No Country For Old Streamers
I am an intermittent streamer. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hold firm to the belief that the secret to streaming success is to maintain a schedule. It’s the same kind of advice that established bloggers have been giving to neophytes for years, and it stands to reason that in the absence of pantomiming or cleavage, being where people expect to find you when they expect to find you is a way to get your foot in the door. I can’t commit to the same time one the same days, being that I work and then have family duties and expectations to adhere to. By the time I do get online, it’s about 8 PM EDT, and I might end up playing with folks I need to communicate with but who are, shall we say, “publicity-averse”?
I suspect that even if I were to have the same levels of free time now that I had in my youth (ah, how I long for those days!), I’d still get stopped at the streaming-border because every sense I get is that the streaming lifestyle isn’t so much about making community connections as it is about growing a brand.
There was a whole Polygon article that talks about the steamroller momentum of streaming, where the underlying argument in that article is that streaming is lucrative. Here I am, just some dude who wants to be a part of a movement that he enjoys and wants to do it up like the big boys and girls do with fancy overlays and graphics and stuff, but every single service I’ve investigated puts an enormous emphasis on monetization of the stream. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground for people who just want to put their gameplay out there with a little support for being fancy and let it fly on its own.
I find this rather disheartening, and now I’m going to link to Belghast’s post where he rants about the term “content creator” being shorthand for “streamers”. I agree with his irritation, the same way I am annoyed that “video games” is shorthand for just “console gaming” and says nothing about PC games, handheld, or mobile/tablet games. All things being equal, I believe that people would stream their games just for the hell of it, but once someone smells dollar signs, out comes the marketeering to create an industry. People like this sling terms that sound impressive — content creators — to give these unsavvy business-gamers a sense that they could be more than they are, and that they’re special like that racist kid on YouTube but without the racism and they could keep playing video games for a few close friends…or they could secure mucho eyeballs in exchange for signing up with StreamPhansNetwork.com and actually make a living doing it. Even these self-service options go to show that success in the streaming space is to be measured in donations.
I know, I know…I follow a lot of people who stream religiously, and they are Excellent People who stream because they like it and because they can. They and others in their position would probably admit to not forcefully turning away the odd $5 that someone wanted to send as a way to show their appreciation, but at the end of the day they are streaming because they want to get that community fuzzy out of it. I’m not saying that streaming for streaming’s sake can’t be done. I’m saying that we’re seeing a lot of scaffolding being erected around streaming that’s pushing the practice towards monetization as the reason why anyone would stream in the first place. It reminds me a lot of the Internet of Yore: when it was something that people had really high-minded hopes for, but once business got involved it turned into the proverbial market-in-the-temple. I’d like to see streaming for streaming’s sake gain more of a foothold before it turns into a way to shut people out who just want to touch base with their community.
Addendum: As a perennial streaming noob, I always feel like I’m approaching the act as someone who knows nothing of the activity. Seeing so many options to “monetize” my stream makes it seem that if I’m not trying to “build a brand” then I must be doing it wrong. To me, this sends the wrong signal to would-be streamers that doing it for the sake of doing it is just wasting time.