Let’s Talk About TwitchCon 2018

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I had one of the most magical weekends of my life, just recently.

I was at TwitchCon from October 26th til the 28th, and I can’t even begin to tell you just how much the weekend meant to me. I’m going to try, but it’s going to feel like really expressive word vomit, because there’s just so much to say, and so many emotions that just want to push it all out.

I wouldn’t say I was nervous about attending this convention, but I was curious about whether or not I’d fall into some socially anxious moments. I had been to comic book conventions before, but that was with friends, and there wasn’t the added pressure of knowing I’d meet a ton of internet friends. Here, I knew I’d be meeting a ton of internet friends, as well as having the potential of people recognizing me from my Twitch channel. Sure, I’m not super well-known, but the potential was there, and my little introverted self wasn’t sure just how much social energy I could burn before my body decided it would be done.

When I arrived on Thursday to pick up my badge, I definitely needed a moment to process it all. So many people were hanging out in front of the convention center on Day 0 of TwitchCon, and a few people recognized me and came up to say hi, so all of it was a lot to take in. I’m not sure if it was the flight over here already making me a bit tired, which had already included me meeting two people I’ve gotten to know a bit through Twitch, plus a very popular Twitch streamer who makes a VERY comfortable living off of his channel (we’ll get to that, later), combined with the fact that I hadn’t eaten in quite a while, but seeing the sheer size of what this event would be left me shook. Don’t get me wrong, I was still excited, but I was nervous about whether or not I could keep up with the energy of it all.

Luckily, Thursday night kind of put it into perspective…when one of my favorite Twitch streamers shouted at me from a distance while I had chicken shawarma goop all over my face.

I hadn’t eaten for about 7 hours at that point, so I was in desperate need of some food. The person I was hanging out with originally was super tired from getting on an early flight to San Jose, so he opted to go to his hotel and rest while I went to go hang out with some fellow LGBTQIA+ streamers who invited me to dinner and drinks. I didn’t see them in the restaurant I was supposed to meet them at yet, so I went next door to a pretty cool market where they had several restaurants to get some food. Though I felt a tad strange about eating alone at an event where I felt like I had plenty of people to hang out with, I was starving, and I was going to be a useless shell of a human if I didn’t eat something soon.

I sat outside, eating this delicious chicken shawarma wrap, catching up on some social media, when I heard Negaoryx scream my name from the other end of the outdoor area we were in.

Though it wasn’t the first time I had been recognized that day, it was the first time someone recognized me in dim lighting from like, fifty feet away. I looked up to see that it was her, and thought “gurl you better wipe this chicken shawarma mess off your face right this very moment!” We hugged and I apologized for possibly having food on my face (which was probably unnoticeable, anyway), which I now realize is a dumb thing to apologize for, since chicken shawarma wraps tend to leave residue. But of course, she was sweet and fun and kind of the best, and meeting with her couldn’t have come at a better time.

I was terrified that the LGBTQIA+ streamers I was about to meet would think I’m much less cool than I seem on my Twitch channel, so my social anxiety was already on the rise. I think I brought up the fact that I had walked around in circles a few times because I didn’t see the group I was supposed to be meeting yet, so I settled for food by myself until I knew where they were, and I’m sure it became apparent to her that I was in my head about the event. She had to go meet a group as well, so she told me not to be afraid to approach her if I ever saw her around the convention, and I think something else about trying to let the social anxiety go, and then she glided off in her magical gown.

No seriously, it was magical:

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Me, hopefully with no more chicken shawarma goop on my face, and Negaoryx, real life fantastical sorceress

After feeling a bit renewed from eating and meeting someone I looked up to quite a bit, I made my way over to the restaurant where I met up with a bunch of streamers I admired…and another one of my favorites, a lovely drag queen named Deere. Like, the world just couldn’t give me a break from meeting amazing, talented people who give me inspiration? But that was the thing; that’s just what TwitchCon is. It’s meeting people you look up to time and time again, and though it’s always both exciting and a little bit anxiety-inducing, I think you just get accustomed to the anxiety part to the point where it doesn’t feel like it’s there, anymore (well, depending on who you are).

