I don't believe myself to be a popular person. In middle school and high school I had my group of friends, and that was a-okay with me. I was approachable towards others and always polite, but I didn't go necessarily out of my way to try to "fit in" or make "faux-friends". If I was just acquaintances with someone, that was chill with me.
In college that didn't change much either. I was still always polite and kind with people in my various classes, but I would reject invitations to parties that I knew I wasn't going to be comfortable at, or didn't have enough real friends attending to socialize with.
However, with all of that said I did make many long-lasting friendships with individuals via online-gaming. League of Legends and EVE Online were, and still are, two of my best forms of networking with people. I've even met some of them multiple times in real life (and they didn't murder me, amazing I know). Needless to say, my internet friends hold a special place on my roster of "People I Doth Care About", but now even that is evolving thanks to streaming.
Fast forward to 2014, suddenly I'm over 1,000 Subscriptions on YouTube (which was, and still is, a huge deal to me) and I've decided to give streaming a try. My audience is normally fairly small, ranging from 10 to 25 or so viewers. When I hit 42 concurrent viewers during my Extra Life marathon my entire chat decided we had discovered the answer to life, the universe, and everything: watch Rer die in League Of Legends or cry himself to sleep in horror games.
There's something really special about having a small dedicated fan-base while streaming, and many of my viewers and moderators bring it up themselves: my stream interaction is top-notch. Given I have such a small audience I'm able to get to know each viewer as individuals and form relationships with them in ways neither they nor I thought existed. When Pennysacs joins my stream it's always an event because he was a big supporter during my Extra Life run. N8player and Yacov are both crazy and lovable goofs at the same time. xJade and Jaxtheripper always get into arguments over whether Veigar is a viable champion in League of Legends.
To you, the reader of this article, these names probably mean nothing. To me however, they mean everything, and I cherish their loyalty and viewership dearly. This small band of folks are more than just numbers to me, they're my fans, and I make it my goal to give them content worth watching. Sometimes however, it's thanks to them that my content goes from being okay to extraordinary. Enter Darkest Dungeon.
The above screenshot is from my stream last night. Upon further inspection, you may notice that my roster of doomed heroes don't exactly have the most common names. This is one of my favorite things about streaming, putting my viewers into the game I'm playing. Darkest Dungeon is a game that literally has a warning every time you load the game that people are going to die, horrible things will happen to you, and that's okay. It's meant to be there as a stress reliever (and probably to prevent negative rage-quit reviews on Steam).
That statement however takes on a whole new meaning when the heroes that you know are doomed are now your viewers. Stories of heroism and bad-assery are created, like Hollowtpm the Leper who crit the Apprentice Necromancer and his followers for 31 damage. There's tales of Jaxnightfox, the legendary Bounty Hunter whose Flashbang Grenades defy any measly 70% Stun Resistance our opponents may have, because he lands the clutch stuns when it counts.
Heck, both of these heroes are even on #DreamTeam, which was a team that three viewers created (they're still holding tryouts for the fourth spot if you're interested). That's not even a game mechanic, there are no "teams" in Darkest Dungeon, but thanks to my stream now I've got an added game-play element to work with. Do I dare break up #DreamTeam when someone needs a stress relief? I dunno man, last time I did that awful things happened and my chat said it was karma.
Pennysacs heads up Team GetShitDone, which tends to involve most of my stream moderators as backup members. There's constant rivalry over which team is better, and who I should send out onto missions. During delves each group wishes the other success (or if they're particularly salty, doomed defeat) and comments on how their characters are doing. Viewers are forming their own groups and new folks come on and request to be characters. I'm not playing with pixels and character classes anymore, I'm playing with heroes who have back-story, lore, and inside jokes crafted about them.
And it's the most fun I've ever had gaming in a long time.
It'd be easy for me to attribute most of this to Darkest Dungeon itself. It's a truly wonderful game that I hope to do an official review on someday. However, without my stream viewers being characters I don't think it would have really garnered as much attention from me.
I'm on Week 16 right now with no casualties. If I'm being honest, were my characters simply people to use I probably would have treated them like lambs to the slaughter on a few occasions to get further ahead in the game. Now though, I have a different goal. I want to beat the game with as few casualties as possible, because now my characters have a purpose. They serve as a means of connecting my viewers with the game I'm playing, and helping me foster relationships with them. To some folks I'm sure this is a silly prospect, after all I'm just playing the game, they're not really in it. From my point of view though, this interaction in gaming is magical.
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