Streamers Are Sick Of Gaming, And There’s No Easy Answer

A tweet went viral yesterday that collected the responses of streamers HungryBox, Dr DisRespect, and Shroud to the state of modern gaming, all of which painted a grim picture. HungryBox laments that all games look the same now, Shroud wants a “solid shooter” game, and Doc just screams that he’s sick of nothing being fun. It paints a grim picture of the streaming scene, and the solutions are more complex than they seem.

First off, we have to remember that video games are jobs to the top streamers. It’s something they do for at least eight hours straight every day, often at a highly competitive level, while dealing with a highly pressurised and parasocial spotlight. I don’t play games as often as that, and I play alone and with no pressure, and it still gets to be a chore sometimes, because it’s my job. Most journalists I know feel this way from time to time. It’s natural that, no matter how much you like the activity under the surface, there’s a layer of animosity when it becomes your job. It comes and goes and you just have to get through it. You aren’t going to change jobs, especially when you’ve had great success and you love it most of the time, so you just push through.

There have been calls for this trio (and disillusioned streamers in general) to expand beyond their horizons and play some indie or experimental games. It’s my view that everyone should try Immortality, one of the boldest games of the year, while the likes of Citizen Sleeper, Neon White, and Vampire Survivors will all make my GOTY list. There are some great games off the beaten path this year – but it’s not that simple.

Broadly, a streamer’s job is to play video games, but at the top level it’s not so simple. HungryBox is known for Smash, Doc and Shroud for shooters, so that’s where they’re going to stay. If a maths teacher is disillusioned with the impact of the current syllabus, they can’t just start teaching the kids about Star Wars because that’s where their passions lie. Could these streamers, for their own mental health and to expand the minds of their audience, afford to spend one day a week on off-meta games? Maybe. The bigger you are, the more likely it is that you can weather a drastic change, but also the more you have to risk by shaking things up.

Occasionally we have seen streamers move out of their comfort zones, such as when Among Us and Fall Guys blew up, but that was with the knowledge that their viewers would come along for the ride. Collectively, I wish the biggest voices with the younger and casual generation of gamers tried to expand horizons more, but I also wish Taylor Swift would write a love song specifically about me. You can’t always get what you want.

The bigger picture is the way we engage with games. I’m going to leave HungryBox out of this, because Smash is currently in between games, but Doc and Shroud play shooters. There has never been a better time to be a shooter fan. Apex and Valorant are regularly adding new seasons, Destiny has roared back to life, Overwatch is freshly rebooted, CS:GO is still going strong, and Fortnite is the best it has ever been. From looking at the response to these games though, you wouldn’t think it – and that’s where the problem lies.

Whenever a new feature or season for any of these games is announced, the comments are swarmed with negative feedback. Some constructive, pointing to perceived imbalance or broken mechanics, some less so, calling the game “dead” or “trash” or “dead trash”. Sometimes these comments come from rival fans in an act of tribalism, but often they come from players themselves. Obviously the most fun thing to do in a game is win, but certain genres have become so obsessed with fine margins in the meta that don’t matter to the majority of skill levels. Games are never perfect, especially when their imperfection is an excuse for your defeat.

This min/max, win every time, no relaxation, always do or die attitude is both reflected and exasperated by the steamers. Though few people, even streamers, compete competitively all the time (we could argue all day whether ranked games count as competitive in the way an esports tournament with cash on the line does), you must always win. It’s not just a question of experimenting with new indie games, you can’t even experiment with new heroes or loadouts. You must always be meta, and you must always win.

It’s said that players optimise the fun out of games, and when you’re playing all day every day while constantly being watched, you optimise faster and faster, and have fun less and less. It’s not as simple as ‘go and play something else’, but it’s not as straightforward as ‘all these games are trash’ either. A few streamers have hit a low ebb at the same time and have, perhaps without realising it, come to the same conclusion. The way we play competitive games is no longer fun because they are competitive first and games second. Winning trumps enjoyment. The solution is not to play indie games. The solution is to be okay with losing.

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