We had a great time, and though it took me a bit to open up, I was eventually able to interact with them in the same way I do with any other friends. I surprised myself with how naturally I was able to open up to them. It’s not necessarily that I have trouble opening up to people, it’s just that I have a hard time opening up to several people, in groups, multiple times per day. Introversion is fun, y’all! Though I do think our innate shared experiences of being queer gave us that base-level understanding with one another, so being able to open up to them really isn’t all that surprising, looking back on it.

I wouldn’t say that TwitchCon turned me into an extrovert, but it definitely helped me realize just how far I can push myself, socially. Because during the rest of the event, I found it so easy to approach people I knew on the internet, but was just meeting for the first time. Maybe it was because there was some sense of familiarity there already, due to us watching each others’ live streams, but it was so nice to feel like I so easily got along with everyone I met.

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The event itself was just so incredible, too. It felt like a bustling, chaotic home away from home. There was so much on the expo floor that related to gaming, streaming, and interests adjacent to those. There was also an artist’s alley, much like there is at most conventions like this one, where artists (who are also Twitch streamers) displayed and sold their creations.

There were several booths on the expo floor where you could play demos for games that were already out, or that would soon be released. There were also so many panels for improving your stream quality, how to be a better Twitch community member, tips on how to be a good community leader, and just about anything that could appeal to your interests as someone on a live-streaming platform. My personal favorite panel was the one on mental health and streaming, which had so much good information on creating content while also being kind to yourself. My biggest take-aways from that panel were that comparing yourself to avoid comparing yourself to others, focus on the good things you’re doing with your own channel, and know when to take breaks. Twitch is definitely its own thing when it comes to being a content creator, but it definitely had some amazing take-aways for anyone who’s in the creative world.

The other two panels that I went to that were also amazing were The Gayest Panel at TwitchCon (I mean like, of course I went to that one) and one on the art of makeup on Twitch, which was super cool to see as someone who doesn’t necessarily participate in makeup (though the panel sparked some interest in possibly experimenting with it? Who knows!) The Gayest Panel was amazing to see as a fellow queer streamer, knowing that we’re all linked through these similar experiences on the platform. Hearing their ideas on how they think queer presence on the platform will grow and move forward was also inspiring, mostly to confirm that me being overwhelmingly gay on stream is a good choice.

The makeup panel was also great, as it was fascinating to hear insight from people who use the same platform that I do for a different kind of creative medium. I’ve always been fascinated with makeup as an art form, but never have I really heard that kind of insight from people who do it so regularly as their means of entertaining others.

Seriously, y’all. TwitchCon has it all, when it comes to what you can get out of it.

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Me lookin’ kinda sleepy, Tolthe, RawVox120, Dirty_Meeper

Though the events at the convention itself were great, my ultimate goal was to connect with the people. I’ve met so many amazing people through Twitch, and there was something so magical about getting to see them all in person. There was a level of bonding we were able to achieve that, sure, can be possible on the Internet, but the quality definitely improves faster with those face-to-face interactions. And oh geez, did I have so many of these quality-improving moments when I was there. There were so many people I was excited to see, so many people I formed deeper bonds with, and so many people I hugged! Seriously! I’ve never been hugged so much in my whole life, and it was magical.

The thing about TwitchCon is that most of us are already so familiar with one another. We watch people do their live streams, which yes, can sometimes be a bit fabricated, exaggerated, or rehearsed when it comes to personalities, but ultimately, shows us a mostly unfiltered view of who they are. The fact that you can interact with the streamer directly through chat offers that direct line of communication, which has given us the sense that we’ve already come to know these people that we’ll be seeing at the convention. This was something I was initially a little nervous about, knowing I would be meeting so many people I had already talked to several times before, and feeling like they may not feel as good about my face-to-face interactions with them. Luckily, pretty much every meeting felt like a reunion with an old friend, so I was instantly more at ease with each time it happened.

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DragTrashly, ChaniChico, Deere, Angelxoxo, Cornfllake, PoppusT, Kevin, Kisos_tho, me being really heckin’ happy with all these rad queer streamers

I also met so many new people at TwitchCon, which wasn’t necessarily something I anticipated, but definitely had in the back of my head as a possibility. Even on the plane over to San Jose, I ended up sitting next to a streamer named Timmac, who has over 75k and is making more than a comfortable living through his channel, according to the Charlotte Observer. To those who aren’t super aware of how Twitch works, that’s an incredible feat! Some people stream for years and never have that kind of income from it, or even gain the viewership that would be able to yield that kind of revenue. When I saw this article, I realized I was sitting next to someone who had just the right combination of hard work and talent. Though I wasn’t aware of him until that day, it was amazing to get to meet him, and get to know him without the Twitch lens. Sure, we talked about being a streamer here and there, but it was really cool just to see who we was as a person before even seeing his channel.

