Friday, December 17, 2021

How to Use Your Influences for Streaming

If you’ve been following The Twitch Playbook up to this point, you’ll know that I draw inspiration from many different artists of various disciplines. There have been entries focusing on the music of Bob Dylan, the writings of Mark Twain, and the films of Hitchcock. Though each of these artists focuses on a different craft, they all have something in common: an unbridled love of the arts. Whether pulling from the works of others in their discipline, like a movie director drawing from other movies, or jumping across to others, like musicians being inspired by television, truly great creators keep their minds active by not only enjoying the media they watch, read or listen to, but by putting it to use. 

Many Twitch streamers believe that in order to improve a Twitch channel, they must consume other content related to Twitch. They watch other Twitch streams, look up tutorials with ‘Twitch’ specifically in the name, and get into Twitch-related discussions. And while all these things can help you in your quest, it leaves out a huge wealth of potential knowledge and inspiration. I think that a balanced diet of different media, consumed regularly and with care, can lead to a much healthier Twitch channel overall. In this entry, we’ll talk about how a love of books, movies, TV and music can help to keep your Twitch channel fresh. 


Anyone who knows this podcast knows that I love the works of Hideo Kojima. He’s responsible for the Metal Gear Solid series of video games, as well as the more recent masterpiece Death Stranding. Kojima is a hugely inspirational figure to me, who wears his influences on his sleeve. He’s a major believer in pulling from other artistic genres for his work, saying so himself on all his social media profiles, with his quote, “70% of my body is made of movies.” And while cinema is certainly a huge presence in what he creates, there is so much more going on under the surface. Throughout the years, I’ve discovered countless movies, books, bands and other pieces of art because of his games and real-world recommendations. I find his voracious consumption of media hugely inspiring, not because he’s able to watch, read and listen to so much, but because he has the uncanny ability to take what he’s consumed and redirect that inspiration into his own creations. 

Death Stranding puts many of Kojima's musical
passions in the spotlight.

Kojima opens his newly published book
The Creative Gene by describing the zen-like connection he has cultivated with other works of art: “I place tremendous significance on the media I encounter within the limits of my lifetime. Such encounters are acts of happenstance; they can seem like a product of fate. I have no idea what will connect with me, or where, or what kind of connection will form. And so, rather than wait in a passive haze, I desire to act with purpose and to cherish the encounters that result from my choices.” Kojima goes to the bookstore every single day. He reads and reads and reads, making no attempt to research which books will be good or bad beforehand. He briefly roams the shelves, and picks whatever stands out to him that day. If it’s good, that’s great. If it’s bad, oh well. On to the next one. As he puts it, “If the book I choose is a miss, there is no reason to become discouraged. That is also part of the learning process that will guide me toward another winner. Time spent reading such a book is not wasted, but rather leads me to my next encounter.”

I think this is an amazing way to look at the process of consuming. Too many of us are focused on only experiencing things we already know we’ll like. It’s the reason that Hollywood churns out so many identical blockbusters and other safe bets. We actually get upset when something we watch isn’t perfect, we wish we hadn’t spent the time, and we blame whoever recommended it. But what if we accepted that all the media we take in is a net gain? What if everything we watch, read, or listen to, whether we enjoy it or not, is a worthwhile experience? Just like how a person doesn’t have to be perfect to influence your life, a movie or book doesn’t have to be good to teach you something worth learning. It’s all about how you approach the material. When streaming, the same is true. Even if you had a bad stream today, and there were glitches or embarrassing moments, you’re always gaining something valuable from the experience. 


While Kojima takes his influences from all genres and turns them into video games, there are other artists who successfully work within one medium while being influenced primarily by that same medium. Movie directors like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese for example, are famous for essentially transposing existing cinematic styles and making them their own. And it’s important to remember that you don’t need to consume a lot of content to make something great either- it’s about how well you can channel the creative energy you receive. In Peter Jackson’s incredible 7-hour documentary about The Beatles’ final album Let It Be, there’s a scene in which George Harrison describes a TV show he happened to be watching the previous night. And from having taken in that one piece of audiovisual inspiration, he wrote the entire song I Me Mine in those few moonlit hours before coming in the next day. The show he was watching didn’t sound like the song he wrote at all (at least as far as I could detect), but the inspiration struck, and he understood how to channel it. 

Not pictured: The Beatle I was actually talking about.

So clearly there’s some kind of mysterious value in consuming media, even if you want to apply the inspiration to a totally different discipline, like, in our cases, Twitch streaming. But the question is, how do you harness that skill and transmute the lessons learned from one thing into something totally different? For me personally, it’s about being able to definitively quantify my feelings about what I consume. Many of us settle for ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it,’ but that doesn’t suffice, because it doesn't really mean anything. As I mentioned during the section about Hideo Kojima and the books he reads, it’s not about whether we liked it, it’s about learning from it. In the entry Chronicle Your Twitch Progress, I spoke about how I write down short summaries after every conversation I’ve had in Japanese. This allows me to break down what worked, and what needed improvement. When it comes to movies and books, I do the same thing. After watching any movie or reading any book, I write down my thoughts. Not in terms of whether I liked it, but in terms of what I thought worked and what I thought didn’t. And most importantly: why. No hiding behind vagueries, but really confronting my opinions, being honest with myself, and committing those thoughts to a permanent record. There are several websites where you can do this yourself with movies, books and music, should you so choose. In my own life, I think forcing myself to think meaningfully about what I consume heightens my creative senses, and allows me to arrive at good ideas more quickly. No matter what we’re doing, it’s always possible to learn from it. Make sure you’re not wasting time, even while you’re wasting time. There’s no telling what you can create when you learn to use your influences for streaming. 

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