Sunday, August 14, 2022

Changing Your Channel

If you’ve been listening to The Twitch Playbook from the beginning, you’ve probably noticed by now that a lot has changed. After all, it’s been over three and a half years since I started this podcast. Every week’s episode is bound to feature a slightly different version of me than you heard the week before. And when you juxtapose week 1 with 189, you see quite a big difference. Just as our experiences help us to grow in life, our experiences help us to grow on Twitch. We learn, we experiment, we fail at some things and we improve in others. And yet, we still keep certain core beliefs which define us. For example, despite all our adventures and misadventures in life, we all still (hopefully) hold in our hearts that it’s bad to cheat, lie, steal or kill. Now, on Twitch, you’re not going to have to contend with moral conundrums quite so grandiose (except maybe cheating- I’ll admit I had a GameShark for my PS1). You will however, need to identify which core beliefs are important to you and try to follow them. Without this kind of internal guidance, someone on Twitch, just as in life, may find themselves lost.


Looking back at some of the early episodes, there is still much about myself that I recognize. I had a rock-solid work ethic at the time, I cared deeply about finding what I wanted in streaming, and I wasn’t afraid to attempt unusual ideas, whether or not I saw immediate benefits. All of those traits have persisted to this day. But at the same time, looking back at those early podcast episodes I see a rougher version of myself- more rigid and a bit unhealthily committed to the craft. Oh, and I used to narrate the podcast really, really fast. But that’s not really related to what we’re talking about here- it just makes me cringe when listening to those old entries. 

Some of my ideas were good for a certain type of channel, but not for the one I ultimately ended up wanting to make. When I started The Twitch Playbook, I was on a path towards making Twitch my primary income source. This informed many of my decisions about the channel going forward. Because I wanted to grow my following as efficiently as I could, I would spend a lot of time raiding other channels, strategically choosing who and when to raid. I would also carefully plan out my games offering, making sure to have a variety that I could tailor to the amount of concurrent viewers watching a certain game at a certain time. Plus, I focused a lot on designing emotes, merch, and other purchasable items to support my channel. These are all great ideas, even to this day, for someone who wants to make a living off Twitch. 

I took Sonic's mantra of 'Gotta go fast!'
a little too far, and I paid for it.

I took it a bit too far in places though. In the first episode of the podcast, I proudly talked about sleeping for four hours per night in order to advance my dream. I also spent so much time streaming during that part of my life that I ruined some of my closest relationships. I would often be late to appointments, dinners, or other engagements because my stream went long, or because I lost track of time in a raid after my show. I would sometimes be like a ghost outside of my streams, distracted by thinking about what big idea I was going to try next. And though I’d never say it, I often gave the impression to many around me that time spent off Twitch was time wasted. I was not a very well-rounded person at that time, to say the least. 

I knew something had to change, but I struggled for a while to figure out what it was. I saw that the life I’d created was damaging me in some ways, but at the same time I felt I needed to keep hustling if I was going to make Twitch my sole revenue stream. Eventually, I saw the problem. Even in those early episodes I had already reached some of my realizations about where I wanted my content to go. I would speak proudly about breakthroughs where I was able to express myself more on stream, and dare to do less entertaining (but more authentic) things with the games I played. I wanted to move my streams closer to the way I really play video games, but I also wanted to make it into a job. After a while, I started to ask myself why I felt I needed streaming to be my main revenue source. I already made good enough money from the video production work I did outside of streaming, and I liked doing it. Plus, I was starting to begrudge all the time I had to spend doing monetization-related things, which didn’t really contribute to any of the aspects I enjoyed about being on Twitch.

So I turned off all monetization on my channel. I worked to figure out how I could live off of my work outside Twitch, and instead treat streaming as something that only brought me enjoyment. This was a huge burden removed from my back. I no longer had to cater to anyone, and there were no expectations about anything I did, because I didn’t accept anyone’s money. Since I didn’t focus on growth anymore, I also no longer raided other channels. I even turned off incoming raids, which allowed me to focus more on the games I was playing rather than always playing to a crowd. When removing all the constraints of money, I found I was able to be a lot more generous with my time outside my channel as well. I could take more vacations, and do more things I wanted to do with the people I wanted to do them with. It wasn’t like flipping a light switch- I still had to work to build up my new lifestyle- but this change definitely facilitated the improvement.

All of this is not to say that monetization on a Twitch channel is bad in general. It could be great for your stream. The point is that I found that my priorities on Twitch were pulling in two directions. I wanted my streams to feel less and less like work, but I was simultaneously turning them more and more into work. It just didn’t make sense for what I was trying to do. And I’m ultimately much happier for making the change. 


In the entry Your Content Should Make You Happy, I focused on a particular issue that I’ve wrestled with in the recent year or so: specifically, this podcast getting bigger than I expected it to. I like to write about my own experiences in the Twitch streaming world, but my interest in the subject ends there. I don’t like the idea of offering direct one-on-one advice to others. Since I disclose my Twitch channel to podcast listeners in the outro to each episode however, that means fans of The Twitch Playbook now enter my streams almost every day. Some may be surprised to find that I don’t offer advice, or even allow viewers to talk about their own channels. I’m always delighted to hear that people find the podcast so helpful, but there’s no aspect of my actual Twitch streams which act as a ‘next chapter’ in The Twitch Playbook experience. I make livestreams, and I like to write about making livestreams. It ends there. 

Street Fighter is a great example of
managing change. There are new
things in every game, but its core
stays the same. 

What I’ve described above is an instance where I have to fight to keep the channel from changing too much from my vision. Now, that may seem completely antithetical to what I mentioned before about having to change things on a channel. But balance is key. It’s all about identifying what’s really important to you, and keeping the content close to those values. I like to appreciate the stories in video games, talk about movies, and work on art projects. Nowadays, a huge amount of people enter my streams with no interest in watching any of the things I actually stream, but know me only as someone who might be able to help them with their streams. With a new group of followers like that, one could imagine I’d start listening to the problems of other Twitch streamers, looking at their channels, and offering my advice. Would this probably help to grow my content? Yes, it’s very likely that it would. But would any of those things help me to appreciate video game stories, talk about movies, or work on art projects? No. Therefore, I don’t do them. This is an instance where it’s taken a lot of willpower to keep my channel from veering off in a direction I don’t want it to go. 


The changes I’ve made on my channel didn’t happen overnight. The changes I’ve decided not to make on my channel didn’t happen overnight either. These are decisions which took me months, or even years in some cases, to come up with. And in that time, I went through all sorts of experiments to inch closer to the answer. What’s important on your channel? What’s important in your life? Is your stream guiding you toward those important things, or are you putting them on hold for the time being, because of your streams? Whether you need to do something new, or find the strength to keep something as it is, stay on top of changes to your channel. 

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