Losing Sleep to Stream on Twitch and Competing in Reno Video Game Tournaments

Reporters Katelyn Welsh and Lynn Lazaro provide anecdotes on local video game players, including the importance of slowing down to uphold “boyfriend duties.”

Reno Smash Community tournament participants compete side by side on screens at the Atlantis Casino Fun Center on Friday, Mar. 4, 2022. These tournaments are often streamed on Twitch. Photo by Katelyn Welsh.

Joriel Alves is a 26-year-old game and website developer and graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno who has been streaming video games since his high school days. He is better known by his Twitch handle, ChairGTables, and many people call him “Chair” in real life.

When we met with Alves for his interview, he was setting up his computer to stream a Super Smash Bros. tournament in the Atlantis Casino’s eSports Lounge. It’s in a small corner of the casino’s Fun Center, tucked behind crane games and the basketball arcade.

The tournament was hosted by the Reno Smash Community, a Facebook group and University of Nevada, Reno affiliated club that hosts tournaments every week. Alves can often be found streaming live on Twitch at these tournaments.

Twitch is a streaming platform that is often labeled the number one video game streaming platform by tech websites, and as a streamer, Alves is part of a group that only encompasses .003% of the gaming population worldwide. In the United States there are 226 million gamers, globally there are 3.24 billion, and only 9.8 million gamers actively stream on Twitch.

There are many stereotypes about gamers being lazy and antisocial, but streamers we interviewed put these stereotypes to shame. Alves and other avid Reno video gamers attest to the hard work it takes to stream, and the vibrant community that it creates.

Joriel Alves sets up a live stream on Twitch at a Reno Smash Community tournament at the Atlantis on Friday, Mar. 4, 2022. He streams for RSC regularly, but also streams other tournaments, speed runs (completing an objective as fast as you can) and game development. Photo by Katelyn Welsh.

Streaming at all hours

While in college, Alves was an indie game developer and struggled to juggle streaming, coursework and his personal projects. Alves has always sacrificed his sleep schedule to stream for his now 2.7 thousand followers on Twitch.

“There’s a reason why I sleep, like at 5 a.m. pretty frequently,” Alves said. “Especially in college.”

Since graduating from the university, Alves continues his hectic schedule as an active streamer, game developer and website developer.

A few blocks from campus in his apartment office, on two large screens, one anchored into the wall and the other sitting atop the desk affixed next to the large glowing gaming console, Preston Hart can be found with Discord on one screen and a Twitch live stream on the other.

Hart, a senior biology student at the university, struggled keeping up with the demands of being a streamer. Hart streamed consistently before school began last August, but found that keeping his streaming schedule was impossible with other responsibilities.

“You got boyfriend duties, you have to work, you have to go see your family on weekends,” Hart said in regards to his time commitments outside of school and streaming. “Do you [really] want to sacrifice your free time for a hobby … ?”

Hart was determined to have a set schedule for streaming when he started, and thought that it was important to stream at least three or four times a week with each session ranging from 30 minutes to four hours depending on the game. For him, this was the minimum if someone wanted to gain a substantial following as a streamer, but it was a schedule that he decided was too demanding with his school and personal schedule.

Preston Hart on his gaming setup at his apartment near the university campus. Photo by Katie Allen with permission to use.

Making money playing video games

For those who are familiar with streaming, it’s common knowledge that streamers have the opportunity to make money playing their favorite video games. Streamers can run ads during their streams, get paid subscribers, receive donations from viewers, and gain sponsorships from gamer related brands or companies.

Kapwing, a multimedia editing resource website, used leaked Twitch data to calculate an estimated hourly rate of the most popular Twitch streamers. The top twenty streamers on Twitch make a minimum of $600 an hour, while the top earner makes more than $2,300.

RanbooLive is the top earner in Kapwing’s study, and has over four million followers.

Kapwing’s study also revealed that half of all streamer earnings go to 10% of streamers on Twitch.

Alves, with his modest following, still relies on other sources of income such as game and website development. According to him, the amount made can vary from month to month because it depends on who is around and how much they want to give. During his relaxed months, streaming usually brings about $100 a month. Although Hart did not make money streaming, some of his friends do, but it is generally not enough to solely live on.

“[Even though they have gotten bigger as streamers], they haven’t made that much money,” Hart said in regards to friends who have started seeing revenue from their endeavors. “They still have to hold another job.”

Sebastian Athie interacts with a co-competitor at a Reno Smash Community tournament located at the Atlantis Casino Fun Center on Friday, Mar. 4, 2022. Photo by Katelyn Welsh.

Creating and finding community as a streamer

While one appeal to streaming is the money, on the other end, many are just excited to interact with others during live streams.

“I tend to think of it as you’re talking to someone,” Hart said. Regardless of how far someone was or what time zone they were in, for Hart, it was an opportunity to talk to them on a daily basis.

Alves has also found that despite being unable to stream on a consistent schedule there are still people who will login as soon as they get a notification that he’s streaming. Alves won’t even have to make an announcement, and a few followers will just start watching.

“No matter when I decide to stream, anyone that’s following me is always going to be there,” Alves said.

After over a decade of streaming, he’s learned that his followers are there for him. Alves’ followers have become close friends, and contributors to the games he develops.

Midway through the tournament around 8 p.m. we met Sebastain Athie in the corner of the Fun Center, waiting for his turn to compete in the Smash Bros. tournament.

Athie, a 20-year-old gamer, also thought about streaming because of the community that it creates. Athie watches streams on Twitch and is inspired by a streamer named Markiplier.

Athie has been watching Markiplier for years, and still does. The popular YouTuber has over 32 million followers, and while he is less active on Twitch, he has 2.3 million followers on the platform.

“If someone like, you know, Markiplier can bring me some happiness, then maybe I can do the same for other people,” Athie said.

Whether the goal is to gain followers, have fun or elicit happiness, the video game streaming community is diverse and has a lot to offer in the Biggest Little City.

Reporting for the Reynolds Sandbox by Lynn Lazaro and Katelyn Welsh

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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.