Tha Twitch does not kill. Makes you stronger

Had to do a little write up of something media related for a team meeting tomorrow. I decided to write about Twitch, because it took the least amount of effort and/or research. If you ever wanted to know a little more about the medium, here you go:

What is Twitch?

Twitch is an online streaming platform, primarily dominated by video games. At its most basic, Twitch allows viewers to log in and watch their favourite professional gamers just play games. There’s a chat function hardwired into the format, whereby viewers can actually start a dialogue with these notable personalities. Owned by Amazon (bought for $970M in 2014), it’s mostly ignored by the mainstream, but concurrently happens to have a steadily growing audience:

Who is Twitch?

Let’s look at some stats quickly.

Top 5 streamers with the most followers:
Ninja – 13.6M
shroud – 5.96M
Tfue – 5.22M
TSM_Myth – 4.92M
summit1g – 3.67M

Streamers with the most viewers (average concurrent past 30 days):
OverwatchLeague – 121K
Riot Games – 58.1K
shroud – 53.7K
CSRuHub – 47.2K
Tfue – 46.6K

Twitch streamers with the most channel views (all time):
Riot Games – 1,105M
ShadbaseMurderTV – 659M
Ninja – 426M
Sarladder1 – 397M
BeyondTheSummit – 386M

When is Twitch?

Always. Twitch doesn’t turn off. Individual streamer schedules vary, but the framework of Twitch is set up to reward networking. Like YouTube personalities, Twitch streamers typically build up interconnected rings/clans/groups for the purposes of mutual cross promotion. A streamer may be online for 5-8 hours, then handshake with another streamer at the conclusion of their broadcast. In short, they’re passing their audience onto a friend, a movie that seeks to keep the viewer on the platform, and can potentially bolster subscribers for each channel.

Not only is Twitch live, but it has a comprehensive VOD section to catch up on past broadcasts. Viewers can even submit clips from the stream, cataloguing highlights and virtually giving free promotion to streamers.

Where is Twitch?

The beauty of Twitch, is that the system is set up with a low barrier to entry. Most of the successful streamers are simply broadcasting from their bedrooms. The production values aren’t high. If you have a USB mic, a camera and maybe some basic lighting, you’re set to go. Having a “professional” operation is accessible, and there’s not much of a ceiling. Green screens and larger production elements aren’t verboten by any means, but as a young medium they have yet to become standard.

Why is Twitch?

You better believe that money is a big part of the equation when it comes to Twitch. First off, subscribers. Subscribers typically pay $5 a month, which translates into a base income for streamers. Not to be confused with Followers, Subscribers usually get some kind of token VIP advantages like custom emotes and whatnot. It’s more of a way for fans to support their favourite streamers as opposed to concrete perks. Donations are also a common part of the economy, whereby viewers will just donate to the streamer in question in any quantity (the largest donation I’ve seen on stream was $2000.00).

There are sponsorships galore, integrated advertising and uncapped marketing potential.
I’m not gonna argue that Twitch is the future of broadcast, but I think it’s worth considering the medium as a path that some broadcast could take. It’s community based, and lowers the barriers between talent and audience. Unlike standard broadcast models, it offers certain amounts of two-way communication with effective immediacy. It has a primarily younger audience, with opportunities for growth. It’s wildly customizable, and innovation is encouraged. At the same time, it’s rife for marketing opportunity. Drake famously did a drop in session with popular streamer Ninja, which opens up all kinds of promotional potential.Twitch, like any good social network medium worth its salt, collects personal information that it can 100% use for marketing purposes.

From a broadcasting perspective, a Twitch style broadcast allows for access to new and different markets. It’s a personality driven medium with incredibly low overheads and high potential. The Just Chatting category also hints at possible simultaneous directions for the format. It’s merely streamers holding court and chatting with their audience. Twitch itself is not revolutionary, but it is an emerging entertainment medium with a lot of untapped potential.

And yes, as a primarily Magic the Gathering viewer, that pun was intentional.

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The LAN before time

Remember how things mattered until they didn’t?

