Friday, May 31, 2019

Don't Be Afraid To Be Yourself on Stream

Many new streamers, especially those who don't have a lot of on-camera experience, are terrified of allowing their true personality to show during a stream. They might be extremely quiet on their shows for fear of saying anything wrong. They could hide behind the wall of the familiar, copying the style of other streamers who are already established. Or they may allow their own self-doubts to walk all over them, constantly second-guessing their own choices for their channel. These fears lead to bland streams, either less entertaining to watch or too similar to other shows to stand out- both of these outcomes are terrible for your channel's growth.

I know it's difficult to put yourself out there- speaking in front of crowds of strangers is terrifying to most. It terrifies me too. But here's the thing: in order to stream on Twitch we all have to do it, so you may as well show your true colors while you're at it. Let your authentic personality come out on stream. You'd be surprised how much good it does!


If you're aiming to fit in with all the other streamers,
you're missing the point.
The more unique a stream is, the more likely it is to succeed. People aren't following your channel because you act like Shroud or because your channel graphics look like Shroud's- if they wanted that, they could just follow Shroud. You want people to follow you for you. You want them to see something that they can only find on your channel, which will keep them coming back for more. What's the most unique thing about how you play games in your personal time, or just about you in general? Do you like to do crossword puzzles while waiting for Overwatch matches to start? Do you like talking in weird accents, or heatedly discussing Star Wars lore? Do you wear suits all the time? Do you like to play games in other languages and try to guess what the dialogue means? Whatever your personal unique trait, have you allowed it to show up in your streams yet?

I've spoken a lot before about incorporating your passions into your channel- you can probably tell I consider it extremely important. I think many people have a hard time really letting themselves run free, whether they're trying to start their channel or introduce these things into an existing one. Some streamers might even say there's "nothing unique about them," which we all know isn't true. All you have to do is reach within yourself and find those things that truly fuel you. It may take time to zero in on these things, but as long as you're keeping an eye out for them, they will present themselves.

When I started on Twitch, despite already having years of on-camera hosting experience, I wasn't truly allowing my most out-there quirks to show. Throughout the rest of this entry, you will hear three case studies. They describe instances when unleashing my passions on stream has helped my own channel in major ways. Your personal passions won't be the same, but hopefully by seeing the process and its benefits you will understand its rewards. Be aware that these changes for me didn't happen overnight, some of them took weeks or months of constant streaming to tease out, but the amount of time it takes should never deter you from doing this yourself- the benefits are enormous.


I've always loved the artistry and meticulous design that goes into video games. When I play the story-based games I love on my own time, I'm oftentimes more interested in looking at the posters on walls, reading the books and diaries scattered around, and searching through levels for secrets, than actually doing the main quest or any action related to the normal gameplay.

Searching for secrets in the 2016 DOOM, a game normally
about high-octane shooting, was the first instance
of my passion revealing itself on stream.
Starting out on Twitch, despite mostly focusing on story-based games from the get-go, I was terrified to actually let my true gameplay style show on stream. I thought it would make for a show so lethally boring that no one would want to watch- I was trapped by my own assumptions. I knew how to talk confidently on camera, so I would fill every moment with talking. It made for high engagement, but I would miss large pieces of the story- the aspect about games that I care about most. I also forced myself to play more to the mainline quest, passing up many of the items, secret passageways and bits of reading material that I typically loved to explore. And here's the thing- people did enjoy the shows. I did gain followers and community members, and my channel grew normally. But I didn't truly enjoy doing it.

After hundreds of broadcasts, I started facing my fear and slowly doing more unorthodox things in games. And when these quirks eventually did show up, people found new types of entertainment in them. I'd read in-game books in different invented character voices. I'd spend time analyzing posters and bits of environmental storytelling, and many viewers who had played the game before loved discovering something they never noticed in their own playthrough. People in chat would get excited when I started finding more secret items, to the point that we now have a channel emote and chat commands dedicated to moments when we find amazing hidden things. All the quirks that I was afraid to show on stream ended up becoming some of my channel's biggest branding points. Most importantly, there's now no barrier between how I authentically enjoy video games and how I play them on stream.


After starting to read in-game books and diaries using different accents, I began creating characters that I would voice on stream, who would appear for about a minute each and respond to different things in the game I was playing. Not just impressions, but original characters off the top of my head with all different dialects, mannerisms and backstories. This became such a massive hit that one dedicated community member even created a Wiki to chronicle these appearances. Now there are hundreds of separate characters on the Wiki, and I clip and add new appearances daily. The 'Expanded Nickiverse', as we call it, has become the hallmark of my entire channel, and contributing to this larger project, or being there for moments where new voices are summoned, is a huge reason for many viewers to keep coming back to streams.


Becoming a cowboy on stream was a major event
for my channel.
My love for accents and characters didn't stop there though. Eventually I undertook much larger scale projects using my voices. One of my favorite examples was my playthrough of the Red Dead franchise, a series of open world cowboy games made by the creators of Grand Theft Auto. I had a cowboy hat sitting around in my house, and decided to go through the whole series, from Revolver to Redemption to Redemption 2, entirely as a cowboy. This meant constantly talking in a western accent, pulling out countless Old West mannerisms or invented phrases, engaging with the chat in character as a cowboy, and generally seeing all the events in the games through the eyes of this invented gunslinger. The series playthrough ended up being around 250 hours of combined content, all without ever breaking the character of 'Cowboy Nick'. It was a huge joy to create, because I love western films and TV shows, and I was given an outlet for something that I truly loved doing on a scale that I never thought possible before.

Many people have said that the cowboy streams were their favorites on the channel, with others specifically mentioning that they originally followed just because of these unique shows and have become major fans of all my other content ever since.


Allowing your passions to take root in your stream will not just make you happier, but help you to avoid every streamer's nightmare: 'burnout.' Here's the thing many people don't consider: even when you're playing video games for a living, if you have to put on a mask every time you go live, you will eventually feel trapped within your own stream. Many great streamers larger than you or I have had major falling outs, even stopped their channels entirely, because of this phenomenon. Not being able to express oneself on stream can be a major contributing factor in losing motivation and becoming burned out. Don't let this happen to you.

As I've mentioned in many previous entries, you should never look solely for a 'gimmick'- don't take this entry to mean that you should stop everything you're doing and change all aspects of your channel, but rather that you should give your passions a way to slowly reveal themselves. You don't want to jump into a massively ambitious stream project without having tested the waters, or even worse, if you aren't truly interested in the subject matter. I only arrived at many of the concepts laid out in this entry after streaming hundreds, possibly over a thousand combined hours of content- they only grew into ideas as big as they were because they expanded naturally. When sitting around and thinking of what I wanted for my channel before I started streaming, I never would have imagined any of these things taking the center stage. But that's the great thing about allowing your passions to show: if you truly, absolutely love doing something, and you give it a chance on stream, it will plant its seed and start growing into something totally new. Don't be afraid to be yourself on stream- after all, there's nobody else out there who can do it exactly like you do!

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