PCU Zeitgeist: Streaming is Easy – NOT!
In my previous article, I talked about my experiences with Twitch, a platform originally designed to stream video games that’s grown into much more. After discovering Twitch’s “rabbit hole,” I also noted that I moved from a mere viewer to the new level of a content creator.
Upon explaining this to friends and family, the reaction was mixed
“So, you play video games, and people watch? Sounds boring.”
“That’s got to be easy money! How could sitting there be so stressful?”
“What do you mean you’re busy? You’re not streaming right now!”
At this point, I have to explain that being a content creator, even a novice, is much more than sitting down, flipping a button, and playing games. If you want to be a streamer with an audience, which is the primary purpose of most, this is doubly so.
The points I’m about to discuss are not the end-all of advice; you will find many more in-depth discussions from experienced, professional streamers in written and video form. However, I’d like to discuss some of the standard talking points that I, as a “baby streamer,” must constantly explain to others about content creation.
I’m Not Just Playing a Video Game – I’m Interacting with an Audience
The first illusion is that all you’re doing is playing video games, which is undoubtedly a core aspect. Many people don’t understand that it’s not solely the game that’s exciting but also what you’re doing while playing it.
Most people don’t come to watch someone play in silence; you can do that with pre-recorded YouTube videos or at a friend’s house. Streaming is about entertainment, from talking with the gamer to playing sounds or messing with their game.
You’re an Internet busker, and the more unique interactions you provide, the larger an audience you’ll draw. No matter your social anxiety, you need to talk to your viewers, have an exciting personality or schtick, and provide incentives.
As your experience with software and apps grows, so does your performance. Sound alerts and pop-ups are just the beginning, and soon enough, you’ll find yourself doing impressions, changing clothes, and even altering what (or how) you’re playing, all because your audience redeemed these options.
We’re not just playing a video game – we’re putting on an improv show.
My Work Doesn’t Begin or End When I’m Online
Another misconception is that I’m free until that “start” button, and once I hit “end,” I’m immediately available. The truth is I’m often busy well before and after the stream, and even during those days I’m not streaming.
I mentioned above that I’m doing a show, not just playing a video game. And like any performance, a lot is going on before and after the curtain.
My stream usually begins an hour earlier, as I make sure all of my hardware and software are working right. As someone with social anxiety, I must ensure I look presentable and often need time to center myself. Sometimes I even have calm music and just my thoughts until a minute before I begin streaming.
Afterward, I usually bring my audience to another streamer, where I will spend time socializing and decompressing. Like a performer who’s finished their set, they’ll linger after the show to talk with their audience and support their fellow artists.
Even on my off days, streaming is still part of my life and takes time out of my schedule. I spend time preparing for the next week, whether it’s choosing (and testing) new games, adding or adjusting alerts and redemptions, and even skimming VODs for exciting clips.
I may only stream 12 hours a week, but I will likely spend the same amount on preparation, maintenance, and community building.
Maintaining a Community is a Full-Time Hobby (or Job!)
I mentioned taking my audience, also known as “raiding,” to other streamers. Communities are essential in performance industries, and streaming is no different.
The more streamers you’re friendly with, the more your channel is promoted, and the bigger your audience can grow. Word-of-mouth is significant in this hobby, and if you’re active in their streams, then they (and their viewers) will likely be active in yours.
This attention to community grows beyond professional courtesy into streaming partnerships and outright friendship. Of course, like any relationship, that requires time and energy dedicated.
While my Twitch viewing has reduced since the days of the pandemic, I still spend a significant portion of my free time in others’ channels. Sometimes I’m actively engaged, but even lurking can help boost someone’s viewership and revenue, so I do my best to support my communities.
That’s why, in addition to the 12 hours of streaming and 12 hours of prep or maintenance, I’m also in others’ channels at least several hours daily. I probably spend 40 hours (or more) a week dedicated to the “hobby” of streaming and my Twitch community.
Is it any wonder I don’t have the free time for other luxury activities I once did?
Good Content Creation is More than Just Gaming
Please note I’m not suggesting you should dedicate your entire life to streaming. Most people cannot make a living off of doing this; unless you’re a full-time performer with the talent to draw large audiences, streaming remains a “hobby.”
But even for small streamers, content creation is much more than flipping a switch and playing a video game for several hours. It takes extra time, energy (especially for those with anxiety), and dedication to both your own channel and others’.
Please remember this the next time you say, “Oh, you just play video games for money?” or think someone is available outside the few hours they might be online.
Streaming is not easy, no matter how small a content creator you are. Yet, we still do it because the fun and friends are worth it.
Until next time, keep it easy and…
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