I was chatting with a friend today who’s gotten into livestreaming. If anyone reading this is unfamiliar with the term, it means (in short) to broadcast something live online – in this case, playing video games. The audience can chat with each other and the host through text in realtime; it’s becoming even more common as consoles start adding the option.
It’s always an odd topic for me to discuss since I very rarely run my own stream. I’m gaming on a laptop and that just tends to make it a pain for me. On the other hand, I watch and/or join in other livestreams enough that it’s something I certainly have thoughts on. So, with the caveat that I’m not claiming to be a professional at something I do very rarely (at least, rarely on my own), I’m going to at least list some of what I’ve learned and advice I’ve heard from others. I’m calling it “thoughts” rather than advice, because really that’s all this is.
0. Step before anything else – talk to or look up blogs/vids by people who do run regular shows/streams to see what advice they have. It’s a common question for people to ask them, and I’ve noticed a lot of people have put up some kind of Top Ten Tips or general advice. As with anything, take advice with a grain of salt and decide what makes sense to you.
1. Talk to your audience. This sounds like a no-brainer, but this is a huge advantage you have with a smaller stream – your chat is probably small enough that you can read and respond to individual comments. Most people are coming to a livestream instead of a Let’s Play to get that back and forth engagement. They want to figuratively couch game with you, so paying attention and talking to them is a plus. If you’re streaming, you’re not just gaming for yourself, after all.
2. I want to write “Be entertaining” because that isn’t vague enough. What I mean is to remember most folks aren’t just there for the game, they’re there to see what your playstyle and commentary add to the game. Do you like to take your time and show off details in the game? Are you good at speedrunning and giving tips on that? Good at discussing the theorycraft of awesome builds? Conversely, I watch a lot of streams where the game is secondary to the conversation – the stream is more about the player/s having interesting discussions. I don’t think anyone needs to know what they want right out the door, but I consider it worthwhile to ponder who you want your audience to be and what you can say/do to keep that audience entertained.
3. Keep an eye on your chat. I realize not everyone is going to agree with me, but I don’t have patience for streams that are full of spammed links, emotes, and people yelling expletives at each other. If that’s the atmosphere you like then I’m not going to tell you what to do, but be aware that the atmosphere of chat is going to have an effect on who wants to hang out with you. Related to that, the way you act and the things you say are going to influence what your chat says and does.
4. Think about what you enjoy in a livestream. This kind of relates to #2; but if you’re not sure what to do, think about what you like watching. Chances are, there’s an audience for that. Most of my friends run very casual, chatty streams – but I also like streams where the host gets into details of the game or can tell stories about the game’s development or ingame lore . Some people love watching speedruns and hearing about game strategy. I watch the Extra Credits stream as often as I can because I enjoy hearing discussion of games from a developer’s perspective.
5. Have fun. I know, too simple again. I also realize that there is an audience base for ZOMG GAMR RAGE. For myself, and most of my friends, the stream stops being fun when the host stops having fun. I don’t want to watch someone playing a game that’s noticeably angering them or that they clearly don’t want to be playing. I’d rather watch 4 hours of someone having a blast playing Cookie Clicker than 20 minutes of someone being ticked off and snarly at arguably more entertaining games. If you want the angry gamer viewer base, more power to you – I’d just avoid it if that isn’t what you’re going for.
6. Think about editing for Youtube and highlights. This can go both ways, too. I’m one of those who would rather watch an entire, unedited livestream from Video Games Awesome than one of their highlight vids. However, I recognize there’s definitely an audience for those shorter uploads. Shorter highlights are also a great way of introducing someone to your show/stream without having to say “Oh, and the REALLY funny stuff starts at 1:20:34” And, you know, sometimes they’re great as running jokes… (No, I’ll pretty much never be tired of that one. Or this one.)
7. Make friends/network. When I do run a stream, only a small portion of my viewers are folks I game with regularly. Some are people I’ve met while running with or chatting in other streams, some are folks I know through game forums, some are invading New Zealanders picking on me. 😉 I’m not a fan of spamming everyone you run into with ZOMG WATCH MY STREAM since that gets old; I’m just saying that it’s not a bad idea to look at where you might be able to run into the sort of people who might be interested in what you’re doing. If I was going to stream The Secret World, I’d mention it to people I know through other livestreams…but I’d also make sure to post it where folks who play the game can see it.
8. Have a plan? Maybe? This one is a little loose as well. I just clearly remember streaming for Extra Life one year when I realized one of my games wasn’t nearly as fun to stream as it was to play. I didn’t really have a backup plan, so I flailed a bit before deciding to swap to something else. In my defense, Extra Life is a 24 (25 that year) hour marathon, but it’s still something I’d keep in mind.
9. Facecam or not? This is another one that I can go both ways. If you can be entertaining on camera then I say go for it, a lot of viewers like that for making the stream feel more personal. If you don’t like being on camera, though, I don’t think that’s going to kill your stream. I’d avoid having one just to have one, since taking up real estate on screen just to watch someone sit there doesn’t seem like a great tradeoff to me. Alternatively, you could always check out something like Facerig and be on camera without really being on camera – though I’d still make an effort to do something other than sit there.
10. Be yourself. Can I be more vague and cliché at the same time? I mean it, though. I started watching Tyger’s streams regularly because he dropped some casual literary and Rocky Horror Picture Show references in the first stream I watched. Nothing to do with the game or his setup, it was just an “Oh! I have things in common with this person, I think I will keep watching!” If he’d been trying to be someone else, I probably wouldn’t have had that click moment of deciding to hang around. I can pinpoint things in other streams I watch regularly that are unique to that show and that host – the “butterfly chasing” in Otterdown‘s streams comes to mind.
I’m thinking of more ideas now (like how much easier my life got when I had more than one monitor) but I think 10 things is plenty long as is. If more people ask, I might get together some answers from active streamers and post them up another time. Shoot me a comment here or on Twitter @darkgryphon42 if you’d like to mention one of the many things that I’m sure I’ve missed. And go have fun, streaming or not! 🙂