For those who aren’t aware. Twitch is a live video streaming platform. Known mostly for it’s gaming streams, Twitch also has a section called “Just Chatting” where non gamer and gamer alike go to stream and watch non gaming activities. Eating out, hiking, walking around a city, or maybe just sitting at home “Just Chatting” with viewers.
I joined Twitch a few years ago just because I was curious about how it worked. I had a PlayStation 4 which allowed you to broadcast your games to Twitch. I tried it a few times, it was interesting, and then that was it. I wasn’t really into watching others play games or broadcasting my own. I had no use for it.
Then at the end of 2017 I came to a cross roads in my life. I was 48, and overweight to the point where my doctor was talking surgery. I had developed arthritis in my left knee and didn’t have a job ( a tale for another time ), and with no car, the isolation of my life was becoming unbearable. I would spend day after day after day without leaving the house. It was unhealthy. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to make a change.
So, I decided that at the start of 2018, I would make 2 resolutions. First, to get healthy. I wanted to focus on feeling better, losing weight, and creating good nutrition habits. I ended up losing 90 pounds and I’m still working on it for 2019.
My second resolution was to get more creative. I used to be very creative when I was younger. Chorus, drama, art, poetry, writing, music, I dabbled in all of these, up to the point I got married and had a kid. ( kid is 20 and I’ve been divorced for 7 years now. ) I wanted to get in touch with that neglected side of myself again. I wanted to remember who I was at my core. What I didn’t realize, is that I would discover a creative medium that I hadn’t considered before. Live video streaming.
In November the year before, I had read an article about a growing section on Twitch called “IRL” ( In Real Life ) where non gamers were live streaming their daily lives, or just talking to people. ( this would later become the “Just Chatting” category. ) A small segment were doing art streams where they would draw, sculpt, sing, and more. This of course intrigued me, and when the new year came around, I decide to give it a go.
I set up my my laptop next to a small table that I would work on. I had one camera pointing at me, and another hanging from a pole on a tripod looking straight down at the table. I would sit, work on my art project, and talk with however would come in. And hardly anyone would. I would get the stray person every now and then, but I had no followers. No one to talk to. I felt as isolated on Twitch as I did in my life. I didn’t like that.
My art project wasn’t doing it for me either. I didn’t feel connected to it. It wasn’t giving me that connection to my creativity that I was looking for. February came around, and I felt uncreative, and even more lonely then before. But the IRL section still intrigued me. I started to watch other streamers more. I noticed that the successful ones had to be creative in the content that they streamed and how they interacted with the viewers. I began to ask myself if leaning more into live streaming, doing something other then art, would facilitate both my need for creativity, but also socialization?
But what would I do?
I’m a problem solver at heart. I grew up with little money and learned early on that if I couldn’t afford to buy something, there was a good chance I could make it. When you’re poor, you have to be creative if you want something. Couple that with a high I.Q. ( i.q. just shows ability to solve problems, has nothing to do with how much you know ) and you can understand how problem solving was an integral part of my life. So when I had decided to pivot my art project into something else, I sat down and took a serious look at the Twitch IRL section. Who were the top streamers? What were they doing? What are the viewers like? As I’m doing my research I’m looking for anything unique, something that would separate myself from the others? Something that I could create from scratch that no one else had done.
The audience for Twitch is, how should I put this? Unique. A large percentage of Twitch viewers are under 21. Most are cool, average, nice people. There are others though, who want to do nothing more then get a rise out of a live streamer. Twitch trolls are all over the place. It’s usually young men who, for whatever reason, get their kicks by making people angry. They will come into a chat, act as if everything is fine, and then drop some kind of racist humor, or start insulting the streamer, all just to get a reaction. I started to ask myself why they were doing this. Sure, shits and giggles are understandable, but there was something more to it. It was like something was missing from their lives.
Then it hit me. Toxicity is all over Twitch chats. There was no place where people could go, to get away from the trolls, to get some encouragement, to get some friendly advice. A place where the power of kindness could be shared. This was the hole that I saw in the IRL section. It wasn’t that all of the other streamers were neglecting these things, it just wasn’t their focus. I wanted it to be my focus. So I took on the roll of “your Twitch Dad”. I called my stream “Almost good advice from your Twitch dad.” where I focused on kindness as a way to counter act the negativity we get in social media and the news, believing in ones self, and knowing that it’s okay to seek professional help.
At first it was a huge success. For Twitch streamers there are three tiers. There are common streamers, who just stream what they are playing. Then there are Twitch affiliates who, after having passed certain goals like having a certain amount of viewers every day, having a certain amount of followers, and hitting certain averages, are allowed to accept monthly subscription support ( $5 a month split with Twitch ), or Bits ( Twitch currency for people who wish to donate anonymously). Getting to affiliate is the goal of a lot of streamers and not everyone makes it before they give up. I hit affiliate in 2 weeks. This was mostly due to the attention that some of the big streamers gave to me. They liked the idea, and before they would end their own stream, would take their chatters and “Raid” my stream. This increased my viewership and allowed to reach affiliate rather quickly. ( the next tier is “Partner” where they get to sell games and ads. )
You know the old saying though, “The bigger the climb, the harder the fall.” ?
It only took a few weeks before I realized that I wasn’t able to keep a large audience. I went from having an average of 50 viewers, to 7. The newness of what I had brought quickly wore off. Now, I had to get creative. Now I had to earn my viewership. I had to grind. Which meant I had to get even more creative. I started a daily schedule. I built up a loyal, small, group of regulars. I started to find and look for creative ways to get the positive and encouraging vibes out to people. Some worked, most didn’t.
I’d like to tell you that this is a success story. That by the end of the year my viewership had grown, and that my stream was a success. That’s not this story. I did have different kind of success though. People came back and would tell me how my simple advice would help them. Others would come and just watch, without participating in the chat, just to feel a nice home like connection to what I was doing. It brought me and my girlfriend closer together. We often broadcast together. She is a big part of my community and is loved, more then I am if I’m being honest, by our little group. We’ve gotten to know some really decent people from all over the world. Towards the end of the year, I started measuring my success not by how many people were coming in, but by how many other lives I could touch in some small way.
This next year I have bigger plans. I’m going to find ways to reach more people. I’ve tightened up my schedule and added weekly chat topics about mental health or whatever is in the public interest. My girlfriend and I have started doing cooking streams on Sundays and I’ve been getting out of the house more by having two days dedicated to mobile streaming. I plan on creating stronger relationships with other streamers, as well as my regular viewers. Last year I learned a lot. This year I’m going to put it all into action.
Here’s looking forward to my second year on Twitch. Gonna put those good vibes out, and see what I can do.