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Video game live-streamers — and those who watch them — gather at TwitchCon in Long Beach

By all accounts, Katie Upshall leads an ordinary life back home in Newfoundland, Canada.

But when she arrived in Long Beach to attend TwitchCon, the annual confab of video game streamers, the 24-year-old found herself the center of attention signing autographs.

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"You're Proxy!" passing fans said.

PmsProxy is her handle, to be exact, and she boasts 108,000 followers to her Twitch account. Upshall belongs to a subgenre of video-game role-playing, in which she inhabits a character on "Grand Theft Auto Online."

Up to 2,500 people will watch her play at any given time, generating enough income in subscription fees and advertising for Upshall to pay her rent and put food on the table.

"People watch me for the same reason people watch sports or TV dramas," she said.

That exploding interest in live video streams — not just of video gamers, but artists, musicians and graphic designers too — is why Amazon paid $970 million to acquire Twitch in 2014.

The platform attracted 185 million unique viewers last year, more than the 130 million who watched HBO and 93 million who switched on Netflix, according to SuperData Research.

Only YouTube commanded more viewers at 517 million.

Twitch won't disclose revenue data, but the San Francisco company says it has generated twice as much money for its partners in 2017 as in the same period last year.

The third annual TwitchCon, which started Friday and ends Sunday at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, is expected to top the 35,000 total attendees who showed up in San Diego last year. At the keynote Friday, the company announced a handful of changes intended to help streamers grow audiences and revenue, including new metrics about viewership and cross-promotions on other streamers' channels.

The event draws paid streamers, known as partners or affiliates depending largely on the size of their followings, as well as amateur video game players such as Cody Barton of Syracuse, N.Y.

The 27-year-old banker is ribbed online for being too old to compete in the fast-paced action games he likes to play, such as "Halo."

On Friday, he immediately gravitated toward the convention's gaming arena. Inside, gamers from across the world signed up to compete against one another onstage in "H1Z1," a multiplayer shoot-'em-up. The prize for winning was $500,000.

Barton, whose Twitch handle is Ninja, knew the odds weren't good. He was playing against other walk-ups rather than the prequalified professionals who would take the stage later. But he prepared the same way he always does before a marathon stream at home: by stretching and blasting electronic dance music on his headphones.

"I try to explain what I do to my parents," Barton said. "But they can't understand. They're always like, 'What are you talking about?' "

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Follow me @dhpierson on Twitter

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