I've been at this whole streaming thing for a couple of years now. I feel like it's time to reflect on the journey so far...
I originally started streaming as a distraction from my anxiety and other issues in my life. Things were pretty bad for me, personally, and instead of moping around all the time, I thought I'd give streaming a shot in my spare time. A friend gave me a push in the right direction and I started streaming in August 2017. I had streamed before, but it was more for messing around with friends whilst doing some Dark Souls co-op than actually making an effort to put on a decent show. But I digress...
I started off with single-player games. I did a pretty big Fallout 4 run where I tested a few mods and did my first run through the game's various DLCs. Aside from a couple of friends who were only around every now and then, my streams were pretty slow, as you might expect. I was just having some fun playing a game, and never really thought much of it all. That was until someone popped into my chat and said they were really enjoying the stream. I'll never forget that feeling of accomplishment. It felt like I was doing something right, y'know?
A few months of my incredibly inconsistent schedule later, and I'd found a few regular viewers, moved on to a full run through The Witcher series, and had felt like I was making some genuine connections on Twitch. Then I got my first big raid whilst testing out a Dark Souls mod, which pushed me over the 50 follower requirement for Twitch affiliate. I got an e-mail on Christmas Eve about joining the affiliate program and was over the moon. This was where I thought I should try and make a regular schedule and see just how far I can take this. Just over a year and a half later, here we are. I'm pulling in a fairly consistent viewership, I have a core group of pretty dedicated regulars, my channel's growing at a good pace, I've made some great friends, and I even joined the Forge Discord community (back before it was even called that) and have made it to admin!
Ups and Downs
As with life in general, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. The highs are great, but the lows can be pretty terrible.
I've had some bad experiences in my time on Twitch. I've learned that some people thrive on conflict and drama, whether it's someone having a personal problem with me or a group of people jumping on the hate bandwagon for other streamers. It's childish, it's unnecessary, and to the types of people who can't get enough drama, I must ask - why? Do you genuinely have nothing better to do with your lives? When something bad goes off, I pick myself up and get on with life. There's absolutely no point dwelling on things.
I've had friends fall out with me before and not let it go. It's in the past. It certainly doesn't bother me, and I don't let it get on top of me. And you know what? I'm happier for it! It amazes me as to how long someone can hold a grudge, and with how much overlap there is in a lot of Twitch communities, it's all the more present in our lives. And it is completely unnecessary.
Moving on from such silliness, I will say that the majority of my experiences with Twitch have been positive:
I remember getting raided by a partnered streamer, and being able to send that love on to someone else which gave them that push they needed to make affiliate. It felt like I'd come full circle. I was the one helping someone else reach their goals. That feeling is unlike any other.
I've had a clip of mine featured in a montage on TwitchCon. Not only that, but it was singled out at the end by the panel. Of all the clips, they sat and talked about mine. It absolutely blew my mind.
I've had to stop playing what I was playing on-stream because chat was so active that I didn't even need to be playing a game. We'd just sit there with me on the pause menu, simply chatting away. The time flies by so fast when this happens, and I love every second of it.
I've had people come in and drop hundreds of dollars' worth of bits, or a bunch of gifted subscriptions, or even donations. People have gifted me games. They've even bought mugs and t-shirts with my artwork on them! That is all insanely humbling. There are people out there who are willing to spend money on me just for sitting here in front of a camera & playing videogames. And I swear I'll never get used to it! I am eternally grateful for everyone who has supported me like this.
Standing out on Twitch is incredibly difficult these days. The platform is oversaturated, to say the least. Views can be extremely inconsistent on not only a game-by-game basis, but a day-by-day basis as well. There's no real formula for success. I've tried variety, I've tried sticking to a single game, I've tried sticking to similar games, I've tried MMOs, single-player games, multi-player games, just chatting, you name it. I will say that the bigger MMOs and multi-player games are definitely less viable for smaller streamers - you'll just get lost in the long list of streamers, which are always sorted by number of viewers.
Twitch has taken steps to help smaller creators stand out, but also some missteps. The loss of Twitch communities was a big one. The tags they introduced to replace communities are mostly awful. A large percentage of viewers don't even read titles or tags. The "no spoilers" tag encourages viewers to spoil games. The LGBTQIA+ tag attracts far too many trolls, but I will say I've had a lot of positive interactions from using it as an ally (give us an ally tag, dammit!). Communities were a great way to find like-minded people.
On a more positive note, the Discover page (basically the front page) now highlights smaller creators in a "recommended" section. I've met a few great streamers through that. It always feels like Twitch could be doing more to help, though. Better sorting options, perhaps? More diverse tags? More prominent titles & tags displayed on channels? I'm just throwing ideas out here. Either way, I think discoverability is an absolute nightmare as a smaller streamer, and it's 90% due to the oversaturation of Twitch. Putting your name out there outside of Twitch seems like the best way to go. It shouldn't be, but here we are.
Well, this is my first entry into writer's blocks here on Ember. It's been rambly as can be, but that's just how I write things - they're just my thoughts typed out as I... think them, I guess!
Regarding my future as a content creator, I've made the decision to try out streaming on Mixer, which I'll be starting in September. I also aim to create Youtube content, and potentially more. I'm pushing to diversify the content I create, spread it out over multiple platforms, and really get my name out there. Twitch has been fantastic for me, my mental health, and even my social life. I'll not be leaving any time soon, but now more than ever is the time for me to really knuckle down and create as much content as I can, of as high quality as I can. Every time someone tries to kick me down, it lights a fire under me that motivates me to keep doing better. And I will do better. Watch this space.