This month’s GLAM Blog Club theme is happiness. Thinking about what makes me happy I reviewed my after work ritual of catching up on my YouTube subscriptions. Since Natalie Tran hasn’t uploaded anything recently I was watching an edit of Bajo’s Twitch stream and couldn’t help but smile. I then got to thinking, are we archiving any of this? As some of you may know, for a librarian business is pleasure1, so why wouldn’t thinking about archives make me happy?
I put a call out on Twitter but it seems no one in Australia (or outside of) is capturing Twitch streams in an archival sense. Sure, Twitch offers some type of ‘archive’ however in 2013 it became an opt-in feature, and they regularly delete past videos. This is probably due to the fact the company had over 2 million monthly broadcasters and over 355 billion minutes of footage in 2017. While storage is cheap, it’s not that cheap. Which lead me to the question: can and should Australia archive Twitch streams?
I’ll split my very rough answer into two parts – can and should. It should be noted that my knowledge of digital archival practices in Australia is theoretical at best, and I welcome anyone with practical knowledge to set me right.
Note: The main (probably only) Twitch streamer I watch is Bajo (AKA Steven O’Donnell, AKA That guy from Good Game) so forgive me for using a majority of examples from his stream.
Can we do it?
We have the technology
Let’s look at the practical side first, as that’s probably the easiest and most grounded question to answer. Can an archival institution in Australia successfully archive digital video? Yes, we already to it through places like State Libraries, National Archives of Australia (NAA), and the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA). The only problem, like Twitch itself, is HDD space and video formats.
Our second technical question is how do we collect this material? The most obvious way would be for user submission as pointed out by Matthew Burgess, having the Twitch streamer save and upload their video files directly. Alternatively we could look at something like Webrecorder and scrape the video, but I feel user based submission would give a better quality and be less involved.
The problem comes in terms of recording the chat log that goes along with each stream as this slightly disturbing Rick and Morty Twitch parody shows us (sorry it was the best example I had to hand of how the chat is an important part of the stream). Compared to this example where there is no chat you can see how some things are left out of context. It seems that in 2016, Twitch implemented a feature called ‘Chat Replay’. I am unsure how this exports into a file that could be viewed alongside the archived stream, however something like Chatty could be used to create a text version that users could view alongside.
Fair Use ≠ Fair Dealing
So we have the possibility of capturing and storing streams, along with some ways to save the chat, be it as an accompanying text file or possibly embedded in the video itself. Now the real problem of how is copyright.
It seems Twitch straddles the glorious wonderland that is “Fair Use” and EULAs. Music, it seems, is the biggest copyright problem for streamers, and we all know how free and generous music publishers are with online content . While this problem should mean that streams we want to archive are free from infringing music, the issue becomes gameplay footage.
Australia’s Fair Dealing laws don’t cover live-streams of video games even if the user is someone like Bajo as his streaming style, while humorous, isn’t actually a parody or satire of the game he’s streaming.
That said, the NFSA already have copyrighted material in the archives and leaves the permission for re-use down to the client. I don’t know the ins-and-outs of the NFSA but this might work in our favour, we could potentially archive the material and sort out the copyright later.
So theoretically, most things are in place to archive the streams, but should we?
Should we do it?
In looking around it seems that the NFSA is the best place for this content, especially as they are apparently archiving Youtube videos (PS get permalinks NFSA) already. Lets see if Twitch streams meet their collection development policy(PDF). It should be noted that I’m not telling the NFSA how to do their job, just exploring if Twitch streams could be considered something they would archive if they so chose to.
One of the guiding principles of the NFSA is:
“Collect audiovisual works and associated documentation that reflect all aspects of Australian experience and our diverse communities” - NFSA Collection Development Policy 2017, p.5.
I can see that Twitch streams fit that quite well, being a rather large niche experience both globally and in Australia.
The Collection Development Principles (4.1) give us a nice list to check against based on the National Film and Sound Archive Act 2008. The Act requires that the NFSA acquire Australian and Australia-related material that represents:
‘A cultural and historical record’
A series of four hour plus recordings of Australian gaming life probably covers this point, right?
‘A record of Australian creative and technical achievement in the audiovisual context’
I’m no expert but something like this, or this, or even this, might fall under this purview (slight language warning on those last two links). Plus if you’ve ever seen a Twitch streamer’s setup, that alone is a technical achievement if ever I saw one.
‘The role, nature and status of audiovisual media in society’
I feel that Twitch represents a strong shift in all three, given that back in 2015 an Australian streamer had 50,000 followers and the ABC reported on it. Coupled with stats showing that Twitch in general was gaining more viewers than free-to-air television (this is of course a global stat, but it can be argued that there are no borders when it comes to the internet).
‘Australia’s regional association, influence or context’
This one could be seen from a few different angles. We can see Twitch as a global platform and archive examples of Australian content to show our impact on the movement. When Twitch streams are getting more and more attention it would be good to see what Australian’s were doing at the time (cooking souffles apparently).
Additionally, you can look at how Australian made games are being played on Twitch by non-Australian’s. Capturing streams of gameplay, social commentary, and even cultural differences would be interesting. Who wouldn’t want to see an American deal with the beauty that is the Boganella (strong but bleeped language warning on that). Like back when the Australian government actually funded the Australian video game industry (RIP 2K Australia, and Team Bondi) you could capture streams of things like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, or LA Noir.
So from a very cursory look it seems that Twitch covers most of the things the NFSA are looking for, which is exciting. There is one small detail that I realised as I was writing this, what do we archive?
Videos vs Clips vs YouTube
Looking at the way people distribute Twitch streams I began to realise that there was more than just the live stream being kept. Most streamers put their latest streams up, un-edited on their page (called videos). From that, highlights can be made by the streamer or fans (called clips), which are nice easily digestible videos varying in length but are just small moments. Lastly, some streamers heavily edit their videos and upload them to YouTube, which become a highlights reel but also change the nature of the stream itself being much shorter, condensed, and missing a lot of context (chat stream, interactions, running gags, etc.). Getting streamers to deposit full videos of their streams may inundate the archives with massive files as streamers can record several times a week. Yet, only capturing highlights removes some of the full Twitch experience. This brings us to a question of selection.
With so many streamers how do we know who to archive? We could look at subscriber numbers and only archive users over a certain amount of followers, although we may risk missing out on their early formative streams if they are deleted by the time they rise to the top. You could look at how sponsors are backing Twitch streamers, creating revenue sources, and promotion. Sponsors like ASUS creating the Republic of Gamers - TeamROG could indicate that these streamers might be worth archiving.
The NFSA already do something similar with podcasts, where they are archiving the winners of the Australian Podcast Awards. Perhaps a national Twitch competition could be organised?
I think that Twitch is something that we should at look seriously at archiving, even if it’s just to mark a small blip in the changing media world. Ask a kid under 12 today what their favourite TV show is and they might look at you weird, ask them who their favourite streamer is and I’m sure you’ll get an education.
As usual, time, money, effort, and storage will be the biggest problems, but with the right support it could be done. For now though, I’ll continue to watch Twitch streamers and dream of an archived and happy future.
Skip to time stamp 12m 40s. Campaign podcast makes me SO SO happy but this is a 2k word article on Twitch archives, you don’t want a 10k word blog post on why you should listen to Campaign…or do you.