I used to be meticulous with my music curation. Okay, let’s take it down a peg. I used to Care A Lot about my iTunes metadata. I downloaded a ton of music and ripped all my CDs for the digital realm. Just years and years worth of stuff. It was all organised in a way to make hearing exactly what I wanted to hear as simple and efficient as possible. I’m sure this doesn’t make a ton of sense to all y’all, but when we used to torrent stuff or grab it from Napster/Morpheus/Kazaa/IRC or whatever, it often had weird characters, was misnamed, etc. It was a bunch of work. The number of times I’d download the same track, but with different names, was astounding. They even used to sometimes insert weird SFX into tracks as an odd form of copyright protection. Hell, I used to burn albums by downloading each individual track, then arranging them in order on a CD. It was the opposite of sophisticated. So I’d spend the time to get everything in order on my computer before porting it over to my iPod. End of story. Sorta.

I used to go to LAN parties (we’d all bring our desktop computers around to someone’s place, then spend the evening getting loaded up on caffeine, snacks and stay up all night gaming). The unspoken law of LAN parties is that while everyone was up, computers were for gaming. Inevitably we’d crash at some point, usually after sunrise. One of the exciting aspects of LAN parties was getting to leech content from each other. You could load up on anime, games, movies and music. Maybe it was that I got used to having limited space, needing to be conservative, etc. Or perhaps I was just a control freak. I would be discerning as to what I grabbed. When it came to shows, movies and music, I’d go through and only take what I thought I’d use. This wasn’t the case across the board. A bunch of people with massive hard drives would just take everything. They could, they had the luxury of not needing to care.

When it came to music, this always made me feel really uncomfortable. Why would you take everything? What if there was tons of stuff you weren’t into? I took a personal stake in it. I’d spent all this time curating my collection, making sure it was exactly how I wanted it. These people, however, would just absorb it into their own. Most of it would likely never even be heard. For them it was about having more data. For me it was about tailoring specific experiences. After all the work I put into it, I felt almost betrayed. They wouldn’t appreciate it like I did. Did I really want them to have it in that case? I never said anything, but it stewed up inside me something fierce. An unspoken grievance that stayed with me. It was weird.

These days, of course, streaming exists. Music is all free and accessible, with collections that are exponentially larger than mine. None of it matters. What a load of wasted energy.

I wonder if anyone wants to come over for a LAN party…

Some kind of class warfare

It’s been years since I last played Dungeons and Dragons.

I’m not saying this as if I grew up on it. Sure, I was incredibly taken with fantasy tropes. I got into King Arthur in a big way from around age 7-9. It all seemed so terribly exciting. Knights and dragons and magic, oh my. Guns and artillery seemed way less cool than going medieval. Warcraft forever, Command and Conquer for never, or something. Had I known anything about D&D, I probably would’ve fallen hard from an early age. But I didn’t, so I didn’t. Towards the end of high school, a friend decided he wanted to get into it and I figured I might as well try it out. Turns out I did like it heaps. The idea of interactive storytelling was a blast. It was neat to see character progression, overcoming obstacles and an arcane bestiary. Right up my alley.

Not only that, but everything was so meticulously categorised and thorough. As someone with the kind of brain that obsessed over Pokémon, their evolutions, movesets, typing, etc, it was my kind of crack. I’d already been very into Magic the Gathering, so Wizards of the Coast had me hooked. D&D was only a sidestep away. I loved learning about the different stats, classes, feats, races and spells. All the monsters were cool as shit. I couldn’t wait to explore it all, and spent hours making my first character. I remember going as a sorcerer, ’cause I wanted a familiar and spellcasting seemed neat. I also remember my spells being so terrible that my crossbow was my usual recourse in combat. It just did more damage. Probably more me doing a poor job creating a character than anything. I mean hey, character creation has always been one of the most defining “characteristics” of the game. It’s intricate and endlessly customisable. It’s fun making a character, because you get to be whoever you want to be. Wanna be a gnome cleric? You got it dude. An orc ranger? Go ahead. A half-elf barbarian? Hack away. You be you.

