Sunday, May 29, 2022

Break Free from Streaming Expectations


When you stream on your channel, do you ever feel like your content is missing something? Maybe your shows aren’t getting enough laughs, your graphics aren’t catching the eyes of viewers, or your gameplay isn’t as interesting as you want it to be. I’ve certainly had this feeling at various points in my stream career, and I think it’s common for others to feel the same. In this entry, we’re going to look at three great creators from the worlds of film and video games, and I’ll share how I’ve taken inspiration from each to get myself out of various creative ruts. 


It really was a great opening level.

In 2001, Metal Gear fans were excited beyond belief to get their hands on director Hideo Kojima’s upcoming entry in the series. Using the brand new PlayStation 2’s impressive graphics technology, Metal Gear Solid 2 was going to bring a whole new level of visual fidelity for the always-innovative franchise. Fans obsessively played through the game’s demo in the months leading up to the release, in which iconic series star Solid Snake infiltrated a tanker ship sailing up the Hudson River. Imagine the shock then, when players got their hands on the final product, and immediately after the events of the demo Snake meets with disaster and control is switched to a completely new character for the rest of the game! Kojima is a master at this kind of trickery, even having replaced the new character in trailers and promo material with Snake in order to keep the secret until release. This highly calculated bait-and-switch allowed the series to expand its horizons, and even explore the larger story concept of living up to the impossible expectations of a predecessor- a pressure I’m sure director Hideo Kojima was feeling when making the followup to such a smash hit as the first Metal Gear Solid. While the initial shock divided some fans at release, MGS2 is now typically considered among the best of the franchise, as well as one of the greatest games of all time. 

Throughout my streaming career, I’ve often had fun keeping secrets from my audience and springing surprises on my viewers. Whether it’s an upcoming international trip, a new game we’ll be playing, or a feature being added to the channel, I think this kind of showmanship can really enhance someone’s experience as a part of a community. This is another reason to hold off on telling others about your plans like I described in the entry Build Your Twitch Channel Like You’re a Secret Agent. Aside from the motivational boost such a mindset can give, it can allow you to time announcements in much more interesting ways. 


There’s another creator who’s always loved to turn the tables on us, though he did it for a different reason than Hideo Kojima. Love him or hate him, George Lucas has undeniably made an incredible contribution to popular fiction with his Star Wars franchise. Even from his least-revered entries in the canon, there have sprung unforgettable moments, characters and locations. Lucas began his science fiction megabrand with a humble concept: a new take on the swashbuckling Flash Gordon shorts he loved as a kid. Like with those serialized mini-films, each story of his Star Wars saga would be so different from the next that even when watching them in order, you’d feel you may have missed a few episodes between. 

Not really related, but can we get a
 sequel to this please?

And however we may knock some of his choices, we can’t say that George Lucas didn’t stay true to his original vision throughout his time in control. Upon selling the keys to his kingdom, the series was taken over by creators who no longer had as much interest in pulling from Flash Gordon. Instead they preferred to draw from the well of what Star Wars had already done. And while there have certainly been some excellent films and series created during this new chapter for the brand, it’s generally agreed that nothing can match the pure wonder and creativity of Lucas’ time as caretaker. I think his completely unselfconscious ‘take it or leave it’ attitude about creating is a very admirable trait. In my own streams, I try to take inspiration from George Lucas’ unbridled passion and creativity wherever I can. Sometimes it’s necessary to simply do things because they excite you, without worrying whether others will agree. It’s impossible to make everyone happy anyway. If we’re going to upset a few people no matter what we do, we may as well do what we love. 


In the entry Know What Not to Know About Streaming, I told the story of how director Orson Welles managed to create what is generally considered to be the greatest film of all time. He did this not by learning everything there was to know about filmmaking, and not by mastering every aspect of the craft, but instead by cultivating his ignorance of what could and couldn’t be done. By not knowing the limits, he was able to fearlessly attempt the impossible. And time and again, through this method, he achieved several remarkable things. Whenever I feel I’m playing it too safe on my channel, I try to take a page from Orson Welles’ book and simply stop learning. I watch fewer other streamers, I read less educational material about the craft, and I do my best to forget everything I’ve already learned. This strategy has led me to some of my most exciting and creative ideas, because I’m given freedom to go in any direction with my content. 

What about your stream is currently holding you back? Even if you can’t identify the exact problem, it could be that you’re simply playing it too safe. And whether you intentionally try to buck trends like Hideo Kojima, you look to yourself for guidance like George Lucas, or you forget the rules like Orson Welles, there are many ways to expand your creative boundaries. By breaking free from your streaming expectations, there’s no telling where your shows can go. 

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