's no editing your live stream, there's just real time play and viewing and in many ways this makes it like watching live TV and sporting events. Remember when things used to be filmed in front of a live studio audience?  Well this is a live audience from their computers and devices.

Just like a live studio audience can laugh or an arena can cheer - viewers of the live streams can interact with each other and the streamer through 'chat'.  Though 'chat' is most commonly used as a verb, on Twitch it's basically a noun.

Streamers will talk to their 'chat'. 

It took me a while to realise that the streamer wasn't just constantly talking to a guy called 'Chad' but was in fact to talking to me and the many others viewing their stream.  You can literally watch and chat with millions of other fans from around the world in real time.

And that's what happened for the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix. Some drivers, sportspeople and other personalities played F12019 together.  The Sky Sports F1 channel streamed the virtual race to over 50,000 viewers on Twitch and however many on the channel.  Lando Norris, who usually drives for McLaren in the real F1 had nearly 100K viewers on Twitch.  These were people watching him play the race.

I thought Anthony would be most interested in the life-like version on Sky Sports but oddly enough he, and my hubby for that matter, loved watching the drivers own switch channels. They laughed when the drivers got things wrong, when their games crashed or when they phoned up their mates.  when Lando was talking to his 'chat' he was talking to 100K of them and they were all chatting to each other through the conversation forum.  Course he plays way more stuff like FPS and Rocket League (one of Anthony's other favourite games).

I guess I wasn't surprised when I thought about it.  Twitch gets you closer to your stars and helps you interact with people who like the same things as you do.  For gamers like me, it's a way of not just connecting with streamers who play and I can watch, but interacting with others who like to watch it too.

My Twitch channel for MummaGames allows my mates to connect with me every now and again in a platform and a hobby I enjoy. But I spend more time on Twitch watching others like TheKine, who plays Apex Legends, like me.. but not like me because he's way way better!  Because it's more than just watching something like you do on TV, it's interacting and at the moment when it's just us and the walls around us all due to the coronavirus lockdown, that's pretty nice.

Our biggest challenge with all of Anthony and David's favoured activities is they all involve using the internet and most of them are streaming information.  With my other half working from home he's using the internet for streaming meetings and it means most of Anthony's streaming has to stop during the day.

I'm honestly petrified by the idea that if more people are off work sick, power could be affected.  If we are without power, we won't just be cold, I'll be dealing with an everlasting meltdown until David gets so tired from crying that he falls asleep.  And repeat.

Tomorrow Twitch will be hosting a massive livestream from noon Eastern Time in the USA for 12 hours featuring performances from some of the biggest names in music, gaming and sports in a charity fundraiser to benefit coronavirus relief and prevention efforts. As a weekend activity the internet should be fine.

The F1 star Lando Norris will be there and for our interest with Fortnite tournaments too. Makes sense - they're in their homes, we are in ours. But we can still get together and support each other. Why not stop by and see what's on offer - you never know, you may like it.

Want to learn some Makaton sign language - see 'games console' on #wetalkmakaton

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