Video Games: Playing For A living
Video Games: Playing For A Living is a new book of interviews out now from Vapor95.com and Yonkers International Press. Go behind the scenes with internationally acclaimed streamers, live commentators, and content creators and see exactly what it takes to make a profession out of making, playing, and talking about video games. We cover everything from the brass tacks of what sort of equipment people are using, to the all important life-work balance, to people’s predictions for the future of gaming. And much more!
How’d the idea for this book come about?
I [Ben Van Buren] wanted to understand what it means to go into business as a streamer and or content creator. Not only the brass tacks of the equipment and the schedule but also the emotional journey. I watch a lot of StarCraft II online. As well as a good amount of gaming news and various other offerings. But beyond simply enjoying what I watch I’m fascinated by the role that the social layer of that content (the chat, the comments, the Discord) plays in enhancing both the symbolic and literal value of that content. As games start to slide into “service product” territory it’s specifically that social dimension of the experience that sets them apart from Netflix, for example. So the question then is: what do the nascent professions of streaming and creating content using video games mean for what we call socializing? And how do we as a community of spectators participate in shaping the realities of those professions? To start to dig into these questions I find GrandPOObear’s description of streaming to be extremely helpful. He says that people often assume that streaming is like sports, where raw technical skill always wins out, but it’s not that, he says, “It’s pro wrestling.” That’s it exactly. It’s a bit of theater and it’s a bit of sport. A sort of hyper aestheticized experience of literal physical competition performed for an audience.
While gaming has certainly received more critical and academic attention in the past decade I think there is still much to understand concerning the seemingly unbridled surge in gaming’s online viewership—especially when considered in the context of theater and sport, two traditions that have historically played important roles in the formation of collective identities. So this book is pause and a meditation. Gaming is in a period of insane transformation. This book invites the reader into intimate conversations with some of the professionals responsible for leading that charge.
What’s Yonkers International Press?
Books don’t exist. That’s the sort of cheeky summation of Yip’s philosophy. I don’t know anyone who creases pages with a bone folder, sews pages together, wraps leather overboard and stamps out spine text with gold leaf. Do you? :) What we traffic in is the possibility of exploiting the combination of digitally-networked software, all of which is cloud-based, and the basic principals of what a book ‘should’ look like, as a way to produce book objects which might help us to understand what it means to gather. Gather content, gather people together; from afar and in person. Books are the original network. Yip wants to send up books like beacons, as things to gather around and to enrich the love and sense of joy within various peoples. That’s why we work so much on periodicals. What’s most important is that we try to grow a place to return to, a place in the conversation, either in person in New York or online, where together we can glimpse the possibility of calmly embracing the world we live in.
We use a lot of HTML/CSS, some Adobe products, various printing hacks... we are a repetitive, iterative, publishing experiment in search of hospitality and care, or their impossibility, in the cloud.
How’d you curate the contents of this book?
The contributors to this book are mostly those people I watch online. I’m a big fan of everyone in here. Those people I didn’t know beforehand I now watch regularly. SO I guess it's really a question of why I watch who I watch! I wanted to balance some different pockets of the content creation world. So we have streamers, commentators (all Starcraft…), and new outlets all represented. And beyond that balance, I wanted to offer a little outside perspective. So we have an interview with someone who actually makes games, and an interview with an artist who hacks and repurposes games to make art. Overall, however, the main editorial mission was to understand the experience of being a content creator or a streamer. To understand what it feels like to take on that professional mantel and how that feeling engenders certain modes of audience interaction and certain expectations for the future of gaming. Because that future is on track to be exceptionally social and exceptionally profitable. And that seems like a phenomenon worthy of contemplation.