Akira Matsui, Anna Sapienza and Emilio Ferrara (2019) “Does Streaming Esports Affect Players’ Behavior and Performance?” Games and Culture DOI: 10.1177/1555412019838095 [ACCESS]
In this work, we analyze what effect streaming gameplay on Twitch has on players’ in-game behavior and performance. We hypothesized that streaming can act as a form of implicit incentive to boost players’ performance and engagement. To test this hypothesis, we continuously collected data about all Twitch streams related to a popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game, League of Legends (LoL), and data of all LoL matches played during the same time frame, and cross-mapped the two data sets. We found that, counterintuitively, streaming significantly deteriorates players’ in-game performance: This may be due to the burden of carrying out two cognitively intensive activities at the same time, namely, playing the game and producing its commentary for streaming purposes. On the other hand, streaming increases engagement keeping players in significantly longer game sessions. We investigate these two effects further, to characterize how they vary upon individual characteristics.
Data was scraped using the Twitch API, where the focus was on on League of Legends players. The researchers compared behavioural data from 1,426 streaming players vs 2,168 non-streamers, looking at a range of performance indicators.
“streaming might be a source of distraction for players, taking cognitive bandwidth away from gameplay, as players often comment and try to engage with their audience while streaming.”Tweet
“the survival rate of Twitch users is higher than the users not on Twitch”Tweet
“When the Twitch users do not stream their videos, they tend to play shorter sessions than when they stream. Even though Twitch users’ engagement without streaming is lower, Twitch users still show higher engagement than the users not on Twitch”Tweet
“streaming a match has a positive effect on players’ engagement: Streaming a match leads to play longer matches, and streamers tend to have higher engagement both in the short term and in the long term. “Tweet
“streaming has a major impact on a user engagement in the game, by making users both playing longer and more regularly over time. We have also shown how performance deteriorates over sessions, thus corroborating the extant literature. How- ever, we found that performance decay is mitigated in high-skill players, and that it is not affected by streamer’s popularity.”Tweet
Our Take on it
“Does Streaming Esports Affect Players’ Behavior and Performance? Yes, this study provides some pretty compelling evidence to show that there is some relationship at least between performance and streaming activity. However, it also notes that it is generally the better players who stream, so it may not be causal, so it’s not really that streaming helps performance. Rather, players who stream tend to demonstrate higher levels of competence. As a player, if you don’t stream, then this may be a sign of not being quite at your best. However, if you do stream, it may be a sign that your performance is progressing and that may be the most useful way of applying knowledge from this study. What we don’t quite know is whether lesser players impede their development by streaming too soon” Professor Andy MiahTweet