As I was watching Felix ‘xQc’ Lengyel watch someone else groom a dog and hear him describe the process in great detail, I realised one thing and one thing only: I am no longer Twitch’s target audience. I’m not a boomer by any means – not yet, anyway – but I’m struggling to understand just how and why people find the react meta so entertaining.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, the react meta is Twitch’s ‘new’ thing and, as you can imagine, pretty much all the biggest streamers are all over it. Instead of playing games or speaking to their community, streamers watch on-demand videos – from the high octane to the mundane – and then they talk over them.
It’s a bit like Gogglebox in the UK – you know, the show where families react to long-running series, the news, and bizarre dating shows like Naked Attraction – except it’s much, much worse. While I appreciate the react meta isn’t a new concept – it is, after all, essentially what justin.tv was founded on – its evolution to the present day leaves a lot to be desired.
That’s because it seems more and more streamers have moved away from watching big programmes, like Masterchef, The Simpsons, and Avatar: The Last Airbender to distance themselves from potential DMCA claims. Instead, they’re watching low-quality YouTube videos that could put even the most sleep-deprived insomniac into a slumber.
I’m not kidding either. After flicking through a whole host of streams yesterday to find something to watch, I looked on as various personalities watched someone crack some eggs to make egg fried rice, watched bus driving videos, or tuned into other people’s streams. In all of these examples, the streamer in question offered nothing else. There was no real commentary, analysis, or even – ironically – a reaction.
When streamers stoop to this low pedestal, the very least you should expect is a reaction. I don’t expect the streamer to lose their mind over a scenic shot of a volcano or an expertly-cooked dish, but offering nothing extra beyond what’s on screen is lazy.
It’s not a widely controversial view either – several content creators have come under fire for the way in which they approach react content in recent days. ‘Ghost Gum’ actually called out Sebastian ‘Forsen’ Fors for watching their 12-minute video on the failure of Reddit Island in its entirety. The Swede offered just a handful of words during this time – but rarely commented on the actual video itself.
In these cases – and trust me, there’s loads of them – content creators become content curators, aimlessly meandering from one YouTube video to another. If I wanted to be sucked into a mindless hole, I’d climb back into bed and doomscroll TikTok.
If I’m tuning in to watch you ‘react’ to something, I’d expect to see a reaction. The whole point of this damn meta is to transform content, but I’m just not seeing it from the vast majority of people. And yes, the meta works – the stats behind some of the streams make that clear – but more needs to be done to actually make it worth viewers’ time.
I want to make it clear that while I don’t like the meta, I’m not likening this to ‘DarkViperAU’s infamous 14-page tirade about react streamers. I don’t think they’re “evil” – I just think we’ve reached the limits of what’s actually entertaining within the parameters of Twitch.
If the overlords at the purple platform actually managed to negotiate a deal that allowed streamers to engage with full-length movies and TV shows – or at least parts of them under fair use – without the threat of legal action, I think the react meta would be all the better for it. At least then the material would be more engaging than the TikTok compilations and how-to videos they currently ‘react to’ now.
While I admit the react meta is good for some streamers – especially for those gems who are trying their best in an oversaturated market – it’s just not enjoyable to watch. Until things change and a new meta is found, I think I’ll be staying off Twitch.