What is a Twitch channel? Whatever you want it to be. I’ve explored this concept in the past, and in the entry Your Stream is Your Own, I dove even deeper into this idea. There, I stated that there are only two objective criteria which make up a Twitch stream: First, it's live. And second, it's on Twitch. Anything else you think a stream 'has to' include is either simply based on your own thoughts, or ideas implanted in your head by the influences around you. These preconceptions have been growing in our minds since far before any of us even started streaming- they're based on things we've heard and seen from other content creators for our entire lives. And as with any old habit, it's very hard to break free from these ingrained ideas for our channels as well.
➢ ENGAGEMENT AT YOUR OWN PACE
One of the hallmark aspects of Twitch is its level of interactivity. What most people see as the factor setting a stream apart from an uploaded video is the ability for those in chat to offer their thoughts in realtime, and receive a direct response from the broadcaster moments later. But this kind of engagement can come in many forms, and it doesn’t have to look the same between any two streams. The concept of interactivity is simply a tool available to the streamer, which can be used in whatever way the creator sees fit. I’ve often seen a form of elitist gatekeeping among Twitch streamers, spoken either during a broadcast, or in soapboxing tweets, where someone compares certain types of streams to YouTube videos. It’s always meant as a cutting insult, claiming that if someone doesn’t incorporate some chat feature, or doesn’t respond to questions in a certain way, their stream ‘might as well be a YouTube video.’ I feel that this type of negative reinforcement not only serves to limit the accuser’s perspective, but also hurtfully shames anyone who thinks differently from them.
|Don't let anyone tell you what you have to|
talk about on stream.
Luckily, Twitch itself doesn’t harbor any such judgments. You can do whatever you want on your streams. If you choose to never speak to your chat, that’s your choice. If you only want to let people chat using emotes, that works too. Even if there are certain arbitrary types of comments you don’t like to respond to, you don’t have to respond to them. Of course, most chatters understand that hot button or offensive issues are globally off-limits, but maybe you’re sensitive about how you look, or some aspect of your streams. Even if it doesn’t make sense to the chatter at all, you still don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. Maybe you don’t like to talk about the color red, or the planet Saturn. Then they’re off the table! These may feel like extreme cases (or maybe not- I don’t know your preferences) but don’t ever feel like you have to talk about things you don’t feel comfortable with. It’s your stream, your space. Anyone who enters is responsible for upholding the guidelines you put in place. You're not beholden to anyone else's values.
Conversely, maybe viewer interaction is your favorite thing in the world. Maybe you’re passionate about giving one-on-one advice, or trading pop culture gossip, or maybe you just like having a steady flow of discussion while you play games. In that case, you might be looking for an experience that’s even more interactive than the normal Twitch infrastructure can provide. Other platforms can supplement these kinds of shows in powerful ways. Many streamers incorporate their Discord servers, keeping open chat channels active so that all members can join, and viewers can hear their realtime conversations with the community. To go even further, some allow viewers to call or text them through a Google Voice number, whether on the show or off, for a completely transparent interaction style. This is a concept that would make many streamers uncomfortable (myself included) but it comes down to individual tastes. The important thing is to capitalize on what you actually want from streaming. Whether you prefer to keep the normal amount of chat interaction, limit it to create a more chill vibe, or ramp things up to open a direct line into your life, there is no wrong answer. As long as you make sure you’re taking proper safety precautions, there’s no limit to what you can choose to do with your own brand.
➢ THERE ARE ALWAYS OPTIONS
This mantra doesn’t only apply to interactivity either. Every aspect of a stream is yours to customize as you see fit. There’s no particular way a Twitch stream needs to look, for example. If you don’t want to show your face, ditch the camera. Don’t have a capture card? It could be as simple as pointing your phone at the TV screen. Maybe you don’t even want to show the game at all for whatever reason, and would rather hold up drawings you made of the game while you narrate what’s happening. Or you could just make an audio-only stream. Video, like interactivity, is just another tool available to you. It’s up to you how to use it, and that doesn’t need to be constrained to the kinds of ideas you’ve already seen. Just do whatever excites you, or whatever your budget and tools will allow. There’s no rule for how your stream has to look, only the rules you choose to impose upon yourself.
|Not gonna lie, that 'drawings' idea actually sounds |
like a pretty awesome stream.
To take this even further, you can even create content on a Twitch channel without ever doing a livestream. Maybe you do non-live videos and upload them to your channel. Maybe you write little choose-your-own adventure stories utilizing the info panels in your channel’s about screen. Maybe you just love catching great clips of other streamers and creating compilation videos of their work. If that’s what makes you happy, then that’s what you should do. Should it live on Twitch, rather than some other platform? Who cares? If you choose to do it on Twitch, then yes, it should live on Twitch! The advice given in Twitch Playbook wouldn't always necessarily apply to someone who doesn't go live, but if that's the kind of content you're passionate about then do what feels right. Let go of your preconceptions and just allow your creativity to run wild.
➢ UNLOCKING POSSIBILITIES
Asking what a Twitch channel ‘is’ is like asking, "How long is a piece of string?" Your channel can be whatever you want it to be. There’s no point thinking any further about whether what you’re doing will ‘fit in’ with the other content creators, or whether anyone will want to watch it. As I’ve mentioned in other entries before, aiming to ‘fit in’ is the worst thing you can do for your content, both creatively and for growth purposes. And over time, any kind of stream, no matter how outlandish, will attract a dedicated audience as long as the person creating it is passionate enough. So forget all the peer pressure and preconceptions, and just run your Twitch channel without limits!