If you – like me – are fascinated by watching other people eat, observing the glisten on their lips as food glides in, savouring their slurping, and jotting down observations on the motion of their cheeks writhing in mastication but you – like me – are banned from every restaurant in a two-mile radius, good news: you can now watch people livestream themselves eating on Twitch. It’s a curious but not surprising development as Twitch realises people are as much interested in hanging out with imaginary Internet friends as they are watching video games. The phenomenon is already huge in South Korea.
“Having your meal while watching someone else have theirs celebrates something people have done for eons: dining together,” Twitch say in an FAQ. “The spirit of Social Eating is therefore less focused on the act of eating and more on a sense of companionship and inclusiveness.”
Oh sure, before you could sneak in a cheeky Nando’s but you’d have to hope Twitch didn’t wag their finger and tell you off for broadcasting beyond their approved topics – making things and, y’know, playing video games. Now Social Eating is an official sanctioned category.
Streaming eating has been big in South Korea for years, where it’s known as ‘mukbang’. This 2015 BBC report on it is pretty good, if you’re curious. It’s… not for me but I can see why some folks would want to eat pizza at the same time as a favourite streamer, or just watch as they scoffed and chatted. Relationships with broadcasters are growing more intimate-seeming every year. It’s not like the old days, when BBC presenters would pointedly turn away and ignore the camera as they swigged gin from the bottle.
It’s funny – Twitch started as a dedicated gaming spin-off from multi-purpose streaming site Justin.tv but eventually grew so much more popular that they shut down Justin, and now Twitch are creeping back towards Justin territory. The expansion does seem to be focused on expanding people’s relationships with Internet friends, mind, rather than just everything. Sadly, assembling office furniture is still forbidden.
I know what you’re thinking: when will your imaginary Internet friends at RPS get in on this? Unfortunately, rules about not broadcasting gore mean we can’t show our communal treehouse meals where John disembowels a live deer with his bare teeth.