April 3, 2016

Stepping Away From the Game: When Streaming just isn’t Fun Anymore


Yesterday I did something I never really wanted to do, but something I needed to do for a while. I streamed my last stream on Twitch, at least as a regular streamer. For the last almost 5 years 99% of my play time has been streamed on Twitch. I met many people who I now consider close friends (our very own Dante among them) and had a blast entertaining my small but unreasonably dedicated following. I enjoyed entertaining people, making them laugh, more often than not at my own expense, and I enjoyed turning my play time into a more social experience. That is to say, I did enjoy it. Now, as hard as it is, and trust me when I say it is harder than you think, I have to stop. The passion is gone, the good feelings are gone, replaced only with bitterness. Writing this is cathartic, it lets me get these feelings off my chest, so if you’ll take the time to read then I’ll share my story with you.

I remember when Twitch was just starting. The first stream I watched was MaximusBlack, and I am proud to say I still do. I am even a mod now, thanks to my almost 50 months of continued support as a subscriber. I followed him over from YouTube, where he and NovaWar keep LAGTV going strong to this day. I watched him playing StarCraft II, which was at the height of its popularity. I thought, this looks like so much fun, why can’t I do this? I can be entertaining, my friends all laugh at the stuff I do, why can’t I have 100+ people watching me? I started investigating what I’d have to do. I bought a better headset, upgraded my computer, and finally figured out enough about this streaming business to launch my first stream. I played StarCraft II because, well, it was what MaximusBlack played and it was popular. I figured why not? For a while nothing really came of my time streaming. I would stream every once in a while with no set schedule.

Eventually I got a big break when another streamer, Edsters2, who I modded for because everyone wanted mod, sent his viewers to me when he finished for the day. They all knew me from chat so it was easy to talk to them and play StarCraft, but it was never the same as Edsters’ streams. 20 viewers turned to 14, then to 8, then to 2. After my first full year I averaged about 3 viewers per stream with around 120 or so follows. I set myself a goal of 10%, I wanted 10% of my followers to tune in every time I streamed. Spoiler alert, never happened. I kept watching new streamers, big shots like Lirik and TimTheTatMan, and even jumped into some smaller streams just because I knew what it was like.

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Last year was both my most satisfying and most disappointing year of streaming. My most successful playthrough was a lengthy one, Dragon Age: Inquisition. I had a regular crew of around 10-14 tuning in every time I went live, and a fairly active chat commenting on my character dubbed “The Mustache of Andraste”. It was nice. When Helldivers rolled around on PS4, I got my first major taste of success. I was the number one Helldivers streamer for two days straight with a 162 viewer peak the first day and around 120 the second. Chat was rolling and I was in the grove. It felt great. It was what I strove for for almost four years of streaming. Alas, it didn’t last. I admit that I was never one to stick to the same game for long. As much as I loved the success I was having with Helldivers, I knew I couldn’t just keep playing it day after day.

See, I was a variety streamer, which is bad. You don’t choose to be a variety streamer, you have to earn the right. Take MaximusBlack for example, when he tried to diversify from StarCraft he was met with low view counts, and when he finally did get big in another game they fell again when he went back to StarCraft. It was kinda like that for me, except that I never really got viewers…ever. A game like Helldivers was luck, being in North America and having current followers interested in the game pushed me up the sparse list of streamers, and the Europeans who couldn’t play until the next day wanted to see if the game was worth it. I went back to streaming what I wanted to play, new or old, League of Legends, or anything else really.

For a while I convinced myself it didn’t matter. Sure, at first I wanted to jump on the bandwagon, believing I could make it big on Twitch. I saw streamers who started years after me get sub buttons because they stuck with popular games long enough to generate a following. While I sat comfortably at a 7-8 viewer average, some of them now average 7-8000. Still, I was happy with what I had accomplished. Half of those 7-8 were regulars for years. They came for every stream. Most of the time they popped in and did something else, but they were around to talk when they were needed. That group is the people I consider friends now, and we always spoke on Skype or TeamSpeak. Unfortunately, that meant chat was usually barren. After a while of radio silence from chat, I started playing as if I wasn’t streaming, missing the few newcomers who stop in to say hello, only to see it 15 minutes too late. At was at this point I began to think that maybe I was just a bad streamer. I began to ask my followers if they were happy, they said they were, so I kept chugging along. Deep down though, probably about half way through 2015, I had my first thoughts that maybe I should just give up.

