I’m still not sure I really get the whole craze of watching other people play video games on YouTube and Twitch streams. My spare time is usually devoured by actually playing games (or blogging/podcasting about them), and consumption of video takes more careful attention than, say, a podcast or audio talk show. Nevertheless, I’ve created my fair share of video content in order to experience the creation process and to see if there is any potential to interact with an audience that otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to my blog posts or podcast.
Until recently, though, I’ve steered clear of the most rapidly expanding segment of gaming content, the live stream. There are several reasons for this, but probably the largest is that I simply can’t provide quality upstreamed video from my house with the poor state of rural US broadband. Also, talking while playing really isn’t my forte. I’m a little old for the “exaggerated reaction” style of gameplay (daaaaaaayum, did you see the size of that fire drake? BOOM, who’s your daddy NOW ash-hole???) and making small talk about the game can get difficult, as well. In fact, I don’t usually talk at all when I’m gaming, unless my wife happens to be sitting next to me. I’m more of a chat-box user, and then only during breaks in the action.
However, if you’ve been following along on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m currently analyzing the possibility of participating in the Extra Life gaming charity drive this year, and, in my opinion, being able to stream your marathon makes that drive infinitely more interesting, and probably equally more effective. So, in order to see if that would be a possibility for me, I signed up for a #Hitbox account and have run a couple of test streams of LOTRO this week. As most streamers with whom I interact, I’m using OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) which took some tweaking. The “recommended settings” for a particular streaming site always result in lagged, choppy, dropped and generally unwatchable video for me. So after some quality settings were adjusted, I was finally able to get a sufficient stream going. It is blurry, and slightly hitchy, but at least you can watch it and see what’s going on.
One thing that I like about Hitbox is that I’m able to pop out an admin dashboard that includes the chat while I’m #streaming. I don’t have to have the actual stream open in order to watch the chat. I prefer this because I’m trying to save as much bandwidth as possible and the fewer video streams, the better. I think this is one reason I had so much trouble with Twitch. Twitch may also have a way to open chat without watching your own stream, but if there is, I never found it. As far as actual stream content goes, it probably won’t surprise you that I found that my style of streaming is to dialog directly with the chat room for the duration of the stream. It worked pretty well for the live stream since I had a very active chat room (yay for the four or five of you who showed up!). However, I imagine watching the recorded video will be akin to hearing one side of a phone conversation.
At this point, I think I may have overcome one major hurdle to Extra Life participation. The other will be talking my wife into taking on all of the household responsibilities for the entirety of a weekend while I sit down in my office and play video games. That’s one that lowering the bitrate isn’t going to help with.
By the way, if you’d like to subscribe to my streaming channel, you can do so at http://hitbox.tv/braxwolf