RECASTING COLLEGIATE ESPORTS: INDEPENDENCE AND INTERDEPENDENCE OF UNIVERSITY TWITCH STREAMERS
Keywords:Esports, Collegiate Esports, Twitch, Game Studies, Live Streaming
Few online communities exhibit the tensions between independence and interdependence better than collegiate esports. Twitch, the primary platform for live streaming esports, is central in such strife. The platform is a vital tool for colleges and athletes to forward brand, community, and entrepreneurship, while simultaneously its unbridled use indicates the need for administration and institutional interventions by universities. As such the proposed study aims to illuminate how collegiate esports clubs, including players, administrators, and program directors, use Twitch to promote independence and interdependence with esports publishers, players, fans, and college culture. Preliminary findings from 19 interviews with athletes and directors suggest some commonalities, particularly in optimism about the platform as a tool for entree into the industry. However, beyond this, directors and athletes diverged when it came to how Twitch should be employed, the labor required to successfully navigate the program, and concerns over toxic behavior associated with competitive gaming that manifested during live play. Finally, grey areas colored the interdependency between Twitch and the university. Monetization and use of streams were not clearly articulated, along with undefined policies on how to act professionally and represent universities on the platform. Ultimately, these early findings point to the lack of knowledge and flexibility of institutions like universities as they increasingly rely on platforms to foster online and offline communities.