In case you aren’t playing Path of Exile and don’t watch streamers related to it, even though that “drama” went quite far from game’s usual circle for a day or two, I’ll give a very quick tl;dr – launch of new league was a disaster with people getting disconnected and with big queues while streamers got provided priority login by devs skipping queue, which of course made people mad. I’ll post about this particular case separately soon, this one is already massive.
This situation in general is not really new, but it didn’t get any rallying point before for masses to gather and create enough noise around the problem. But now we got it verbalized and it’s perfect time to think about it and discuss it, which we already did on stream before and during current events, so time to write down my current opinion.
Of course need to give a disclosure that is kinda obvious – I’m pretty biased being a streamer myself, but I’m also on Twitch and in gaming for a while already, so I will try to approach this topic from multitude of angles.
Funnily enough I never really cared about others getting special treatment when I was just a regular gamer/viewer, might be just part of our soviet mentality here when kids of some important people would always be in priority and ahead of everyone, so this unfairness is something we form a bit of banner blindness to – we see so much of it that we start to automatically just ignore it. I mean it’s also not new with streamers, every journalist gets game access way before release and then they also usually post their reviews before the release (not that common nowadays unfortunately with embargoes). Journalists used to make me jelly a bit back in a day not gonna lie, because they were invited to some cool events organized by devs etc, honestly I still am a bit jelly sometimes, because I’m not as big and important to be invited to things like this with some rare exceptions. So yeah, from position of just being envious I sure can see that – being hyped for the game and seeing someone playing it on stream already when you can’t play yet feels a bit sad and unfair, sure. Is it bad enough to get mad and go to Twitter/Reddit/Streamer chat/whatever other medium to shit on streamer (don’t really understand why streamers get shit for it) or company (which at least makes sense, but still why) to maybe get some likes/upvotes/ban in chat? Not really, I think it’s just pointless first of all, then it is also quite toxic while also not very smart to be mad about it at all.
Why is it not smart thought? It’s unfair! Yeah, just like great musician performing in local pubs for small pay while some guy with zero musical talent and hearing is bathing in fame and money or just like some other examples, not gonna go too far, because in PoE drama someone already went too far with examples and caused another sub-drama, let’s not do that. Life is unfair, simple as that, which in some situations is actually bad and hurting something/someone, while in other situations it’s just “well, it is what it is”. When I go to some convention and Ela is invited to some cool party when I’m not it felt kinda bad first, but when you understand why and accept it – it’s not a big deal, while being unfair. Now to elaborate that unfair part – why streamers are better than average gamers, they are the same, they just sit there playing games just with webcam and mic. This topic is a bit more complex and I’ll talk about it some time later, but in this context all you need to know is that sure they are just sitting there playing games, but they attract thousands of people to those games. Streamers literally made Among Us a thing, when game was already on graveyard pretty much for some time after release – boom next meta and superhyped game that I see plushies of sold in nearby mall here in Russia, we don’t even have Fortnite merch and shit around.
So special treatment for streamers and other popular people/celebrities is absolutely clear and justified – devs/publishers just want to give their game good marketing and I’ll be honest streamers right now are super undervalued, you can literally send game key that you generate for free to some small-mid streamer and they will probably play it – literally free advertisement if even for smaller audience, in some cases those small niche groups are even better for marketing. Hype levels when everyone is streaming, promotion when lots of people see that game on streams, getting new audience for this genre by getting different streamers on board etc. Early access for streamers is basically like giving review copies to journalists, but you actually see that “journalism” live, unedited, see game for yourself too and it’s amazing. For devs it allows them to “concentrate” attention on people who have that access, devs can be in chat, they can see the reception first hand, some bugs and stuff of course too. From streamers perspective it is also nice, because well they become that exclusive content channel and attract new people, they are first to play, so there are no pepegas with spoilers/backseating. Everyone is winning, so who’s losing then? Viewers? I mean you already have release date that you were prepared for, so nothing changed, fact that someone is already playing shouldn’t bother you, because honestly that happens all the time with journalists anyway, fact that someone is streaming – just don’t watch them, whenever I’m interested in the game I don’t watch it before or after release anyway.
To summarize special treatment for people who create content and attract people to games is completely normal, expected and brings no harm to anyone while making many participating parties happy. A lot of criticism in my opinion is just fueled by pure envy and while it is not surprising that people feel that way, it shouldn’t be a reason to gatekeep. There will be only more influencer marketing happening and not only in videogame world, so only thing for us to do is to get used to it and adapt, because getting upset over things like this will just make us upset all the time. If you think streamers agreeing to get this special treatment are like having no integrity and stuff like this – this is just wrong, even though it does apply to some situations, but it’s more about like getting sponsored and promoting some sketchy shit, playing game couple of days early is completely fine.
Would I accept special treatment? For sure, not even a question for me, it is also a question of building relationships with people in the industry I work in, so even if I don’t really need that early access to some game and can wait with it – I rather accept it and build good partnership that might lead to some interesting opportunities in the future. Because it’s my job (not omegaluling here) that puts food on my table and I want it to continue for as long as it’s possible and while money can’t buy you happiness it sure does help and having good relationships with devs/publishers contributes to it.