A few months back, I streamed Tetris Effect for a few nights. At launch, the game seemingly had a lot of buzz. Critics raved about it. The game has incredible music and gorgeous visuals. And not to toot my own horn too much, but I’m pretty good at Tetris too, completing expert mode without losing once. All of those things made me think that this was going to be a great game for me to stream in terms of pulling in an audience.
While I had a blast playing the game, it bombed hard in terms of viewership. When I look back at the timing, it’s unfortunately part of the reason why I didn’t hit Twitch Affiliate late last year when I was right on the brink. Some of that blame could be my own performance and lack of promotion, but I think it’s much bigger than that. At the time, there were about five streamers broadcasting for an audience of under 20 viewers. As I type this, there is one streamer playing the game and zero people watching.
Tetris Effect might be an amazing game, but it’s a terrible streaming game if your goal as a streamer is to draw in an audience. Streaming adds an extra variable to the game selection process that can feel scummy, but it’s something you have to reconcile every time you play with the camera on.
I did not enter the world of streaming in 2017 with visions of being the next Ninja. Already doing Let’s Play videos for my YouTube channel, I figured that if I was going to spend the time adding commentary to my videos in real time anyway, I might as well stream it. Could potentially hit two birds with one stone that way.
As I’ve built up my presence on Twitch, it’s been fascinating to follow the culture around streamers attempting to “make it big”, whatever that means to them. This includes thousands of resources on how to make game streaming your career, Reddit threads on users asking for advice on how to generate more money from their stream, a deluge of stories from streamers ready to call it quits after falling short of their expectations, and countless #roadtoaffiliate tweets. Heck, even I have sent a #roadtoaffiliate tweet or two.
Having hit Twitch Affiliate somewhat recently, it’s gotten me thinking about the possibility of making this a full-time gig. Others have made it happen, but is it something I could achieve if I really wanted to?
Streamers and viewers of squads rejoice!
Twitch has finally rolled out the ability for streamers to broadcast together as a squad! Up to four streamers can have their streams appear in one nifty interface. Viewers can then watch every feed simultaneously while also having the ability to flip between each streamer’s chat.
During a recent Paper Mario stream, I received a really interesting comment in the chat from a recent follower.
This may seem mean, I hope you get to be a really big streamer, but I also hope you stay small so you can interact with us like this
I have never been on a stream like this with streamer interacting like this
First off, thank you Pokemaster457 for the high praise and support! Secondly, I totally understand what you mean when you say you want me to stay small.
Are you a blogger looking to make the jump into video content? Maybe you’ve already made the leap and want to trade war stories? Or maybe you’re just interested in the process of creators transitioning from one medium to another? Hannie from The Hannie Corner and I have the post for you!
In “Navigating Written and Video Content“, we go in-depth on our experiences as bloggers going through this process. We share our motivations for getting in front of the camera, a number of the production challenges we face, as well as a few words of wisdom. It was a pleasure working with Hannie on this, and you should head over to her site for the full story!
Head over to The Hannie Corner for “Navigating Written and Video Content“!
The biggest mistake I made with regards to streaming was that I didn’t have enough of a plan. When I started doing this, my goals were laser-focused around production quality. From improving the audio, to ensuring that the stream ran at a steady frame rate, to having the capabilities of hosting a video podcast with friends, I knew what those challenges were and I took active steps to squash them. Sometimes it would take many months for to fix specific issues, but the objectives, roadmap to achieve such objectives, and the benefits of completing them were clear in my head.
What I didn’t really think about were aspects such as viewership, followers, reaching Twitch Affiliate, or virtually any metric of success. I figured that I would start thinking about those after I established a production quality baseline. After all, it shouldn’t take that long to produce a good-enough stream, right? Ha! Between having to save up to buy new parts and figuring out how to use everything just enough to get by, that process took over a year to sort out.
Meanwhile, my channel was still running. Streaming three-to-four times a week, I was growing increasingly frustrated with multi-hour streams going by and zero people tuning in. As the channel grew in terms of followers, I still wasn’t sure what to make of that. It all came to blow up in my face when a dip in viewership caused me to miss out on Twitch Affiliate. Missing out sent me into a multi-month depressive slide. Without having taken the time to formalize my expectations, I was essentially getting mad at myself over nothing.
Though I should have done this before, now seems like a great time to actually get real and formalize my goals for streaming going forward. This is just a start, as I should constantly be evaluating/adding/removing/revising these goals as I go. I may not formally write down every iteration, but having something written down somewhere to hold myself accountable is a great first step.
Numbers are great. They help us quantify what we have and what we aim to achieve. But numbers aren’t everything.
When In Third Person launched a decade ago, I made it a point to not use numbers as the primary measure of success. Part of that was out of necessity. It’s easy to fret over pageviews when you don’t generate any.
But more importantly, this is a creative medium where the success that comes from the work one creates isn’t entirely defined by pageviews, clicks, or ad revenue. Factors such as (but not limited to) the quality of the work, the satisfaction felt from releasing those ideas out into the world, and the impact the work has on others are some of the intangible things that can mean a whole lot. Whatever that quantitative and qualitative mix is, success is usually a balance.
Finding that balance is difficult. It always changes from day-to-day, from one piece of creative work to the next, to whatever mood you happen to be in at the time. In recent months, I lost hold of the balance while chasing a particular streaming goal. I’m on the precipice of finally reaching that goal, but I’m not proud of how I lost myself along the way.
Once we got past a few technical difficulties that plagued the start of the broadcast, our first board game night live stream was a smashing success! The technical solution that I put in place to play Codenames worked smoothly for the most part, and playing with some of my favourite people around melted away whatever distance there was between our webcams. Thank you to Mat, Jon, Kris, Rachel, & Steff for making this way more special than just a streaming experiment. And thank you to everyone that tuned in to watch our shenanigans and chat with us!
We will do this again. We had too much fun to let this concept slide. Even if we didn’t publicly broadcast it, just being able to play board games remotely with a group of friends separated by hundreds of miles and still feel connected was magical. Now that we’ve proved that it works, here are some other games I would love to make work in this format!
The process of streaming is generally a solitary experience in front of the webcam. You get your game feed and one webcam feed with the streamer playing the game. From there, you play the game while engaging with the chat as best you can. I’ve grown accustomed to that process and enjoy it. There’s something cool about being able to have these quasi-direct conversations with others in the chat that you’d never have otherwise. However, there’s a magic that happens when you bring multiple people together face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice. As if making a regular stream wasn’t hard enough, it’s even more difficult to put multiple people from different places in the same window.