Have I mentioned how much I like following Jessica (Liore) Cook on Twitter? My former MMORPG.com’s Game On co-host is not incredibly wordy, but when she does tweet, I give it my full attention. Her posts are simultaneously witty and insightful, and always uplifting. I should probably take tweet lessons from her, honestly. That’s a thing, right? I think it’s called social media branding.
Anyway, this one came across my feed today, and it made me pause and reflect on my own streaming experiences:
Now, I’ve streamed only very rarely. I did some leading up to last year’s Extra Life marathon on hitbox, and then for the entire 24 hour marathon. Lately, I’ve done a few streams on Twitch in preparation for this year’s marathon, and I did one to test the new YouTube gaming streaming. So, I’ve always done so with a purpose, either to test out streaming, to prepare for Extra Life or to participate in Extra Life. I’ve never just thought “hey, I think I’ll go broadcast my game play today!”
Honestly, I do enjoy the times when I stream if somebody I know shows up in the chat. It’s a good chance to just hang out and bat things around without pretenses . Afterwards, I’ll go back and view the recorded stream in all of its blurred, choppy glory and I’ll think to myself “why?” Then I look at the two hour timestamp and I wonder “why?” And then I look at the six people who actually clicked on a blurry, two hour stream that’s already happened and I think “why?”
It’s at this point that I realize that my streams provide exactly zero value. If you’d like to see how poorly I play a game, you’re in luck. If you’re interested in prolonged silences and barely audible mumbling while I figure something out, you’re in luck. If you’re a big fan of inventory management and poor Internet upload speeds, then I’m the guy for you. Value? Either check out my YouTube channel or some other streamer. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t even watch me.
This post is not meant to be disparaging of other content creators, most of whom are much better at it than I am. Personally, I’m still trying to find out where streaming “fits” within my content creation and consumption rotation. The best use-case I’ve come up with is casually gathering with friends to goof around and talk about a common subject: whatever is going on in the stream. It’s akin to hanging out with your friends after school, with one person playing the game and everybody else reacting to it. Conversations may or may not continue to reference the action on the screen. It’s an after-school gathering across the Internet.
However, beyond this, I struggle to see a good reason to do it. Using my precious few hours in the evening to fight with OBS and my Internet connection on the odd chance that someone might show up and banter hardly seems worth it.
As far as consumption goes, I saw this cartoon on Loading Artist a few days ago:
While I understand the sentiment, I don’t think the cartoon draws a very good comparison. When I’m watching sports on TV, I’m watching the best of the best compete at a level literally uncomprehendable to the average viewer. When I watch a twitch stream, I’m usually watching a person only slightly better than me who probably provides some kind of dialog. This is a completely different kind of entertainment. It’s more like turning on the TV and watching my neighbor’s kids kick a soccer ball around while giving each other a hard time and narrating their moves. It’s entertaining, but not wildly, and certainly not to the level of professional athletes showcasing their talents. I probably wouldn’t watch it for two or more hours. The cartoon may be referencing e-sports, which is probably a better comparison. But the vast majority of streaming I see on Twitch doesn’t fit this classification.
The last thing that I’ve started to realize is that, even though I tend to enjoy the experience of streaming, I harbor a bit of anxiety about it whenever I’m considering whether or not to fire up the broadcast. I’m really not sure where this comes from. You’d think with all of the blogging and podcasting I do that nerves would not be an issue, especially considering the small size of my chat room & viewer count. But for whatever reason, the prospect of an un-edited, un-polished version of myself being broadcast out into the ether always causes me to hesitate. Perhaps I do suffer from some low-level anxiety issues, after all.
Either that, or I’m just ashamed to show others how I accidentally electrocute my Sims grandpa by forcing him to work on a broken dishwasher while sitting in a puddle.