Are you a complete noob when it comes to Twitch and haven't a clue why everyone seems to be talking about it? We've got the low-down for you.

Nearly every single person who plays video games will at some stage or another have heard the dreaded mantra: “you’re wasting your time with those things!”

Whether it comes from a concerned parent, a significant other or anyone else who just simply doesn’t ‘get it’, the sentiment that video games are a waste of time isn’t just unfair – in this day and age, it’s inaccurate.

The stereotype of your typical gamer is an overweight shut-in existing on a diet of Mountain Dew and Doritos with bad skin. However, that stereotype is not only old enough to drive a car and vote by now, it’s probably putting its first kid through university.

It’s common knowledge that the earnings of the video game industry dwarf those of other entertainment avenues. But video games have struck out beyond the boundary of being a mere pastime; eSports – that is, professional video game leagues – have become a massive business.

Meet the professionals

Pro game players compete in tournaments watched by literally millions of people. The games they play – Dota 2, League Of Legends, Starcraft, Counter Strike: Global Assault and more – require athlete-level commitment and confer grand prizes on the winners. The channels fans use to tune in are seemingly endless, but one platform stands out above the others – Twitch.

Twitch is essentially a game streaming website that functions in the same way as a social network. You sign up, enter your gaming preferences, and Twitch points you in the direction of streamers that you’ll probably be interested in. Are you a Call of Duty-head? Twitch has a vast selection of channels you can subscribe to. Fancy checking out how the Hearthstone meta-game is shaping up? Twitch has you covered there too.

The more you use Twitch, the more the site’s algorithms work to cater to your tastes. It functions as a conduit for users’ interests and this isn’t limited to just watching other people play games. While Twitch began as a video game streaming site, the service has expanded to allow users to set up a structure that allow channel owners to offer more varied content. You can watch livestreams of games, find hints to get you through games, talk shows and more. Twitch has evolved to become a bona fide gaming hub.

Twitch has turned into the means to make a living for some lucky folk. While it might boggle the mind of earlier generations, yes, people can actually make money playing games and streaming them to their audience. But there’s no foolproof business model; you can’t just open an account, pick a game, start playing and wait for the money to roll in.

Like any social media platform, the successful have a USP. Whether they’re a fan who can spot trends in a meta-game, or a shooter addict looking for their next fix or even someone who is really terrible at games and isn’t ashamed to put that out there – as long as what they’re doing is entertaining and draws an audience, they can earn money through sponsorship deals, donations, advertising and affiliate deals. Not every single Twitch channel star earns enough to quit their day job, but some dedicated souls – running a channel take a lot of hard work – have managed to trade the rat race for their gaming chair.


Meet the fans

Perhaps the biggest question for the uninitiated is, ‘why on earth would someone want to watch other people play a video game?’ The answer is simple, really; video game fans view their past time in much the same way as sports fans view theirs. Anyone can have a kickaround on a public football pitch, but that doesn’t mean they’ll ever play at the Emirates Stadium. In much the same vein, just because someone has logged a ton of hours in Starcraft 2’s multiplayer, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll find themselves in the final four at the SC2 championship at BlizzCon.

But beyond the competitive nature of gaming, Twitch attracts vast swathes of viewers because it’s fun and informative. Players use it for everything from picking up tips on how to become better at certain games, how to get past a particularly tricky section of a game, or simply to have a laugh at some of the hilarious events that can take place when gaming goes off script.

Games may have once been seen as the go-to entertainment for recluses. But, thanks to phones like the Razer 2, gamers are no longer confined to their bedrooms and thanks to services like Twitch, games are more social than ever.

Download Twitch for your iPhone or Android device (free)