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What streaming means for the future of entertainment | Emmett Shear

I am obsessed with forming
healthy communities, and that’s why I started Twitch — to help people watch other people
play video games on the internet. (Laughter) Thank you for coming to my TED talk. (Laughter) So in seriousness, video games and communities
truly are quite related. From our early human history, we made our entertainment
together in small tribes. We shared stories around the campfire, we sang together, we danced together. Our earliest entertainment
was both shared and interactive. It wasn’t until pretty recently
on the grand scale of human history that interactivity took a back seat and broadcast entertainment took over. Radio and records brought music
into our vehicles, into our homes. TV and VHS brought sports and drama
into our living rooms. This access to broadcast entertainment
was unprecedented. It gave people amazing content
around the globe. It created a shared culture
for millions of people. And now, if you want to go watch
or listen to Mozart, you don’t have to buy an incredibly
expensive ticket and find an orchestra. And if you like to sing — (Sings) I can show you the world — then you have something in common
with people around the world. But with this amazing access, we allowed for a separation
between creator and consumer, and the relationship between the two
became much more one-way. We wound up in a world where we had
a smaller class of professional creators and most of us became spectators, and as a result it became far easier
for us to enjoy that content alone. There’s a trend counteracting this: scarcity. So, Vienna in the 1900s,
was famous for its café culture. And one of the big drivers
of that café culture was expensive newspapers
that were hard to get, and as a result, people would go to the café
and read the shared copy there. And once they’re in the cafe, they meet the other people
also reading the same newspaper, they converse, they exchange ideas and they form a community. In a similar way, TV and cable used to be more expensive, and so you might not watch
the game at home. Instead you’d go to the local bar and cheer along with
your fellow sports fans there. But as the price of media continues
to fall over time thanks to technology, this shared necessity that used to bring
our communities together falls away. We have so many amazing options
for our entertainment, and yet it’s easier than ever for us
to wind up consuming those options alone. Our communities
are bearing the consequences. For example, the number of people who report
having at least two close friends is at an all-time low. I believe that one of the major
contributing causes to this is that our entertainment today
allows us to be separate. There is one trend reversing
this atomization of our society: modern multiplayer video games. Games are like a shared campfire. They’re both interactive and connecting. Now these campfires
may have beautiful animations, heroic quests, occasionally too many loot boxes, but games today are very different than the solitary activity
of 20 years ago. They’re deeply complex, they’re more intellectually stimulating, and most of all,
they’re intrinsically social. One of the recent breakout genres
exemplifying this change is the battle royale. 100 people parachute onto an island
in a last-man-standing competition. Think of it as being
kind of like “American Idol,” but with a lot more fighting
and a lot less Simon Cowell. You may have heard of “Fortnite,” which is a breakout example
of the battle royale genre, which has been played by more
than 250 million people around the world. It’s everyone from kids
in your neighborhood to Drake and Ellen DeGeneres. 2.3 billion people in the world
play video games. Early games like “Tetris” and “Mario”
may have been simple puzzles or quests, but with the rise of arcades
and then internet play, and now massively multiplayer games
of huge, thriving online communities, games have emerged
as the one form of entertainment where consumption truly requires
human connection. So this brings us to streaming. Why do people stream themselves
playing video games? And why do hundreds of millions
of people around the world congregate to watch them? I want you all the imagine for second — imagine you land on an alien planet, and on this planet,
there’s a giant green rectangle. And in this green rectangle, aliens in matching outfits are trying to push a checkered
sphere between two posts using only their feet. It’s pretty evenly matched, so the ball is just going back and forth, but there’s hundreds of millions
of people watching from home anyway, and cheering and getting excited
and engaged right along with them. Now I grew up watching sports with my dad, so I get why soccer
is entertaining and engaging. But if you don’t watch sports, maybe you like watching
“Dancing with the Stars” or you enjoy “Top Chef.” Regardless, the principle is the same. If there is an activity
that you really enjoy, you’re probably going to like
watching other people do it with skill and panache. It might be perplexing to an alien, but bonding over shared passion
is a human universal. So gamers grew up expecting
this live, interactive entertainment, and passive consumption
just doesn’t feel as fulfilling. That’s why livestreaming
has taken off with video games. Because livestreaming offers
that same kind of interactive feeling. So when you imagine
what’s happening on Twitch, I don’t want you to think
of a million livestreams of video games. Instead, what I want you to picture
is millions of campfires. Some of them are bonfires — huge, roaring bonfires with hundreds
of thousands of people around them. Some of them are smaller,
more intimate community gatherings where everyone knows your name. Let’s try taking a seat
by one of those campfires right now. Hey Cohh, how’s it going? Cohh: Hey, how’s it going, Emmett? ES: So I’m here at TED
with about 1,000 of my closest friends, and we thought we’d come
