Sunday, September 11, 2022

Streaming in the Face of Futility

What happens when you find it futile to go live? When every part of you feels you have nothing interesting left to do or say, and you just want to give up? This happens to all of us at various points throughout our Twitch careers. Most streamers experience such a feeling when they’re new, because they might be awkward on camera, often making technical mistakes and embarrassing themselves in front of viewers. Then, once we’ve settled into a groove there comes a time when things are a little too familiar. The act of streaming becomes boring, and there’s no longer any spice left. Once we’re established, we can also let our egos interfere with our broadcasts. If everything isn’t up to its usual quality standard, we shudder at the thought of letting ourselves put on inferior shows, and would prefer not to stream at all that day if faced with the prospect. You even might be in one of these situations on your channel right now. My advice for any of these scenarios is ultimately the same: just go live anyway. 


It’s been a long time since I started streaming, but I can still identify with streamers who feel self-conscious about their lack of experience. While I have thousands of video game shows under my belt, I wasn’t so experienced as an IRL streamer until relatively recently. Even since then, I wouldn’t say I’ve done more than a hundred of those shows, so in the grand scheme I'm still pretty inexperienced. I’m significantly more prone to make mistakes when I’m going live from a phone or streaming backpack, as I do for these broadcasts. And that makes perfect sense, because the entire process is different. Similarly, while I studied art throughout high school and college, whenever I do art streams on my Twitch channel I typically try styles and media that I’m not comfortable with. This requires me to get used to making what is often terrible artwork live in front of anyone watching. A few years ago, I also began livestreaming my Japanese studies on Duolingo. I started streaming my learning from the literal first day of my streak, and of course I had to face the constant humiliation of getting a huge amount of the answers wrong every day. 

All three of these shows forced me back into a ‘novice’ role in different ways, and they have all caused me significant embarrassment throughout my time streaming them. In each of these three categories, I’ve often wrestled with the entire identity of what the shows were. What was I trying to accomplish? Was I teaching Japanese to others, when I could barely speak it myself? Did anyone actually want to watch me fumble through horrible timed figure drawings and environment sketches? What was the point of streaming from a restaurant if I was just eating my food, and not showing the place off to everyone watching? These are all legitimate concerns, but I eventually realized they were merely my self-doubt searching for an excuse to make me quit.

I recently played through the Japanese 
version of Metal Gear Solid as well.

I found that it was enough just to focus on my own self-improvement at these crafts. I would stream Japanese learning not to teach others, but to let others watch me learn. I would stream my art practice and IRL adventures for the same reason. I offered these shows (and still do) without expectation, and respect viewers enough to let them choose what they want to do with it. And then a funny thing happened. I really did get better, right in front of everyone’s eyes. Over the course of a few hundred art episodes, I taught myself about Greek pottery painting and illustrated a whole book in that style live on stream. I took my IRL experience and went to other countries. I’ve learned enough Japanese that I play import games that never even got localized into English. These end results are valuable, but the journey itself is valuable as well. I couldn’t see that when I was starting out in each discipline, but now that I’ve reached these milestones it’s become obvious. It’s important to let others see you grow. Not just to help you, but to inspire them. Viewers have contacted me about my Japanese Duolingo streams inspiring them to keep going on their own language journeys. For myself, I’ve been able to go back and watch my art grow from nothing all the way to finished illustrations. Whenever I try new skills on stream, I try to think about these experiences, and how vulnerable I felt in the beginning. Knowing that the journey is worth it helps me carry on, and hopefully this knowledge will help you too.  


As an experienced streamer, my instincts also push back against compromising my production value. As I’ve mentioned in many other entries, I often travel for work. Since it would hardly be practical to lug my games PC everywhere, this means I have to go live from a totally different setup, and do different things on stream. When I’m traveling, I go live directly from an iPad or iPhone, with no microphone attached. The audio is pretty poor compared to my normal shows. Internet fluctuation is also a fact of life when staying in hotels, so my streams will often cut out. And on top of that, I go live for much shorter lengths of time while I’m on the road. These three points scared me to death when I was first finding my stride on Twitch. I used to try everything I could to fight against them. I carried a wired mic around with me in my briefcase. I’d get premium hotel internet and stress when there was any interruption. I’d go live for extended lengths of time, even to the detriment of other things I had to do. 

This was grueling, and my limited mindset about travel streams made business trips, which were often in very interesting cities, no fun at all. Slowly, I began to accept that it was okay to have issues like these appear on my broadcasts. Travel streams could just be their own thing, and it’s totally understandable if they aren’t the same quality as my normal streams. This new mindset has freed me up to try more ideas on stream, go live from different places, and most importantly, enjoy myself more when I’m in interesting locations. 

Not this kind of flying. 

You might not be flying around the country all the time like I do, but you may encounter other similar challenges. Maybe your microphone breaks, and you can’t get a replacement until the following week. Maybe your home internet speed drops without warning, and you’d need to stream at a low-quality bitrate if you want to keep going live. Maybe you just have big plans and don’t have time for a full-length show. Don’t let your pride cause you to miss a day of streaming. Just compromise and go live anyway. Use whatever tools are available to you and make a show. Any show. Later, you’ll be thankful you didn’t allow yourself to lapse. 

If you want to keep a habit like streaming, the most important thing you can do is also the simplest: just continue doing it. No matter what it takes. Sometimes that means powering through your inexperience and self-doubt. Sometimes that means putting aside your ego. Trust in your dream, and don’t listen to that voice in the back of your mind telling you to give up or miss a day. In the face of futility, stream! 

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