It’s not surprising that online gaming is widely popular in Japan. After all, it’s where some of the most legendary game companies were born: Nintendo, Square Enix, Sega, Konami—the list goes on. Chances are, at least once in your childhood, you’ve played a video game that was created in Japan.

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The online gaming community of jikkyousha has risen from that gaming culture and developed into a level of stardom. In fact, popular celebrities, such as voice actors for world-renowned anime, have even begun to produce online gaming content.

Jikkyousha, roughly translating to “a commentator,” refers to a gamer who records and uploads their experience while playing a game. From beginning to end, many jikkyousha create a series, with each part being around ten minutes long, and these can go on for hundreds of episodes.

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Spanning from indie visual novels to mainstream first-person shooters, the different types of playing styles are abundant. What makes jikkyousha so different from other gameplay creators? And why do they have fan bases as big as celebrities?

The sheer volume of content should be enough to vouch for jikkyousha, as many upload as regularly as four to five times a week. Their purely entertaining content is what draws people in. With the screaming fans to prove it, these jikkyousha have risen so far in popularity online that some have millions of followers and participate in promotional events.

The Origins of Jikkyousha

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If you’ve ever seen those Japanese videos where words go across the screen while a video is playing, you’re probably familiar with ‘wwwww’ and ‘笑笑笑笑,’ which is the Japanese equivalent of “lol.” What you may not know is that those expressions stem from a Japanese video-sharing website called Nico Nico Douga, where thousands of users upload content.

“Nico nico” roughly means “smiling,” and “douga” means “video.” The site’s main purpose is to share videos that make people laugh. Unlike YouTube, where various types of content are distributed, Nico Nico Douga is more for the memes, and a majority of the videos are some form of comedy.

That’s not the only type of video it produces, though, as anime has a large influence on the viewer base, and song covers or fan animations are popular as well. As the website particularly caters to those who like geekier topics like anime, manga, and online games, it is a safe haven for those with the same interests.

Jikkyousha Japan’s Gaming Celebrities in Japan gaming

In the midst of all that came the most successful community on the site, which is the jikkyou (referring to online gaming) community. The website features a ranking system that is shown on the homepage, allowing the user to see the top video for that day. Gaming videos are consistently ranked at the top, with these videos getting anywhere from a hundred thousand to millions of views.

Another well-known feature of the website is that comments go across the screen as the video is playing. Whenever a user types a comment during the video, it will appear for future viewers as well, and this is what makes jikkyousha all the more fun to watch. Not only do you laugh at what is happening, but you also see the reactions of others.

Just like those memes nowadays where it’s just a screenshot of a retweet or a clever comment, that’s exactly what it’s like to watch a video from Nico Nico Douga. And thus, ensues more laughing.

The site has since changed a lot as many of its creators have moved to YouTube, but it still maintains its trademark features.

The Appeal of Jikkyousha

Jikkyousha Japan’s Gaming Celebrities in Japan game streaming
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Jikkyousha try their best to be entertaining at all times. This means always talking, maintaining an upbeat attitude, and continuously cracking jokes. Of course, as someone who plays video games for a living, they’re (usually) professionals at any genre.

For certain online games that have no set ending, like Minecraft or Animal Crossing, jikkyousha record their entire playthroughs, and viewers can watch how they develop within the game. It makes the audience feel invested as if they were playing the video game themselves.

As jikkyousha are always trying to produce more content, they pick trendy, new games to play. It’s great for someone who likes to wait for the review of a game before purchasing it. Especially if it’s a genre that you are unfamiliar with, sometimes it’s worth watching some playthroughs to see if you will really enjoy it.

Watching a jikkyousha can give you the same joy as playing the game yourself. Particularly games that are known more for their plots, sometimes it’s easier to just sit back and watch while someone else does the thinking.

The Mystery Behind Jikkyousha

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Japanese people are very careful about publicising any private information. That applies even to influencers who are trying to make a living off their online personality.

That’s why jikkyousha tend to wear masks whenever they show themselves. They keep their faces hidden, even during large events held for them. This is because they want to emphasise their personality instead of their appearance, and it’s a lot easier to produce content freely when no one knows who you are.

Jikkyousha never use their real names either, and many adopt stage names of sorts. These can range from everyday Japanese names to outlandish ones that make them more memorable.

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Some even go so far as to wear sunglasses along with the mask, which would make you think they look suspicious as hell.

In reality, it adds to their popularity as fans love to speculate what jikkyousha look like. Especially if they have windswept hair and a dashing figure, jikkyousha keep their faces hidden as if to protect their attractive image from being ruined.

As most jikkyousha now post on YouTube, they produce a lot of other content besides gaming. Many newcomers don’t even start out as an online gaming channel and have some other sort of main focus on their channel. The trend has changed where they have much more freedom to show their personality, with some making cooking, pet, or design videos.

Virtual Youtubers 4
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Additionally, a new type of jikkyousha has begun to emerge as many have given up their masks and instead use animated characters as a means to hide their identity. Essentially, instead of using a mask to disguise their face, they’re using a computer to erase their entire physical body.

Virtual YouTubers are beginning to rise in popularity, and people are using animated avatars as the face of their channel. While old-school jikkyousha were mainly male, this method is particularly more popular with female jikkyousha, for obvious reasons—being anime girls definitely get more views.

Value of Actual Content

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Jikkyousha love to entertain. In fact, it’s their job. Unlike a lot of other influencers who monopolise on their good looks to win views, a large number of Japanese influencers focus more on their content.

Perhaps because of the popularity of anime and voice acting within Japan, voices are also important when looking to become a jikkyousha. Considering it’s one of the major elements for a video game commentator, your voice can make it or break it when it comes to being popular. Having a unique voice can instantly give you an edge against other jikkyousha.

Despite that, the biggest reason that jikkyousha are so entertaining to watch is because they make pure content. It’s not that their content is “innocent” but that they focus only on the quality of entertainment that they provide.

Today, so many creators utilise materialistic aspects such as their appearance or luxurious lifestyle. Jikkyousha focus solely on having fun while playing an online game, and that reflects in the kinds of videos they produce.

Jikkyousha manage to stay true to their original purpose, which is to share their love of video games and make someone laugh.

The Future of Jikkyousha

As technology continues to advance, the landscape for jikkyousha is likely to evolve as well. Virtual reality and augmented reality games are becoming more prevalent, offering new opportunities for jikkyousha to create immersive content. Additionally, the rise of live streaming platforms like Twitch is enabling jikkyousha to interact with their audience in real time, further enhancing their connection with fans.

Moreover, the cultural impact of jikkyousha is spreading beyond Japan. International audiences are starting to appreciate the unique style and humour of Japanese gaming commentators, leading to a growing global fanbase. This cross-cultural exchange is opening up new possibilities for collaborations and partnerships between jikkyousha and influencers from other countries.

In conclusion, jikkyousha represent a fascinating intersection of gaming, entertainment, and Japanese culture. Their ability to engage audiences through their dynamic personalities and creative content has solidified their place as prominent figures in the online gaming community. As they continue to innovate and adapt to new trends, the influence of jikkyousha is set to expand even further, captivating fans both in Japan and around the world.