I can remember a time when I first discovered watching someone else play video games online while I interact with them via an online chat box. I was sitting down for roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, the savory smell of the meal filling my nostrils. The television turned on. Loud screaming. Intense sound effects filled the air. I glance up only to see a video game I play online with friends filling the very television we normally watch Two and a Half Men on. What on earth is going on? Why is League of Legends on the television? Why are there people screaming over the game? Why would THIS be on TV right now?
That day was the first day I remember watching a livestream of the famous eSports game, League of Legends. I was utterly confused as to why they had the game aired on TV. However, I found out that my roommate was streaming the gameplay from an application called, Twitch. I thought to myself, how bizarre, professional gaming being watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers ONLINE? I was beside myself thinking that someone could be doing this and have it be alright. I investigated further into what this “livestreaming” deal was. To my surprise, anyone could stream. Anyone with a competent computer and a decent internet connection could indeed stream online for other people to watch.
So, I did what any avid gamer would do with a computer good enough for livestreaming, I started my own channel!
At first, I was lonely. I streamed a video game I enjoyed playing. Not too many people knew about my channel, so I didn’t have much to say while I was playing. I was 19, awkward on the camera, and stuck to playing a boring ‘ole game like World of Warcraft. The game wasn’t boring to me, but with the lack of streaming knowledge, I was super boring (you MUST know how to do live entertainment, people seem to leave that out when telling you that anyone can stream). I was dull, I get it, but as soon as people started discovering my channel, I became energetic. I loved the attention, and people LOVED ME!
I took the idea that I can just talk to people with gaming as a backdrop. Then, I discovered League of Legends and found plenty of friends who loved to play. Boy did that draw in the crowd of people! I ended up just being myself, playing with friends, and talking to the chat on the side. People really enjoyed watching the livestream. So, I ended up rewarding those who watched and started paying for in-game items and giving them to random viewers.
That drew in even more people. In fact, 600 people in a matter of 6 months.
There was a catch to getting all of those followers in a matter of 6 months, though. I was spending nearly $20 per week trying to get enough content for giveaways. That may not seem like much, but for a completely free game and streaming setup, I was spending money to have people watch me. In the world of livestreaming, that’s not the way to have a channel. You build your viewer-base off of greedy, needy people who just want to watch in case they can “win” something from your channel. In order to have a successful channel on Twitch, you need to make sure people are there to watch your content…giveaways are nice, but in moderation, and only if you aren’t spending out-of-pocket money to fund them.
The $20 per week ended up being almost $100 every two weeks, and even more on some occasions. I was getting hand-out-happy as I like to call it. Slowly, I noticed I was putting out too much money, so I stopped doing the giveaways. I quit streaming for a year. I lost all of my followers. My channel died.
After that year was up, I decided to start streaming in the year 2015 as a part time job to see if it was something I could take up and become successful with! To my surprise, it went pretty well! I made about $100/week from small donations to my channel, and I grew my followers back up to the 600 mark within a few months! I played a variety of games including League of Legends, World of Warcraft, and Rust! Everyone in my channel grew to know me, we had laughs, long weekends, and plenty of gaming together.
Shortly after some streaming success, I became depressed. None of the friendships were real to me. I felt alone as soon as the mic turned off and my computer screen went blank after a long, 4-hour session of livestreaming. It was quiet, dull, and unfulfilling as soon as I stopped broadcasting to a group of people I considered to be friends. I never really had to deal with toxic (a term used in gaming) people in chat, everyone seemed to love when I made video games on the channel, and overall, it was a fun experience.
The quiet after the stream is what killed me. It felt as though none of the time I spent broadcasting was real. It felt like I was in a daze after each stream. Excitement, music, laughter, cursing, gaming, friends… everything was gone when I shut down.
The summer of 2015 approached and I decided I wasn’t enjoying streaming anymore. I brought my adventure to a halt, yet again. I decided a few sessions here and there would be fine. Then, I realized without a dedicated stream time, no one showed up. I was sad. I wanted to play video games, but after streaming off and on for so long, I lost interest in playing games without people there to watch and enjoy the experience with me. Livestreaming games took away the fulfillment I used to get out of playing games alone. I now feel like without people watching, it’s pointless.
I know this story doesn’t have a happy ending, as intended, but I want you to know that I fully enjoyed livestreaming, I just found it to be incredibly difficult to do with a full time job and other responsibilities. If you ever think of starting your own channel, it’s best to start when you have at least 3-5 hours dedicated daily at some point, with consistency. Otherwise, you will find yourself in a sad loop of no one showing up. People love routine, so start a routine and you will become part of theirs. It’s really a great community, as long as you keep around moderators for the trolls. I will continue my weekend streams and game development streams just for the sake of a fun reason to stream. At least while I’m making games on stream, I don’t worry about the view count!