An Exploration of Mental Health Discussions in Live Streaming Gaming Communities

Reesha Gandhi, Christine L. Cook, Nina LaMastra, Jirassaya Uttarapong, Donghee Yvette Wohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Live streaming is a unique form of media that creates a direct line of interaction between streamers and viewers. While previous research has explored the social motivations of those who stream and watch streams in the gaming community, there is a lack of research that investigates intimate self-disclosure in this context, such as discussing sensitive topics like mental health on platforms such as Twitch.tv. This study aims to explore discussions about mental health in gaming live streams to better understand how people perceive discussions of mental health in this new media context. The context of live streaming is particularly interesting as it facilitates social interactions that are masspersonal in nature: the streamer broadcasts to a larger, mostly unknown audience, but can also interact in a personal way with viewers. In this study, we interviewed Twitch viewers about the streamers they view, how and to what extent they discuss mental health on their channels in relation to gaming, how other viewers reacted to these discussions, and what they think about live streams, gaming-focused or otherwise, as a medium for mental health discussions. Through these interviews, our team was able to establish a baseline of user perception of mental health in gaming communities on Twitch that extends our understanding of how social media and live streaming can be used for mental health conversations. Our first research question unraveled that mental health discussions happen in a variety of ways on Twitch, including during gaming streams, Just Chatting talks, and through the stream chat. Our second research question showed that streamers handle mental health conversations on their channels in a variety of ways. These depend on how they have built their channel, which subsequently impacts how viewers perceive mental health. Lastly, we learned that viewers’ reactions to mental health discussions depend on their motivations for watching the stream such as learning about the game, being entertained, and more. We found that more discussions about mental health on Twitch led to some viewers being more cautious when talking about mental health to show understanding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number575653
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume12
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 16 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)

Keywords

  • Twitch
  • digital games
  • interviews
  • live streaming
  • mental health
  • online communities
  • online discussions
  • self-disclosure

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