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Using Twitch as a Platform for Bridge
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My generation (and all subsequent ones) grew up in the golden age of video games. I was raised on the Nintendo 64 in elementary school all the way to life-like computer and console games today. While some say video games and other similar forms of technology that allow for instant gratification are a part of the reason why Bridge isn't popular amongst the youth today, I argue that we have to embrace it and get with the times. This became very apparent in 2018, when gaming took a giant leap forward with regards to its place in society, but more on that later.

In addition to actually playing video games, a popular way for kids to enjoy the gaming experience is to actually watch someone play the game while they commentate on it, interacting with the viewers at the same time. This concept of "Let's Play" was aided by the creation of a website called Twitch, which is a platform that allows you to stream yourself gaming (or doing anything, for that matter) while others watch and interact with the streamer. As the biggest streamers can actually make revenue from subscriptions and ads, professional streaming has become a thing, but before 2018, the real revenue was coming from these streamers posting their highlights to YouTube, a more established platform that everyone's familiar with.

Anyway, why am I focusing so much on last year, and what does it have to do with Bridge? A game by the name of Fortnite took off and dominated the headlines in 2018 as it quickly became a worldwide sensation. In March, a streamer by the name of Tyler "Ninja" Blevins teamed up with insanely popular rappers Drake and Travis Scott and Pittsburgh Steelers star Juju Smith-Schuster for a game of Fortnite that shattered the records for most concurrent viewers on Twitch. Ninja has become a big celebrity over the past few months, gracing the cover of an ESPN issue into the world of e-sports and even appearing on multiple late-night TV shows. What Ninja (and others) have done is bring gaming into the mainstream and make Twitch one of the biggest websites in the world.

Okay, we're almost at the Bridge part now. As someone who spent way too much time in high school and college playing the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series, I was ecstatic to discover that there's a PC version of the game that offers all the songs (and more) in one place. I quickly flocked to it and decided to stream myself on Twitch so that I'd be able to interact with friends and random viewers while playing.

While I do love those games (and still stream it sporadically), the game that I've been playing the most over the past few years in my free time has been Bridge, so I started thinking about how I could stream myself playing Bridge on BBO and maintain close to the same entertainment value. People streaming themselves playing Bridge on Twitch has happened before, but most of that content has consisted of them playing against the robots. The problem with streaming a game against robots is that a) the robots are mediocre and not representative of your everyday Bridge player and b) they play way too fast. Therefore, I sought out different ways I could use BBO to make the game of Bridge enjoyable, and here are some things I've done so far or plan on doing in the future:

  1. Playing hands against real players while commentating on it (I've done this with my regular Speedball partner and with friends in just-for-fun games)
  2. Commentating as a kibitzer on popular BBO tables (more serious ones like JEC/RFP matches and the comedic ones like kaplanStyl and co.)
  3. Teaching the game (still in progress, but I'm trying to piece this into a logical series of videos) to those who have never played Bridge before and want to learn. After finishing my introductory series, I plan on diving into more advanced series for experienced players on a variety of topics, such as conventions, defense, and so on.
  4. (FUTURE plan) Reviewing hands that I've played at the club and/or at major tournaments (I'll probably roll this out after getting back from Memphis)
  5. (FUTURE plan) Commentating on a VuGraph match (I plan on trying this out next month with the Vanderbilt in Memphis)

All in all, I expected minimal reception to my Bridge streams but surprisingly, I've been able to interact with quite a few people since I started. The viewers from BBO have enjoyed it and I've also come across some Juniors who discovered the streams through Twitch and have stopped in to offer their takes on what I or others are doing at the table. It's been very enjoyable and I look forward to continue to do these streams in the future. Perhaps my experience will convince others to take the leap and use Twitch as a platform for reaching the next generation of Bridge players. I'd be happy to connect with anyone who would like to do so.

If you're interested in watching (whenever I'm streaming), feel free to create a Twitch account and follow me at the following channel: https://www.twitch.tv/bridgeoverlord201. Just a fair warning, I don't have the best filter when streaming, so I occasionally curse throughout my videos. Considering I normally do that when playing on BBO anyway, I'm not going to go out of my way and censor myself, but just a heads-up for anyone who has a problem with it.

Thanks and happy Bridging!

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