Strangers are Investing $50,000 of This Guy's Money on Twitch Play

This is an interesting social experiment.

Screenshot via StockStream

Every five minutes, a couple thousand strangers in a chatroom on the internet buy or sell stocks with the money of Mike Roberts, a Seattle-based software engineer at Amazon.

There’s nothing secretive about these transactions, though. Roberts was the one to throw $50,000 of his savings to the internet, in a social experiment that he calls StockStream. Hosted on the game-streaming chatroom service Twitch and modeled after another chaotic experiment called Twitch Plays Pokémon, where visitors to the stream could type in commands that an online version of a classic Pokémon game would then follow.

StockStream works in much the same way. As electronic music blares in the background, members of Twitch can type in a command, either !buy or !sell, followed by the company in which they would like their collective to invest or divest. Every five minutes, the most popular command will be automatically executed.

Roberts hasn’t specified any goals for the stream, which he launched on Tuesday. Rather, he wants to take a step back and simply watch what happens. While there’s no way to win what he calls the first ever cooperative stock market game that uses real money, it is possible to lose. According to regulations from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, StockStream is technically considered a day trader. That means that like any other day trader, StockStream must maintain at least $25,000 in order to be allowed to trade. So, if Roberts’ savings drop below that amount, the stream will shut down.

StockStream, shortly after blowing some money on pizza and soda.

Screenshot via StockStream

While most people — including Roberts — might expect serious trolling that would quickly blow through all of his funds, most of the decisions have been relatively sound. For the most part, StockStream has wavered within $200 of its starting point, though just over half of the money is currently tied up in investments that could rise or fall.

“I thought people were just gonna waste money,” Roberts told Kotaku. “That was my first thought.”

Some of StockStream’s portfolio is unsurprising. There are multiple investments into Tesla, though at any given point multiple people are voting to buy and sell more.

StockStream also holds stock in Google, Boeing, and Advanced Micro Devices, showing that most of the users are actually trying to make some money for Roberts. But there was also a contingent of stream-goers who managed to get StockStream to invest multiple times in PZZA and then bought some COKE to go with it (Papa John’s Pizza and Coca-Cola, respectively. When they pulled that off, the chatroom celebrated their newfound snacks, not unlike the uproar when the collective behind Twitch Plays Pokémon permanently released their most prized team member into the wild.

To go watch StockStream in action or to join in the fun, you can visit the game’s channel on Twitch.

Stockstream goes live every day while the markets are open, which on non-holidays is from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern. Here’s a full schedule for the New York Stock Exchange.

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