Muses: Ruminating on 3 Years of Streaming

Twitch is a place of dreams. It’s a place where playing video games transforms from an activity you do on your own into a communal activity where you can make friends, share interests, and even make money. It’s a place where anyone can get an audience of some sort, where anyone with a computer can create content for others to watch.

I am a nerd. I was bullied so hard as a kid that being in front of people, even in a semi-casual setting terrifies me. I suffer from stage-fright, so much so that I quit choral in high school as soon as they required a solo audition to enter the band… even though I loved singing. So what motivates people like me to tackle all of those obstacles and put ourselves on-screen for all to see?

For me, it was the desire to share one particular game with a few specific friends. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’d be streaming today if I hadn’t found a wonderful friend in a streamer by the name of RainfallDreams. Prior to meeting her, I’d watched a few streams here and there – some speedruns, some League of Legends, the occasional other game here and there. I had been thinking about what it must be like to stream, but hadn’t really taken the concept of starting seriously.

While watching her play Catherine – which you should all know is a game I dearly love – we were discussing strategy, and she commented off-hand that she’d really love to see how I tackle the game’s puzzles. That was the catalyst that got me thinking about it. Within a few weeks I decided to give it a try… and my first game was, of course, Catherine. And she and another friend came by to watch. The experience was intoxicating. I didn’t have a webcam back then, but I was still incredibly nervous. There were a few technical issues, but once we got it all sorted out, it was magical. Chatting with friends, enjoying a game, sharing both success and failure… it transformed the entire playing experience into something that was so much more.

Then came weeks of struggling to get a single viewer. I mean, most of my followers at that time were either streamers themselves or followers of those streamers first and me second – people I’d ‘inherited’ by being a part of other stream communities. So, unless none of the other people were live, they were, understandably, watching those streamers in stead of me.

I would often go days talking to myself. It was months before I earned my first few regular viewers just off my own merits rather than friends I’d made watching other streams. Streaming to nobody is incredibly difficult. You have to talk to your audience – even if nobody’s there – and do so in a way that doesn’t make people think you’re depressed and disheartened even if you are. Nobody wants to watch a streamer who is upset about having no viewers all the time. Yet, that’s the feeling you’re fighting.

Thankfully I had a few friends who would drop raids on me every so often and pop by to chat when they could. You might wonder why I kept streaming through that, and the honest answer is that it was the occasional reminder of how awesome it was during those first few streams when I had people to chat with. I just want to take a moment to thank every person who goes on twitch and seeks out people with 0 viewers to watch and chat with. You guys literally make peoples’ days. If the person’s a good streamer, it’s probably not obvious… but by going to watch them, you’ve definitely brightened their day and likely their week. You may well even be the reason they have the hope to keep going on. So thank you. It may not seem like a good deed to you, but trust me – it is.

It was when I got my first few regulars – my first few viewers who found me on their own and stayed for me – that I knew I was unlikely to give this hobby up any time soon. I haven’t grown that much since then… over the past two years I’ve gained maybe 200 followers, my average viewers have gone up from ~1 to ~3. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am so happy that I stuck with streaming. Streaming has helped change the way I look at games, the way I look at people, the way I interact with people, and even helped me to overcome some of my stage-fright. It was this past March, during my birthday stream, that I unveiled my face to the world via webcam. 

Given who I am, I was extremely nervous about that. I wouldn’t say it was the most nervous I’ve ever been – that honour will always go to flying across the ocean to meet the woman I loved in person for the first time having no way of knowing that she’d actually be waiting for me (ask me the story sometime on stream, it’s a good one) – but it was certainly terrifying. And now, months later, it feels as natural as anything else I do on stream. Thinking about it feels a little weird, but it’s true. Streaming has changed a lot of the way I look at myself and the way I look at gaming, people, socializing, and so much more. 

It’s been 3 years since I started streaming, a year and a half since I started my monthly Selubration specials, 2 years since my first 24 hour stream, and 7 months since I got Affiliate status, and I genuinely feel like Twitch is a place of dreams. Why? Because my dream with twitch is to have a place where I can share the things I’m passionate about with my friends. And, most of the time, that’s what I’ve got. Sure, once in a while I still get streams where I sit there talking to myself for hours on end and, being the doubtful individual I am, I begin to question what I’m doing wrong… but most of the time, streaming is such a joy that I can’t imagine what I’d do with myself if I ever stopped.

Next week I’m most likely going to a local streamer’s meetup to meet some of Winnipeg’s streaming elite. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll actually break 500 followers and have to play a game I hate on stream for you all to enjoy. But for now… for now I’m just happy to have so many wonderful friends and to be about to begin a special 3 Year Streamaversary Selubration. It’s been a great journey… and I think, in the end, it’s all about how you measure success.