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Vtubers on Twitch are a perfect match for the ‘hot tub meta’

Vtubers flex their creativity

a really buff cartoon Shiba Inu leaning back in a hot tub Image: BuffPup/Twitch
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Tinkering and experimenting with new forms of content is nothing new to the virtual entertainers known as Vtubers. Whether it’s trying out new poses and styles, or using animal avatars, these creators always seem a little ahead of the livestreaming curve. So while you can find Vtubers in the new hot tub category on Twitch right now, it would be a mistake to assume these digital creators are just hopping on the latest trend. Virtual entertainers have been hanging out in swimsuits and relaxing by the pool for a while now, well before the concept of hanging out in a tub became controversial on Twitch.

Vtubers can design their character or model from the shoulders up, along with creating entire sets for their characters. Slotting a virtual character into a hot tub background was an inevitability on Twitch. BuffPup, a Vtuber who streams using a cartoony, muscular Shiba Inu, started doing hot tub streams as far back as a year and half ago. Initially, the set was a joke for viewers that aimed to provide a chill virtual ambiance.

“I think more people come in just to interact and talk without there being a distraction,” the streamer told Polygon via Twitter. In the video, the dog casually leans back in a classic wooden hot tub, taking questions from people who are there to hang out and chat with BuffPup. When a viewer asks if they can buy their bath water, BuffPup furrows their brow as their face reddens.

BuffPup has been doing hot tub streams for a while, but the recent controversy and subsequent new category on Twitch has piqued the interest of the wider Vtuber community. Lemonade, a Vtuber who streams as a cute pink moth, downloaded free assets from an artist named Catecatboy that depicted a high-end jacuzzi tub. Doing a dedicated hot tub stream was just a matter of switching to the bikini version of her model, which she already had handy.

“There’s been so much pointless complaining about the concept of hot tub streams, so when they introduced the separate section instead of slamming the ban down, I wanted to make the most of what I had available to join the fun,” she told Polygon.

While an IRL steam is limited to the confines of wherever a streamer can set up to film, Vtubers are only as constrained as their imaginations. Many Vtubers have all sorts of fun scenes as backgrounds like bars, gaming rooms, or even a library. JuniperActias, a gray moth that hosts a luxurious virtual stream complete with wine, uses a starlit sky as a backdrop for their hot tub stream. Using the virtual locale allows JuniperActias to create a tranquil, mountainous bath scene just by switching up the background.

Making fun, creative scenes was and is “huge” in the Vtuber community, BuffPup told Polygon: “You can create cool scenes like this hot tub scene by just drawing a picture and slapping your model on top of it!”

So far, the virtual hot tub streams aren’t doing gangbusters for the streamers. BuffPup didn’t notice a noticeable uptick, and Lemonade noticed a slight jump in viewership. But for Vtubers, numbers aren’t always the point. In this case, it’s more about having fun with digital backdrops, if not taking advantage of the artistic side of Vtubing.

“There are so many possibilities you can do with VTuber avatars, and I think that is the fun and creativity that comes along with it,” BuffPup said.

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