Twitch Success: Harder Than Dark Souls, More Unforgiving Than Roguelikes

I have started writing this essay a dozen times, and I’ve scrapped it entirely 11 of those times. I am absolutely horrible at starting any kind of writing, and with my own “writer’s conscience,” everything sounds silly and gets deleted. I also struggled with my approach: when I first began writing, I was bitter. I had just quit streaming on Twitch. I was angry, and I wanted to share my story as to why being a small streamer on Twitch was awful, and why it wasn’t worth the time, money, or effort most people put into it when they decide to start streaming.

What I hadn’t had the motivation to talk about yet is all the reasons I found to come back.

Twitch and I have a strong love/hate relationship. I can’t tell you how much I love the people I’ve met over the years. Some of those people are as close, if not closer to me, than friends I know in person. Some of those people are just purely talented in ways I’ll never be. There’s also a lot of adversity when you’re a caster on Twitch, and a lot of reasons to want to push you away. That’s exactly what started my decline.

Quitting was both the easiest and hardest decision to make. Hard, because I felt like I was giving up — admitting defeat, so to speak. I was surrendering to the bullies, the racists, and the downright mean people of the internet. I was yielding to those who proclaimed that they were good people, only to be conniving and deceitful behind closed doors. I was quitting for all of the wrong reasons.

I’ve had countless people ask me why I quit streaming. For the longest time, I kept my mouth shut on the matter. There were a number of reasons why, and none of them were right. Therein was my first problem; I shouldn’t have kept quiet at all. I should have addressed the situation flat out, explained what was happening, and moved on. Instead, I did what I thought was right for everyone else. I did what I always do in my life: sacrifice a part of me for the betterment of everyone involved. I have a very hard time being a selfish person; so instead, I writhed in silent agony as I watched myself be used as a stepping stone.

No matter which way I try and spin it, the only way I could describe what was being done was bullying. Bullying on the internet is the most convoluted, overlooked action in a virtual space. On Twitch, it is no different. Often, the only person who feels those effects are the person enduring it. The rest may see it as paranoia, coincidence, or self-inflicted. In some ways, I do believe I played a part in it. I participated in the passive aggressive remarks. I participated in looking for reasons to “connect the dots.” It’s easy to fall into, especially when you’re being as open as you try to be on Twitch.

Where it crossed the line is when I finally let it go, gave it up, and openly expressed that I wanted nothing to do with any part of it. I wrote out a long, detailed message to explain how I felt and explicitly stated that if it continued, I would be forced to report them. Yet that person chose to ignore the message, block me, and continued being present. They continued to watch my every move, and make sure that they were in spaces that I was 100% positive had no mutual connection. They continued to harass mutual friends, follow the people I followed, and even went as far as to create separate usernames to avoid the bans that I had in place for their original username. I quit the team I was originally on and sought out a completely separate team, in a new community, only to be followed there as well.

All the while this is happening; they used every single situation as a way to play the victim, as if they weren’t the source of all the trouble. If I were to ask about anything that was happening, I’d receive a response similar to “I don’t know where this is coming from.” As long as you don’t openly say that this is what is going on, you can deny it, and the opposing person is made out to be the asshole. What made the entire situation even worse, is that this person was once close to me. They participated in my channel and chats, got to know me and my friends, and when the situation was no longer beneficial, they left, taking with them a strong foundation to build their own channel.

Doing something that you are incredibly passionate about is a gamble. Sharing it with everyone publicly is even harder. On one hand, being a part of it brings you great joy and satisfaction. You lay down every night reminding yourself that yes, you did the thing, and it was awesome. But what if someone tries to take that away from you? What if, despite your best efforts, you can’t hold up any longer and you break, and something you used to enjoy now feels more like a chore? What do you do then?

In my case, I quit.

In more ways than I‘ll ever know, TwitchCon helped me get grounded again. It was there I started to realize that the only reason I should be streaming is for me, not for anyone else. Here I was, at the biggest convention for the platform, and I was in conflict with myself. I had quit streaming, didn’t plan on using my old channel again if I did start streaming, and was fighting through anxiety all at the same time. Let me tell you, that’s one shitty set of tools to work with when you’re at a convention meant for networking. I started thinking about how I’d approach new faces, game developers, etc.:

“Hi, I’m PT6, I used to stream but am taking a hiatus to re-evaluate my brand.” Nope.
“Hi, I’m PT6, I stream here, but stopped due to bullying.” Are you kidding me?
“Hi, I’m PT6, here’s my card, but be on the lookout for announcements for a new rebranding of my stream!” What the fuck am I even doing?

I nearly had a panic attack. I just spent gratuitous amounts of money (and soon, just as much time) on a convention and I didn’t even know why I was there. Where on this good green Earth does that ever make sense? I had friends telling me to go to TwitchCon with an open mind, and don’t think of it as a networking opportunity, but that’s just not how I operate.

Somewhere between nearly having a panic attack and meeting with one of my good Twitch friends, I ran into my first (and beloved) game developer, RobotLovesKitty, and I fangirled, right on the spot. It was during that conversation, talking about the pressures and expectations of game development as an indie artist, and me nearly hyperventilating over the fact that I was breathing the same oxygen as the two of them was when I remembered why I even started to do the whole Twitch thing in the first place. The feeling I got for RobotLovesKitty is unique, because they aren’t a AAA title producer. They aren’t high profile. They do what they love and people love them for that.

