Twitch Streamer Seems Like a Terrible Job

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JasonR86

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Hey all, so due to our shelter-at-home-all-year-long thing we got going on I decided to try watching Twitch. For context, I don't tend to watch let's plays aside from a few youtube channels and what Giant Bomb puts up. I'd never watched Twitch and, honestly, the benefit of a livestream, using chat, didn't really appeal to me. But, there's a youtube person I follow, her channel name is Marz, who referenced her Twitch channel in one of her videos so I thought I'd give it a watch.

She has played all the From Software games post Dark Souls, and is quite good at all of them, but never played Demon Souls. So, she decided to try it on Twitch with the PS5 re-release. When I checked out her stream, it was about her third or fourth stream. She was plugging along just fine, just like the rest of us who play the game do/will. She clearly had a leg up because of the other games, but the level design and enemies were all different so she was learning them as she went.

At the time I entered the stream, she had around 2.5k people watching her, which is amazing. Apparently she's really popular. Also trying to chat with 2.5k people seems impossible to me. She was enjoying herself but whenever she looked over at chat she got annoyed, it seemed. She then told the chat something along the lines of "guys, I appreciate that you're trying to help but don't backseat." She was then questioned about what backseating was and wasn't, why she isn't interacting with chat, and what's the point of chat if she doesn't interact with everyone all the time, while playing. She was patient, more patient then I would have been, and even apologized to those that weren't doing the questioning. But people in chat were calling her names all the while.

All of that sounds fucking awful. I get that if you are an internet personality you should expect some amount of trolling and she is quite popular. But, she's also just a person. Initially, she made her channel as a means to cope with some of her health issues. She's not trained in dealing with trolling assholes, you know? But here she is, dealing with it, because she's seen success.

This isn't just a problem for this person, but for people online as a whole, I know. But Twitch in particular has tags for things like 'no backseating' implying that specific problem, a piece of a larger whole, is enough of a problem to warrant a new, shared vernacular.

I have no idea how to turn this into a community discussion other than, I don't know, what are your thoughts on Twitch? But, man, I feel really bad for streamers. I wouldn't want that job.

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BisonHero

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Community moderation is a helluva thing. The reality is that Twitch chats can be quite barbaric unless the broadcaster sets some very firm rules on which elements they won’t tolerate from the chat. Sadly a lot of broadcasters are young and new to this, or are perhaps too worried about growing their viewership to start permabanning dozens or hundreds of problem chatters, or perhaps there is some other reason that they treat chat with kid gloves.

Sorry to hear this Marz of yours was having a rough go of it with DS on PS5. I would say the Souls games generally have a reputation for fans that are too vocal on Twitch about telling the broadcaster how they should be playing the game.

Generally speaking, you might have to look around a while, but there are broadcasters who have curated their chats to be less toxic, maintaining a balance somewhere in the middle of toxicity and sycophancy.

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Efesell

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All of the streamers I follow regularly set firm boundaries and they enforce them. Sometimes that means you tell someone who's being toxic to get the fuck outta your house. Doesn't matter if they've subbed, doesn't matter if they've donated. If you let a chat run wild, even if you try to admonish them for it, then it's always going to end up like this.

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shinyd3mon

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I completely agree. I think the idea of catering to an audience of hundreds or thousands of people on the fly, who are all shouting at you and at each other is ridiculous. There must be at least some level of an attention-seeking aspect of every streamer's personality that they're ok with it though? Otherwise they wouldn't be streaming to the internet? But you're right, putting on a show, sporadically interacting with a mostly unhelpful mob while keeping on a friendly face for the hope that people will imagine you as their friend and donate to you... what a nightmare.

Lol ready for a soapbox? IMO the parasocial relationships people make with streamers are socially (and some cases financially) unhealthy, and I can't believe the lengths people will go for a modicum of attention from somebody they don't know. On a regular basis. I wonder how many other people only watch archived versions of pretty much every Giant Bomb video like I do, because I prefer to be able to start/pause the video when I like, and the idea of being in a chat "talking to" the GB hosts or however many other people are chatting is not interesting or appealing whatsoever.

