As a streamer, your voice and the words you say with it are your most important assets. Every game you could ever play will be covered by thousands of others, but viewers will have to come to you for your particular spin on the action.
Easier said than done, of course. Talking while gaming isn’t a skill that players develop naturally. Add in the fact that you might not be comfortable partaking in conversations in real life, and the thought of carrying the conversation for the duration of a multi-hour stream becomes incredibly daunting.
If you routinely find yourself drawing a blank, here are some pointers for how to keep the conversation going!
Approach streaming with the mentality of a content creator
The biggest and most common mistake that streamers make is that they don’t approach the medium with any plan to create content beyond what game they’re playing. I hate to burst your bubble, but unless you’re a high-level player or are approaching the game from a unique angle, your gameplay probably isn’t that interesting. At the very least, one can watch thousands of other streams or VODs of others playing that same game in a more interesting manner.
If you want to build an audience, the onus is on you to make your show interesting. Be deliberate in your approach so that you’re taking an active role in creating compelling content. That means being prepared with talking points or angles to approach a conversation. For me, that prep even includes doing research and taking notes on things I want to talk about during each show. However you go about it, approach your stream with the mentality that you’re trying to create content worth watching for hours at a time.
Share your ongoing thought process
Every action you perform in a game gives you an opportunity to share your rationale behind each decision. Viewers want to know your reasoning, especially if they pan out or fail miserably. You can analyze your play from a tactical and strategic perspective:
Tactical Example: “I think the boss is going to attack next, so I’ll be ready to dodge.”
Strategic Example: “This boss can’t hurt me nearly as much from a distance, so I’m going to use my crossbow.”
Here’s an example from Ian over at Adventure Rules. During a let’s play of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, he outlines the predicament that he’s in where the enemies have blocked his path with a steel door. Therefore, Mario and the crew are going to find someone that can help bring it down.
When you do this, you add context and colour to the on-screen action. They better understand the decisions that you’ve made, whether they agree with you or not. This is something you can do throughout your stream with pretty much any game you play. It comes in particularly handy when you’re short on subjects to talk about otherwise.
React to in-game moments
Watching people react to stimuli is one of the most popular forms of content. There are entire YouTube channels dedicated to reactions. I’ve seen many streamers go as far as to pull up YouTube and react to assorted videos as their primary form of content. As a game streamer, you can learn something from this.
Having watched Gaming Diaries play through much of the Uncharted series, I find the juxtaposition between the intense action and her cool demeanor to be fascinating. During this one intense firefight, she politely asks her enemies to form an “orderly queue” so that she can more easily kill them. Where else will you get reactions like that to such a game?
Above is an example from one of my Stardew Valley streams. After giving Abigail a tulip, I was completely befuddled by her choosing to eat it. The awkward pause, cringy facial reaction, and the burst of laughter at the end were hilarious for viewers in the moment. It even found life outside of the stream itself, as it became one of my most-watched clips on Instagram.
You can’t always prepare to provide an interesting reaction. I had no idea Abigail was going to eat the tulip. But you should keep in mind that how you react to in-game events adds to the overall quality of your stream. Do you laugh a lot? Rage out and throw controllers? Get flustered and mess up even more? Whatever it is in that moment, these are easy setups to create something interesting.
Furthermore, reactions get bonus power if you’ve got a camera. In that Stardew Valley clip above, the awkward pause and my facial expression carries that moment. Your face goes a long way towards providing value to your viewers, and not just because you’re a supermodel. Being able to see one’s face, see how they respond to the games they’re playing, and being able to make “eye-contact” with the viewers is an incredibly powerful way of building a connection with your audience. If your computer can handle it, get a camera!
Share your opinions
How much do you enjoy the game you’re playing? What’s your favourite video game of all-time? Do you like pineapple on pizza? Whatever the topic of discussion is, your opinions help your viewers understand who you are as a person. Viewers don’t always have to agree with your stance, either. Those differences can create fascinating debates, which leads to better content and more things to talk about.
