Sunday, June 26, 2022

Choosing Communication Methods on Stream

There are several ways to communicate the same point to your viewers on a livestream. No method is inherently wrong or right, but it’s more about what you want to get across with the method itself. In this entry we’ll explore a few different styles I’ve used on my stream over the years to communicate the same specific rule, and how each has helped in its own way. 


To set the scene, let’s talk about the rule I was trying to set up, and why I needed it. As I’ve mentioned in previous Twitch Playbook entries, I like to play games without hearing spoilers. But that description is a bit of an oversimplification, which I’ve used for the sake of writing these entries more clearly. In reality, I like to know literally nothing when going into a game. I don’t look at trailers or screenshots, I don’t watch other streams of the game, and I don’t read anything about it. I enter with as few pre-existing notions of what to expect as possible, and I like to preserve that ignorance throughout the time I play the game. In my opinion, this makes the playthrough more exciting. I may miss an entire section of an open world game if I’m not paying attention, and I could lose my favorite character in an RPG because I didn’t know what was best to do to prevent that outcome. Because my play habits for a game will form essentially in a vacuum, it can make a playthrough much more unique. In 2018, there was a popular story about how the Twitch streamer negaoryx played The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for 95 hours, beating most of the major bosses, before ever finding the tutorial and learning to do certain basic moves. This is the kind of thing that can’t happen when you’re receiving help, and it’s the type of thing I aspire to in any playthrough of a game. 

Now, there’s not really a tag on Twitch, or a pre-existing term in existence, to describe this specific kind of playthrough. Most people would hear about the way I like to play and equate it to the closest concept they’ve heard of before: no spoilers. And that’s true, I don’t want to know what’s coming up in the story. But the term ‘spoiler’ is very limited in scope. I also don’t want to hear anyone’s tips for how to get through an area, or hear what weapon they think is best, or even know what kind of choices they made for their own character. All of those things would seem to be okay if someone thinks that I want to play without spoilers, and it’s understandable if they make the mistake. But I needed a better means of communication for my own streams. 

The Souls games have a great community,
but it's not so great for the way I like to
play video games.

There are certain kinds of games where people are much more likely to come in and tell me things, and it can become a big problem. FromSoftware titles for example (Dark Souls, Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro, and most recently, Elden Ring) have the largest and most aggressive community of people entering a stream and offering unsolicited advice. I guess it’s because those games are so difficult that many people who have finished the game just take it for granted that other players will want any tips they can get. Certain Twitch tags, like ‘First Playthrough’ or ‘No Spoilers’ only attract this kind of attention even more, like throwing chum into shark-infested waters. Some streamers I know, who play games the same way I do, actually refuse to stream FromSoftware games, because it’s nearly impossible to prevent the game’s community from constantly trying to influence the experience. I adore those games too much not to play them on stream, and have gone through many methods to try to communicate my channel’s rules in the past few years. Some with more success than others. Below are a few of the communication methods I’ve tried, along with the pros and cons of each. 


The first, and clearest, way to communicate anything is to simply tell it to someone. This involves verbally saying what you’re trying to say to the chatter in question, and explaining what you’re trying to get across. Assuming you’re being nice about it, this way is most likely to get them to understand your meaning, and it’s least likely to offend them. However, this doesn’t necessarily work at scale. When I play a Dark Souls game for example, someone like this comes in several times every episode, and having to intricately explain the rules every single time someone breaks them can get old very quickly. Plus, this method also requires that the person break the rules before you explain them. Depending on the rule itself, you may not want to wait. 

Second, you can use your preferred chatbot software to set up a command explaining the rule. This would merely require that you or a moderator enter the command in your chat, and then the new viewer would be able to read it for themselves. This saves you the trouble of having to explain the rule every time you want to communicate it, but it also feels less personal. Depending on the chatter, they might even feel like they’re being singled out and attacked. For this reason, you’ll want to use rules commands delicately. 

The unsolicited tips got so bad while I was 
playing Bloodborne that the auto-responses 
were going off all the time.

Third, certain chatbot software can actually auto-respond to flagged terms and instantly spit out a message of your choosing. So in my case, I noticed that if someone heard my rules and responded with, “Got it. I won’t say any spoilers,” that usually meant they were still likely to break my rules, because they thought I was only asking them not to post spoilers. So at one point I had the word ‘spoiler’ and all its variations flagged, which would spit out a “It sounds like you read our rules and thought we’re only asking for no spoilers” message, which would then further explain the rules to anyone who said the offending word. This got messy really quickly, and didn’t make people feel very welcome. I don’t recommend it for arbitrary rules like mine, but you could certainly imagine this method being very useful to auto-ban anyone who says actual bad or hurtful words. 

In addition, you can set up a message for anyone who joins your chat, which they have to agree to before entering. This is usually just white noise to a Twitch viewer, and I don’t think people read them very often, but it may help in certain cases. On top of that, there are tags you can set, which I find are most useful when helping people find a community of like-minded people, rather than telling them what not to do. 


Luckily, the number of people entering my chat just to tell me how to play Elden Ring this year has been much smaller than the amount of chatters who would do the same when I played Bloodborne or Dark Souls a few years back. The way I communicate my rules has changed accordingly. When I was playing Bloodborne and new viewers would almost vindictively come in every few minutes trying to tell me their protips, I had all the strictest tools in place. The automod would instantly warn them if they talked about spoilers, and my human moderators would often have to time out and ban repeat offenders. 

These days, there’s a simple message for anyone who enters my chat, which says, “Hello! I like to play games and know absolutely nothing about them. Here, the only thing we DON'T talk about in chat is the game itself.” I figure this pretty much covers all the bases. When someone does come through and offer help, I try to be diplomatic. Even though they’re breaking my own rules, I thank them for their enthusiasm, and explain calmly about how I like to play without knowing anything. I also tell them I’m aware that’s not how everyone streams, and I know it’s not how everyone likes to watch streams, so I understand if that’s not their thing. However, if they do choose to stick around, I’d love to get to know them. This usually gets its point across, and using this method I’ve found a much higher rate of people who initially came in to offer help actually staying to join the show. When someone does try to offer help even after the explanation, that’s when I’ll post the chatbot message explaining the rules (and the consequences for breaking them again) more fully. Typically, when someone sees this after we’ve explained the rules, they understand where we’re coming from. Plus, seeing there’s a whole command for that specific scenario, they realize how big a problem it must be for us, and they join the chat normally.  

I’ve worked hard to come up with clear communication about my channel’s particular playthrough rules. Even now it’s still not perfect, but I’m proud of its evolution. You may not have the same interest in playing games without getting advice on your own streams, but consider anything you’ve struggled to communicate on your channel. How can the various communication methods I’ve mentioned help you in getting your point across? Are there scenarios where you could do more personal one-on-one explaining, or are there some things that would benefit from the colder strictness of a chat command? No matter what you choose to do, remember that there isn’t just one way to communicate the same idea on stream. You could be just a few revisions away from perfection. 

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