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'Interactive streaming will double the size of the games industry'

Genvid's J Eckert on engaging the distracted core gamer with interactive streaming

Streaming has influenced the gaming ecosystem tremendously in the past few years. While much of the mainstream focus has been around personalities and the viral spikes they can cause in the zeitgeist, there are other aspects just as important, (if not more so), that have yet to be fully tapped into by game developers, even beyond the broadcasting of esports.

The concept of playing a game no longer needs to be limited to the person holding the main controller. We need to be more excited about the possibilities of allowing consumers of live streamed content to dynamically engage with the game they are watching, creating a brand new experience for everyone involved.

Entire treatises can be written about the line between core and casual gamers, and diving into that is really not the point of this article. I, for example, consider myself a core gamer, even though there are games or genres I would readily admit I am a casual player of, and other games where I am very much a hardcore enthusiast - the qualifications go on and on.

"Youtube videos and live streams are bite sized game consumption sessions, more easily to drop in and out of than an intense multiplayer match, and can be consumed in parallel to other endeavors"

Perhaps more importantly, while I consider myself on the whole a core gamer, there are entire stretches of months at a time where I barely touch a game at all; have I transformed into a casual for that period? Suffice to say, it's a complex topic and ultimately a subject for another discussion.

Rather than delve into this topic too deeply, it has been my observation that, much to the dismay of many of us, the rest of life can really get in the way of our gaming habits. Even the most avid of gamers can find themselves dropped to few to no hours a week of gaming at times.

In other words, many, if not all gamers (core or casual, or everywhere on the spectrum), evolve through a cycles of phases based on a set of lifestyle factors, and there are new ways we can endeavor to help them engage beyond what's currently available. Currently, the consumption of alternative gaming media like Youtube videos and live streams is the most common outlet for this. These are bite sized game consumption sessions, more easily to drop in and out of than an intense multiplayer match, and can be consumed in parallel to other endeavors (work, homework, etc).

People who consume livestreams and videos are still gamers, and still want to be players, but for one reason or another simply aren't actively playing that game at that time. They are ready to be engaged, we just need to tap into them. Genvid hopes to be that tool to empower game studios to do so, as a way to re-define the concept of player-engagement in their game design.

Active (vs passive) engagement of live streams is a natural evolution of gaming. It is also a new way to feed these players' passions - fit within their lifestyles - while keeping them closely connected to the ecosystem. Watching a live stream no longer needs to be a passive experience. Gamers can now be empowered to play with a game or match, in real time, without ever launching the client, or indeed, without having to first purchase the title with intent to play. They can just as easily dynamically interact with live content in new and exciting ways that have been curated by a developer as part of the core design pillars of a game.

"Active (vs passive) engagement of live streams is a natural evolution of gaming"

Enabling just these kinds of experiences is, in large part, why I've joined Genvid. For the last 4 years of my career, I focused primarily on how to empower and engage the creativity of developers within the ecosystem of League of Legends in order to expand the player experience from within the community. Now, I want to take what I've learned to tap into the same boundary-pushing ideas and creativity-unlocking technologies, but this time turn towards game studios and once again push the scope of game design to further reinvent those experiences.

Currently, if viewers want to engage with players or a live broadcast of a game, their options are limited. They can do little beyond chat with them, and interact with whatever scripts and triggers streamers have setup for donation pop-ups and such, all outside of the game. Even then, all of this is on a delay that varies from a few seconds up to a minute depending on the platform in question and other external factors. With technology like Genvid, the time delay window closes to real-time and opportunity space opens up to direct engagement both within the game and out.

Imagine tuning into a Twitch stream for your favorite esports title: The caster play-by-play is as engaging as always, but the particular player you are most invested in is getting little to no screen time. You don't care about the up-and-coming rookie the broadcast is focusing on. You want to watch and learn from that seasoned veteran you idolize. Then with the tap of a single button, you could pull up a HUD on the broadcast that only you can see, while still native to the stream you are watching. With the tap of an icon your stream is now filled with detailed stats about the player you most care about. You have his current item build, his meta stats, even his historical data for not just that game but the whole weekends series arrayed out in front of you, around the edges of the stream.

... or how about your favorite streaming personality playing that new Battle Royale game you are a die hard fan of. You're at work, and while you have some free time to watch his stream you just can't feed that hungry to dive into a game right now and it's killing you. Fortunately for you, you can still get a taste of that thrill of the action by teaming up with the other views and voting, via UI controls that are part of the stream, and suddenly your beloved streamer find the danger zone circle shrinking faster than expected, or a supply drop coming in at the absolute worst possible point for pretty much everyone, causing a massive firefight to happen in what was an otherwise slow and dull match up until that point.

This is just a fraction of the opportunities available to evolve the streaming concept. 

Talking about these possibilities isn't just a blue sky ideation exercise... it's something already possible now, thanks to the Genvid SDK. Demonstrating this tech to game developers is an inspiring experience to me, as their eyes light up over the new possibilities and their imaginations begin to run rampant with new experience designs. For so long, complex ideas they had were locked away in the back corners of their mind, restrained by tech limitations.

The most creative of the leading game designers are always miles ahead of the rest of us in the industry. The vast majority of games, while stellar experiences, tend to be fairly tamed down experiences vs the crazy moon shots their designers first imagined, as once the rubber hits the road and the real world practicalities of the technology at hand come into play, it's only to be expected.

With the Genvid SDK, the toolbox has been greatly expanded, and a brand new form of media and a re-invented concept of player engagement has been unlocked. With these new tools, core gamers in all stages of life have a new way to engage with their favorite IPs once more, "playing" their games in a way that suits their personal situations.