Emotions so real they’ll make you Twitch

So it’s no secret that Twitch is solidifying its role as the premier streaming service in the world. A website that traditionally existed for gamers to congregate and serve as the hub for professional eSports has been instrumental in the rise of that very market, but we can’t ignore all that it is becoming and has become in addition to that original foundation. Twitch has expanded into the realm of traditional sport, most notably with the NBA G League, and now the NFL most recently with the deal locking up the streaming rights for Twitch’s parent company, Amazon. Soon nerds and jocks alike will converge onto Twitch to see their favorite sports played at the highest level, whether it be with their brains or their brawn. It has also blown up as a medium in which cosplayers, artists of all kinds, casters, and so many others can inhabit the IRL category and profit from their own self expression, all the while being affirmed that people out their appreciate them for who they are and what they love to do. But you already know most of that if you’re a Twitchy who thought this article sounded interesting enough to click on, so let’s talk about my story.

I ventured into this world a few years ago while in college, seeking to utilize the Twitch Prime subscription that came for free with my free Amazon Student trial. I stumbled into a CounterStrike Global Offensive (CSGO) stream run by a streamer that went by ToddAwesome. And let me tell you, this dude was exactly that, awesome. He was engaging, hilarious, and phenomenally talented. His community was welcoming, tightly knit, and in a word, invigorating. I hopped on Twitch at a very stressful time in my life. I was dealing with some personal-life hardships all while taking the MCAT to work towards my dream of attending medical school. But I found refuge in Todd’s channel. Everyone there provided me with the motivation and positivity that was easy to lose sight of while studying all day every day. You better believe he was my Twitch Prime sub for the duration of that free trial (long before Ninja made it famous). I even started paying out of pocket to keep supporting him for long after that trial ended too. I believed in what he did, making people laugh and being the patriarch of all of that positivity.

But then Todd had some personal hardships that took him off the air. I didn’t truly appreciate what he meant to me in my life until I felt like something was missing. I needed to do something to fill the void. So I started streaming myself. I’ve built a medically themed channel around good vibes, positivity, and genuine conversation and interaction with the lives of my viewers, something I’m very proud of. However, at the beginning I, like many new streamers, fell into the “follow for follow” trap that leads to inflated numbers but fake community, even looking at sites outside of Twitch to try to find followers that would want to help me build what Todd had. But I found the diamond in that rough. I stumbled into the stream of tdog5155 and found a spark of that community that I had been missing, seeing the interaction between him and a streamer named WHlT3MAN.

In the weeks that followed we were constantly in each other’s streams, eventually all becoming Twitch affiliates. During that time we got to talking and realized that we were all from the Midwestern US. We joked about starting a Twitch Community called the Midwest Mob (MWM) and banding together small streamers like us to help each other find true mutual support, the kind that “follow for follow” just doesn’t provide. Then we took a step back and thought, why the heck not? There was nothing stopping us from doing so, so we did it. We put together a stream team, Twitch Community, a Discord, and quickly started growing. It was amazing to have that feeling of true community back in my Twitch life, one that had alluded me online for so long.

But then, as with all good things, something crappy had to happen to ruin it. We started to have some people interested in Major League Gaming and starting to profit off of our hobbies. As seems to always be the case, the money ruined everything. Our community split at the seams when tdog5155 and I got into an argument that started with the intent of being constructive criticism and ended with nasty things being said and bridges being burned. The community hasn’t been the same since then and we all know it. Discord is eerily quiet at times, streams are slower, it’s just different.

As all of this drama happened, I realized that it truly did bother and affect me, and it further legitimized that Twitch was more than just a website to me. It was complicating a time in my life when my thoughts were supposed to be 100% on my medical school finals, but my interactions surrounding a website were a legitimate distraction. It was frustrating to have this be a reality that took away from my focus, but I couldn’t help but appreciate how it highlighted the kind of life that I had built inside of Twitch and its importance to me.

I had to buckle down but as study breaks I would pop into the streams of people in the MWM to say hi, having not streamed myself for almost a month. They would check in, see how I was (since I had dropped off the face of the earth), and without exception, send their good vibes, prayers, etc. my way to see me through my exams. It was like Fawkes rising from the ashes (that’s for you HP nerds like me). A glimpse of the positivity and love that I knew Twitch could provide. And once again Twitch had provided it when I needed it most.

I passed all of my finals. At least partly, Twitch is to thank for that.

I now look to the future, to my goals in life, and they include things like my career, family, friends, but Twitch also makes that list. Because like any community and like real life, Twitch elicits real emotions. Joy, pain, disappointment, anger, and most importantly, a feeling of belonging. Those feelings all legitimize my investment in this realm and its importance to me. My life was forever changed when I became “waldo7495”, and then again when I rebranded myself to be “theroadtodrwaldo”. My username means so much more to me than a string of letters, it is the identity of the part of me seeking refuge from the stressors of the real world, but also trying to give the world a place to seek refuge in my own channel.

I’m excited to be a part of the MWM going forward but also promoting Twitch to new audiences with the Stream ‘N Share community, for which I will be hosting a weekly talk show! The future is exciting and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

I have made real friends and had real relationships. From the kind of people that lent me their spare laptop to get me through finals when mine broke (s/o to WHlT3MAN) and the kind that have walked out of my life for one reason or another. It’s just like a microcosm of real life.

Todd, if you’re reading this, we miss you and thank you for being the light when some of us needed it most. If and when you come back, we will be there welcoming you with all of the AweFam spam your high-note-hitting, drummer self can handle.

T, if you’re reading this, you will always have a home in the MWM. Whenever you’re ready to rebuild those bridges, I’ll be building up from the other side.

To the MWM, if you’re reading this, I’ll happily DM you my stories about you and your impact on me, all you have to do is ask. There’s too many to include in here. I’m so proud of what we’ve all built together.

To anyone else, if you need a place to call home, you will likely find something on Twitch. You may find it in my channel or the Midwest Mob, which I hope you do, but you may not and that’s ok too! There’s so much variety on the site as a whole that I can assure you that there’s something for everyone. And if you can’t find something, start something! Others may be looking for the exact thing you’re also looking for.

Just be warned, when you log in, you’re signing up for real feelings, real jubilation, but sometimes also unhappy emotions. Twitch may be a website, but it’s as real life as it gets. It can be a roller coaster at times, but overall I would absolutely describe my experience as positive and wouldn’t change it for the world.

-Waldo

Medical Student, Twitch Streamer, esports enthusiast, and Philanthropy devotee