Friday, November 29, 2019

Fear is Great for Streaming

What's one change you could make to your Twitch channel that terrifies you? Maybe you're starting out and you're afraid of speaking on stream or sharing your honest opinion. Or you've been streaming for a while and you feel you can't change the kind of game you play, your on-screen graphics, or your channel's branding. It could be you've been streaming every day for years, but now you feel completely trapped- like you can't alter the core of your channel at all, because everyone knows and loves it the way it is. What I've found on Twitch, just as in life, is that the decision you're most scared of making is usually the one you have to try. 


Face your fears!
Fear is usually seen as something evil, something to be avoided. If you're afraid of something, common sense dictates that you shouldn't do that thing. But if you truly pay attention to your fears, if you recognize them for what they are and allow them to guide you, they can act as a beacon towards the things you want most. Nobody is scared of a decision they don't care about making. For example, which makes you more nervous: writing a letter or writing a cover letter? On an objective level, these two actions are exactly the same. But it's the opportunity in the second that causes anxiety. The cover letter leads to something you want- whether the job at the other end has more fulfilling work, better conditions, or you just need the money, the reason you're antsy about writing it is because you don't want to mess up the opportunity put in front of you. So if you can harness the ideas for your Twitch channel that scare you most, you'll be able to use them as a compass to point you in the direction you should go next.

In this entry, I'll take you through one of the changes I was most afraid of making on my channel, how I conquered those fears, and what the benefits have been. You will most likely not be planning to make the exact same change for your own channel, but you should try to recognize the signs in my story of when fear pointed me toward the right path, and what I gained from calling its bluff. Not every fear will magically guide you to the right answer, but they will usually lead you to things you'll be glad you tried.


My entire channel is now built around playing story-based games in the way I'd authentically play them off-stream. This involves never speaking during cutscenes, reading every little flavor text entry I can find, and carefully exploring the environments for secrets. But when I was starting out on Twitch, I was afraid to embrace this aspect of my love for games. As I discussed in the entry Don't Be Afraid to Be Yourself on Stream, I knew from the beginning of my channel how to speak confidently on camera, so I filled the whole stream with lots of talking- even during all the narrative moments. It brought people to the streams and kept them there, but I was missing out on the stories that I wanted to experience. I also strategically chose games I thought would 'work best' on Twitch- the ones with lots of fast-paced action and not a lot of cutscenes. This meant I could play shooters and action games, but none of the 100-hour RPGs or slow-paced indie games I loved.

I was afraid no one would want to watch my shows if I played all the games I truly enjoyed. Worse still, I thought all my existing viewers would complain if I tried to introduce those games into my lineup, and I'd have to shamefully go back to playing the kinds of things that had been proven to work already. I assumed the Twitch streaming experience would always involve me putting games into two categories: 'on-stream games' and 'off-stream games'. If I wanted to play something that I didn't really need to think about, I'd do it on stream, and if I wanted to play something that required me to pay attention to the narrative and slowly analyze things, all without a single explosion, I'd have to save those for my 'me time'. I had become limited by my fears and assumptions about what would work, allowing them to get in the way of what made me truly happy.


If you're in the zombie apocalypse, then you might
want to think twice about facing your fears.
Otherwise, get out there!
Despite the fact that my channel was flourishing and I was excited to stream every day, I would catch myself thinking back to that point often. Why couldn't Twitch be my 'me time'? Was it really impossible for me to create a successful Twitch channel where I played games that weren't always conventionally entertaining? I began to realize that if I was thinking this much about making the change, it must have been important to me. So I started altering my channel. Using the techniques I laid out in the entry Fix One Thing About Your Stream Every Day, I took baby steps toward my goal. I first started playing action RPGs, then turn-based RPGs, then tactical and indie games. I was testing the limits of what my channel could handle, and each time I found encouraging results- the world didn't end.

Of course some people didn't like the change as it was happening, and they slowly drifted away. I lost followers, but I had no reason to complain about this, because I had been cultivating a different audience until that point. I had been making content for action game fans, and not every action game fan will enjoy turn-based RPGs. I was now starting the process of building the fanbase back up, but with people who liked the new kinds of games I was playing. And as the saying goes, I'd rather be at the bottom of a ladder that I want to climb, than halfway up a ladder I don't. By sticking to what I knew would work, my fear was helping me grow the channel, but it wasn't helping me grow the kind of channel I wanted to make. A year later, I don't even have any 'off-stream games' - I can play games on-stream the exact same way I'd play them off-stream, and this means I can do a lot more streaming overall. I can still point back to this tough decision as the best I've ever made for my Twitch channel, and the whole thing was born completely out of fear. In the moment, I was only able to recognize how important the change was to me, because of how scared I felt about making it.


So think again about your own channel. Are there any changes that have been in the back of your mind- ones that terrify you to think about making, but that you can't stop thinking about nonetheless? For me, it was embracing the less entertaining games I like to play. For you it could be anything. Sit down and think why that thing scares you at all. It's not likely to be scary if it's not important to you. If you can see a way to take baby steps toward that path, give it a shot. Whether or not you ultimately go with the idea, you'll likely be glad you tried it. Don't let fear stop you from doing the things you want to do- let it guide you toward the things you were meant to do.

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