Friday, April 8, 2022

Streaming For Yourself

In the entry Your Content Should Make You Happy, I spoke about a difficult topic for many beginners to understand: the crushing weight of your project actually becoming successful. I talked about The Twitch Playbook podcast, which had taken off by that point and garnered a lot of attention. When a project grows, there are certain expectations that you will scale the content along with it. But I wasn’t interested in doing anything like that at the time, and my thoughts now haven’t changed. I make the Twitch Playbook primarily for myself. I like to write about my experiences, I enjoy narrating and producing the audio, and breaking down my strategies helps me get a clearer picture of my own process. But having said all that, The Twitch Playbook serves another very important purpose. Based on the hundreds of testimonials people have sent me over the years, it’s clear that even though I merely make the podcast because I like to, it’s helping a lot of other people. 

Geralt works for himself first, but he
still helps lots of people in doing so.

I’m thrilled by this kind of reaction, and I’m flattered every time someone tells me how important the show is to them, but I don’t rely on that praise to keep me going. Even if nobody responded, I would still make the content, simply because I like making it. That’s the secret to staying true to your values: make your content for yourself first, no matter what anyone else thinks of it. It applies to Twitch just as much as it applies to this podcast. What kind of stream would you personally want to watch? Don’t think about what your viewers are asking for, or what game is most popular right now. Begin with you. There are like-minded people out there, and they will gravitate toward your authenticity and passion. Just because the content starts with you doesn’t mean others can’t enjoy it. But if you start by worrying about the whims of others, it’s very possible that
you won’t enjoy it. 


Feedback can have a huge influence on how we produce our content. It’s a valuable tool for any content creator to hear what others think of what you’re making, and you should pay attention to suggestions and reactions to your channel. But feedback can also quickly spiral out of control. Did you ever play the game ‘telephone’ when you were a kid? Everyone sits in a circle, and one person whispers a phrase to the person on their right. Then that second person whispers the same phrase to the person to their right, and the game continues all the way around the circle. Invariably, through mishearing or mischief, the phrase that comes back around to the original person is always different. 

If you’re not careful about how you take feedback, this can end up happening to your streaming values as well. With enough unchecked changes, you could look up a year from now with a successful stream that you hate making. Make sure you check in with your core values every few months when making content. Are you staying true to what you believe in, or are you making concessions simply for the attention they give you? Most importantly, do you truly love what you’re doing? 


Negative feedback can of course be very damaging to some content creators. If someone is berated by enough mean comments for example, it may make them want to give up. These situations can be tricky to deal with, but it’s useful to remember that the person saying such things doesn’t know you, and they don’t have any say in who you are as a person. You can find some techniques for curbing the worst offenders in entries like Dealing With Disruptors in Twitch Chat and Combat Negativity in Twitch Chat. But feedback doesn’t even need to be that extreme to have an effect. Many content creators struggle even with constructive messages, overreacting to things genuinely meant to help. I explored some strategies to deal with this issue in the entry How to Take Stream Criticism

But in the end, the most dangerous feedback of all isn’t the slippery slope of suggestions, or the bad feeling from negative comments. The most destructive kind of feedback for a content creator is positive feedback. This sounds completely backwards, but it’s unfortunately true. Too much positive feedback can cause an inflated ego, bringing out the worst in a content creator and encouraging bad habits. Without pointing out any specific instances, I think we’ve all seen enough YouTubers and Twitch streamers in the news who thought they were ‘too big to fail’ to know what I mean in this regard. 

Don't let positive feedback go
to your head.

But even before reaching that point, positive feedback can create bad habits even when you’re starting out. Maybe you hear compliments on your channel. Maybe chatters have been having a good time lately. Maybe your average view count has been rising. These are all great things, and you should be thankful for them, but they can hurt as much as help. Caring too much about positive feedback and growth on your channel can cause a dependency. And if you allow that dependency to take root, you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak. When a slump comes, and you’ve come to depend on seeing upward trends in order to stay motivated, how do you carry on? This is how many streamers, and content creators of all kinds, who seem so solid in their work, suddenly drop off the face of the earth. They allow positive feedback to slowly become their sole fuel for moving forward. Then, when trouble comes, they no longer have any means of pressing on. The positive feedback is gone, and so is their will to stream. 


What is it you love about streaming? If you’re starting out, try beginning from that point. This sounds obvious, but many streamers begin by asking, “What would the audience want?” rather than, “What do I want?” And an attention-hungry mindset like this can lead to a lot of unhappiness later in your streaming career. Even if your audience is enjoying itself, make sure you love what you’re doing too. That’s the point, right? The same applies if you’ve been streaming for a while. Don’t forget to check in with yourself and examine whether your core values and passions are still aligned with what you’re doing day-to-day on stream. It’s easy to get blown off course without even noticing, but it’s never too late to put yourself back on track. No matter where you are in your Twitch career, stream for yourself first and others will follow. 

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