Friday, October 16, 2020

How to Avoid Streamer's Block

Have you ever been in a situation like this? It's time to stream, and you're excited to go live. The only problem is, you're not really in the mood for the game you're supposed to be playing on today's show. Maybe your schedule says that it's 'Spooky Sunday,' but you don't feel like getting scared. Or you might have been working through a massive JRPG for the past few weeks, but think you need a little break from all the dice rolls and anime hairstyles. It could be that you're exclusively a Fall Guys streamer, but for whatever reason you just want a change of scenery for the day. So you find yourself scrolling through your Steam catalog, looking intently for something else you could do on today's show. Some of the games stick out to you, but none of them seems perfect, so you keep scrolling. Maybe you could do a Just Chatting stream? But no, you decide against that too. You know you want to play something, you just don't know what it is you want to play. This process goes on for so long that you've already passed your scheduled show's start and lost a major chunk of potential broadcasting time. Eventually you decide that you just don't feel like going live today. 

If you've been in this situation before, you understand what it is to be struck by streamer's block. No matter how experienced you are as a streamer, and no matter how willing you are to stream, this endless loop of indecision can strike at any time and bring you to your knees. Of course, you're not alone in feeling the block's deadly effect. Ask any writer who spent the whole day in front of a blank page, or an artist who can't put brush to canvas. But while you might be in good company, this isn't somewhere you'll want to stay for long. In this entry, I'll help you to avoid streamer's block. 


It's not just creative people who experience block, either. I'm willing to bet you've been caught in its grip more than a few times throughout your life, no matter your past experience. Have you ever tried to choose a brand of toilet paper, or dishwasher detergent, or toothpaste at the grocery store for example? It's not uncommon to suddenly find oneself over-analyzing all the various brands' boxes, unable to just pick one and move on. How about when looking online for new electronics? I've certainly found myself swimming in comparisons, features and pricing charts when looking for a new television or graphics card, to the point that it becomes hard to make a purchase at all. And then there's the infamous Netflix scroll. You know you want to watch something new on Netflix, you just don't know what it is yet. There are a million good options, but no perfect one for the moment. This leads to endlessly looking through titles, oftentimes for so long that we've wasted a good chunk of our potential watch time just by browsing. 

Watch out.

All this can be traced back to a concept I've described in the entry How to Get in the Habit of Streaming. There, I referred to it as The Enemy, a force inside all of us which actively tries to stop us from doing whatever it is we truly want most in life. It takes many forms, each trickier and more seductive than the last, and it will fight against productivity every chance it gets. We might not care that much about wasting time choosing toothpaste, but this only represents the seed being planted in preparation for a much darker reaping. By not letting us decide during little moments like this, The Enemy is cultivating that habit within us, so that it can flip the switch to sabotage us when we're trying to do something we truly care about. Something like streaming. 


The reason we fall into this trap is because we over-estimate the consequences of making the wrong choice. What if I get the wrong TV and I'm stuck with a dud for the next several years? Will I choose a bad movie and have to sit through two hours of drivel? Mostly, this is all just an illusion. At the end of the day, picking the toothpaste with MaxFresh technology over the one with 360 Degree Whole Mouth Clean isn't going to have much impact on your life. In fact, it's not likely to impact your life at all. The only reason we spend time making the decision is because a decision is there to be made. If there was only one brand of toothpaste on the shelf, we'd pick it up and move on without a second thought. If there was only one available model of the GTX 3090 rather than the dozens of little incrementally different options, we'd have no problem buying it.

Always a banger, whether you're 
choosing the game or the movie.

I used to get caught in this bind all the time when choosing things to watch on Netflix. I'm a huge movie fan. I'm a member at a few of the historic theaters in Los Angeles, I seek out interesting film events whenever I can, and I watch at least one movie every day. At some point, I realized it didn't really matter to me what movie I watched on Netflix on a given day, it just mattered that I watched it. Whether a movie is good or bad, I end up finding something to enjoy either way, so why stress about the quality of my choice? Now, when browsing Netflix, I improve my ability to choose by removing most of the potential choices. I created a system that I call 'The 20-Second Movie.' Under these guidelines, from the moment I open the Netflix movies page, I have only 20 seconds to find a movie to watch. If I can't decide on something in that time, then I have to watch whatever the cursor lands on when the second hand strikes twenty. This has led me to find a huge amount of amazing movies, either that I regularly passed up on the menu or never would have discovered in the first place. I've done this for dozens and dozens of films in the past year, and I've never regretted a single choice. As I expected, the fun was in watching a movie, no matter what it is. Not sitting on the couch thinking about watching a movie, which is what I was doing when scrolling through the Netflix menus.

Whenever I've been struck by streamer's block, I've employed the same type of strategy. If I'm choosing between multiple games, I go with my first gut thought and stick with it. What's the worst that can happen? I play something I don't love for a few hours? Much like watching movies, it's not the game that typically brings me joy but the act of streaming itself. Being live on camera, playing or doing something different, getting to have new kinds of conversations with viewers- these are the things that are most exciting about streaming a new game. So the next time you're hit by streamer's block, try choosing a '20 Second Game.' Even if your choice isn't the perfect one for that moment, you'll still have a good time. And more importantly, you won't have wasted your time.


Remember that force we talked about earlier in this entry, The Enemy? It wants you to slow down. It wants you to pause and mull over some small decision. The more insignificant the better. Every moment you take to second-guess yourself increases this dark hold over your psyche. So give up on perfection. Go with your gut. Buy the first toothpaste you see. Get off that Netflix Browse screen. And just pick a game to play. Twitch streaming is fun. Don't think yourself out of doing it. If you want to avoid streamer's block, all you have to do is make a decision. 

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