Fan Community and Celebrity in Video Game Spectatorship

Curator's Note

Often dubbed “queen of the geeks,” Felicia Day rose to internet fame as an early YouTube celebrity, creating and acting in The Guild (2007-2013), which focused on the comedic struggles of MMORPG players. Her major acting credits (e.g., her work with Joss Whedon, her roles as Charlie Bradbury on Supernatural or Kinga Forrester on Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return) have cemented her geeky, quirky star persona. This persona is also on display in her solo YouTube and Twitch livestreams, and while Day’s fans come to watch her play, they also come to have an everyday encounter with her as a celebrity within a participatory fan community. (Day’s streaming with her brother Ryon, and their charitable, supportive fan community, Team Hooman, deserve a post of their own.)

Three of the main stream features that have worked to build this community are Day’s confessionals, rituals, and supplemental game narratives. Day starts streams by chatting informally with fans, welcoming people by their handle as they join. She also answers questions about her acting gigs, creative projects, and personal life. Opening streams this way allows fans to feel as though they are getting access to Day’s authentic self, not a celebrity persona.

Then there are the rituals and supplemental game narratives Day co-constructs with fans while streaming (see the clip). For example, Day encourages her fans to call her out when she dies in game by saying “whiffle” or using the channel’s custom “whiffle” ball emoji; this evolved from her joking when she whiffed a move. Over time, Day added to this ritual, eating a piece of her least favorite candy for each mistake, with fans calling on her to do so. There are also the supplemental game narratives. In her playthrough of Lara Croft: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Day crafted an elaborate, macabre narrative for a deer after feeling bad for shooting animals in game. Enrico the orphan deer got an entire persona and elaborate revenge fantasy narrative as Day played through the game; fans created a song, amigurumi, and children’s book featuring the character.

These rituals and supplemental game narratives give fans real-time access to Day’s geeky star persona, as well as her creativity. These features work to bolster her fandom by fostering a fan community that Day herself participates in. The game being played is less important than viewers’ fan experience.

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