The role of wishful identification, emotional engagement, and parasocial relationships in repeated viewing of live-streaming games

From this 2020 paper:

* As viewing and interactions with others increase, audiences develop certain psychological feelings, such as wishful identification with the celebrity live-streamers and emotional engagement with other viewers, which go beyond the vicarious experience of watching a professional play a live-streamed game.

* “Virtual networking provides a flexible means for creating diffusion structures to serve given purposes, expanding their membership, extending them geographically, and disbanding them when they have outlived their usefulness,” and viewers are more likely to learn new ideas in the casual environment, like online communities, than normal social cycles. Thus, viewers put greater motivational investment in viewing live-streaming games when they think the streamer and/or other viewers are helpful in achieving their goal of acquiring new skills and tips. Additionally, the viewers exchange tips and tricks of their own during live-streaming sessions. This exchange enhances their bonds and ultimately helps them achieve satisfaction by accomplishing set goals, such as improving game skills and efficacy. In other words, the viewers and the streamer of the live-streaming games work together to achieve their collective aspiration in playing games, helping them to shorten the skill acquisition process.

* Emotional engagement occurs when a viewer is situated in a fast-paced interactive chatting environment where he or she feels emotionally connected with others and subsequently expresses his or her emotions in reacting to the live-streamer or other viewers (Lim et al., 2015). Therefore, to experience the emotional engagement, the viewer must get to a state of psychological immersion in the live chatting environment with an awareness of others’ presence (Brockmyer et al., 2009). The notion of emotional engagement has emerged as a central component of social TV, which enables viewers of a live-streaming show to feel emotionally connected (Guo, 2018; Hilvert-Bruce et al., 2018) and express their emotions in response to the performer and other viewers.
In terms of triadic reciprocal causation, emotional engagement is an important behavioral factor that represents a new style of behavior (e.g., using emotes in Twitch) people start to learn from others as well as from the rules of the platform. Emotional engagement has emerged as the most conspicuous phenomenon that distinguishes viewing livestreaming shows on YouTube and other live-game platforms from viewing television shows. Observing how viewers are emotionally engaged during a streaming show stimulates one’s own emotional engagement. The SCT of mass communication states that individuals are “easily aroused by the emotional expressions of others” and “seeing others react emotionally to instigating conditions activates emotion arousing
thoughts and imagery in observers”.

* The term parasocial relationship (PSR) refers to a one-sided and long-term intimate relationship that an audience feels toward a media personality or celebrity based on repeated encounters with the performer through mediated reality… PSR can also be reinforced through the process of mutual awareness. Unlike passive entertainment consumption, viewing live-streaming
games may enhance the perceived mutual awareness when the game streamer acknowledges the presence of viewers and/or mention them while broadcasting their show. Unlike traditional celebrities, YouTubers and other live-streamers are empowered to speak with their audiences directly in real-time (Hou, 2019), and this allows for more effective interactivity. Thus, viewing live-streaming games facilitates the development of PSR more than watching other types of content in digital media.

* Emotional connectedness is a psychological state in which users feel they are emotionally connected with other viewers as well as with the streamer of a live-streaming show. The feeling of emotional connectedness comes from the nature of fast-moving live chats with other users who respond to each other’s comments and questions—some of these chats include earnest comments for the streamer. When viewers are situated in the fast-moving live chat environment, they may experience the phenomenon of immersion, or a “mental sensation of engagement” (Shin, 2019, p. 1214) momentarily, which drives them to be actively engaged with others.
Another type of emotional engagement is established through emotional expressions using the so-called emotes, which are used to call for instantaneous emotional reactions, such as surprise, excitement, joy, happiness, or sadness in the streamer and other users. Live streamers also use various techniques (e.g., have bots automatically answer viewers’ questions) to give the impressions that they are responding to their fans’ questions and comments. One of the essential user experiences in viewing a live-streaming game is the sense of emotional connectedness that the user feels while reading and responding to other users’ comments. Viewers of media content develop a sense of emotional connectedness not only with the performers (Russell, Norman, &
Heckler, 2004) but also other viewers who are participating in real-time conversations (Guo, 2018; Hilvert-Bruce et al., 2018; Lim et al., 2015; Shin, 2016). Shin’s (2016) research suggests that viewers who experience a high level of emotional engagement with other viewers, as well as the performer, are more likely to develop a rich PSR with the performer.

Giles’s (2002) conceptual model of the development of PSR clearly explains the role of other users in the PSR process. Giles suggests that other users’ comments continuously update a viewer’s judgments about a media character or a performer during the viewing, which influences the development of PSR with the media character or the performer. A viewer’s ability to understand the emotional reactions of others is also strongly linked to PSR (Davis, Hull, Young, & Warren, 1987). Therefore, if users feel more emotional engagement with other users and the streamer, they will have a stronger sense of PSR with the streamer. Thus,
we propose the following hypothesis:
H2. Emotional engagement has a positive effect on PSR.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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