Friday, October 9, 2020

Your Stream is Your Own

Getting into Twitch streaming can be a very scary process. The biggest reason many people never start is because they're afraid their content won't measure up to whatever standard they've set for themselves. In reality, this standard is an illusion. It isn't really set by the prospective streamer, but instead constructed out of hundreds or thousands of other influences they've accumulated throughout their lifetime: whether those are different streamers, other video content, TV shows, movies or anything else. We're constantly collecting influences to compare ourselves to in one category or another throughout our days, whether we want to or not. And as I've mentioned in previous entries, comparing your content to other peoples' content can be very harmful. 


How is it possible to tell whether you've been influenced or not? That's not too difficult to do. Answer the following question truthfully, and in as much detail as you can: What elements comprise a Twitch stream?

The typical answer is that a Twitch stream involves someone playing one or multiple video games live on the Twitch platform for the entertainment of others, while viewers are able to chat with the show's host and possibly play along. That's not all though. Most of you who answered this question have a minimum length for your streams in mind too, whether you explicitly thought about it or not. (For example, would one hour be too short for a Twitch stream? How about one minute? What about one second? There's clearly a cutoff somewhere.) Many see a picture in their head of typical 'video game aesthetics' like light-up keyboards, or branded headphones. Possibly a hanging microphone, or even a certain cadence to a broadcaster's speech pattern. Almost all of us imagine some basic paradigm for how a stream is laid out. (For example, I'm guessing you imagine some variation where the game is large on-screen, and there's a box in the corner which shows a video of the streamer.) 

Don't be afraid to let go of your preconceptions.

Everyone has different visions and mental associations when imagining what a Twitch stream 'looks like.' But all of those are constructed from our past influences and inspirations. For many streamers, certain elements like the light-up keyboard are optional, while other aspects are non-negotiable. It's pretty typical for instance, to see a streamer talk about how their stream 'could never' be under a certain length- one hour, two hours, four hours, whatever. That element is simply essential for streaming in their minds. Other things, like chatting with viewers, are pretty much globally accepted as facts of life when making a Twitch stream. 

But which of these elements are actually necessary, and which are optional? Surely if you knew, you could expand your creative horizons without upsetting the 'status quo,' right? Here's the thing: there are only two concepts in that earlier description which actually comprise a Twitch stream: 

1. It's live
2. It's on Twitch

That's it. Everything after those two components is just based on your own preconceptions, influences and personal ego. Every other restriction you put on yourself may not necessarily be hurting your channel, but it is limiting your perspective. With each element you allow yourself to believe that a Twitch stream needs, your list of possible creative options shrinks. 


Usually, we build these creative walls around our Twitch channels because of what we think makes a 'successful' Twitch stream. This is the classic algorithm-chasing mentality that has produced so many successful-yet-miserable influencers over the past decade of social media. The problem here is two-fold: First, as I've discussed in many entries before, if you achieve success but don't enjoy what you're doing, there really isn't as much fulfillment in it as you think. And second, algorithms have a curious habit of changing. Like, all the time. So even if you do play the system perfectly, your ascent isn't likely to continue on a steady trajectory for long. So instead of working within a set of rigid limits that in reality can guarantee neither success nor enjoyment, why not begin by defining what you actually want to accomplish, and working up from there? 

Even the smallest stream can change the course
of your channel.

I'll communicate this idea by using an example I've mentioned a few times before in The Twitch Playbook. Once I had established my streaming habit, a new aspiration with streaming started to form. I wanted to use the strong work ethic I had instilled through broadcasting to achieve my life goal of learning another language. I knew that by streaming my progress live every day, I'd have a set routine for when learning takes place, and I'd have the added bonus of being able to go back and see how much I'd improved over time. Notice that this objective had nothing to do with introducing new viewership, or trying to gamify the show for the benefit of others- this stream had a higher purpose. It wasn't traditional entertainment, as much as it was a way to facilitate one of my life goals. And in breaking myself free of the bondage of every preconception I had known, I was able to build this stream from the ground up in the exact way which would suit my learning needs. I smashed my idea of minimum show length- where my normal streams were a few hours long, these lasted less than 15 minutes each day. This certainly meant that I'd have fewer viewers on these shows, and little to no engagement, but I was also able to set a realistic and manageable daily learning goal. The results speak for themselves- by not biting off more than I can chew, I've been able to stick with the habit now for more than 500 consecutive days, and can have roughly a 30-minute conversation in the language without ever reverting back to English. If I had committed to each Japanese stream being two hours just to satisfy my preconceptions about how long a show 'has to be,' it would be very easy to miss study days whenever I didn't feel like I could carve out the time among all my other livestream content.  

These shows may be short and have very small viewer interaction compared to all the other streams I do, but don't be too quick to judge my choice to make this a livestream rather than a pre-recorded video either. Over time, other Japanese-learning viewers of my channel have not only followed along but used them as inspiration to continue their own journeys. Even viewers who are learning other languages have told me that watching my Japanese streams and the learning techniques I use has helped them with German, Welsh and other totally different languages than the one I was studying. Prospective language-learners of all kinds have looked to my dedication in the past year to keep pushing themselves and not give up. That's a pretty gratifying feeling. And it all came from a stream that sometimes lasts as few as five minutes a day.  


The language stream is just one example of an extremely unconventional show that has worked for me only because I set aside every preconception I had about what a Twitch stream is. And to return to the other point, even if these streams had no distinguishing factors to differentiate them from YouTube videos, I would still choose to broadcast them live rather than posting them as pre-recorded videos. Because I like making livestreams. And the same can apply to you as well- do what's best for you. It's always your choice what you do on your channel- it doesn't matter if it nets viewers, it doesn't matter if it's helpful to anyone, it doesn't even matter if it's entertaining. As I've mentioned in many other entries before, the only thing that matters about a Twitch stream is if you enjoy making it. So think about what you want to accomplish with your Twitch streams, and then you can truly make them your own! 

No comments:

Post a Comment