There are lots of reasons to join a guild in an MMO. You want to rank up together with your members. You want to create raid parties to take on bosses. Or maybe you’re just looking to make new friends to vibe with.
The trifold network of women, Black, and Latin partnered streamers launched last December with the goal of providing more opportunities for historically underserved creators and making Twitch a more inclusive space. Last month at TwitchCon Las Vegas, three of their leaders — the Women’s Guild’s ChelseaBytes, the Black Guild’s JermainePlays, and the Latin Guild’s Elix — joined CEO Dan Clancy on stage to announce that the Guilds are now open to smaller affiliate streamers.
It’s a subtle change that promises big things for the streamer experience, no matter the size of your channel.
Backed by Twitch, the Guilds provide funding, educational workshops, and access to resources for securing coveted (and ideally more lucrative) brand deals. They’ve also helped streamers score elusive front page placement for bigger exposure and viewership. The Women’s Guild, born out of the Twitch Women’s Alliance, currently boasts several hundred members, and that number is expected to grow as affiliate streamers join its ranks. ChelseaBytes hopes in 2024 they’ll work with bigger companies like Herman Miller or an esports org, and that more Guilds will be created based not only on identities, but also interests.
“Having a guild where you're literally putting everybody in a room, you're going to make those connections where they can easily set up a place to collaborate,” ChelseaBytes tells Refinery29. “That is the epitome of Twitch, and that's why you won't really see it anywhere else.”
That push for collaboration and community was also clear at TwitchCon Las Vegas with panels like “The Asian American Experience On Twitch,” “Indigenous Representation In Streaming,” and “The Gayest Panel At TwitchCon,” which dove into shared experiences like familial expectations and maintaining your mental health. They also didn’t shy from tougher topics like combating hate on and off stream. During “Navigating Twitch As An Arab American Streamer,” creators Denims, CapriSunnPapi, and Frogan discussed discrimination after 9/11 and the current Israel-Hamas conflict.
Having the space to hold these conversations is critical in making Twitch a home for everyone, says AshSaidHi, a Women’s Guild member who also moderated the panel “Shattering The Glass Ceiling: Women In Gaming.”
“If we do a panel like this and we constantly talk about it, and we show that we belong in this space, then those topics are not seen as stigmas,” she says. Roughly 200 people attended, and not all of them identified as women, which AshSaidHi finds encouraging. “Coming to TwitchCon and seeing a room that was diverse like that, it's surprising but it's also kind of like, ‘Okay, I feel like I'm in the right space.’”
Creating these kinds of spaces is intentional too, according to Twitch Chief Marketing Officer Rachel Delphin. The panels at TwitchCon were largely curated from a list of ideas submitted from streamers and viewers, and Delphin says Twitch’s internal data suggests this is the kind of content that people want to see at their annual convention.
“For folks who are part of an underrepresented group, the thing that they love about Twitch is that they were able to find a community that broke down the geographic walls that limit who you actually have access to in your life, and they get to live this authentic life with people who get them who love them who support them,” Delphin says.
It’s easy to write off Twitch’s efforts for inclusivity as lip service; the platform has had its share of controversy over the years, including hate raids against trans streamers, and some have said Twitch can and should do more. But Delphin hopes the growing Unity Guilds and TwitchCon’s most recent programming show the authenticity of their initiatives.
“[People who work at Twitch are] missionaries not mercenaries, and it is earnest — our desire to create more opportunities, to create more and better spaces and places — and we are just really dedicated to seeing people get their flowers,” Delphin says. “I totally understand the skepticism, of course, but I hope through our actions and the investments we're making that people see how genuine it is.”
Ultimately what matters is how the community feels — both Delphin and ChelseaBytes say their north star is “community first” — and for streamers on the ground, like TRASH, the feeling is felt.
“It's really nice just to be seen and be recognized and represented, especially in an industry where it's so hard to voice out [your feelings],” TRASH, who moderated TwitchCon’s Asian American panel, says. “ … I'm very glad that Twitch has given me this platform to just be myself and represent the different parts of me.”
“This is the beauty of Twitch,” they add, “that all of these communities can come together and have this space to just be ourselves.”