Friday, May 10, 2019

Attempt Your Worst Idea for a Twitch Stream

Let's say you've been streaming for a while and your shows are going well. Your streams may not have the fanciest equipment or newest games, but you've got your audio mixed properly and your hosting persona is getting more refined. You might have also found a comfortable groove for your channel's schedule- whether that's always going live at a specific time, or just making sure you never miss a scheduled day. All is going well.

Do you love playing with action figures? Stream it!
But you probably have an idea kicking around in the back of your mind- a style of stream that's outside of your comfort zone. You haven't done it before, you're not sure if you'd be able to do it well, and you may have never seen anyone else on Twitch doing it- it lives in completely uncharted waters. For these reasons, you are terrified of attempting that stream.

This is good!

Fear of trying something on stream is the best way to know that it's the exact kind of idea you SHOULD be implementing. You should always try your worst idea for a livestream. You never know what's going to work.


It's hard to pin down what seems like a 'bad idea' to anyone out there, because anything that seems crazy to one person could be another's bread and butter. Suffice it to say that it's all relative- the kinds of streams someone typically makes are what cause a new style of show seem strange: a Fortnite streamer doing an IRL show where they repair their motorcycle, a competitive Overwatch player strapping their phone to their chest and livestreaming their morning runs in first-person, or someone known for painting miniature Warhammer figurines doing live karaoke. Think of the hobby you love most outside of livestreaming- what would it be like if you were able to incorporate that into your Twitch channel?

If you love building or customizing your PC,
don't assume others will find it boring.
Try sharing it with the world!
"But Nick!" you might complain, "My passion for LARPing would make a terrible stream! Why would I attempt something when I don't even know if it'll work?" There are many reasons. First, you can meet new kinds of viewers- if you have a passion for beatboxing, or photo editing, or sandcastle building and decide to do it on stream, there will most likely be others out there who love the same thing. You're making your channel more varied, and therefore more discoverable. Your existing fans would be able to look forward to new kinds of shows as well, having a welcome break in the typical style of stream. And most importantly, you'll be more creatively fulfilled- you'll get to do something you love and share it with everyone! Don't think of this as a permanent change- it's just a one-time thing. See how it feels to try on stream- if you like it, you might find you want to bring it back.

There's a saying by Confucius: "Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." Don't let your stream be a perfectly flawless pebble- keep trying new things even if you don't know whether they'll be any good. This is how great ideas grow!


On my streams, I've implemented many of these kinds of ideas, and they have done wonders for my channel. That's not to say that I've kept every crazy idea I've tried, but rather that I have never stopped trying my worst ideas for streams, and through this constant experimentation have been able to significantly improve my channel. The following was my personal journey in arriving at one such stream idea.

For work, I typically fly around the country about a dozen times per year. When I started on Twitch, I didn't want to let this interrupt my daily livestream schedule, so I came up with a way to still stream while away from home. Several streams ensued, some of these tried and refined multiple times, but here are the overarching concepts.

I tried to hard to stream video games away from home, before I realized
I could branch out into the other things I love!

1st Attempt: The Portable Console

When I first started, I didn't do anything except stream story-based games. And I had a hard time deviating from that rigid concept in any way. So my first thought was to bring my Nintendo Switch, laptop and a whole nest of capture equipment and cables with me. I'd plug my Switch into the computer, route it into the hotel's TV through an HDMI splitter and play Zelda while away from home. It worked (in theory) but there were too many variables: some hotel TVs weren't compatible, there was too much hardware to lug around, and most importantly: my laptop couldn't handle it.

2nd Attempt: The Less Intensive Game

On my second trip, I tried streaming Stardew Valley, a simpler pixel-art game, from my laptop. Using a camera would still cause performance issues on the stream, but it ran more smoothly than the previous, more intensive setup.

3rd Attempt: No Camera

Next, I tried playing Stardew Valley with no camera. This worked better than before, but I'd still be cursed with crashes and unpredictability. After a few tries at making this work, it was time to go back to the drawing board.

4th Attempt: Video Game Novel Readthroughs

I picked up a companion novel to one of the video games we were doing on stream and did a dramatic reading of that story during simple Just Chatting shows. Since I typically create voices for all the characters on video game streams, this fit the channel identity well, and tied into the games we played. But I wasn't passionate about this idea, so I ended up scrapping it too.

5th Attempt: Walking Around IRL

I then tried doing streams where I would walk around outside the hotel where I was staying. Sometimes I would be in really cool places and could do virtual tours of the area. But the schedule of my work while traveling made this unsustainable: if my plane landed at 11:00pm, it would throw a wrench in any plans to walk around on camera.

6th Attempt: Coloring Book Stream

Getting to rekindle my love of art was a major source of
happiness in my life, and it's all thanks
to my Twitch streaming career!
One day I found a Harry Potter coloring book at a used book store. I thought it would be fun to try a coloring book stream, and after attempting this once I knew it was a huge hit. Everyone loved watching, and enjoyed the relaxed tone. I quickly realized this could be my idea for travel streams: all I'd need was my phone, a set of colored pencils, and this coloring book. It was easy to carry, fun to watch, and I was given an outlet for a major passion of mine. One that I never thought I'd have time to do anymore, before incorporating it into my Twitch channel. For the first 20 years of my life, I had been studying the fine arts, but ever since I moved away from that in my career I haven't had time to draw, paint, or create much at all. It was amazing to regain this creative outlet!

For the past several months, I've been doing an ongoing 'playthrough series' for the entire coloring book. Just like a story-based game, we are aiming to finish the entire thing from cover to cover. WHEN that task gets done doesn't matter, because it's a fun thing to look forward to every time I go away on business. I don't dread the extra work of setting up a stream away from home, or avoid streaming while out of town and then stress about how I'm missing  potential opportunities. I've met all sorts of new people who are interested in watching artwork-focused streams, who have then joined my normal video game shows after enjoying my personality while coloring. I now know there's a thriving art community on Twitch, but at the time I had never seen an artwork stream before. I didn't even know whether anyone would be interested in watching my coloring book show. All I knew was that I would enjoy doing it. And that's what fueled me. Even though the coloring stream concept seemed craziest to me out of all the ideas I tried, it ended up being not only the one I liked the most, but the one people enjoyed watching the most too. Who would have guessed?


I'm not suggesting you find some gimmick for your Twitch channel, or attempt streams you know won't work. I want you to try the streams that you WISH would work- the ones that would make you so happy to be able to create, even if right now you don't know who would want to watch them. Don't mistake this for me advising you to buy better tech either, to make a 'dream version' of your existing streams- I'm talking about trying your completely outside-the-box ideas that incorporate the passions that you haven't ever shown on your Twitch channel.

Do you love cooking? Video editing? Talking about sports? ASMR? Archery? Woodworking? Watching YouTube videos? Petting your cat? Learning new languages? It doesn't matter what the idea is, as long as you're passionate about it. Imagine if there were a way that could be incorporated into your Twitch channel. How pumped would you be to go live on Twitch when you were making one of those shows? Look at my example- every idea isn't guaranteed to work for you, but once you find the one you love doing, you'll be glad you chose to 'color outside the lines'. So get out there and try your worst idea for a Twitch stream. You might find that it was actually your best!

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