During one of my “Show & Tell” segments, I pulled out my copy of Sonic All-Stars Racing: Transformed. I go into detail on why I think it was one of the best kart racing games and how it falls just short of surpassing Mario Kart 8. Even outside of gaming, I love sharing my opinions on movies, music, news, and pop culture. Whether you agree or disagree, it provides value and speaks further conversation.
There’s a lot of opinions that you have that are worth sharing. Just be mindful that depending on your audience and the show you’re trying to create, going down certain paths could be harmful. Not at all trying to censor your art, but it’s something to keep tabs on.
Roleplay/immerse yourself in the game
In-game dialogue gives streamers the opportunity to roleplay. By reading the dialogue aloud, you’re adding more value to the stream and further immersing players into the world.
Playing the role of the murderer, Rachel from Double Jump does an impression of his voice while physically emoting his anxiety. At a certain point, she touches Kris, which freaks her out. Rachel then fully leans into it by touching Kris’ head. All of this is way more interesting for viewers to watch rather than just skipping it over.
Going back to Stardew Valley, I started doing a thing where I was roleplaying my character by adding my own story beats. Between Haley disses, I would use my real phone and make pretend phone calls to her. I use a voice changer to make it sound like I’m actually talking on the phone to further sell the effect. However, even without the voice changer, I’m using those moments to add to the story and make this playthrough more unique.
The secret sauce of streaming is that it’s a two-way medium. Viewers and streamers feed off of one another to create an interactive experience that television shows and VODs cannot. One way to build on your conversational toolkit while also getting your community involved is by asking lots of questions.
Some of these questions can be really basic, but still add to the dialogue, such as, “How are you today?” or “What’s your history with the game I’m streaming right now?”. As you play your games, think about other questions related to the action that could be worth asking. As an example, there was a section in the game Florence where the protagonists brushes her teeth. I ask the chat if they floss and we got a surprising number of answers.
If you want, you can even take a break from the games and use your platform as a means of conversation. Once a week, Kim and Pete over at Later Levels host a segment they call Save Point. They’ll entertain general conversation from their viewers, but they primarily steer the conversation around one key subject. In the clip above, the debate centered around Quick Time Events. Having that core topic of discussion and exploring it from every angle helps to create a lot of compelling discussion amongst the whole group.
Discuss gaming news and culture
Many viewers have a wider interest in gaming. Simply by scanning a gaming news website, you can quickly find topics worth discussing with your viewers.
In this example, I had recently come back from seeing the Nintendo Switch Lite a few weeks before launch. It served as a valuable discussion point and some exclusive insight on a console that hadn’t been released yet. You don’t have to go that far though to find gaming subjects worth discussing!
Don’t be afraid to branch out beyond gaming for subjects of discussion. Viewers appreciate streamers who are able to draw from outside the gamingsphere for topics. Food is a recurring topic on Later Levels to the point where Kim and Pete fully embraced it. During an episode of Save Point, they asked viewers to submit photos of their dinner, which were then showcased on stream.
Draw from your personal experiences
Whether your stories are funny, sad, or #relatable, you have a lifetime of content stored in that head of yours. If you can find personal anecdotes that fit the game in some way, great! If not, that’s not necessarily the end of the world.
Have you ever stayed up late to play a game? Probably. Here I am sharing the time I watched the sunrise while trying to wrap up the final case in Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies.
During a more personal moment, I share the story of a key turning point in my life. Be careful with where you let your guard down, but you can really connect with others by sharing these types of stories that others can empathize with or relate to.
Maintaining a compelling conversation across hours of a stream is difficult. These are just a handful of places to draw inspiration from. The most important thing you can do is to acknowledge the fact that it’s on you as the streamer to create that conversation. Whether you do hours of research beforehand or develop an ability to create subjects on-the-fly, do everything you can to keep the conversation flowing.
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