Informatics Seminar Series
Winter Quarter 2023

Friday, March 3, 2023

“Authentically Me? Microstreamers on Twitch and the Challenge of Being Real, Live”

Mia Consalvo
Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design
Concordia University

This talk discusses how liveness on platforms such as encourages streamers to generate performances that can carry across hours, days, and years. That same effort is often billed as not a performance, but rather something true, believable – authentic. Yet those performances are still displays, even if they are expressions of what we think of as our ‘true’ selves, our real interests, and genuine interactions with others. This talk details how streamers – particularly smaller streamers – perform authenticity via both staged and spontaneous actions. Whether or not they care about how “real” they may appear to viewers, all streamers must create a channel and streaming practice that aligns with both their core interests and perhaps the interests of those who watch. And by streaming over time, they build up a set of practices and routines, and a persona, that they feel comfortable performing. At first many elements are spontaneous, as streamers figure out what to do and say, what not to do and say, and how to appear. They learn how to deal with harassment, how to talk with viewers, and how to maintain their technology. Authenticity is not static – streamers are always facing new challenges in their lives, their gameplay, their physical spaces, with their audiences, and so on. Some degree of consistency in their actions and presentation cultivates a performative fiction of authenticity, but it is always a performance, just as our daily life interactions are. The only difference is, this one is on camera.

Dr. Mia Consalvo is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia University in Montreal. She is the co-author of Real Games: What’s Legitimate and What’s Not in Contemporary Videogames (2019) and Players and their Pets: Gaming Communities from Beta to Sunset (2015). She is also co-editor of Sports Videogames (2013) and the Handbook of Internet Studies (2011) and is the author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames (2007) as well as Atari to Zelda: Japan’s Videogames in Global Context (2016).

Mia runs the mLab, a space dedicated to developing innovative methods for studying games and game players. She’s a member of the Centre for Technoculture, Art & Games (TAG), she has presented her work at industry as well as academic conferences including regular presentations at the Game Developers Conference. She is the Past President of the Digital Games Research Association, and has held positions at MIT, Ohio University, Chubu University in Japan and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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