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Streaming Video Games for 6 Years: A Look Back

streaming video games

I really didn't know what I was getting into in 2013. I wanted to practice some video editing skills and see what I was capable of, but building a video editing machine turned out to be one of the most positive mistakes I've made in a long time. My very first stream was of Heavy Rain, and I remember messaging a friend at work to check my stream page. Sure enough, Heavy Rain was on his phone at the time. I nearly dropped the phone because I was so happy with the result.
Over the course of the next few days, I cobbled together my stream setup with all my resources. I remember getting Final Fantasy XIV (an early copy under NDA) and started streaming it...I even tagged SqaureSoft in my "going live" tweet. It turns out the game was still under NDA at the time, and I received messages on twitter from other streamers to turn off my stream. Not that many people saw it to begin with, but it was a fantastic learning lesson--read and understand NDAs. All of them.

Nearly 6 years later, and here I am.

Streaming Video Games for 6 Years (and What I've Learned from it)

I think the biggest problem I've ever had with streaming video games is that there are always ethical questions behind it. As one of the most sought-after pastimes for my generation, there's a question regarding if streaming for money is even considered an ethical business practice. On one hand it's ethical because viewers find the practice entertaining, but on the other hand, it's a form of entertainment for the broadcaster too. If you're having fun and getting paid for it, is that even ethical?

That aside, broadcasting isn't all fun and games, so to speak. It does take work and a lot of it. Time, effort, money, networking, and several other factors are key to making it. I think, however, there's a time to recognize when streaming video games just isn't worth all that effort--especially when your total business expenses outweigh your income. That's probably what a lot of younger streamers don't recognize when they start off--if it costs more money to stream, then maybe you shouldn't even consider it business over an expensive hobby.

After essentially being used for someone else's benefit in the streamer arena, I came across several things that are a hard lesson within the network of streaming video games.

Trusting Other Content Creators

You have to ensure your partnerships, relationships, and connections are kept at an arm's length. Put minimal levels of trust in other people, because eventually, you'll see that trust "move" to influencers that have much stronger levels of clout than you. At the first sign of mistrust, distance yourself. I wouldn't say burn the bridge, but if you're on a stream team dedicating yourself to an avenue of work, well...don't bother.

Diversifying Your Experience

Streaming video games is definitely not a "here's what to do" thing. To me, it's a weakness being contracted to a specific platform for various reasons. Certain levels of Twitch Partnership even prevent you from broadcasting your face on other platforms. That's a level of ownership I don't prefer to have, and many people that sign contracts to earn money don't actually read their contracts. I'm sure thousands of affiliates on Twitch didn't read their contracts and don't know you're not supposed to share Twitch content to another platform for another 24 hours after the end of your broadcast. Were you aware of that?

Ask Yourself: What am I doing this for?

If you're streaming games for money, I would advise you you're doing it for the wrong reasons. However, if this is the path you choose, consider all of your expenses that you've made specifically to see your channel do well. If after 6 years your expenses are outweighing the money you receive...well, I think that's reason enough to change your expectations about streaming. 
If you're streaming for charity, research the charity you're looking into and make sure that it's ethical. Charities are businesses too, and I think it goes without saying they have their own politics. If you know where your efforts are going, then stay with your charity and see lives improve.

Don't Just Rely on Social Media--But You Do Need It

Social media is one of the most crucial avenues for streaming video games, but a digital presence is just that--if you don't have any physical presence beyond that, then you really won't see yourself doing well. Conventions are fantastic for networking. Keep in mind that the gaming industry is incredibly small--especially for streamers since people tend to come into it and leave it heavily. Developing your brand across the internet is an important part for everyone who wants to dedicate their strengths to a business, but remember making that connection for others that stream video games is much more important. They want a person, not a persona to talk with them.

Always Be Careful of What You Say and Do in the Public Eye

I can't stress this enough--the internet is a mass archive of unfathomable amounts of data ranging back from the mid-90s. Don't believe me? Check WayBackMachine. You can see archives of a wide range of sites. But with this in mind, remember that what you say and do 10 years ago could be a problem for you in the future. With new social media trends lately that are starting to change, we'll see more of a "temporal" aspect to social media with things like Stories and similar short-form content. 

To give you an example of what I did once, I remember playing a game of Overwatch against a very good Widowmaker that sniped me often. Widowmaker is a blue character, but when I got extremely pissed at her sniping skills, I exclaimed, on stream, "I'm going to shoot you in your black face."

This was at the height of the BLM movement, and you can imagine how absolutely horrid I felt as soon as it uttered forth from my mouth. Thankfully, my community was understanding and recognized it wasn't a matter of racism. I had just used the wrong color when describing Blackwidow.

Had my community been considerably larger, well...probably not the case.

I honestly hope this gives you an introspective look at streaming video games. It's not an easy thing if you want to build an entire community around it. I would recommend, however, that if you yourself with a decision to go towards success while leaving your own stream team behind, don't do it. It will come back to haunt you.

Happy streaming. 

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