Twitch has cemented its impact on the gaming community. It is the de facto way to stream video games online for others to watch and enjoy. eSports are streamed online for hundreds of thousands of viewers. Gamer’s have their favorite streamers they tune into each week, and there are even some streamers who have made their entire career out of streaming video games. It is simple, then, to connect the dots and aspire to become a game streamer yourself. After all, you like video games, you can plug into the internet and Twitch, so you can be the next big thing!
I’m sure I do not have to tell you it is not as simple as that. If we could will our wants into existence, I would definitely have a copy of Tail Concerto right now for the PS1 that I would be playing rather than writing this piece. But alas I, like all of you, do not have a divine capability to make our greatest dreams materialize before our eyes. Rather, we need to work toward our goal. And working is just that: work. There is so much to do to simply start out in the world of streaming, and that’s not even taking into account the likelihood you’ll be streaming to little to no viewers for most of your early years.
So then maybe you’re someone like me. I decided long ago I wasn’t going to be doing anything gaming related as a single career. It’d be awesome to be a streamer full time making those big bucks, or hell, even just getting some cash here and there! I reserved myself to streaming for my own pleasure and streaming for my friends. I thought it would be neat to dive into my immense backlog of games that many people haven’t heard of and put those games on display via streaming. I knew I wasn’t going to capture huge viewership anyway, so I would just target the smaller niche of streamers by playing the games no one has heard of. They are the games I enjoy anyway, so it’s kind of a win-win.
“I quickly realized there was more to streaming a video game than just playing the video game.”
There are instances where I certainly did just that: I jumped on Twitch, streamed a random video game for maybe a few people, and enjoyed my time doing it. Easy peasy, right?
What you don’t see on that stream is the immense pressure I put on myself to do that stream. I put up roadblock after roadblock as reasons why I wouldn’t stream at all. In the above example (Astal, for the Sega Saturn) I ran into several problems: I need to get out the Saturn and set it up, I need to find the game itself (I have a ton of games and they’re kind of all over the place), I need to make sure the Saturn works with my stream setup, I have to actually do my stream setup, I need to stream at a time Laura isn’t also working in the same room, I need to make sure I am in the mood, and the list can go on. I quickly realized there was more to streaming a video game than just playing the video game. The hurdles I had to physically and emotionally overcome just to stream, just to do something I knew I wanted to do were oftentimes overwhelming.
Once I overcame a few barriers of entry into streaming, like hardware setup and stream layout (the consistent things I would use between many streams), I thought it would be easier to do it again. The setup was done, now it was time to start playing some video games!
“… it was the pressure from other people to stream that made me not want to stream.”
But I started to feel like I didn’t want to stream anymore. My setup was ready and waiting for me, but I lost interest in playing in front of others. I didn’t want to “put on a face” and stream and entertain. I kind of just wanted to play a retro video game and enjoy my time. I didn’t want to share that with anyone else. Why this change of ideals, I wondered? Looking back then, and again now, it was the pressure from other people to stream that made me not want to stream. And not just random people: the biggest culprits were my friends and myself.
“You should stream it!” I would hear from friends and family. That phrase carries more weight to me than just four words. It means sitting in my office chair in front of my computer. It means talking with folks when I might want to just play a game. It means curating clips on Twitch afterward. There are also good things it means, don’t get me wrong. I get content for my blog, my YouTube, and other places. Not to mention I get to play a video game. But streaming a game is more than playing a video game. There so much more that goes into “Doing it right” than just playing a game.
And that’s where I come in. My own worst streaming enemy. I don’t have any form of impostor syndrome making me think I’m not worth it. I’m just lazy! I look at the effort it’ll take to stream a game and decide I’d rather just not to anything. I would rather not play the game in question than do all the trappings that got me in to the streaming mindset in the first place. Mentally the role of streamer took on a connotation of entertainer, editor, and enthusiast when all I really wanted to be was one of those things. A viscous circle, yes, but not one entirely without merit.
I am getting to a place where I really enjoy streaming video games. I have been playing routinely with my friend Patrick over on HeyRPGaymer. The accountability we afford each other makes me actually look forward to Tuesdays when we get to play together, and it has been inspiring me to do my own work over on my personal Twitch as well! When I can strip away the stigma of doing “What is right” in the world of streaming video games, and really just do what I want to do, the task of streaming doesn’t seem so daunting. And that puts me right where I was when I started this journey: streaming for me.