Subscriber Streams as Anxiety Remedies.
In the over half-a-decade I've spent switching from a mentality of "designing and selling a product" versus "designing and selling yourself", one of the single biggest hurdles I've faced is my own anxiety.
I could probably write countless pages on the battles I've waged against my own anxiety since I started that war years ago. Honestly, given that I'm trying to find my footing with this type of content creation again, I may have the opportunity to do so. But rather than have this be a monolithic post about that war, I want to focus on something that has helped me at least win a couple of battles.
Last year, Twitch introduced the concept of Subscriber Streams. Up until then, one could only ever restrict the ability to chat or to view past broadcasts to their paying (or Twitch Prime button pressing) viewers.
As with every feature that has come out on Twitch since I left the company in 2016, I had a decent knee-jerk opinion of it. While most didn't see much use for it, I felt that there was a use case, but that use case wasn't mine at the time.
Let me take a step back.
The proverbial prevailing winds on Twitch, streaming, and I'm sure every other entertainment-focused industry out there point to always being visible. The louder you are, the more unique you are, the larger net you cast, the more likely you are to reap some semblance of a reward. Every post on the subject points to relatively that same thing said a myriad of different ways. I—like many others—saw the sense in that. Why not? It's pretty straightforward. One thing one unfortunately doesn't see a lot of amongst the posts is how to handle the side-effects. Mainly, the small ones that slowly eat at you mentally.
In March of 2016, I rode a decent wave from the life of a full-time designer into the life of a full-time streamer. My metrics were good, my morale was good, my community was bustling. Then the downturn started. The hype was gone, the news faded, and by the time that DOOM 2016 was released in May, my metrics had dropped ~90%. Now, it'd take a blog post, an accompanying vlog, podcast, and then some to dive through why this happened, but that's not where I'm taking this. In fact, if I hadn't given you the straight percentage decrease, you'd probably be in a different state of mind regarding my anecdote. It's easy to get lost in this; to get lost in the numbers.
However, when you get lost in the numbers, so much else gets lost in the process. Streaming DOOM to a fraction of my March audience became a streaming trauma going forward. I assigned "popular game that everybody's streaming" to "everybody else probably has somebody better to watch and my metrics will prove that." I was no longer comfortable creating content around games I deemed popular because I expected that content to fail. I'd give every sufficing reason in the book to try and make myself believe otherwise.
The fact of the matter is the stream started to dictate me in that respect, rather than me dictate it. Games I would normally be extremely excited to play got infected by this popularity bias that immediately taxed the experience. Not to mention that if I did tough it out and stream, every negative experience hit me with an order of magnitude more force than the last.
But I digress.
My community manager, Heather, asked me if I'd be streaming "Final Fantasy VIII Remake" on release. Not surprisingly, I was skeptical. Like many others who had played the original, I had excitedly been waiting for this game since the PlayStation 3 tech demo edged the gaming community into oblivion in 2005. After some time, I nervously agreed.
The game released, and the sight of my Following page on Twitch felt like a slap across the face. It was going to be DOOM 2016 all over again. So I waited, giving myself the reasoning that if I waited, more of my community would've played it. But that gave way to thoughts of inadequacy, failure, and that one person who has nothing better to do than to write a dissertation in your chat about how everything about your being is offensive. So I waited, and I stalled.
Then, one of my veteran community members, Kat, brought up the idea of having my playthrough be for subscribers only. Through this new lens, it was immediately appealing for a few reasons:
- I would play a game that I was excited about to a known group of people, which would in turn make me more comfortable being authentically me.
- I wouldn't have random people attempting to spoil or ruin the game, reducing the burden on my moderators.
- I wouldn't have to worry about my metrics, since the intent of the playthrough had no marketing pretenses. As long as your stream is visible to everyone, there'll always be this small, but nagging necessity to sell yourself, your community, and the channel.
Those three points were more than enough for me to outweigh the varying cons to the default. We took the dive, and I've had no regrets doing so. While I could take a look at the results from a couple of different angles, there's only one that matters here: I've been comfortable.
If you're having a similar problem, all of this isn't driving to be a solution to it. I hate answering the question: "do you have any advice to those looking to find success?" because this industry is vacuumed formed to each participant and their experiences. No mold will fit two different people.
What I can say is: your comfort when streaming is worth the work, and worth the effort. Subscriber streams will allow me to comfortably share content with members of community that make me feel valid and safe.
You deserve to feel that way too.