Ask Massively: Ruining the internet

Mike scores one internet-ruining point for every minute he is not wearing a cowboy hat.
Last week, Massively's Larry Everett finished off a miniseries of articles designed to help interested readers learn to livestream. Streaming has become a major part of Massively's purview; we stream about 20 hours a week. So why not use our expertise to help friends and potential future colleagues learn how to play for fun and profit?

Not everyone shares our idealism, apparently. In fact, one commenter told us we are ruining the internet.

Here's what our reader said, abridged for clarity:
You're trying to teach other people how to livestream why exactly? This trend should be viciously curbed along with YouTube let's-plays and game commentary, the abuse of which led to cuts on the YouTube partnership program for the people who create content. You're mooching off other people's hard work (a billion-trillion times harder than setting up a livestream) -- namely, the developers' hard work -- by sticking your face into footage of something that your viewer could just play himself. But by all means, if you love doing it and you have an audience or you think you do, keep at it. That's generally good advice for pretty much everything, right? Have fun slowly but steadily ruining the internet for everyone.

Just to be clear, I'm not quoting this reader's question so that everyone can flame him, which is what happened in the comments. His tone might be acerbic, but the topic is absolutely worth addressing. Why bother with livestreaming at all, let alone with teaching other people how to compete with us?

RIP Zentia. You were actually a much better game than you were given credit for.First, not everyone has the time or money to PLAY ALL THE GAMES. In the span of 15 years, MMOs went from being a genre whose entries were countable on one hand to a genre that is uncountable at all. Rather than spend all your time researching games yourself, you're better off to wander around YouTube or Twitch letting paid experts (not PR shills) give you a hands-on tour and introduce you to something you might not have heard of (or might not have given the time of day had you just seen the title or press release as opposed to the actual gameplay). I've personally stumbled into several fabulous games this way; Zentia, Glitch, and Akaneiro, for example, are all games I was convinced to try thanks to Beau's livestreams. I wouldn't have bothered downloading them had I not seen them being played first, and I would have missed out.

And those games were all free-to-play. An expensive buy-to-play game can pose a hefty barrier to entry to players, especially if it lacks a demo. A livestream is a demo, one the studio didn't even have to pay for. A gamer can just watch a stream to see whether the game looks to be worth her money, and she can watch that stream on the train, on the couch, or at work without actually sacrificing any desktop game time.

Finally, even within a single MMO, most players will never experience all the content. They'll never play all the classes, explore all the zones, complete all the raids, or see all the cutscenes that played for the storyline options they didn't choose. The last time I played Mass Effect 2, I went straight to the intertubes to watch the cutscenes for the romance options I didn't play because I wanted to see whether Garrus was really worth dumping Kaidan. Another example? I stopped raiding in World of Warcraft a few years ago, but I still like to see the raid encounters and plot reveals. Livestreams are the perfect way to enjoy the parts of games you don't have time to play yourself.

Jasmine is our latest attempt to ruin the internet with humor and knowledge.I don't think our streamers are just "mooching" off of game designers' hard work. Most developers are thrilled to see us streaming their games -- free advertising is free advertising. Good livestreamers add value to a playthrough by highlighting a game's best bits and enhancing them with commentary and tips and jokes. It'd be one thing if most streams were just some guy silently farming linen cloth, but our streamers do their best to make the experience entertaining. If they don't, people stop watching.

And that goes for terrible let's-plays and weak commentary on Twitch and YouTube, too. If people didn't want to see them, they wouldn't be getting hits or shrinking the profit margins of other types of videos. I'm not unsympathetic to their plight; I know how frustrated I am when our professional writers work extremely hard on an in-depth game preview and some hack's 30-second video from a third-rate game actually gets twice the hits. But that's just life, and content creators have to adapt. Out of the chaos, we get more and better gaming videos than we've ever had -- yeah, we're in the age of Facebook and lolcats and it can be obnoxious, but it's not as if we had high-quality livestreams back in the days of Geocities and ytmnd.

I think if Larry's series helps even one would-be streamer suck a little bit less (and I mean that with lots of love), then we're doing the opposite of ruining the internet -- we're making it that much better.

For the record, Garrus was totally worth it. Thanks, YouTubers.

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at Just ask!
This article was originally published on Massively.