Friday, June 18, 2021

Stay Curious About Streaming

Throughout this resource, I tend to speak very definitively about my passion for streaming. I personally love what I do every day, and am able to use that love to continue fueling my creativity as I go forward. And because I’ve always enjoyed streaming while writing these entries, that passion may sound demoralizing to some who haven't felt as sure about their own endeavors. Though I’ve spoken in bits and pieces throughout different entries about my past experience with professional media production, games industry coverage, and then streaming, it’s easy to forget that I didn’t always know what I ultimately wanted from my craft. In many ways, I still don’t. But I’ve always found things to enjoy about what I'm doing in the moment while feeding my passions. In this entry I’ll share my own struggles in finding my path, and hopefully help you to stay curious about your own streams. 


When I was a kid, internet livestreaming wasn’t invented yet, and wouldn’t be readily accessible to ordinary people until I was in my late teens. But I loved video games, and I loved the excitement around video games. I read all the news sites, watched the slowly loading videos, and hungrily gobbled up any game my parents bought for me. When I got a little older I became aware of E3, the hub from which everything exciting in the video game world grew. I watched everything I could, meticulously loaded mp3s of podcasts about it onto my Motorola flip phone for my daily walks to school, and started learning all the names and duties of my favorite people who attended all these industry events. I had no idea how to do it, but I wanted to be in that world. 

The 2007 press conference demonstration for
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was hugely influential to me.

I started showing off games to friends and family, trying to move the camera around in that slow and measured way you’d always see in E3 press conference demos. I made hundreds of terrible YouTube videos, tried to emulate the way professional demo people spoke, and sketched out grand plans for how I’d break into the games coverage scene. But this wasn’t a viable way to make money for me- at least not yet. And I began working as a freelance video editor in high school and college. I went to school for film, and at some point while attending the PAX East convention as a fan, realized I might be able to fake my way into creating my own video coverage. I had a little MiniDV camcorder with me at the event, and thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” So I flipped my ‘Attendee’ badge around to hide the fact that I wasn’t press, and asked the PR person at every single game booth if I could interview them. I got dozens of ‘nos,’ but after a while I did get a ‘yes’ or two. And I ended up having some pretty cool conversations on camera. I was over the moon. 

Then I came back, got my college friends together, shot some footage of us talking about the convention as if we’d all been there, and we turned it into a campus TV show. We went to all sorts of video game conventions, launches and private events after that. It started turning into a real thing. When I left school, I developed that show into a website, invested in some really good business cards, and practiced in front of the mirror for hours to come up with the perfect way to say things as if I were a seasoned, slightly bored professional, and not the giddy kid who felt like an impostor among all his idols. It started to work, and it got me into even more events. Eventually, I was actually able to get my own press access, and didn’t have to pretend anymore. After years of doing this in my free time, I got hired by a major company to produce coverage of events on the large scale, and suddenly I really didn’t have to pretend anymore. We were building sets, organizing multiple teams, and flying to E3, GDC, Comic Con, Tokyo Game Show, and every other significant place for video games and pop culture you could imagine. In the events’ off-season, I built the company’s Twitch brand from scratch by streaming to their channels every day. I showed off games in a way that my teenage self would be proud of, in those heady days when I used to pretend I was the demo person at an E3 press conference while showing my confused parents the merits of the brand new PS3’s cell processor. But after I’d done this for a few years, something began to grate on me. I was always answering the same questions, responsible for knowing everything I could about a game, and only showing them in a certain light. Simply put, I wasn’t able to play games the way I liked to play them. I was merely showing them off to other people. 


When I left that company, I decided I had achieved my childhood dreams, and didn’t need to continue chasing that particular rabbit. I was free to set up shop for myself and try something new. What if I could simply play games the way I liked to play them, while others were able to experience them along with me? It took a long time to ‘un-polish’ myself, removing years of media training and various types of on-camera conditioning. I went through dozens and dozens of different kinds of shows, scrapping, refining and reorganizing until I was satisfied in various fields. I was able to turn Twitch into something that supported my lifestyle in many different ways, not just a way to play video games. I often rejected commonly held beliefs about what ‘works’ (as you’ll know from following The Twitch Playbook so far) and I’ve also intentionally chosen paths which provide less growth and fame, all in the interest of letting Twitch compliment my life rather than dominate it. 

Miyamoto has his 'rule of three,' I have mine.
For example, many who read these entries and hear me talk about doing three streams every day assume it’s a testament to how hard I work. But in many ways it’s actually the opposite. Twitch’s algorithm actively docks me for going live so many separate times. It sees my channel as a sort of ‘boy who cried wolf,’ and actually won’t send out ‘going live’ notifications to my audience most of the time because of it. And I’ve known about this since the first week I started streaming. At any point in the last three years, I could easily have combined my three streams into a single mega-stream and immediately removed myself from this self-imposed shadowban, but I kept my eyes on a bigger picture. I’ve already experienced the highest echelon of what livestreaming has to offer. I’m not interested in massive recognition for my personal content as much as I am in creating a sustainable lifestyle. Going live three times per day and never having any set start times allows me to have a much more flexible schedule than I would with a single, immovable block of a broadcast. Having three distinct streams also allows me to turn the shows into permanent YouTube archives more easily. Since the start of my personal channel, every single stream I’ve ever done- nearly 5,000 individual videos, have been archived and placed into playlists on a separate YouTube channel. This allows longtime fans to revisit playthroughs, and lets newcomers catch up when they join in the middle of an ongoing series. It also logs my many mistakes and detours along the way while building my brand, and helps to show me just how far I’ve come. 


Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” I adore this quote for its inspirational value, but I think it’s a little misleading. Unlike in movies, there’s not necessarily one day in which we suddenly decide exactly what we want to do for the rest of our lives. For me, even though I was very passionate in pursuing my life’s ambition, that ambition changed multiple times over the course of the years. Even though in retrospect, each endeavor feels somewhat connected, I never would have expected the outcome. And while each of these steps in my journey has informed my skillset in some way, I never allowed my previously decided-on goals to interfere with whatever new paths I wanted to take. Of course, I don’t consider my current situation to be the ‘end point’ for my trajectory either. Who knows what my content will look like in five more years? In my opinion, it’s not necessary to know exactly what you want in life. If you want to be inspired and get things done, all you need to do is follow your current passions with all your energy. And by doing this, I hope you’ll find just as much fun and fulfilment in your own endeavors. When you stay curious about streaming, there’s no telling where it can take you. 

No comments:

Post a Comment