Press Play to Start: Streamer Awards offers new model for esports events

We’re almost done with the semester!

Can you believe how fast it went by? I swear, there’s something about in-person classes that just makes everything go by in such a flash.

To be fair, it also has been a while since I’ve last written one of these columns. But don’t worry dear readers, I’ve been paying attention to the things that have happened around the esports scene and the gaming industry in general (and totally not neglecting my responsibilities to start a new run in “Elden Ring” for the third time, OK?)

All jokes aside, some interesting things did happen. And, since the Oscars just aired this Sunday, I’ll take the opportunity to talk about another award show. 

Yes, you guessed it, I’ll be talking about The Streamer Awards.

For those of you who don’t know about the awards, let me explain: Much like the actual Academy Awards, The Streamer Awards were created to celebrate streaming culture. As such, the event honored both content creators and games, regardless of platform or website. 

There were various categories, ranging from niche ones, such as Best Strategy Game Streamer, to more popular ones, such as Streamer of the Year. This ensured that, regardless of your particular tastes, there was still a streamer or award category that you enjoyed. 

The main difference between The Streamer Awards and other similar shows, however, is that the former was created by Twitch streamer QTCinderella. In other words, instead of an outside organization coming in and deciding how to run the event, it was led entirely by streamers themselves. 

While that might have been a recipe for disaster, considering how streamers are not usually involved in the creative process, the actual event proved otherwise. With streamers having free reign over how the show played out, the entire ceremony suddenly had a relaxed and fun vibe, which would have been impossible to replicate artificially. 

People cussed, called each other out and genuinely acted as they did on stream, making the audience feel right at home. When streamers did get serious or offer a nice speech about the state of the industry, it felt even more special, since the viewers were not bombarded with formality from the start.

The event’s success becomes clear once we look at the numbers. With an average audience of 260,000 viewers throughout the entire event and a peak of 380,000 viewers, the stream broke Twitch history, being one of the top 50 most-watched streams of all time on the platform. 

There has been some controversy following the actual winners, with some communities feeling cheated. Still, taking into consideration the winners were largely decided by popular vote, some creators feel as if fans only have themselves to blame. Overall, though, the stream was a resounding victory for the streaming community at large.

Now, if you’ve read my columns, you’re probably bracing yourself for me to say something about the esports community, right? After all, it’s high time for me to write some blatant segue like, “how can the esports industry learn from this?”

Well, dear reader, I am happy to say that you can rest easy: I’m not planning on asking that question (at least for this one column. My corny transitions have become sort of a staple, you know). This is because esports was already recognized in categories such as Best Super Smash Bros. Streamer, Best Valorant Streamer and Best League of Legends Streamer, among many others. 

Sure, they’re not necessarily celebrating professional athletes. But by having esports alongside other categories, the ceremony helps in legitimizing the industry as part of a greater, vibrant ecosystem. That goes in direct contrast with how esports is usually seen: a different and separated world from casual gaming. While that might help plan events, since only big esports fans would attend the tournaments, that severing also makes the entire industry seem unapproachable to newcomers who already enjoy video games, let alone those who barely know anything about gaming.

By reinforcing the fact that esports is still a part of the gaming ecosystem, The Streamer Awards destroy that barrier, bringing both worlds together once more, and reminding hardcore and casual fans alike where esports came from in the first place. Does that lead to weird dissonances where pro Super Smash Bros. players are side-by-side with VTubers styled after anime girls? Certainly. But if gamers love both creators, it might just be better to bite the bullet.

Because of this, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight this ceremony and what it did right. After all, while I have given plenty of unsolicited advice to the industry throughout my columns, it is rare to come across a successful alternative to the current status quo.

Instead of concentrating power at the hands of the gaming companies and using streamers as a marketing tool, the streamer awards offered a vision of what happens when the creative power is at the hands of those who have to interact with the audience for a living.

Plus, like I mentioned before, it also does wonders to the actual gaming niche communities it serves. By bringing everyone together, it makes every single group feel respected and celebrated, while also opening the door for people to discover new interests that they previously thought were inaccessible, such as hardcore esports. This, of course, makes the event a true ceremony of the gaming community as a whole. 

While this dynamic won’t work for every form of esports event, it shows an alternative path — one that puts the creative force behind the artists themselves — is still possible and highly enjoyable, even if that means giving a bunch of drunk streamers full control over the ceremony. 

After all, as Will Smith himself proved during the Oscars, things are more fun if they go a little off the rails. 

Guilherme Guerreiro is a junior writing about esports. His column, “Press Start to Play,” runs every other Tuesday.