I got it. I understood now. I do this for the love of the game and the industry, and eventually, all of the love for the community that I had put together.

Somewhere in that clusterfuck catastrophe of my brain, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me from doing what I love, no matter how badly they tried to get under my skin. My introduction in my mind changed:

“Hi, I’m PT6, I am a variety caster who loves JRPGs and indie titles, focused on developing bonds and friendships that last beyond the stream.”

There. That sounds perfect.

The convention continued, and I finally got to meet up with several of my Twitch Team members. The good feelings only expanded from there. My Twitch Team felt less like meeting friends, and more like falling back into the family I had been missing for years. I can’t tell you how many hugs I gave out, and just a few days ago, I realized that I missed them. You don’t get that from just anyone. That very same feeling is what I hoped to instill in my community, and what I strive for each and every day I choose to stream.

Needless to say, this was the clarification I needed for myself to know that I didn’t need to feel shitty about my situation any longer, and I certainly wasn’t going to throw away three years of hard work, laughs, and good memories for anyone. For any reason.

Hindsight has perfect vision, and in this case, it was crystal clear to me how I should have approached this entire situation after the situation was already over. It was after the pettiness, the anger, the frustrations, the internal conflicts and arguments with myself on whether or not my own self worth mattered and if what I was doing was a waste of time before I figured it out: I let this become the way it was. I allowed it to take control over me and spin wildly out of control. Was I at fault? In some ways, but even if I wasn’t, I didn’t help the situations I was going through. Those nasty brain weasels dig in deep and get the best of you, and before you know it, the people keeping you from what you enjoy doing somehow make it seem like it was all your doing in the first place.

With that, I’d like to offer some of the revelations that I came to during this time away, and things that have helped (but not alleviated) the problems.

  1. Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you ever allow anyone or anything to compromise who you are. In my situation, I tried to take more diplomatic approaches for a number of reasons: I didn’t want mutual friends to be divided, I had a certain level of respect for the offender, or sometimes, I just didn’t feel that they were worth my time and effort. In each case, I wasn’t thinking about me and what this would do to me. That’s not acceptable, and not okay. This is the starting point of what makes it fester and become much larger than it needs to be.
  2. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. People will take advantage of kindness long before you realize it’s happening, and rules that you have for others may not seem to apply to those close friends. I’ve had people tell me, flat out, that they have used my channel for their own personal growth, and I’ve laughed it off, even though it hurt. That’s not acceptable, and not okay. If it’s not something that you would approve of normally, enforce it. No one, not even your friends, are immune to your rules, and your regulations of your channel, your chat room, or your hospitality.
  3. No matter how hard it is to resist, do not, under any circumstances, creep or keep tabs on someone you know is slighting you. If you’re wrong, then you feel like an asshole for feeding the fire, and if you’re right, you’re stoking the fire within you that makes you bitter, hateful, and potentially vengeful. Trust me when I say I’ve sat on my side of the keyboard loathing and wishing that karma would deliver its sweet retribution in a way that would allow me to giggle gleefully and relish in its glory. Here’s a bit of hard truth for you: there’s a good chance it may never happen. It was a big (pointy, acidic, “cherry tasting”) pill to swallow, and one that didn’t go down easily.
  4. This should be more like 3b, as the two are related, but don’t compare yourself to others, even if they seem like peers. This is a pretty common rule that successful Twitch streamers will tell you, yet we all do it. The problem here isn’t just how they are growing, but why. I’ve seen a lot of growth in very insincere ways, and I don’t just mean botting. The people around you aren’t always who they say they are, and will try to be who you want them to be, just so you’ll support them. There are some people on Twitch who are phenomenal at marketing themselves, and have shameless and underhanded practices for achieving growth. To them, Twitch is just a tool to become “internet famous.” If you’re like me, that’s not what you’re here for. You will never, ever have an apples to apples comparison of your growth to anyone but yourself, so keep that in mind as you judge your success.
  5. For everyone who has a mind like me: do not devalue yourself. No matter how big or small you are, you are valuable, you are impactful, you are worth every ounce of energy you put forth into the things you pursue. Sometimes I forget it, too. It’s not acceptable, and it’s not okay. Don’t lose sight of that.

The reason I say these problems are never alleviated is because the problems never really go away. Even if one stops, another starts up. Every day I fight the same issues over and over again. The battle is never truly over so long as you want to do this, so you have to decide: is it worth fighting for? Is this worth the time and energy you put into it? I look around at the friends I’ve made and the community I’ve built. I look at the way that gaming has strengthened the bond that I have with my significant other. I look at the messages I get privately of people telling me how much they enjoy (and miss) my streams, and how it’s helped them through hard times in their lives. All of these moments add up, my heart swells, and answers with a resounding yes. It is worth it.

If you have questions, concerns, or just want to vent about your situation, please feel free to whisper me on Twitch, or DM me on Twitter. Sometimes a confidential ear is all we need.

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