Though I got a solid hour and a half with him, every other time I met a streamer for the first time was just as meaningful, as it felt like it was the beginning of a blossoming friendship. I don’t like to say that getting to know a streamer through Twitch is a less genuine way of getting to know them, but with all of the bells and whistles of the platform getting in the way, it can be hard to get a deeper sense of someone’s sense of self. They can be as authentic as possible on a livestream, but it doesn’t beat the magic of getting to talk with them in person.

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Left to Right: Minh Vogue, Mollydoesathing, me with a heckin’ cute panda, Sevendash, BotoCollin, Supercaliy, SRI_Deca, JoeyMarie

I knew the convention itself would be fun, but it was always about the people, for me. It was always about getting to see the faces of people who have supported me, the people who I’ve gained inspiration from, and the people whom I have yet to be inspired by. Not only that, but it was a mixture of strange and rewarding to have people recognize me, want to chat with me for a bit, and take a selfie with me. I don’t think we often realize what kind of influence we have as creators, so having people be so excited to see me was so surreal. The space I take up on Twitch can sometimes feel so small, but it’s moments like those that I realize the impact can be much bigger. I think being around this excitement helped center my thoughts around what my channel is serving on the platform, rather than how it exists compared to others. It didn’t feel like there was room to compare myself when there was so much kindness and support in that convention center.

Because of how much this trip impacted me, I’ve decided it’s no longer a trip I can afford to miss. The amount of inspiration and kindness at this convention is something I can’t miss out on, now that I know it’s there. It’s already sad, thinking that I might not see the people I met there for another year, so I don’t want to extend that for an extra year by any means.

Though every single person I met and interacted with was absolutely exceptional, I especially want to thank all of the queer streamers I met for all of the fun memories. I had already felt such a connection by interacting with them via Twitch, but getting to meet so many that I admire was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had, to this day. I have never seen a group of people be more kind and loving toward each other, and I think as long as we stick together and lift each other up on this platform, we can do anything we set our minds to. Don’t @ me for sounding so cheesy. I know I sound like an after school special, but let me be in my feelings! I deserve to get sappy!

Thanks for the memories, TwitchCon. Thanks for the renewed spirit, for impacting my life in the most unique way, and for sending me home with a full heart. I’ll be back, and next time, it won’t be with the looming sense of anxiety, but with the confidence that it will be just as amazing, or even more so, than the year before.

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(Want to see even more photos from the event? Check out my Instagram!)

What I’ve Learned After 6 Months of Twitch Streaming

I’ve been live streaming on Twitch for about 6 months now, and though I had my doubts about it before starting, it’s honestly one of the best choices I’ve made in my content creating career. I have met so many other streamers and creators that I now consider to be friends, and I’ve made a good presence for myself, as far as my brand goes (yes, I do realize how pretentious things get when the word “brand” comes into play.) I’ve learned a lot more about creating online content in these last 6 months of Twitch streaming than I have in the last 4 years when I was just vlogging on Youtube and writing. That’s not to say that there aren’t lessons to be learned from vlogging, blogging, or writing stories, but the lessons I’ve learned from being on Twitch have benefited me more than what I have learned from other creative mediums, and I feel like these lessons are helpful to creators of any type.

1. It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to Start

I had wanted to stream on Twitch for years. Ever since I saw that it was becoming a big thing, I thought it would be the most fulfilling type of content to create. Instead of just starting, though, I let so many doubts get in my way. “Do I have the right equipment? Should I wait to get a capture card? Should I stick to a theme, or stream whatever I want? Are people even going to watch?” Once I got out from underneath these doubts, and finally sat in front of my PS4 camera, streaming Resident Evil 7 directly from the console, all of those doubts were gone. People came, they stayed to watch, they enjoyed what I was doing, and it all ended up being okay. I even had a friend who’s been watching streamers on Twitch for years tell me that I did very well for it being my first time. Despite the tiny little square of face-cam that the PS4 camera offered, as well as the clearly non-customizable/bland layout, people still had fun.

