‘I am not gonna die on the internet for you!’: How game streaming went from dream job to a burnout nightmare
A decade ago, I wanted to be a professional StarCraft II streamer. Several things held me back but the biggest one was having a tendency to go berserk after lost matches and from that rage flip at opponents, not analyse my replays, etc. Genuinely think that if I gave it a serious shot I'd probably be banned from Twitch or the game following these outbursts or be known as the British Avilo. Had I not experienced that issue, I genuinely think I could have become good enough for professional play.
Only time I'd even remotely attempt streaming as a career these days are if I had serious anger management coaching.
Highest audience I ever got from livestreaming on Twitch was around 5 viewers, and that was when I was streaming Hearthstone during closed beta. All my viewers were people coming & going, begging for beta invites, which I didn't have.
Another issue with Twitch is that the only way to gain a following is to either be a woman who isn't afraid to flaunt her body or be genuinely good at video games. Highest I ever hit in SC2 was Diamond League, which is dogshit by Twitch streamer standards.
Setting aside the issue of hot tub streamers, It makes sense to me that mostly people want to see performances with either skill, drama, or comedic value. Unless the community is strong enough that chat sticks around because chat is so great (a rare and evanescent prospect,) people want to see something that they can't get from playing the game themselves. If I wanted to watch someone play at a level roughly equivalent to my skill, I could be playing the game myself, yeah?
I think that the very low barrier to entry stops people from having a solid business plan before they start what is functionally a side business as a solo entrepreneur entertainer. What is the value you add to the experience? What makes you different from the millions of other people out there providing the same general service? What's your stated timeline to test that this is what you should be doing with your life before you try something else?
A little bit of an aside, but I see the same thing happening in bookkeeping now that all the tools are online. Everyone across the world now has the idea they can do it, just because the tools are available to them; but they don't have skill or something to make them special so they're mostly not actually going to raise to the level where they will actually make a living doing it. At least streamers mostly can't leave you with expensive liabilities.
Can you elaborate on this please? I’m writing a bookkeeping and accounting application, I’m curious what you mean by this.
Oh, sure. I'm a regular on r/bookkeeping, and there's a few people a day who post something along the lines of "I'm [a college student/a stay at home mom/unemployed] and I've heard that you can make a good living being a bookkeeper. I've got my laptop and I've passed the Quickbooks Pro Advisor test. (A test that doesn't test bookkeeping skill, only software usage.) I can make $100k a year now, right?"
Personally, I've done bookkeeping since 2006, and have lived through a sea change in the tools used. It's moved almost entirely from purchased software installed on an individual computer to being done for a subscription online. Not just the accounting software, but everything around it: task management, bill payment, invoicing, etc. As such, you can literally do it from anywhere in the world, and the up front cost to starting something that looks like a bookkeeping business has dropped to nothing. At the lowest of the low end, you get a laptop and a gmail account with a businessy-sounding address, and there you go.
So this means that any of the hurdles that weeded out people who weren't serious or who didn't have the skill or experience to actually do bookkeeping have vanished. They "know" that bookkeeping is a stable job you can do from anywhere, and with no barrier to entry, they put their efforts into it without actually knowing how to run a business. (You may note the parallels with new streamers.)
Does that answer some of your questions? I've tried to elaborate, but if you have other specific questions I'm happy to answer them.
Thanks. I still need to follow up with you regarding the app, I remember DMing you about it before. Will do early next year.
You can make it big on Twitch without being either of those things. A huge part of growing your stream is consistency and networking.
Twitch is especially nice since other content creators can send their viewers to you when they end their stream.
One of my friends who is a guy streams programming without a cam and doesn't use a mic. He only responds to viewers using the chat. He averages 30 viewers per stream. When I end my stream I'll often raid him and he does the same to me and others. I once got raided by Johnathan Blow with 700 viewers, many came back for months after.
You can also grow your stream by posting on other social networks.
Back in 2015 my average was 200 but that quickly died down when I took a one year break and then didn't stream as consistently. That was also when I didn't have a cam or mic.
Well there's potentially a third way -- be a comedic trainwreck. Similar to the path you alluded to, where people tune in to see just how far you'll go, similar to an IcePosiedon or xQc type.
That's not a great position to be though.
You know, I was listening to the OfflineTV podcast with Ludwig the other day (OfflineTV is a group of popular streamers who live together, Ludwig is one of the biggest streamers overall), and a lot of topics touched on in the article came up.
Twitch, apparently, is really a quite terrible way to get popular - their discovery features just aren't there especially compared to YouTube or TikTok. Only a small, small, small fraction of regular Twitch streamers even make above minimum wage.
The whole thing is really worth a watch if you're at all interested in how streaming works from a creator side, it's interesting stuff.
I streamed on Twitch for three years, never broke 200 followers (although David Brevik was my 50th, that was kind of cool.) I am very glad I got out when I did. Not that this specific issue would ever have affected me, but Twitch has become increasingly problematic as of late.