Thursday, December 23, 2021

Stream Like a Hobbit

When you’re streaming, it’s tempting to reach for as much as you can possibly grab. This may include fame when you constantly go for more followers, production value when seeking out new equipment to buy, or money if you continuously sign yourself up for more and more branded deals. We often pursue some kind of reward, a light at the end of the tunnel where we’re able to comfortably create our streams without worries. In the recent entry When Is Your Stream Enough? I went into this topic in-depth, and suggested that it might be okay to stream comfortably now, rather than putting off that satisfaction until after you’ve hit some arbitrary milestone. This time, we’re going to go further into that idea by exploring one of my favorite stories. In other words, sometimes it’s best to stream like a hobbit. 


First, a quick heads up: this entry will explore the ending of JRR Tolkien’s book The Hobbit. So if you haven’t read the book or seen the films, move forward at your own risk. (And honestly, you can’t go wrong with the book, the 1968 radio drama, the 1970’s Rankin Bass TV movie, or the 2012-14 Peter Jackson trilogy. So go read or watch whichever you prefer- you’ll be doing yourself a favor!) 

Now onto the story. Once Smaug has been defeated and the smoke has cleared after The Battle of the Five Armies, Bilbo makes his way back home with Gandalf the wizard. But there’s a detail of his return journey that I always found to be one of the most interesting parts of the whole quest: Despite being entitled to one fourteenth of the treasure horde under The Lonely Mountain, the hobbit chooses to take with him only two small chests of gold and silver. In explanation he says, “Very kind of you[...] But really it is a relief to me. How on earth should I have got all that treasure home without war and murder all along the way, I don’t know. And I don’t know what I should have done with it when I got home.” When thinking in Twitch terms, this very neatly summarizes two different pitfalls of ambition. 

Geralt gets attacked everywhere he goes.
He's used to it by now.

First, Bilbo anticipates being accosted while trying to transport a larger sum of treasure all the way back to Hobbiton. In a creative endeavor, our greatest treasure is our ambitions. And like medieval (or Middle-earth) travelers, we’re always at risk of being attacked while holding those dreams in our possession. As I’ve spoken about in many other entries, our self-consciousness, the pressure of time, peer pressure, and a thousand other small factors constantly attack us like highwaymen, trying to take these precious things away. Every day, another person in the world will give up on their life goals because one of these metaphorical robbers finally got to them. Make sure you’re only taking risks on your channel that you’d be willing to fight for. 

Second, Bilbo wonders what he’d even do with more than two chests of treasure when he got home. ‘Getting home’ in this case would mean reaching your goals on Twitch. He realizes that more isn’t always better, and even if he were able to reach his destination without any difficulty, the result may not even be desirable. With more treasure comes more headache, as any interaction with the Sackville-Bagginses could tell you. The two chests were enough for him, so Bilbo was content. Similarly on Twitch, not everyone on Twitch has to aspire to the same ambitions. Streaming is not a linear path, along which all channels can be plotted. There is a set starting point, but after that, everyone goes their own way. 


I’ve spoken in past entries about how we sometimes reach for goals for the wrong reasons. And when we begin from that point, our projects begin growing in the wrong directions. For example, this happens if we begin our channels with the hopes to impress others, rather than fully enjoy them ourselves. When we want to be able to tell our family and friends how much our endeavors are growing, we focus more on making the viewer and subscriber graphs climb. And when we focus more on that, we aim toward more styles of content which bring more attention. And we continually push aside the things we really like doing, in favor of whatever will enable that goal. A similar twisting of ambitions occurs when we start streaming solely to make money. As I often say, the means on Twitch are more important than the ends. Because the means are where we spend most of our time. 

They may not make good standing armies, 
but they make great video games. 

In his hugely influential treatise The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli discusses the best and worst strategic ideas in warfare. He suggests that mercenaries, a pillar on which much of the Italian states’ military might were based at the time, are a terrible idea: “The fact is, that they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe...” Essentially, money and reward is not enough to make a soldier willing to give up everything he has. He needs a real cause to believe in, like the defense of home and family. This is how 300 spartans made such a legendary dent in the invading 10,000 Persian soldiers, and how the paltry American army defeated a global superpower to gain independence. And even with his self-proclaimed lack of warfare knowledge, Bilbo Baggins innately understood the same concept. Only take risks when you’d be willing to fight for the results. On Twitch, we should treat our channels the same way. You’re giving up a significant portion of your time and energy when you create your content. And if you truly want to stick with it, aiming for money and fame isn’t enough. Create a stream you wholeheartedly believe in, so that no matter what kind of content you’re creating, it'll be a worthwhile adventure. Get out there and stream like a hobbit!

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