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Girls On Twitch by Joanna Lee

Girls on Twitch is an exploration of a particular corner of the internet: female streamers and their ambiguous relationship to the streaming platform, Twitch. Initially, the inspiration that spurred me to delve into this topic was personal; having played games since I was in elementary school, I have a huge affinity for both the games themselves and the communities surrounding them. However, the preconceptions that one may place onto gamers may be limited in knowledge, and labels may only be surface-level observations. Thus, my aim for Girls on Twitch was to examine the niche of females who livestream games coupled with their webcams. For this reason, girls both in and out of the specific online gaming community are criticized for their lewd behavior on their respective Twitch streams, which are predominantly supposed to be game-related (as stated on Twitch’s Community Guidelines). However, not all females on the site associate themselves to the camgirl-esque demeanor or conduct that many people expect from female streamers.

For the project itself, I wanted to create various iterations of the female streaming community as a whole. The first was to conduct a series of interviews with individuals who partake in gaming and streams on Twitch. I felt that this direction was essential because it allowed for actual input from people who are immersed in Twitch for a while-- by including the various dialogues drawn from my interviews, which were mostly done online, I was able to gain insight into what particular people think about females and their perplexing role on Twitch. While some were more partial to thinking negatively about females and how they portray themselves online on Twitch streams, others were more understanding of it, calling it a “different business model.” The second aspect of the project was to compile a spectrum of gestures through .gif files of both women and men while their streams were live. The various .gifs are arranged in a manner that is not gender-specific, but more gesture-specific. Certain arm waves, “boob-flashes,” surprised reactions, and cam-girl conduct were categorized together, showing both the differences and similarities between the two genders on stream. The third part of the project is two digitally illustrated portraits, one of a female, and the other of a male. The male portrait is drawn photo-realistically, but the female one is more “idealized” and “fake-looking.” Both depictions are what were made apparent through my observations of streams. They are attributes, both physical and behavioral, deemed perfect for the respective individuals to make it in the Twitch world. The features are strikingly, visibly different, as are the resulting expectations of them, with considerably more labels placed on the female streamer.

The major influences that pertain to the project include Jamie Bartlett’s Dark Net, in which cam girls are vulnerable when placed in a position that exposes them to the extremities of the internet. Girls on Twitch draws parallels to the push-and-pull nature of females, how and why they choose to act certain ways in front of a camera, and how the dichotomy of these two genders plays out through the act of gaming. In addition to the Dark Net, Marisa Olson’s works also embody similar motifs to Girls on Twitch, in that her projects are centered around challenging and questioning the unrealistic expectations put on females. Her choice to audition for American Idol was a direct method in which she blatantly comments on the rigid structures of gender norms; her fabricated blog documenting her fictitious, demanding work-out and vocal routines manifested the absurdity of how the world wants to see women. Aside from the artists and texts discussed in the course, there are also various public figures in the gaming community that inform the project. For instance, Sky Williams, an openly gay and African-American gamer, streamer, and YouTuber, is a powerful and popular figure in the gaming community that has made a video that went viral, stating his disappointment regarding female gamers who perpetuate constant body-shaming and the terror on feminism as a whole. Such works are all what inspired Girls on Twitch.