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Watching games online: A dummy’s guide to video game streaming

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June 21, 2019

What started as kids sharing Minecraft videos online has exploded into one of the biggest media revolutions in recent history. Here’s how you can get involved.
     
     
Video game streaming – it’s an activity that is incredibly popular right now. More and more kids are tuning into live gaming streams... and more and more parents are asking, why?
     
Think back to your arcade days... you likely crowded around the best players to see how they defeated Donkey Kong, learn what button combos they used in Streetfighter, or just to see them achieve a high score. 

Well, your kids are doing the same thing today, but instead of fighting for elbow room around an arcade machine, they’re viewing from the comfort of your living room.

What’s driving this phenomenon and how can you get the whole family involved with the fun? 

Streaming services 

Video game streaming services like Twitch have unbelievable traffic and plenty of regular viewers. Streamers can earn money if they’re popular enough, making the dream of playing video games for a living reality and according to some reports e-sports could even be on the cards at the Olympic Games soon.
     
So if you don’t want to sound like a complete dimwit to your kids you’ll want to understand the basics. A ‘stream’ is usually a live broadcast of someone playing a game (‘the streamer’) through a direct feed from their game machine (often a PC). The site they stream from will also have a live text comment feed for viewers to interact with the streamer. 
     
In recent years it’s become the norm to have the streamer sitting at the bottom or to the side of the screen and for the broadcast to be like a show. 
     
This highly interactive format is what’s making the streams so popular as it becomes a social activity as much as an individual one. As a parent, you’ll know if your kid is a gamer or not and rather than swim against the tide it maybe time to get involved yourself. Watching (and playing) video games can be great family bonding if you let it. 

But first, here’s what you need to do to get set up properly to either stream or just watch a stream:
 

Step 1. Check your broadband connection

Make sure you’re on the best broadband connection available at your place. That way, you’ll only groan when someone messes up the game, not when the stream starts buffering in the middle of all the excitement. If you and your kids want to stream yourselves playing games you’ll need a broadband connection with fast upload speeds. We recommend fibre for the best streaming experience. If fibre’s not available, consider VDSL. Enter your address in our broadband checker to see if you can upgrade.

If fibre is available at your place, get on a fibre plan with speeds of 100Mbps or more with unlimited data so you can watch as many games as you like without worrying about interruptions or running out of data.


Step 2. Make sure you’ve got the right kit


If you want to stream yourself and you’re on a PC you’ll need decent hardware like a microphone and camera, streaming software and a free Twitch account to share your gameplay with the world. Gaming consoles like PS4 and Xbox One both have built-in streaming capabilities. For more information on how to stream your gaming sessions, there are plenty of articles online with helpful instructions and tips.

If you just want to watch a stream you’ll need a computer, game console, or even just a smartphone, but if you’re trying to get the whole family involved, a smart TV is probably best. You can watch through an official app (if the service has one) or simply through your browser. 

Step 3. Start streaming or watching

Once you’ve got your broadband connection and gaming set-up sorted it’s time to play - the simplest way to start is to play your kids’ favourite games.

If you just want to watch, streaming services like Twitch let you watch streams for free. Simply search for games you like or check out the top streamers or those currently trending. Fortnite is still one of the most popular games to watch. 

Safety tips

The main demographic for streams is between 12 and 17 years old, so the biggest concern for parents is how to keep their kids safe on these platforms.
     
The simplest way to keep your children safe whether they’re streaming or just watching streams is to check what they’re watching and who they’re interacting with. Talk to them about what they’ve seen or read, and if you see any abuse online Netsafe has a bunch of tools you can use to report it and find help.
 
Now that you know how to get the whole family involved, make sure you’re set up for the best streaming experience. If you don’t already have fibre broadband, check to see if it’s available at your address here

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