I was chatting today with a friend, and casually mentioned D&D stats in relation to real life. It’s kind of a fun thought experiment to imagine yourself aligned with the character creation sheet. What sort of stats would you have? What class would you be? I feel like the easiest part is working out your weakest stat. I have no question that my dexterity is a lost cause. I’m clumsy and uncoordinated. I don’t have fine motor skills, I tend to force my way through things in an ungainly fashion. Mostly I get there, but without finesse. Most of my stats would probably be pretty average. I manage most activities without excelling at anything. I’m above average smart without nearing genius status. I definitely lack street smarts, but I wouldn’t say I’m totally without wisdom. I’m reasonably hardy, so my constitution would be decent. I also catch most any cold that goes around. I’m strong enough, but not totally musclebound. I’m charismatic, but also weird. So I guess I’m charismatic in certain situations.

I feel, if anything, I’d probably be some kind of druid. Not because I have any attunement to nature, but because it’s a fairly versatile but non-specialised class. They have a wide assortment of skills to adapt to most any situation, but they’re not super effective at any of them. They can shapeshift into all manner of natural forms, which is pretty neat. Need to tank hits? Why not shift into a bear? Need to get in some damage quickly? Sure, just be a wolf. Need to get the fuck away? Transform into a horse and get the fuck out of there. They can heal, but not as well as clerics. They can spellcast, but not with the same efficacy as a wizard. They have survival skills, but not to the same extent as a ranger would. In life, I manage to get by mostly fine. Concurrently, I’m not pulling ahead in any area. A classic journeyman. I have experiences aplenty, but rarely tales to astound and amaze. Shit happens and I’m there for it, but I’m rarely the hero. A druid seems like an apt role.

Ugh, I could really do with playing another campaign. The last time I tried to make a druid, things didn’t end well.

Not even a medium-rare drafter

Magic the Gathering themed post. If that’s not your kind of thing, come back tomorrow.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy. It’s draftin’ time.

As a free to play-er on Magic Arena, my drafting habits are entirely at the whim of Wizards. I got kinda bored of Guilds of Ravnica. Maybe it was mostly that green was shafted, with both Selesnya and Golgari turning out to be massively lacklustre. I like drafting green, y’know? So with Ravnica Allegiance on the horizon (and a total lack of gems), I took time off drafts. I wasn’t gonna waste my time on Core Set 2019 or Ixalan when I could bank a bunch of gold for Allegiance drafts. Of course, Allegiance (thanks Magic, I now know how to spell that word) was behind a paywall of sorts for the first while. I could merely window shop while all the pros streamed their drafts, staring longingly at all the fun they got to have. I saved up about 40,000 gold through incidental daily rewards and eagerly awaited Allegiance coming to Ranked Draft. The wait is over. Allegiance is out and I eagerly dived in headfirst yesterday. Here’s how my drafts have gone so far.

As a disclaimer, I shamelessly rare draft so I can build up my collection for constructed. My decks aren’t always amazing, ’cause I’m passing good cards for rares. I’ve come to terms with it, I hope you can too.

Here was my first draft. I first picked a Biogenic Ooze and went to town. Kinda. I got stuck in a lacklustre Temur build, mostly because I got confused and didn’t know what to play. I ended up more Simic with a red splash. There was no way I was gonna let the machine gun of Bolrac-Clan Crusher and Biogenic Ooze go to waste. It was clunky. I got stuck on land once or twice, and my creatures weren’t of high quality. I would’ve taken every single Sauroform Hybrid that came my way, but I failed to get any. I was lucky enough to draw Biogenic Ooze a ton, and won most games it came down. It usually let me stabilise if my opponent wasn’t on the mono fliers plan. One of my opponents had a sick play with Priest of Forgotten Gods and Undercity Embrace, forcing me to get rid of both oozes while I was tapped out. Well played, good game. I think I got to three wins? I dunno, I was sorta drunk.

My second draft is lost to the ages. I came back at 2am after a night of drinking and decided that drafting was a smart call. I ended up with a terrible Orzhov deck that lacked fliers or payoffs. I think I first picked a Pitiless Pontiff and proceeded to not remotely build around it. My removal sucked. I think I had 5 Noxious Groodions and a few Viskopa Vampires, so I was on Team Three Drop. This couldn’t have been more accurate, ’cause I played three games, lost them all and dropped out. Zero wins, but still fun to try. Don’t draft drunk and expect to dominate.

