As a viewer, streaming looks like it’s all fun and games. Going through the process has taught me that there is a lot to enjoy in front of the camera. Gaming is always a pleasure, but the most satisfying part of the experience comes from making new friends all over the world.
But to gloss over the myriad of stressors involved with the hobby would be a disservice. As a streamer, there are a plethora of potential stressors that can make this pursuit quite the challenge. Every person has their own unique set of triggers, but these are the things I fret over every time I go live.
Presenting a technically-proficient stream is something I constantly obsess over. It’s taken me years, over 100 streams, hundreds of dollars in hardware upgrades, and a ton of effort just to reach a reach a level where viewers aren’t put off by inconsistent frame rates, poor image quality, my voice falling out of sync with my webcam around the hour mark of each stream, and any other calamities that have cursed my broadcasts. Even after establishing a baseline, my software will break with every system-level update, my audio mix will falter from game-to-game, and I still might stream with my mic muted for 45 minutes before someone points it out to me.
Leading up to every stream, I do a dry run to test everything. On the day of, I’m testing right up until show time. When the broadcast goes live, I’m constantly monitoring my OBS dashboard to ensure that the stream is running smoothly. In the back of my head, I’m constantly praying that everything runs smoothly. But if something does go awry, I want to catch it as soon as it happens so that I can immediately address the problem.
I don’t believe it’s important for every streamer to have the most slickly-produced broadcast. My stream certainly isn’t. However, I think it’s reasonable for viewers to expect a baseline level of quality. As a viewer, I want to watch streams that run at at steady frame rate. I want the picture quality to be at an acceptable level. I expect to be able to hear the streamer clearly while also being able to hear enough of the gameplay audio. I don’t want the streamer’s voice to hurt my ears because their audio is distorted. Just getting to and maintaining that level of technical proficiency is a tough mountain to climb and a never-ending job.
Over time, I’ve tried to deemphasize the importance of gameplay on my streams. Games are a hook to draw people in, but the real meat of stream comes from the engagement that comes from friends from around the world, gathering together around common interests. Even with Tetris 99 – a game I stream regularly and am quite good at – I don’t see my gameplay as the primary draw. What makes that show interesting is my ability to hold a conversation while playing a demanding game like Tetris 99 at a fairly high level.
The classic block-stacker is an outlier within my streaming mix, as my skills in most games I stream range from acceptable to bad. In particular, I struggle mightily with puzzle-solving. I drive myself crazy when I get stuck in a game, forcing viewers to put up with my deficiencies while I fumble through an FAQ on my phone. While getting stuck is a part of the real-life gaming experience, I try to minimize these moments as much as possible for the sale of entertainment value. Even so, they happen and they irritate me every time.
At this point in time, I don’t have the ability to hear the game and my PC at the same time. At some point, I would like to create a setup that allows me to mix it all into one feed, but that solution eludes me for now.
I try to acknowledge every sub, follow, or donation action as it comes in. But because I can’t hear them, they sometimes go way too long without a thank you from me. Will continue to try and stay on top of things until my setup allows me to hear everything.
Streaming to an empty room
One of the fundamental appeals of streaming comes from sharing this experience with others. However, viewers don’t always want to share that experience with you, particularly during the start of one’s streaming career. I wish for everyone to find an audience, but it’s not unusual to stream for zero viewers for years at a time.
During my streaming runs on Facebook and YouTube in 2017, I failed to attract and retain any sort of viewership. When I moved to Twitch in 2018, my stream was still a ghost town for many months before anyone found me. Even now, after hitting Twitch Affiliate, there are times when I look at my viewer count and see the dreaded 0 for extended stretches.
Streaming through the goose eggs is a reality for most. We should be more concerned with the quality of our output regardless of viewership, but seeing the zero always stings. What keeps me from letting it impact my stream too much is knowing that the next potential viewer won’t stay if they catch me sulking over a zero-viewer turnout. With the way that Twitch works, you can’t just turn it on when you see the counter go up, as it runs on a delay. Potential viewers will come and go long before you see that number move if you’re not putting in a show worth watching.
Going through this process has humbled me a great deal. Attracting and retaining an audience of any size is incredibly difficult. As a streamer, you are asking a lot out of your audience when you request that they hang out with you for hours at a time, during specific parts of the day, multiple times a week. For me, that means putting a lot of effort into promotion and making an honest attempt at building a personal connection with every single person that gives my stream a try. Off the strength of those connections, I’ve had amazing streams even when there was only one viewer with me. Hopefully with time, we can build up this community to the point where we can always have people to hang out with.
As a streamer, what aspects of the experience stress you out. If this is a hobby you’re looking to pursue, what are the things that give you the most concern? Let’s discuss!
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