Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Streamers and screamers: why horror games are so popular on Twitch.

Take a look at Twitch and you’ll see that horror games are hugely popular among streamers – and not just because it’s Halloween! 

Sure, everyone loves a fright around October as it gets darker, the cold creeps in, and we can snuggle down in the dark (maybe even alone) to fight zombie outbreaks, explore eerie asylums, and run away. A lot.

There’s a whole load of brilliant horror games out there – just this year we’ve had the remake of Resident Evil 2, the Blair Witch game, and Layers of Fear 2 to name a handful. But it’s multiplayer games like Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th that have really taken off with streamers.

So why are horror games so popular with streamers? And why LGBT streamers in particular?

Brandon Stennis, aka iamBrandon, is known for playing horror games that truly test the player. In his words, they “put the player in situations that you have to figure out how you would survive in a difficult situation”. That said, they’re not always fun: “I don’t necessarily always ‘enjoy’ each game, but it’s fun to discover how creative game developers can be.”

For Malika, she became a Twitch partner for streaming Friday the 13th, though Dead by Daylight is a favourite with almost 5,300 hours played in total. For that game especially, the steady stream of new content has really boosted replay value. 

“I love the adrenaline rush you get when you’re scared,” she says. “I love the shock and awe as something unexpected happens.” Further, horror games are (surprisingly) more accessible than others. “They’re original and don’t require you to be a professional gamer to get into and have fun. All skill levels can play and have an enjoyable time.”

And like Brandon, Malika agrees that horror games allow for truly unique situations. “Who wouldn’t want to be a crazed iconic killer like Michael Myers, or Freddy? Some things you can only experience in games and thankfully I’ll hopefully never have to run from Leatherface and his chainsaw in the real world,” she says.

Drag queen streamer Deere is, literally, the queen of horror games. After all, it’s in her tagline: ‘My name is Deere let’s play what you fear!’. She also set up the Stream Queens group (a place for all drag streamers), who regularly play horror games together. Most recently, she’s taken part in the All Hallows Eve Scareathon, along with Brandon, raising money for the Trevor Project.

“I am a horror girl; I love horror so much, it’s my favorite genre,” she says. “It’s exciting to be on the edge of your seat and not sure what kind of shock will be around the corner.”

Further, she’s particularly drawn to strong female protagonists. “It’s exciting to see women overcome their detractors especially in a horror setting and I think that extends to video games as well. When I imagine myself as that final girl in a game beating the bad guy, that’s the ultimate good feeling!”

If there’s one thing streamers allow for, it’s passively playing horror games through the experience of someone else. Sometimes, it’s just too frightening to actually hold the controller, but watching a streamer creates distance from the jump scares and spooky atmosphere that makes horror games more palatable.

Of course, horror games are just as scary for the streamers too. “Being scared is an emotion that many do not like to have,” says Brandon. “Having to display that emotion in front of people live is not always easy. But horror games help break that fear and has streamers willing to go beyond what they would want to normally deal with.”

What also breaks the fear is experiencing horror with others. As Deere says: “horror streamers allow those that are jumpy or scared to experience those creepy games while virtually holding the hand of the streamer. It’s not experiencing a scary game alone in the dark in your room, you get to experience it with a community. It’s like how seeing a scary movie is so much more fun when it’s with friends!”

The short, exciting matches of Dead by Daylight also make it ideal for viewers, even those who haven’t played the game themselves. “I think people are drawn into the funny moments and skill involved in playing the game,” says Malika. “Some games are super fun to play but not so fun to watch as a viewer. The great thing about Dead by Daylight is that matches are 10-15 minutes and full of action and twists and turns.”

So why are LGBT streamers and viewers so drawn to horror games? Brandon jokes that we can be “passionate”, which “ups the ante” of horror games. There’s certainly a sense of schadenfreude watching a particularly eccentric streamer screaming at jump scares!

Malika notes it’s the sense of community that brings people together. As an ally, her fans know her as ‘queen of the gays’ and she always ensures her feed is a safe space for LGBT gamers. “It’s pretty awesome to see how much my community has embraced each other and how close of friends they have become,” she says. “Or maybe we just really are waiting for the infamous Shirtless Myers skins to finally release!”

For Deere, it’s more about overcoming adversity. “Life can be scary enough especially for LGBT people. Some of us face discrimination every day so it’s empowering to face artificial hardship and be able to overcome it,” she says.

Really, that’s the power of video games as a whole. No matter how shocking, it’s all about escapism. As Deere says: “if we are fighting controlled evils like monsters and zombies in the safety of our home, we don’t have to pay attention to the monsters in our every-day lives.”

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