“Who wants to observe people eat?”
A good question from my 15-year-old son, a gamer who also struggles to make an audience on Twitch and YouTube. Leaning over my shoulder and looking out at the “Social Eating” page on Twitch and at the viewer count for the five videos currently live, showing people eating cereal or snacks; drinking coffee; on the other hand, he answers his own question.
“Whoa! 183 people are watching someone eat a watermelon?”
And that’s it, that’s the initial realization of a weird new thing on Twitch, the gut reaction and so, finally, the understanding of why it exists.
It’s an encapsulation of the kind of thing that happens multiple times every day once I mention it to people, but also, likely, a thing that has got to be happening online additionally.
Hearing the people at Twitch tell it, that’s also kind of how the social eating experiment began.
A few months ago, Twitch began to see Korean gamers on Korean Twitch channels taking breaks during their streams to dine in the design of meok-bang — a trend that has Koreans broadcasting what they eat as they chat with viewers, said Raiford Cockfield III, director of partners within the Asia-Pacific Region for Twitch. The corporate asked those streamers to maneuver the eating to the creative section of Twitch’s many channels, and off the realm where games are streamed while promoted by services.
But the corporate soon realized that the creative field — a part designed for people to indicate off creative talents, like playing music or painting — wasn’t really the correct fit either. So, which is truly listed as a game when a streamer sets up their broadcast, Twitch moved the eating streamers back to the gaming community and created an experimental area called “social eating.”
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“183 PEOPLE ARE WATCHING SOMEONE EAT A WATERMELON?”
Now that the realm is live, Twitch is waiting to determine how it evolves under the spotlight of a far more multinational viewership.
Within some guidelines.
The beta category had a stealth launch initially freed from any real guidelines.
That changed on Dominion Day when Twitch created a social eating FAQ that outlined some very specific samples of things someone can’t knock off a broadcast. The list includes eating just food, drinking mostly alcohol, eating things not meant for consumption, eating to the purpose of excess, feeding others, eating in an exceeding car, and eating to the purpose of vomiting.
The last rule was broken the primary day of the new area when a streamer vomited during his broadcast.
Twitch and Cockfield say that’s precisely the variety of things they don’t want the category to show into.
“What we don’t want to work out on social eating are eating contests, gluttony, abuse of your body with food,” he said. “Eating with friends and family is meant to be shared. Having that social experience.”
While Cockfield acknowledges that Twitch probably launched the channel a bit prematurely, he believes things are in hand now. The vomiting streamer, for example, violated Twitch’s terms and conditions.
“That was handled by moderation,” Cockfield said.
He added that the corporate is conscious of the problems that include eating, for some, which incorporates things like body image concerns, health, and diet.
“We’re sensitive to the problems,” he said. “We addressed it within the FAQ to form sure it’s being done as responsibly as possible.”
Cockfield reiterated that the category was born out of an activity that’s quite common on Korean social channels including, among other sites, Twitch.