Twitch lacks quality and basic functionality when compared to services like YouTube. Normally, this isn’t a problem for community-driven content. But when it comes to eSports, this difference can ruin a viewing experience.
When Overwatch announced their exclusive broadcast deal with Twitch.tv, many fans were excited. I was disappointed. Why? Because I hate watching eSports on Twitch. And no, it’s not because I grew up watching videos on YouTube, and thus I may have a bias toward YouTube’s ecosystem. (Although that could still be the case.) It’s because Twitch lacks several key features that can hobble an eSports viewing experience.
A Pause Button That Isn’t a Pause Button
The pause button on Twitch is a joke. Sure, it freezes the screen and cuts off the sound, which is expected behavior for a pause button. But typically when someone hits, “resume,” whether it’s on a VHS, DVD, YouTube video, or another form of media, the video resumes where it left off. But not on Twitch. It jumps right back to live, making you miss everything that happened since pausing.
The pause button might as well not exist. You might as well turn it into a mute button for all the good it does.
“But it’s streaming. You can’t pause a live stream no more than you can pause live television.”
Fair point. Which is why TVs don’t have a pause button. Unless you have a DVR, in which case, yes, you can pause live TV. And when you hit “Play” it will pick up exactly where you left off. Like it should.
To be fair, this kind of functionality isn’t necessary for the average Twitch stream. You’re there to hang out with your favorite streamer, not pause and play like it’s a T.V. show.
But eSports are different.
With an eSport, like any sport, viewers are glued to the action. A certain play or fight could be the pivotal moment between winning or losing. And with eSports, there isn’t always time for a replay. If you miss that fight, you may have to wait for the post-game talk show or the VOD. At which point, why bother?
But I don’t like missing things. So when I’m watching the LCS and the pizza guy comes knocking at my door, I pause the game. Yes, pause it. Because I watch the LCS on YouTube. It doesn’t matter if the homepage automatically sends me to Twitch. I find that little tab in the corner and I switch it to YouTube. Because I can’t control the calls of nature or the calls of family. That pause button is the rock in my uncertain life.
Rewind is the Best
The pause button may be my rock, but rewind is my lifesaver. Sometimes I don’t hit pause in time. Sometimes I space out and miss a key detail. Sometimes I run to the kitchen to grab a beverage thinking I’m safe when my speakers explode with action. In these moments, rewind is my savior. On a YouTube live stream, I can just grab that little dot and slide it back. No worries. No fear. No missed team fights.
Even better, when I fall behind the live stream due to my heavy use of the pause button, I get a reward at the end of the game. You see, when the camera turns to the desk of analysts, clutching their notebooks and babbling to buy twenty minutes for the crew to set up the next match, I can click that live button and start watching the next match right away. It’s a beautiful thing.
But I can’t do that on Twitch. Livestreams don’t have a bar. If the stream lags and jumps several moments ahead, I’m fucked.
Now, you may think I’m spoiled, or that I should pay better attention to my screen when the game is on, but allow me to point out a key failing that affects all eSports viewers:
eSport matches don’t always start on time.
Since many eSports run out of a single venue with each match slammed back to back, schedules are often flexible. The website’s schedule may say 6 pm, but sometimes the game will start at 6:20 pm. Sometimes it will start at 5:50 pm. And if it starts at 5:50 pm, and you show up at 5:59 pm, I’m sorry mate, but you’re going to have to wait a long time to watch that first 9 minutes.
Because you see, even on a service like Twitch where VODs go up the moment the stream ends, you may have to wait hours to see that VOD. Because as I said, eSports often run match after match with no breaks in the stream. Which means if you missed game one out of five, you’re going to have to wait another four hours for that stream to end.
So if life happened and you showed up after the match ended, you’re screwed. You either have to stay up late, wait until after work tomorrow, or give up on that game entirely.
Which is fine… so long as nothing exciting happened.
But hey, you know what wipes away all those problems? A rewind feature. Put that little slider back an hour and boom, good to go. I do it all the time when I’m bored and waiting for the next good matchup.
Not All VODs are Created Equal
Speaking of VODS… Watching VODs is quite possible on Twitch. It’s easy to navigate to, they tend to go up fast, and sometimes you get lucky and the channel owner will cut them down to individual games. Other times you are stuck scrolling through hours of footage with no preview bubble to tell you where you are or where you’re going…
When I find that right channel with the neatly labeled and edited VODs, I sit down to watch them and find myself thinking, “Why? Why am I bothering with this piece of crap media player?”
For one, the quality is usually crap. The full story on that one in the next section.
Two, that Voddamn pause button… I swear, it is the bane of my existence.
You see, on YouTube, and even voddamn Twitter, if you click on the screen of a playing video, said video will pause. This is handy if the cat suddenly decides to puke on your feet and you don’t exactly have time for pinpoint accuracy.
But Twitch can’t even handle that. Clicking on the screen does nothing. Double clicking makes or breaks fullscreen, and then your screen is jumping big and small while you rageclick because all you want is for the video to pause and your cat to stop puking everywhere.
However, once the video is paused you can click on a handy “play” button in the middle of the screen, but all that does is lull you into a false sense of security for the next time you try to click on the screen.
[Insert meme of hair-pulling here] [Leave in note to insert meme of hair-pulling because it is funnier than actually finding a meme] [… I have a shitty sense of humor]
Video Quality Should Never Play Second Fiddle
As I mentioned before, the video quality on Twitch sucks. Here’s why:
Streams going to Twitch are often lower quality. The average Twitch stream is 720p. Even a channel as big as the Overwatch League streams at 720p. YouTube streams and videos these days are almost always 1080p. Sure, Twitch streams can be 1080p, but that’s usually a point channels work up to.
You see, Twitch streams are so unstable that streamers typically don’t stream at 1080p until they have a few things sorted. Otherwise, viewers will automatically attempt 1080p, get really shitty lag, and then bounce instead of turning the quality down.
Which brings me to my next point: Twitch streams are super f*cking unstable. I will have a Twitch stream lag every other minute, and then flip over to the YouTube version of that same f*cking stream and be fine. If the YouTube stream does lag once per hour because internet gnomes are fickle SOBs, I can use that handy rewind feature I mentioned earlier. Because YouTube is f*cking amazing.
Now, you may be reading through my ranting and thinking to yourself, “YouTube has been out for a couple decades. You can’t hold Twitch to that level.”
Well, yes, I can. Twitch, while younger than YouTube, has been successful for years. And they are now owned by Amazon which can provide buckets of money to pull their media player out of the dark ages. Not to mention, Amazon’s backend services are the leading competitor to Google’s backend services (Google owning YouTube) so there is no reason Twitch couldn’t get the resources they need to bring their streaming service up to YouTube’s level.
Twitch has the community. They have the platform. They have the branding. But voddamnit, they don’t have a proper fucking pause button.
So until then, I am going to continue to watch everything on YouTube. Unless I can’t due to voddamn exclusivity deals. In which case, I am going to bitch and rage and write an article about how voddamn stupid Twitch is.
And for anyone in the peanut gallery shouting, “But what about MLG?” 1v1 me in the comments section, bro.