VTubers are on the rise, but is it empowering for women?
Men have primarily dominated YouTube game streaming. However, female gamers have been gaining popularity on the platform for a long time.
However, out of the ten most followed female game streamers, only one is human. What does this mean?
Here we go:
Most Watched Female YouTube Streamers
StreamsCharts published this ranking on X (Twitter):
Japan is dominating the chart — which is an obvious observation.
The “odd-one-out” is, of course, the streamer Valkyrae. When seeing the list on X (Twitter), she said:
“I saw on Twitter there was this graph that said, ‘Top female streamers,’ of a certain week on YouTube. And, I’m like, in the middle. And, I’m the only one from America and everyone else is a VTuber.”
— Valkyrae (via sportskeeda.com)
So, all the other females on the list are vtubers.
That’s worth knowing a little more about, right?
The Avatar Puppetry of VTubers
What’s a vtuber? A VTuber is a virtual youtuber.
Despite all the talk of AI clones and deepfakes, the vtuber avatar is directly operated by a human. For now, at least.
The virtual on-screen avatar is controlled by a real human using facial tracking hardware and a microphone. The hardware registers your facial expressions and voice to animate the avatar in real-time.
In many ways, vtubing is a form of social media puppetry.
And who are these game-streaming puppets? They are, almost without exception, various animé characters.
So, is vtubing Sesame Street for “thirsty” animé fans?
Japanese Culture is Strange Sometimes
Combining girls, school uniforms, animé, game streaming, and large online audiences looking for entertainment has been a recipe for success in Japan — and many other places where animé vtubers are popular.
How much of this phenomenon is an online modern art installation — and how much is a Japanese “weird sex thing?”
“Sex is where the weirdness of the Japanese culture peaks. I should start by saying that the widely held belief that you can buy soiled schoolgirls’ knickers from vending machines is apocryphal, but it certainly could be true. It would hardly be out of character.”
— “Mad in Japan” by A.A. Gill
For context, it’s important to point out that animé is a recognised art form with millions of fans globally. And Japanese fans are no strangers to “real-life” animé characters.
This is Hatsune Miku from 2016:
Enter: Hololive Production
So, who are the people behind these vtube avatars? As it turns out, most of them are run by a Japanese “virtual talent agency,” Hololive Production.
“Hololive Production (Japanese: ホロライブプロダクション) (stylized in lowercase) is a virtual YouTuber agency owned by Japanese tech entertainment company Cover Corporation. In addition to acting as a multi-channel network, Hololive Production also handles merchandising especially in music production and concert organization. As of January 2023, the agency manages 75 VTubers in three target languages (Japanese, Indonesian and English), totalling over 50 million subscribers, including several of the most subscribed VTubers on YouTube.”
— Wikipedia 1Hololive Production. (2023, October 9). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hololive_Production
So, it’s business.
And that’s fine.
However, we should be mindful of portraying vtubers as an empowering aspect of the growing sub-culture of female gamers.
On the other hand, not having to show your face online might be the liberating force the online world of influencers (both male and female) needs.
Perhaps anonymity and “freedom from physical appearance” will unleash the next social media revolution of human expression.
Top 20 Most Popular VTubers
The Future of Online Avatarism
We knew life-like avatars were coming, but still, Mark Zuckerberg was able to amaze most of us when showcasing Meta’s technology via Lex Friedman’s podcast.
Your avatar can do many things you can’t (or won’t) do. Whether it resembles you exactly, a better version of you, or not, the future of avatarism seems to be coming. 2Anubhav. (2023, October 9). Meta is reportedly paying celebrities millions of dollars to use their personality as AI Chatbots. Gizmochina. … Continue reading
|Hololive Production. (2023, October 9). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hololive_Production|
|Anubhav. (2023, October 9). Meta is reportedly paying celebrities millions of dollars to use their personality as AI Chatbots. Gizmochina. https://www.gizmochina.com/2023/10/09/meta-paying-celebrities-avatar-millions/|