Twitch club brings gaming to school

[Sometimes after-school activities are the perfect vehicle to engage student interests. In this LA Times article the students started a club using the web tool – Twitch – in order to promote their interest in gaming.]

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Brayden Foxhoven reacts to action in a “Minecraft” game during a lunchtime Twitch Club at Viewpoint School in Calabasas. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

By Paresh Dave

Seventh-grader Brayden Foxhoven hurries to finish his chicken fingers. He has bases to capture. Gems to collect. Viewers to entertain.

And he knows better than to break the cardinal rule of playing video games at middle school: Don’t spill your lunch on the keyboard.

Foxhoven and his Viewpoint School classmates are getting an education in Twitch, the app that lets anyone stream their game play for the world to watch.

This school year, the private school in Calabasas formed a Twitch club — a weekly gathering that has quickly become as popular as established clubs for Spanish speakers and “Harry Potter” fanatics.

Where students who toiled on computers during lunch were once the audiovisual club nerds, Foxhoven and his dark blue Twitch hoodie are among the cool on campus. Even high schoolers are jealous of the lunchtime gaming privilege, which occurs about once a week on the school’s complex bell schedule.

“I didn’t expect people to want to do the club,” Foxhoven said. “I didn’t expect the 25 sign-ups. It was unimaginable.”

The Twitch Club — which the Amazon.com-owned company believes is the first middle school group named in its honor — reflects gaming’s emergence into the mainstream.

“Gamers are leading the cultural vanguard,” said Twitch marketing chief Matthew DiPietro. “The school’s endorsement acknowledges what most people under 35 already know, which is that gaming is a large, integral part of pop culture.”

Foxhoven got the idea in September during the first week of classes when he wore the same Twitch hoodie each day. Some two dozen strangers complimented him over the sweatshirt, gifted by a family friend at the San Francisco firm.

“Cool! You do Twitch? Are you going to make a club?” students would ask him. “I said, ‘Sure why not?’” recalled Foxhoven, 13.

But he faced resistance from school officials, who’d never heard of Twitch but knew of gaming’s associations with laziness and violent behavior. In a couple of weeks of daily meetings with Foxhoven, they also questioned whether broadcasting online would threaten students’ privacy and safety — not to mention the risk they would be exposed to the kind of bad language that seeps into any online comment section.

A discouraged Foxhoven considered hosting an unofficial, after-school club at his dad’s video production studio.

But Foxhoven offered one last pitch to Casey Dodd, the school official in charge of approving clubs. He showed that 30 students backed him and explained that gaming was core to their lives and aspirations. Dodd loved it.

“We have tons of clubs, but we have a solid five or 10 that gather the most energy and intensity,” Dodd said, placing Twitch Club in that category. “The tech ones are definitely on the up and up.”

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