This afternoon I got my first taste of Azorius. Bant? I splashed for Guardian Project, because the card seems absurd. I ended up lacking a full complement of playables, once again because of my shameless rare drafting. Still, when I wasn’t mana screwed (drew an inspirational amount of 2 land hands), the deck went off. Lots of evasion, plus High Alert shenanigans. I’m still pretty medium on Justiciar’s Portal, but it worked here. It’s fantastic with Faerie Duelist and Forbidding Spirit. Being able to flash reduce an opposing creature’s power or slow their tempo worked wonders to keep me in the game. Best of all, it counted for Guardian Project, so I got to be greedy with cards. One game I curved from High Alert into Guardian Project, but my opponent had Bolrac-Clan Crusher and Sharktocrab. I managed to buy time with the aforementioned Forbidding Spirit and Faerie Duelist shenanigans, then pull out combat tricks/bounce to get ahead. It was very fun, tight Magic and I played the game incredibly well, which I rarely do. Sphinx of Insight is also obviously dumb, the scry 3 is a big boost at the start of the game, and a 4/4 flyer for 4 is tight tight tight. Even if it’s not gonna make waves in constructed. Azorius Skyguard was an excellent curve topper, and made combat very tough for opponents.

Here’s my current deck in progress. I once again shamelessly rare drafted, but ended up with something workable. I had too many playables, for once. I’d love to do well with it, but I’d also be quite satisfied with just one game where Biomancer’s Familiar or Simic Ascendancy enable dumb plays. Not pictured are the Deputy of Detention, Seraph of the Scales and Gruul Spellbreaker I picked for other decks. I’ve played one game and it was ruthless. Fingers crossed it keeps up the pressure.

Anyway, it’s high time I try to see how well I can do with it. Later sk8r boi.

Wait, how did I not realise “phone it in” was a pun?

Ready for me to phone it in again?

I feel like shit and I’m coming home from work. So this is gonna be written in the time between work and collapsing my bones once I walk through the door. What’s my damage? My brain’s been foggy all day. I just thought it was insufficient sleep, but it’s been harder than normal to concentrate. Even post coffee. I’m achy all over. This could usually be explained by onset muscle soreness from the gym. Thing is, the left of my face is weirdly sore and I don’t know why. There’s a dull ache to the left of my eye and nose. The back of my skull on the left is gently throbbing. I’ve got a mild headache. Could it just be excessive nasal congestion wreaking havoc in my head? My stomach has been volatile all day. My dearest hope is that I’m not coming down with whatever has plagued my girlfriend for nigh on the past week. Sure, it’s great to not be in the office. But I wanted to go out to the movies tonight, goddammit. The Favourite is still in theatres and I wanna catch it while it’s on the big screen.

Speaking of screens, I was just wondering what to do when I get home, and if there’s anything that doesn’t involve a screen. I’m not sure if there is any more. All of my leisure activities are screen based. The Internet is obviously screen based. Playing Magic is now screen based. Watching anything clearly relies on a screen. I could read, but the only thing I’m reading right now is, you guessed it, from a screen. Good fucking luck doing anything but lying idly with my thoughts.

It is nice to read again though, really. It’s horrifying how rarely I do these days. Maybe one to two books per year? I used to be a voracious reader. I’d devour a couple books a month, or at least be reading 1000+ page fantasy epics. I just don’t find the time anymore. I find it hard to push myself away from those dang screens and into a narrative that plays out in my brain. I think it’s important, to challenge your imagination. I don’t know how many times I’ve read something and had to update my mental pictures with new information. Maybe I viewed a character in a certain way because of unspecified features, then the author was like “oh by the way, her freckles were her most recognisable feature. Did I not mention that?” They probably did. I was likely just skim reading. As someone who loves expanding their vocabulary at any change, not reading feels like a massive personal disservice. Getting the Overdrive app has been amazing. I can link it up with the Toronto Public Library and virtually visit from the palm of my hand. Once I’ve downloaded the book it stays on my phone for three weeks. I don’t need internet access to read it, the app automatically saves my place. It gives me something to do in transit again.