Right at this moment, my current equipment includes my MacBook Air, an Avermedia Live Gamer Portable 2 capture card, a Blue Snoball USB microphone, and the built-in webcam from my laptop, and it’s enough to have garnered a decent-sized, loyal audience. Shoot, even when I was completely oblivious to the fact that my streams were lagging for a whole five seconds (or more), people still stuck around and watched. I was mortified that my stream quality was so low at that point, but the people who wanted to watch me clearly didn’t care. I’m far from having the ideal tools for streaming, but I’m working with what I have. If I waited for it to be ideal, then I would have found another reason to keep pushing back the opportunity to start streaming. 

2. Community Building is EVERYTHING

At the moment that I’m writing this post, I have 322 Twitch followers. It’s not a giant amount, but it’s more than I ever expected to have after only 6-ish months on the platform. The reason I feel I’ve gotten this far in a short amount of time is because of the communities I interact with, and how often I try to find new ones to join.

Twitch, from what I’ve seen, is less of a self-serving platform than it may seem. Sure, you’re live streaming for quite a few hours in front of a camera with a game/activity of your choice, hoping people come in and chat with you, but getting people to your channel just by streaming alone is way less effective than it is through community building. When you find other streamers to watch, and you start interacting with their communities inside and outside of streams (usually via the chat application called Discord), they get to know you in a way that would make them want to support you. Because Twitch thrives off of being chatty with the streamer, it only seems natural to take that mentality and run with it outside of streams, as well. It’s a great way to influence people to come hang out in your channel, and it definitely contributes to a heavy amount of people’s success on Twitch. And you know what’s great? The people on Twitch want to build these communities; they don’t do it just to grow their channel. It’s not to say that creators on other platforms only support others for their own gain, but the creators on Twitch so overtly support others simply for the sake of supporting, and it’s so rare that you see that kind of altruism on a platform full of people trying to grow their presence.

3. Trust your Creativity

Being a creator means having crippling self-doubt about most things that you do (and if you’re a creator who doesn’t have anxiety about the things you create, please tell me all of your secrets). Of course, when I started on Twitch, I was rife with it. Nowadays, I’m a little less rife, but those debilitating doubts still come in passing thoughts. I was so doubtful of certain creative decisions I was making, and even after I got the capture card so I could use the ever popular OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) to stream my console games, I was still so full of doubt about whether or not what I was doing was good enough.

No matter how much research I did on what the ideal settings, layout, and anything else you could think of when it comes to streaming, the answer seemed to be (mostly) the same: “it’s all up to you.” Much like any of my other creative endeavors, my Twitch streams were left to trial and error, and for the most part, it worked out pretty well. Even my Creative Writing streams, which are a thing that seem pretty uncommon on the platform, seem to be received well, despite the passing self-doubts trying to make a residence out of my brain when I’m in the middle of those streams. The thing is, no matter who I go to with doubts about my stream, the answer usually seems to go along the lines of suggesting I should do whatever I want with it.

Success on Twitch is so focused on the streamer, rather than the content that the streamer is providing, and it’s taken me these six months for this lesson to finally sink in. I find myself watching streamers play games I have no interest in, simply because the streamer is so entertaining to me. What matters most is that they’re doing the work to engage their viewers. As long as they’re still tapping into their own creativity, that’s what really brings the streams to life.

 

I never expected to learn so much about content creating in the last six months that I’ve been streaming on Twitch, but I’m honestly so grateful for where it has brought be, today. It can be easy to see Twitch as just another content creating platform, but it’s honestly the one platform where I’ve felt the most welcomed, and the most accepted for who I am, as well as the talents I try to display online. Streaming has become such a good creative outlet and sanctuary for me, and it’s something I can see myself doing for so many years to come.

If Twitch streaming is something you’re thinking about, and you have at least the minimum equipment to do it, then just go for it. Don’t wait for the conditions to be perfect. Find the communities that will support you and this endeavor. Trust that the creativity in you is what will shine through in your streams, and lead to your success in this medium of content creation. You deserve to be a part of such a rewarding platform.