and join you guys for a little stream. Cohh: Awesome! It’s great
to hear from you guys. ES: So Cohh, can you share
with the TED audience here — what have you learned
about your community on Twitch? Cohh: Ah, man, where to begin? I’ve been doing this
for over five years now, and if there’s one thing that doesn’t
cease to impress me on the daily, it’s just kind of how incredible
this whole thing is for communication. I’ve been playing games
for 20 years of my life, I’ve led online MMO guilds for over 10, and it’s the kind of thing
where there’s very few places in life where you can go to meet
so many people with similar interests. I was listening in a bit earlier; I love the campfire analogy,
I actually use a similar one. I see it all as a bunch of people
on a big couch but only one person has the controller. So it’s kind of like
a “Pass the snack!” situation, you know? 700 people that way — but it’s great and really it’s just — ES: So Cohh, what is going on
in chat right now? Can you explain that a little bit to us? Because my eyesight isn’t that good
but I see a lot of emotes. Cohh: So this is my community;
this is the Cohhilition. I stream every single day. I actually just wrapped up
a 2,000-day challenge, and as such, we have developed
a pretty incredible community here in the channel. Right now we have
about 6200 people with us. What you’re seeing is a spam
of “Hello, TED” good-vibe emotes, love emotes, “this is awesome,” “Hi, guys,” “Hi, everyone.” Basically just a huge
collection of people — huge collection of gamers that are all just experiencing
a positive event together. ES: So is there anything that —
can we poll chat? I want ask chat a question. Is there anything
that chat would like the world, and particularly these people
here with me at TED right now, to know about what they get
out of playing video games and being part of this community? Cohh: Oh, wow. I am already starting to see
a lot of answers here. “I like the good vibes.” “Best communities are on Twitch.” (Laughter) “They get us through
the rough patches in life.” Oh, that’s a message
I definitely see a lot on Twitch, which is very good. “A very positive community,” “a lot of positivity,” which is pretty great. ES: So Cohh, before I get back
to my TED talk, which I actually should probably
get back to doing at some point — (Laughter) Do you have anything else
that you want to share with me or any question you wanted to ask, you’ve always wanted
to get out there before an audience? Cohh: Honestly, not too much. I mean, I absolutely love
what you’re doing right now. I think that the interactive streaming is the big unexplored frontier
of the future in entertainment, and thank you for doing
everything you’re doing up there. The more people that hear
about what you do, the better — for everyone on here. ES: Awesome, Cohh. Thanks so much. I’m going to get back
to giving this talk now, but we should catch up later. Cohh: Sounds great! (Applause) ES: So that was a new way to interact. We could influence
what happened on the stream, we could cocreate
the experience along with him, and we really had a multiplayer experience
with chat and with Cohh. At Twitch, we’ve started calling this, as a result, “multiplayer entertainment.” Because going from watching a video alone
to watching a live interactive stream is similar to the difference between
going from playing a single-player game to playing a multiplayer game. Gamers are often as the forefront
of exploration in new technology. Microcomputers, for example,
were used early on for video games, and the very first handheld, digital
mass-market devices weren’t cell phones, they were Gameboys … for video games. And as a result, one way that you can get a hint
of what the future might hold is to look to this fun, interactive
sandbox of video games and ask yourself, “what are these gamers doing today?” And that might give you a hint
as to what the future is going to hold for all of us. One of the things
we’re already seeing on Twitch is multiplayer entertainment
coming to sports. So, Twitch and the NFL teamed up
to offer livestreaming football, but instead of network announcers
in suits streaming the game, we got Twitch users to come in and stream it themselves
on their own channel and interact with their community and make it a real multiplayer experience. So I actually think that if you
look out into the future — only hundreds of people today
get to be sports announcers. It’s a tiny, tiny number of people
who have that opportunity. But sports are about to go multiplayer, and that means that anyone
who wants to around the world is going to get the opportunity
to become a sports announcer, to give it a shot. And I think that’s going to unlock
incredible amounts of new talent for all of us. And we’re not going to be asking,
“Did you catch the game?” Instead, we’re going to be asking, “Whose channel did you catch the game on?” We already see this happening
with cooking, with singing — we even see people streaming welding. And all of this stuff is going to happen
around the metaphorical campfire. There’s going to be millions
of these campfires lit over the next few years. And on every topic, you’re going to be able to find a campfire that will allow you to bond
with your people around the world. For most of human history, entertainment was simply multiplayer. We sang together in person, we shared news together
in the town square in person, and somewhere along the way, that two-way conversation
turned into a one-way transmission. As someone who cares about communities, I am excited for a world where our entertainment
could connect us instead of isolating us. A world where we can bond with each other
over our shared interests and create real, strong communities. Games, streams and the interactions
they encourage, are only just beginning
to turn the wheel back to our interactive, community-rich,
multiplayer past. Thank you all for sharing
this experience here with me, and may you all find your best campfire. (Applause)


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