Just thinking about Twitch brings hundreds of headlines and conflicting ideas to mind. From vehement toxicity to genuine kindness, Twitch—the streaming service centered around videogames—certainly runs the gamut of taste. As an institution, Twitch is not without its own issues, but, beneath the thick and venomous layer of racism, swatting and all-too-big streamers espousing dangerous beliefs, there are good folks doing genuinely interesting things with the streaming platform. Some rake in viewers like a dad rakes leaves in the fall, and others are small but deserving of a larger audience. This genuinely great content is sometimes hidden behind the glut of folks who do not deserve to have such a following (plus, the few who should 100% be deplatformed). After Dr. Disrespect got banned from Twitch after streaming in a bathroom at E3—yes, 2019, y’all—there is no better time to point a light towards those who are doing interesting things with the platform of Twitch and within their respective Twitch communities. Here are eight Twitch streamers that you should be keeping an eye on.
Thorlar is a genuinely compelling and gonzo Swedish Twitch streamer whose whole mantra is to remain positive. He says of his Twitch community: “we’re on a journey of daily streams for 10 years, doing charity while just having fun!” and, so far, things have been going swimmingly. As a variety streamer, he uses his platform in various ways—videogames are often involved—and he does consistent charity streams which are, unsurprisingly, successful. Thorlar is a simple example of how Twitch can be used for simplistic fun, positivity and a genuine desire to do good. Plus, Thorlar is upfront about his living with arthritis and he loves cats!
Lara de Witt, aka Lara6683, is an Australian musician who streams herself playing piano covers of popular anime, videogames, and cinema songs on Twitch. Her streams are laid back, full of amazing music and she even plays songs as requested by fans (by a paywall, of course—Twitch is an occupation after all). She is quite upfront with the fact that Twitch is a job and her streaming presence is perfectly set at the crossroads between casual fan and genuine professionalism. Her “live learns,” where she learns how to play a song live-on-stream, are a sight to behold.
ZFG1 is a The Legend of Zelda series speedrunner who is primarily focused on and immensely skilled at The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time speedruns. Their streams are as fun and fast paced as they are informative and bewildering. While ZFG1 never appears on camera during their streams, they are active in their Twitch community. Plus, the streams themselves are essential for anyone wanting to learn more about speedrunning from someone who is knowledgeable about that field of playing videogames, and from someone who is patient and welcoming to fledgling speedrunners. While ZFG1’s streams work as perfect background noise, they are instantly watchable because, sometimes, you might just be able to see ZFG1 achieve a new speedrunning personal best and that, in and of itself, is a sight to behold.
Ezekiel_III, a.k.a. Zeke, is a variety streamer who fully embraces that sensibility. From roleplaying streams like Court of Swords and Nocturne to Indie Sundays, Zeke is a hugely personable and fantastically entertaining broadcaster. Zekonians also know that behind his legendary tirades (and breaking every mouse, keyboard, and controller he’s ever owned many, many times), Zeke is a good-natured and fun-loving personality who enjoys interacting with his familial community. You may catch him playing current titles, dressing up as characters, winding down with online blackjack, or acquiescing to absolutely mad donation incentives to raise money for St. Jude’s Children Hospital, but no matter what Zeke is up to it’s usually well worth watching. —Allison Keene
Ashley, MsAshRocks, is a variety Twitch streamer who specializes in first-person shooters, battle royale titles, RPGs and single-player experiences. She regularly plays with and interacts with her growing community, and her aura of positivity feels almost necessary in 2019. On top of her screen presence, she makes playing all forms of videogames welcoming to both seasoned videogame players and newcomers alike. Her personal community is varied, fun and she is also open about her sponsors and that—besides her work as a computer technician—Twitch is a form of self-employment. Plus, as a black female streamer on a service that is overflowing with all-too-awful white dude streamers, her presence is a breath of fresh air. But her content speaks for itself, as she is one of the most invigorating and fun streamers to watch on Twitch, period.
As noted in our recent profile piece, SourkoolaidShow is an endearing carnival of the absurd. Host DP has created a unique environment that is most certainly on the fringes of the Twitch experience, but to the generals and senators who call it home—with a refrain of “Strength and Honor!”—it’s a refuge. DP’s surrealist and unique play style (is he a comic genius or a truly terrible gamer?) coupled with themed streams like Movie Nights, guest star comedians, or even streams featuring one of DP’s many characters (like the cowboy Bart or Wally the Wizard) always keep things interesting. SKS is not for everyone, but experiencing DP’s brand of entertainment with his close-knit community is reliably welcoming and hilarious. —Allison Keene
Heather Alexandra is a trans videogame critic, editor at Kotaku, and former Paste contributor whose perspective and critical acumen has made them one of the most interesting figures in all of the modern gamespace. Using Kotaku’s Twitch channel as a jumping off point, Heather now streams pretty regularly, and the streams are fun, informative, critical, and still, somehow, relaxed. Heather’s Twitch presence is wholly original in that the streams are somehow as critical or as relaxing as you want them to be. Heather’s YouTube work in the gamespace deeply informs their Twitch streams, and this is for the better. Heather’s work sits comfortably between academic and welcoming, and by doing so, these streams are for anyone and everyone, regardless of your experience with games. There is always a new lens with which to view videogames and Heather helps carve those new paths.
Ablegamers is a twitch channel, community, and charity started by Steven Spohn centered around normalizing disabilities, pushing developers and manufacturers to think of disabilities when making software and hardware and fighting against ableist rhetoric/motifs. Ablegamers is as much a channel as it is a community, as various streamers take up the host chair when the channel hosts other streamers. But at the end of the day, Ablegamers is grounded in Spohn’s experiences (and those of others) and how anybody should be able to play videogames—no matter the person’s abilities or disabilities. If gaming is truly for everyone, then what Ablegamers does is the way of the future and one of the many first-steps to a greater gaming culture.
Cole Henry is an intern at Paste. Find him on Twitter @colehenry19.