Friday, July 23, 2021

Allow Your Streams to Evolve


While I’ve covered a large range of topics throughout The Twitch Playbook, they all ultimately fall into one of three major categories. First, what allows a Twitch channel to continue growing? Second, what makes a Twitch channel better than it was before? And third, what makes us happier while making our content? And tying them all together is the most important question of all: What happens when it’s necessary to sacrifice one of these three categories in order to let the other two thrive?

Some people are content to chase growth and improvement, finding happiness in their popularity if not necessarily in the act of streaming. Others are willing to let quality fall behind in order to grow fast and enjoy the ride. And a third subset, which includes myself, find that they don’t mind slowing expansion if it can let them produce better work and be happier while doing it. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong choice here- everyone has different life goals and interests. But it’s useful to know which aspect can be dialed back on your own streams when life comes knocking. 


Throughout the lifetime of my channel, my content has continued evolving. My channel today doesn’t resemble the channel I had when I started streaming. And even though I often talk about how many times I’ve changed or pivoted my own brand in these entries, Twitch Playbook listeners who visit my streams may sometimes be surprised: many of the features I described in early episodes are no longer in effect on my channel today. 

Here's a franchise that certainly wasn't afraid to
evolve with every successive entry.

It’s easy to forget, especially for those who just recently found The Twitch Playbook and binged the episodes, that this podcast has been coming out every week for the past two and a half years. In that time, I’ve described successes, failures, iterations and all sorts of other experiences. These entries aren’t a postmortem, describing a channel that I ‘finished’ when I started producing the podcast- they discuss a living, breathing, and constantly shifting piece of content week over week. In this entry, I’m going to talk about how my channel has evolved since beginning the podcast, and demonstrate how even good features sometimes have to go, if they don’t further our life goals. 


I’ve often spoken in this resource about one of the big changes I’ve gone through on my channel: my focus more and more toward appreciating video game storylines. But what does that really entail, and how far have I gone with it? Yes, I never talk over cutscenes. And yes, I’ve become more confident in playing longer, less conventionally exciting games on my channel. I’ve also decided to jettison many of the features that have worked for me in the past, in order to create more space for the aspects of streaming that I enjoy most. I’ve described all these changes before. But while I’ve detailed each of these individual things, and how they helped me further my goals on their own, I haven’t necessarily gone into what all those combined changes have made the channel look like today. So let’s take a look at the channel as a whole.

It took me a long time to wean myself off the habit of trying to grow my content quickly, since in my professional life that’s what I’ve always been hired to do for other brands. But once I came to that conclusion, I realized many other ‘growth’ aspects of my channel could go as well. Raiding on my channel is no longer a factor, in either direction. I don’t raid at the end of my streams, nor do I allow raids to come in. I’ve scaled back many of the big, bombastic moments I’d previously done, like custom character voices and celebrations. I don’t write ‘going live’ Tweets anymore, and I’ve cut down my brand’s social presence to a select few platforms. I even take a less active role in engaging with my chat, choosing to maintain a much slower rhythm and respond to things in batches rather than constantly scan for incoming messages. These were all very distinct choices I’ve made over the lifetime of my channel in order to focus more on the games I play, and I’ve described all of these changes in various entries. But it also means that my channel may be completely unrecognizable to someone who joins in the hopes of seeing how I raid, or the celebrations I’ve described, in earlier episodes of the podcast. 


All the changes I’ve described have helped to make me happier with my content, even though I was fully aware that each one would further limit my potential for growth. But it’s also important to understand that just because I cut certain features from my own streams doesn’t mean I no longer endorse them, or that they weren’t good ideas at the time. Everything I’ve written about in The Twitch Playbook has worked for my channel at one point or another. I’ve never written about anything unproven, or things I had just started doing recently and thought might be a good idea going forward. By the time something makes it into The Twitch Playbook, it’s already been in effect on my streams for over a hundred broadcasts. If I tell you that something worked for me, I’m not being premature about it- it’s been heavily tried and tested. But some things worked for an old version of me- one that had different priorities. When I was trying to grow faster and build connections, things like raiding, being more active with my chat, and expanding social media all worked wonders. And for anyone who wants to do those things on their own channels now, those methods still work just as well as they did when I wrote about them. The entries about those things, even though I don't still do them, are completely valid.

If raiding will further your goals, then by all
means do it! Don't take my own channel's
removal of the feature as a condemnation.

I have no interest in maintaining my channel like a museum, trying to keep every good idea in effect in case someone wants to watch and learn from them. As I mentioned in the entry Your Content Should Make You Happy, my broadcasts are not an extension of the podcast. I don’t answer questions about how to stream, nor do I talk about or give advice to other channels. My streams aren’t a pot of gold at the end of the podcast rainbow, in which a listener can see all the things I’ve described in effect at once. My content would be nothing if it wasn’t constantly evolving. I continue to pursue new interests and ideas, just as I’d hope that everyone listening would feel comfortable pursuing their passions in their own content.


As I’ve spoken about before, I try to ensure that no feature on my channel is sacred. Anything, even the oldest or most successful idea, can find itself on the chopping block if it doesn’t further my long-term goals. As I mentioned in the growth check-in entry called Simplify Your Streams, it’s just as important to continuously remove things from a channel as it is to keep adding things. All this allows for true evolution and creativity. Because after all, we can always add things back in if we decide we really miss them. So consider your own channel: Out of the three previously mentioned tentpoles of Popularity, Improvement, and Happiness, which two are most important to you? And is your channel evolving to allow those two priorities to flourish? Sometimes you may feel locked into certain features because you’ve gone on record saying you’d always do them. But in order to keep pursuing our passions it’s often necessary to know when to break certain commitments. When you allow your channel to evolve with your priorities, you’ll find that the results fall into place.

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