One man's search for community in the world of online gaming

click to enlarge ALIEN: ISOLATION IMAGE
Alien: Isolation image

A few years ago I bought a horror/survival video game that picked up the story of the Alien franchise through the perspective of the daughter of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. Alien: Isolation came out in 2014 and remains one of the most terrifying games I've ever played.

I couldn't beat it. Not because it was too hard, but because it was giving me heart palpitations while playing. So I opted for the next best thing: I watched someone else play it on Twitch.

Sweet relief.

Since then, I've been a fan of the live-streaming video game platform (online at twitch.tv), and I've discovered some streamers who I've genuinely enjoyed spending my time with — people I might even consider friends. And what could be better during the COVID-19 shutdown/pandemic/quarantine/societal-collapse than finding a group of like-minded people to regularly meet up with digitally?

It's now more important than ever to find that sense of community and belonging in our socially distanced world to keep us from going all Jack Torrance on our neighbors and loved ones.

But unless you are a Twitch streamer with an established following, finding that sense of community can be a little tough. Many streamers spend weeks, months or years playing for absolutely no one before finding even small followings.

The goal is to hustle. Establish a niche. Build an audience. Earn money. Maybe it turns into a full-time gig. Maybe it even pays the bills.

However, that sense of community one might be searching for tends to get lost in the hustle for an audience. There's something to be desired for small streamers and "lurkers," like myself, who are just searching for social interaction. The experience can be isolating, not uniting. There's really nothing enticing for viewers just looking for social engagement unless you count the customized "emotes" that viewers can get by purchasing subscriptions.

I like Twitch. I wish everyone had their own streaming channel that I could drop in on to say "hello." The company hit the scene primarily as a video game streaming service, but in recent years has become a catch-all for a variety of additional interests: art, music, TV, film and, one my favorites, ASMR. During the quarantine and its aftermath, my hope is that more people are able to connect virtually through Twitch, or similar live-streaming platforms. We need human connections right now. We face big challenges during the ongoing shutdowns, and I don't think our mental/social well-being should be shuffled to the side, as it often is.

My Twitch "follow" list is filled with some smart and thoughtful people who I wish I was able to connect with better. But in terms of genuine interactions, digital platforms can often leave something to be desired.

Are you an Inland Northwesterner who broadcasts on Twitch or any other streaming services? Tell us about it! Send an email to quinnw@inlander.com or editor@inlander.com.

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About The Author

Quinn Welsch

Quinn Welsch is the copy editor of the Inlander.