INTERNET — Viewers of the most popular Twitch streamers Pokimane, xQc, and so on have been inundated with debates, opinions, and rants on an ongoing gambling controversy that has rankled their communities for years. According to the moral high-horsing of Pokimane, streamers should not entertain their viewers with live gambling, because such bad behavior could corrupt the youth and lead to massive scams.
Following Pokimane further, one might find out that Kick, a rival company founded and boosted by the slots streamer Trainwreckstv, is very very bad and promotes gambling to children. Furthermore, it’s all hosted by Amazon anyway and will only feed more money into Twitch. (This false claim was later debunked by Twitch CEO Dan Clancy.) Also, a business like Kick could never turn a profit anyway, because it doesn’t harvest half of its streamer’s tips like Twitch (currently Kick takes only five percent of tips).
In a shocking upset development, xQc turned coat, betraying the Twitch-shiners and signing on with Kick to the tune of 100 million. Suddenly even the most self-assured Twitch lovers are harboring doubts. Pokimane has been left practically speechless, and is considering retiring from her place as top Twitch shill.
Most creators do not have the time of day to bother with these stupid and boring controversies, because they are too busy grappling with a precarious income and a shoestring budget while trying to master fickle algorithms that reward only clickthroughs and ad impressions. Forget about likes, follows, or any other metric indicating quality.
The “follow” has, over the years, become a totally vestigial remnant of the early internet. Users wrongly presume that they will be alerted to videos or tweets by “following” their favorite creators. In actual practice, these alerts are only delivered if and when the clickthrough or interaction rate is showing a totally addicted audience.
On the whole, these top streamers are an order of magnitude more boring than MTV’s The Real World, whether they’re staring at a slot machine in silence or muddling through these self-serving ethical postures for some air-headed excuse of a debate.
YouTube is only a half shade better than the streaming scene, with top YouTuber Mr. Beast showering money on random people in a feel-good unironic version of Squid Game.
Emmet Shear, former CEO of Twitch, mused about the payment models of internet entertainment, attempting to explain why YouTube and others are paying hundreds of millions to promote what is at heart a grim and sick vision of humanity.
What Shear says, although obfuscated with weird entrepreneur-babble, is that below the slick, antiseptic surface, these websites are all seedy establishments catering to the dark addictions of children and teenagers, in the same way as any casino or pay-to-win mobile game. However, Shear hopes we really won’t take this as a final reflection of the human species. After all, there’s still optimism thanks to Netflix, the one silicon valley outfit which has produced great television shows such as Black Mirror and Squid Game.
This isn’t to say that the entire internet has become an absolute shit hole. Not yet. There are fantastic educational videos on YouTube covering a tremendous range of interests: Scott Manley’s space travel talks, NileRed’s odd chemistry exploits, Scholagladiatoria’s historic weaponry lore. I enjoy watching all of these channels among others. But this type of content doesn’t usually engender the addictive frenzy that the algorithm prefers, and so these are either hobby horses or strained, self-produced low budget affairs with each creator working second jobs, hocking merchandise, or forcing strange product placements to make the show happen.
Far from a glimpse of hope, the malevolent disinterest of YouTube towards video creators who indeed make life more interesting is yet another painful shot of cynicism and nihilism. That a video might have some meaning beyond profit is unthinkable. A future with only AI-generated content would, to the shit-minded silicon valley overlords, only make for a vast improvement in technology, the next logical step for the industry, and they have staked billions into developing these shitmachines. Digital Humanities luminary David Golumbia writes that the true product is despair.
The singularity of shit is here, so prepare to be buried. This is exponential “enshittification.” I don’t expect Zuckerberg, Musk, or any of the shit-minds to have some sudden awakening. I don’t even hold out Jorg Sprave’s reasonable hope that entertainers will collectively wise up to the raw deal, either. It’s a corollary to Moore’s Law, but just double the shit each day.