Monday, March 9, 2015

"So what is a Twitch party like?"

Writing this blog post because I know I'm going to get this question often now that I've been to one.

Basically because of a happy accident of a number of Twitch partners skipping PAX South because it's in it's first year, a situation which will probably never happen again as PAX South gets bigger, Twitch decided to make it's normally partner-only PAX party into a "mixer" in which they decided to let Twitch fans with a PAX South badge in until the place filled to capacity.

I was one of the lucky few fans who got in line early enough to get in. In so doing, I got a once in a lifetime opportunity to see first-hand what most people only get to see on their Twitter and Instagram feeds.

Just to set the stage: The venue for this mixer was Pat O'Briens, the San Antonio branch of the famed New Orleans bar known for it's signature drink, "The Hurricane." On the lower level, there was the regular bar, and 2 separate rooms, one with dueling pianos and another with a rock band. The upper floor, which is where most of the action occurred, contained a dance room with a DJ, a Game room that had the "open" bar for people with wristbands, Karaoke, beer pong and pool tables, and a "media" room with the photo area and a lot of tables in the back. There was also a VIP Lounge on the upper level which was partners only.

The lower level was fairly dead when I arrived, so I headed upstairs. Briefly saw Angry Joe going down the other way and that was when it kinda hit me where I was, that I had basically crossed the divide between viewer and broadcaster, and I was in a completely different world now.

Before I go on, you've probably heard stories about parties in other entertainment media like music or movies, stuff about people doing lines of coke of a stripper's midsection or people having wild sex in a bar booth or on the dance floor. This wasn't that type of party. Everyone kept their clothes on and the hardest drug there was maybe marijuana (which neither Twitch nor Pat O'Briens provided, more than likely someone managed to sneak it in), and I say maybe because someone after the fact mentioned it, so take that with a grain of salt.

So if you're expecting this post to be filled with Studio 54 type stories, you're going to be sorely disappointed.

Anyway, so anyway, I was completely nervous walking into the party, as I am in any large crowd situation, so I checked out the downstairs rooms, got myself a drink, then went upstairs.

At the top of the stairs, I saw SuushiSam, went over to her, and introduced myself. She gave me a big hug and we talked for a bit. Sam is one of the kindest and welcoming people on earth. She was the first streamer to really give me advice and pointers on streaming stuff, so I'm glad I was able to say hi to her early on. It really put me at ease.

Anyway, I settled into the Karaoke room, where I ran into Ms_Vixen and Soma from Twitch, whom I had met the previous night while bar-hopping and basically caught up with them.

Saw Scarletr0se, said hi to her, she said hi back, but she was on her way to the bar, so I didn't hold her up for too long. I'd hung out with her earlier today for a Bioware signing, so I didn't want to bother her too much at the party.

Later I ran into IAmSp00n, who was surprisingly cool to me. We talked for a bit about stuff. He introduced me ForcefulFalcon, whom he was with for most of the evening. Katie's a sweetheart.

A bit later, I was talking in a group that included GoldGloveTV, who seems to be one of the few people in the Twitch community who is as big a sports fan as I am... unfortunately, he's a Seahawks fan. Still he was cool to hang out with.

I met MKTheWorst in the media room, then talked to Renaynay, Max, and their crew for a bit before heading out. (Yes, Renaynay did get 2 hetero guys to kiss again. That's pretty much a running gag at these parties.)

I wanted to get in on the Karaoke, but unfortunately the DJ didn't have the 3 songs I wanted to sing. Oh well.

In all honesty, if I had to sum up my Twitch party experience, it would be "Typical night at a college bar combined with a class reunion."

I'll explain.

Given that the average age of twitch partners are in the early to mid 20's it's really no surprise that most of the activity going on is what you'd find at a typical college bar in any given weekend. Drinking, dancing, games that involve drinking, conversing, and basically having a good time. In that sense Twitch broadcasters aren't that much different than the rest of us.

However, it also has the vibe of a class reunion to it. Outside of a cluster centered around San Francisco, most Twitch partners don't get to see each other much because they're scattered all across the country. So conventions and parties like this are the only chance these folks get to see each other and they try to cram as much interaction with each other as they can into the party, because the next time may not be for a while.

It's in that sense that while I was glad to be there and glad to meet everyone, I did feel personally like I was intruding on the partners' space and time and maybe I wasn't as maybe social as I should have been as a result. However, everyone did their best to make me feel welcome, and I had fun, and if I'm lucky enough to do this again, maybe I will be more intentional about conversing with people.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

1st year streamiversary

One year ago today, March 1, 2014, I decided to finally give in to the bug and get into this live streaming thing with a broadcast of Pokemon White. It was just me and a few friends from an IRC channel I frequented called “Avian Alliance.” We just chatted away and we had a good time. No mic, no face cam, just some hastily put together scenes to hold the broadcast together.

I knew what Twitch was, certainly. I had followed one or two live streams for a few years prior, thanks to a few live streamers that had crossed over from Channel Awesome, a review site I used to be a regular of. (Think “The Creatures,” but movie/tv/music/video game reviews instead of Minecraft videos.). And it always looked like fun. But two things have always stopped me, one being my own depresssion and two, I’d already tried an internet media career once and failed: I was a sports blogger for 2 years and had to give that up because I couldn’t make ends meet living off ad revenues, and I didn’t get the breaks that some of the other people I knew were getting.

But I couldn’t shake the bug. I’ve always been a video gamer in addition to being a sports fan, and I’ve always wanted to share my love of video games with others.

And in January of that year, I had decided to branch out from the regular streams I’d watched and see what else was out there. I checked the Twitch homepage and found this pink-haired gamer who called herself “ZombiUnicorn”, and after taking a glance askew at the name, I clicked through to her channel, watched the game she was playing, made a few funny comments, got to know a few folks in her chat, and had a grand old time. Unfortunately I’d caught the tail end of her broadcast and she decided to “raid”  (something I’d never heard of before, but I went along with it) named another streamer SuushiSam, again making a few funny comments, getting to know people in chat. Through a SuushiSam raid I found lolrenaynay, through Renaynay I found IAmSp00n and GassyMexican, through Sp00n I found Scarletr0se, and so on and so forth until I’ve met all the community members, mods, streamers and Twitch personnel I know now (At last count, I follow about 400 people on Twitch alone, of which about 30 are streaming at any given time). Through all that exposure to the wider community, it scratched the itch to get my own stream going.

And so I did, March 1, 2014, I officially threw my hat into the ring and became a Twitch streamer.

It’s not been an easy first year to say the least. I’ve changed my schedule more times than I can count. I’ve missed a number of streams because of illness, allergy or migraines. I even had a repetitive motion shoulder injury that cost me a week of streams. I’ve had to cut ties with a person I looked up to because he was in the Gamergate camp and he’s proceeded to commit career suicide in every way possible. I’ve had another person whom I looked up to block me because of reasons I still don’t fully understand. And I’ve had my heart broken.

Still, in spite of it all, I’ve been able to claw and scratch my way to a small community of followers and regular viewers. I started this out with no YouTube base, no E-Sports credentials, and no real expectations of getting an audience without either of those. Basically I was starting from scratch. That I have the amount followers I have and the regular viewers I have is a modest accomplishment, and I am thankful for those of you who have followed me on Twitch, and those who have viewed my streams.

But I think the thing I’ve gained the most from my first year is all the incredible people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. To each and every one of you, thank you for making my first year of streaming the best year of my life.