So I was reading through the comments in Yannick’s article about Trick2g getting banned from Twitch for his fake swatting joke/prank today. Some of the comments seem to indicate that, despite it’s immense growth and universal access, some people still don’t get both the idea of streaming, and what Twitch brings to the table for gamers. I’m here to hopefully answer some of those questions, and perhaps show why it’s worth your time to come check it out.
So what is streaming anyway? People just watch gamers do random things and pay them money?
So, I can’t totally refute this idea. Yes, this is absolutely a thing that happens, on a daily basis, on Twitch, Azubu, Hitbox, Livestream, YouTube, etc. Streaming is defined as such (thanks Google):
A method of transmitting or receiving data (especially video and audio material) over a computer network as a steady, continuous flow, allowing playback to proceed while subsequent data is being received.
While I think most of you understand the basis behind the idea, just to be clear for anyone who possibly doesn’t, these services provide gamers and non-gamers alike a platform to get their content to a live audience. This is an incredible technology, and just like any form of technology it can be used for good, altruistic purposes, or be abused. More on that in a bit.
Here’s the thing though, if you think a large majority of streamers are just in this “for the money”, I’ve got some rough news for you: Twitch money is non-existent if you just try to up and make a channel with no actual content or message. Growing a brand takes dedication, and I’m not talking about some half-assed Reddit post about your sweet COD Montage. Things like this take a lot of time, effort, networking, and luck. Just like any other form of media, you’ve got to come up with a means of making yourself stand-out from the rest of the crowd, while also remaining consistent in your message & tone, and most importantly enjoying yourself. Even today I have friends & family come up to me and ask why I stream or, “what’s the point if you’re not making money with all that time invested?” Let me be real clear here:
Making money should not be the primary reason why people stream video games.*
Some people now jump to the next logical conclusion that “these people are just trying to gain fame by selling themselves out, they’re just begging for attention”. Also not true for the large majority of streamers, and to be honest it’s pretty easy to spot when it is true. Despite what preconceived notions you may have, viewers aren’t stupid. It’s not hard to tell when someone is being disingenuous about themselves and their content. That’s why most folks who approach streaming with such a mindset tend to drop-out or never reach the spotlight, because they fail to see the true reason for streaming:
Much like making static videos, the true purpose of streaming video games is to foster a sense of community, and build a relationship with your audience & fans.
I’m friends with a lot of streamers, and I myself am I streamer. Every single one of us agrees, unanimously, that the reason we decided to start doing these kinds of things as a hobby, or even as a career, was because we have a deep passion for our games of choice and want to expand that passion to our viewers. You can create massive positive feedback loops where you provide consistent content to your viewers, who in turn appreciate the time and effort you’re putting forth, which in turn gives you the warm-fuzzies to want to put forth more content. It’s an amazing feeling when you get little messages like “On my lunch-break and my day is made because Rer is streaming” or “I could clean my apartment, or I could watch Rer feed in his League Games, sorry apartment”. I also get messages about not studying for finals in favor of watching, but I tend to tell them to whip out the books and then come watch.
I don’t do this kind of stuff for money, nor any form of ego, I do it because I enjoy spending time with these people and interacting with them. I cherish my viewer-base for the kindness they bestow upon me of giving up their own schedules to come and, essentially, hang out with me while I play video games. Have I made some money via some very generous donations? Sure have, and to this day I still am amazed at the generosity of some people, but there has never once been a day where I’ve thought to myself “I want to stream today so I can maybe get a few dollars”. That’s not the mindset of anyone who starts out streaming for the right reasons.
Eventually, yes, some people do hit the critical mass of viewers where they start making insane piles of money and can consistently get a concurrent viewer-count of over thousands of people. You know what I say to them? “Congrats, I know from experience you must have worked your butt off to get this far, so I have little doubt you’ve earned this”. Streaming popularity doesn’t just magically appear. There are moments where you may be playing the right game at the right time and just happen to suddenly have a massive surge, but those kinds of moments still require you to make solid choices and consistently deliver a product that has a value to people.
I have a day-job, just like most people. I work my 8+ hours a day, gripe about paying bills, and go about my life as per usual most of the time. Streaming can sometimes be a nice mental stress reliever, but sometimes it can require immense concentration and mental acumen to keep an audience of 5, 50, or 5000 people entertained, while successfully playing a video game, and trying to have fun yourself. If you think that’s as easy as turning on a webcam and watching the viewers roll in, I’d encourage you to try it out yourself. It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Regardless, my point is that streaming is doing amazing things for gamers and gaming on the whole. Have you seen the view-counts that the League of Legends Championship Series, or the Dota2 Invitational Pull? They pull in millions of views, and are both growing at exponential rates. I’m confident that within a few years they will rival that of the MLB World Series and even the Superbowl. eSports pretty much owes it’s entire existence to the advent of streaming technology and it’s massive popularity.
Meanwhile we have amazing charity groups like the folks over at Summer Games Done Quick who have raised over five million dollars for charity over the years. You’ve got organizations like Extra Life that have led grass-roots local donation drives to raise money for local Children’s Hospitals. By playing video games for 24+ hours straight, I was able to raise over $1,000. Just me, some camera & mic equipment, and a passion for gaming resulted in direct aid towards children who are in desperate need of medical assistance and caring. That kind of money wasn’t just dropped on our collective laps, it was given to these hospitals, charities, etc. because we created and disseminated a product that people determined had so much value that they’d donate, out of no requirement on their part, a portion of their savings towards these organizations.
So to those who would try and view streaming in such a way that it’s only about piles of cash that someone didn’t “earn” because “they didn’t work for it, and it’s not a real job”, I would encourage you to first realize that such a statement is kind of silly, and that in reality most folks don’t do this kind of stuff for the money... we stream because we just love doing it.
* - Unless you’re a giant company or an Indie game developer, then maybe you’re streaming games in an attempt to show off why your product is worth buying, but hey, they have every right to attract someone’s attention like you and I do. That’s marketing baby.
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RerTV is a small-time YouTuber and Streamer who enjoys writing #FeelsGoodMan posts about gaming. He strives each day to spread awareness of the positivity gaming can bring to ourselves and society, and hopes you’ll join the conversation. Find him on Twitter: @RerTV.