What does it mean to be authentic on Twitch? Who is real and who is fake on a platform where everybody is a brand, but also where a cornerstone of that brand is the appearance of down-to-earth chillness? This is the implicit question of the week on Twitch, and it’s all thanks to Imane “Pokimane” Anys.
To kick off the week, the superstar streamer released a room tour video in which, as you’d expect, she walks viewers through her PC gaming setup and room. The video is very much in line with Anys’ brand: quirky, but polished to an immaculate sheen. The portion of her room that appears during streams is decorated with all manner of gaming and Twitch-related memorabilia, most of which adheres to a gentle, purple-hued colour scheme. Past that point, her floors are pristine, her bed is made, and her closet(s) are organised. Even her cat’s cat tree looks brand new, which — as every cat owner on earth will tell you — is not a state they remain in for long.
That’s not necessarily to say it’s all some grand façade, however. Anys moves through the space with an easygoing, self-deprecating humour and is upfront about why she’s doing this now.
“I try not to showcase too much just for security purposes — until I’m about to move,” Anys says in the room tour video. “And then that’s when I do my room tour. I am moving in three days. Really, really excited. A little bit nervous.”
It’s a truth of streaming fame and fortune that big names infrequently acknowledge: some people try very, very hard to dox and swat famous streamers. These sorts of threats force many to overhaul how they live their entire lives. Coincidentally, this subject was recently discussed in stomach-churning detail by the biggest streamer who decided to parody Anys’ room tour: current Twitch king Félix “xQc” Lengyel.
Lengyel, who recently moved due to “daily” police swattings, panned his webcam around his current (temporary) room during a July 5 stream, revealing a dual-monitor PC setup surrounded by half-eaten food, partially consumed beverages, and trash, strewn across both a desk and the ground. This was meant as a clear counter to Anys’ impeccably put-together space, which left Lengyel distinctly unimpressed.
Viewers in chat were equal parts amused and grossed out by Lengyel’s temporary lodgings. On Reddit, commenters criticised him for making a mess while technically a guest in somebody else’s home (he’s currently living with Chance “Sodapoppin” Morris and other streamers), while others made note of the fact that he’s a millionaire. One user basically summed it all up.
“Good lord, the dude’s net worth is in the 8 figures and he lives like a college student getting a grocery allowance from mum,” one Redditor wrote. “Man just wants to shitpost and play video games. I respect it.”
Lengyel is not alone in this regard. Asmongold, Twitch’s premiere World of Warcraft (and now Final Fantasy XIV) streamer, also has a reputation for leaving empty food bags on his desk despite being wealthier than 99.9% of broadcasters on Twitch. While some find it hard not to poke fun at rich streamers recreating the “guys really live like this” meme, others sympathise. For example, after a day of playing Rust, fellow streamer and current Lengyel housemate Nick Polom posted his own room tour to Twitter yesterday.
“I know we give, like, xQc and a lot of gamers, like Asmon, a lot of shit for having desks that are kinda dirty, but yesterday me and [fellow streamer] Malena, we played Rust for 12 hours,” he said. “We rarely ever play games. Look at the aftermath.”
Polom proceeded to reveal two desks strewn with food detritus, cans, and wrappers. “This is just one day of playing games 12 hours a day,” he said. “Imagine if we played more often.”
— Nick Polom (@nmplol) July 6, 2021
This prompted an outpouring of similar responses from other streamers.
“This is me after two hours,” said actress, musician, and streamer Sasha Grey.
Some people maintain their spaces better than others. This can be a product of time, mental health, or any number of other issues. But on Twitch, it’s also come to signify — even if only in a tongue-in-cheek way — a form of authenticity. If you’re a gamer on the grind at all times, the thinking goes, you’re not always going to have time or energy to clean up after yourself. Some, like Lengyel, seem to almost take pride in it — or at least, in the form of gaming-focused authenticity it represents. Audiences, too, see this distinction; much of Lengyel’s appeal lies in the fact that he’s basically the antithesis of more polished productions like Anys, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, and other top streamers who have followed in the wake of Twitch’s ascension into the mainstream. He’s edgy and chaotic — a throwback to Twitch’s early, (almost) anything-goes days.
But it’s all ultimately performative, because every moment anybody spends on Twitch is a performance. Nobody is being their full, real selves during a livestream no matter how much they pretend otherwise. Being prim and proper is branding, but on a platform that prizes perceived authenticity above most other qualities, so is being a messy gamer. Lengyel is no more or less “real” than Anys, an unflappable, ubiquitous brand, but also a real person who has previously been unafraid to address touchy subjects like misogyny, her relationship with fans, and her own past as an edgy teenager. Their brands are just different, in some ways out of choice, in others out of necessity. Women, for example, are conditioned from childhood to be clean and are judged more harshly by society when they’re not. If you’re a man — especially one in his 20s — it’s basically expected that you’re going to be at least a bit of a slob. But that’s just one small example.
These approaches to appearance and aesthetic open up different opportunities. Anys can link up with every major mainstream brand imaginable without being deemed fake or a sellout by her audience, because it fits her polished image. Lengyel can ink deals with questionable gambling companies and not lose the trust of his audience, because they view him as a blend of messy edginess and harmless guilelessness. These statements are not value judgements; they are simply examples of how two very different streamers have adapted their brands to make a system work for them. On Twitch, appearances matter, and even a pile of trash on the ground can help you get ahead if you know how to use it.