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Give up? How could I? By that point I had invested in my third computer, this one costing around $2000, my third new mic, my second new mic stand, and Elgato HD, and even a HDMI splitter that could bypass HDCP. I had already knowingly spent far too much money trying to fix a problem that no amount of money was going to fix, but I believed that this was all it would take. If I could just run games better, sound better, if I could get the best keyboard and mouse that would help me play better. Maybe I could play different games, maybe then people will watch me. I began to joke that I invested way too much money into streaming. I swore off having a donation button, because I didn’t believe I had the right to ask for money, but I started asking, joking but not joking, for donations to cover costs. I think back now, back at all I spent, I look at some of my bills and think to myself, just imaging how much better shape I’d be in if I didn’t buy all this stuff. I didn’t need a new computer, but I thought the games and the stream would run better if I had a set up like the other big streamers. They had these computers, it was worth a shot.

It was worse than just spending money though. I would choose to stay in because I promised to stream, or because I felt like I would miss out on my big chance, tonight was always the night. My friends were all cool with my streaming and were really supportive. No one ever asked me not to stream, even though I’m sure at times they wanted to. Sometimes they would come by to help me stream something funny or exciting, those were among my favorite streams. One day though, I put off plans with a friend because I wanted to stream a new game. I wanted to strike while the iron was hot. “Tonight is the night!” I sat back and thought about what I was doing, how I was choosing Twitch over my friends. I canceled the stream and went out, and I am so glad I did. It was liberating, but a little sad. I had felt so tied down by my stream, like I was stuck in some toxic relationship.

A few days later I was talking to a friend who said he was interested in doing a YouTube channel or getting into streaming. At this point I was already considering hanging it up once and for all. He talked about maybe making some extra money, I told him not to do it to make money or get famous, that it was hard, really hard. I told him he was funnier than me and would probably do great, but you can’t go in expecting to get to the top. It was advice that would have meant the world to me back in late 2011. Then I said a few words that resonated with me since then, “To be honest, I kinda hate streaming.” I thought about it. Every game I played I streamed unless I couldn’t. If I got a new game, I couldn’t play it until I streamed, that meant if I was tired or just didn’t want to stream, I cut myself off from the game. I forced myself into a situation where I couldn’t enjoy my favorite hobby if I wasn’t broadcasting to my 8 or so regulars.

Things peaked about two weeks ago. I got back into Minecraft with some friends, and of course people join chat asking for the IP or to click their links. In the past I would have catered to them, trying to kill them with kindness without offending them, but also not obliging their request. Now though, I was just being mean. Someone asked if I was using mods, I said no, they said something along the lines of “well that sucks.” At this point I don’t remember exactly what they said, but it struck a nerve. I basically told them off, expecting they were leaving anyway. They actually stayed, told me off, then left. My regulars thought it was funny, but I just became more and more bitter at the people asking for songs or links.

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The big moment was last week when I permanently banned one of my long time regulars. He was an alright guy, for a while I thought we were friends, but he could be toxic like it was nobody’s business. He got permabanned from LoL for his toxicity and we gave him shit for it, but we were still cool. We argued a bit from time to time, but he was hilarious. He’d sing Disney songs and just be an all around goofball. He just had a habit of rubbing people the wrong way. He wasn’t popular in chat…like at all. He pissed me off a lot, but he was a regular and I always tried to diffuse the situation. That day…that day wasn’t the right day to piss me off. We were talking about Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne. He was trying to say stuff about Bloodborne, I asked if he played the game. It ended with him saying something I really didn’t like, so I banned him. I was done. Removed him from Steam, everything.

I was actually shaking after I did it. It was liberating and nerve-racking. On one hand I finally put my foot down and stood up for myself, letting him know he couldn’t talk to me like that. But on the other, He was a long time follower. He had highlights, he had a legacy. He was the chat bad boy who everyone loved to hate. I don’t remember streaming much longer that night, but nothing clicked after that.

Chat would go silent for hours at a time. I couldn’t stand it. So yesterday, the last day of March, I talked to my mods and my friends who all supported me. I told them how I felt and asked them what I should do. They all told me to stop. They said it wasn’t worth it. I listened, and I ended it that day. One final stream where I said goodbye, followed by a night of unstreamed games full of potential highlights, but I didn’t care. It was great. Everyone cut loose a bit with the cameras off. Funny enough, and a little sad, I kept trying to peek at chat and to make sure my mic was still correct. I had already taken it down but I still reached for it like I always had. It’s like an old habit that I’m eventually going to kick, but it’s not going to be easy.

I am not opposed to streaming again. In the right setting, the right game, I know I can still have a lot of fun. Right now though, it just felt like the work I did after work, except it cost me a bunch of money. My weekends won’t be planned around streaming time and now I don’t need to feel bad if I miss a night, I’m done. This is just one day removed, and I’m sure at some point I’ll click that OBS icon by accident, just out of habit, but I believe a long break at the very least will be good for me. Luckily, the friends I made aren’t just because I stream, so in the end I invested a lot of time and money, but at least have some great friends to show for it. A small price to pay I suppose.



About the Author

No hard feelings... / Chris@thosegamingnerds.com /