Well, aside from hastily phoning in my writing, that is. And with that, I’m home.

When trees ask other trees out on dates are they going out on a limb?

It’s hard to believe that I sometimes forget I’m 31, not 25. If I’m ever in doubt, however, my body is quick to remind me.

Today it’s screaming. Muscles and ligaments alike are all howling in displeasure. It’s like my body is trying to morse code “mercy” to my brain, but with twitches and twinges of pain. My legs feel static and worn, muscles in my back I didn’t realise I had are making themselves known through soreness. My lower back is stiff and inflexible. Even my left thumb has given up the ghost for greener pastures. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for the fun I had. Why? ‘Cause I finally got to road test the new Pursuit OCR location.

I’ve been a fan of Pursuit OCR for some time. When I first heard one of my friends was working on assembling an indoor obstacle course race, it hit all of my boxes: Friends, running/climbing things, zero chance of sunburn. It lived up to all my expectations and over time, surpassed them. The obstacles all offered a variety of solutions. There were chances to go over, under, or even around most of them. The attitude was as supportive as possible. People were encouraged to play and not to stress about winning. There was an onus on accessibility for people of all fitness levels, a principle close to my heart. There were killer classes for a wide variety of athletic interests. It’s where I tried my first acro yoga class. They continued to evolve, adding new obstacles or changing up existing ones. Most importantly, it was fun as hell. The environment naturally fostered the kind of community who naturally bolstered others. I can’t count how many times I saw strangers cheering on other strangers. There was no coercion, just empathy. Pursuit OCR even had non-gendered bathrooms before it was commonplace. Effortlessly with its heart in the right place.

Then it happened. The ideal downtown Toronto location on Dufferin by Queen closed down. A new, much larger location was found, but these things take time. I waited. And waited.

Until yesterday, when I stopped waiting and finally got out there. At 75 Westmore Ave, it’s not in downtown Toronto, but still accessible by TTC. It does take a while to get there, so if you’re travelling via public transit, make a day of it.

It’s SO much bigger. From what I last heard, about three times the size. From the moment you enter, it’s wall to wall aesthetics. Aside from being a fun place bounce around, it was definitely designed for endless Instagram opportunities. If that’s not your think, you’ll just have to “suffer” through the fact that everything looks cool as hell. Shifting mood lighting in bold pinks, blues and greens, graffiti art walls, stacks of climbable pseudo Tetris blocks. The course has a ton of wicked spots to goof around and take great pictures. I’m not saying by any means that’s all it’s for, but it’s definitely an option and I know a lot of people like that.

Me? I just wanted to put the place through its paces. Thing is, even after stretching my dry old bones, I was pooped halfway through the course. We took it at a leisurely speed, trying obstacles multiple ways. Right at the start there are a series of blocks that are climbable, parkour-able and duck-able. My friend and I looked for a bunch of ways to traverse them. Then after spending five to ten minutes working over those, we found a neat three walled jungle gym. Solid pipes lined an overhead and two side walls in an array of directions. It was like putting together a puzzle, but one that played hacky sack with your lats. I felt attuned with my inner chimp as I crawled up the pipes, hung down, and walked sideways across the walls. My friend and I tried a couple of poses, giving a metaphorical middle finger to gravity. How often do you get that chance?

Look, I’ve described two, maybe three obstacles. There are a ton. They take inspiration from pop-culture as diverse as American Gladiators and Die Hard. There are ersatz vents to climb and slide through, complete with little fans at the back (purely for atmosphere, of course). The horizontal netting is exhausting to cross, but if you’re feeling frisky you can slackline the entire way. There are heaps of hanging obstacles, which explains why my upper body has given up the ghost today. The ring swings returned from the past course, over a sea of foam this time. There’s a room filled to the brim with swiss balls. I had a great time trying to walk only on balls without touching the ground. The bouldering wall is exhausting, and offers a bunch of creative solutions. The ball pit in this new location is enormous and deceivingly tiring. It’s right at the end, and takes everything in the tank to traverse. Of course, it’s so deep that you could spend your time doing cannonballs into it instead.

I haven’t even mentioned the drift trikes. This time around, there’s a fun drift trike course that weaves below the obstacles. The trikes have log handles and two big wheels in the back. They peddle exactly as you’d expect, but if you sharp turn the handles, you can drift around corners. It’s entirely like real life Mario Kart. It’s a simple enough course, but mastering the handling of such a dinky little three-wheeler takes an age. For the most part if you try to drift too hard you’ll just harmlessly turn in a circle. Maybe you’ll gently bump into the wall behind you. We had a goddamn riot trying to synch up our turns and go up the skate bowl style corner. We tried the bikes almost as an afterthought and they were a total blast.

I may be a slowly withering skin sack of bones, but sometimes I get to feel like a kid again. If that’s something you want in your life instead of just hate-scrolling Twitter (you can still do that too) check out Pursuit OCR.

Even with a sore left thumb, I’ll give it two thumbs up.

It’ll henceforth be known as Indrik Lamar

Magic the Gathering themed post today. If that’s not your thing, come back tomorrow.

I hope everyone enjoyed another fun and successful spoiler season. There’s some neat stuff on the way. I can’t wait to play with Pelt Collector, which embodies the beloved fantasy trope of elves wearing an overabundance of coats and charging into battle. We’ve got plenty of memeworthy critters including Generous Stray, a cat who brings you a lizard treat. There’s Affectionate Indrik, solid limited fodder that loves so hard it hurts. Also Book Devourer, a big ol’ lug who enjoys words as much as I do.

Without diving too much into specifics, I’m looking forward to seeing how it all comes together for limited. There’s good, efficient removal in abundance, a sign of an excellent format. Prey Upon, Luminous Bonds and Dead Weight are all superb tempo plays. I’m personally kinda excited to see how Undercity Uprising plays, let alone all the neat coloured mana heavy uncommons. Will the plentiful Gates make for easily castable nonsense? I sure hope so. I’ve got lots of time for nonsense.

What about the mechanics? Did they get there? It looks like Dimir got an alley ooped big time with Surveil. Seems like it’ll have a subtle long term affect on the game while powering out any Undergrowth/Jump Start shenanigans Dimir players will be able to swipe from others. I’m not sure on Undergrowth yet. Traditionally Golgari’s strength has been slow attrition, coming back in the long game. This time around, I’m not sure. The full spoiler was just released this morning and I haven’t combed through it much. Undergrowth seems like it has marginal enablers and might not get there, but it’s often hard to tell what, on paper, will be good on the board.

Mentor looks like an ability that will play out much stronger than it looks. I’ve got echoes of Renown thundering in my heart. Will combat tricks keep the moMentorm rolling? Probably. I expect to be rolled over by it infinite times. Last up, Jump Start. I’m quite not sure that Jump Start got there and I’m very prepared to be wrong. Feels like Wizards were super worried about it being too strong and didn’t make it strong enough? Chemister’s Insight does look dope though. Flashbacks to Deep Analysis? Pun intended. Convoke was super strong first time around. Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi and Siege Wurm were total gas. Siege Wurm is back and this time it looks less like a penis. I’m not sure that small creatures are as common as they were in original Rav (anyone remember how dominant Selesnya Evangel was?), but who knows? The game has shifted and maybe getting a turn 3 4/4 vigilance is good enough. Conclave Tribunal certainly is.

Big news on the Magic the Gathering: Arena front, we’re finally getting a wipe for Open Beta. I think I’m in the minority seeing that as good news, but I do. It’s neat to start from the bottom and work your way up. Sure, it means any decks I’ve made will disappear, but I get to create new ones depending on what I open/draft. Plus everyone else will be running their jank cobbled together decks too. I love it when everyone has clunky one ofs that slowly get tweaked over time. The wipe will also make drafting Dominaria fun again, now that I’ve collected pretty much the whole set. Better yet, there’ll be Rav to draft. Plus Ravnica sealed. They’ve promised friend finder functions and all sorts of helpful tweaks. The game has gotten kind of boring with all these retread formats. A party’s on its way and I’m ready for it.

I guess you could say I’m all Rav’d up.