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zoofame

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@shinyd3mon: Absolutely agreed. Even the chat here is toxic as fuck with people copy-pasting their angry twitter feed, making all kinds of creepy comments about the staff's appearance, turning everything into a sex joke that a middle school child would think was lame, and throwing a tantrum when the crew aren't 100% aligned with their taste in games. It didn't used to be so bad but I think the pandemic and GB Infinite have turned the chat into some people's everything for social interaction. The mods used to tamp down on the worst of it but now it's like anything goes unless you're using slurs.

It doesn't help that practically all the content now is live streams with chat and twitter open. The crew seem totally distracted now that I'm solely listening to the archives, especially the podcasts. I wish they would go back to pre-recorded podcasts/videos.

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Efesell

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Well I do think that at a certain threshold it is a completely valid direction to just be like.. the talent does not talk to the audience they are here to entertain. Which if that's the tier it's at then I feel like you are only chatting because you like the chaos.

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JasonR86

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@efesell:

At the start of the streams of the person I mentioned, she has a splash screen up that says that she prioritizes the game rather than chat to stay focused. But I’d imagine even still you’d feel pressure to acknowledge the chat at some point.

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bigsocrates

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I find Twitch kind of impossible to enjoy, especially if there are huge numbers of people in chat. I watch some Twitch stream archives of under the radar streamers with like 20 people viewing/chatting and that can be okay and even kind of charming, but the big streams are just a mess of hot garbage. Even if the chat is being respectful and nice it's like the most ADHD conversation ever, and it also distracts from the person playing the game and talking on the stream. It's just a mess.

It also seems like streamers have to pretend to care about a random comment from XXXWeedonkey420XXX and that seems exhausting and emotionally harmful. It just all comes off as fake and forced and bad.

When Giant Bomb has a multi-person stream with one person responsible for monitoring the chat and surfacing useful or interesting comments that can kind of work, but for solo streamers it's just a mess and I don't really see what anyone gets out of the interaction aspect. I vastly prefer watching archives and I definitely could not do the Twitch Streamer as a job thing. Maybe as a hobby with a tiny audience of decent people.

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BisonHero

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#9  Edited By BisonHero

@efesell: The irony of livestreaming video games on Twitch is that if it was just video of the broadcaster with no livechat, you could have a relatively controlled environment. Not quite the prerecorded vibe of Youtube, but more like the vibe of watching a busker on the street, or a pianist in a piano bar. Everyone sitting around watching a performance, observing but not talking amongst themselves, and if you're feeling generous you throw in a few dollars as a tip.

But once you have live chat, it really alters the course entirely. Twitch broadcasters with say 5000+ concurrent viewers sometimes have the confidence/stability to just not interact with chat directly for the better part of an hour, but anyone under that number usually believes (rightly or not) that they must be engaging with chat near constantly to keep their viewership alive.

Engaging live with hecklers takes practice. Even worse, internet viewers have far fewer social inhibitions due to anonymity/generally shitty internet norms, so unlike a comedy performance where maybe you get one drunken heckler at a time, Twitch hecklers can quickly turn into dozens or hundreds of viewers all spamming the same asinine criticism if it gains enough momentum.

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bigsocrates

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@bisonhero: Even if people are well intentioned it's just a cacophony. 5000 people all talking at once is toxic even if they're only saying nice things.

Then there's the "cheers" donation thing, where people literally pay to have sempai notice them and sempai feels obligated and though most of the messages are either supportive or reasonable questions I find the idea of paying someone $5 say "thanks" or answer a simple question to be inherently gross.

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BisonHero

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@bigsocrates: The whole economy of Twitch is very strange in general, because unlike a Giant Bomb or Patreon or whatever, there is no pay wall or anything that gives a significant benefit to the viewer for giving money to broadcasters. You really have to be the type who has fully bought into the idea of Twitch, where you subscribe to a certain broadcaster just to feel like you're a more dedicated part of their community.

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Efesell

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I mean all of that stuff is just supporting folks you like. I mean I guess it can be abused like anything can be abused but I see absolutely no issue with the donations.

I think above all what's important is that you have to work to build a community, and sometimes that's gonna be an awkward process. If you just let people fall into place then even if you make it big you'll just end up with a toxic mess.

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bigsocrates

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@efesell: There's nothing inherently wrong with donations, but the culture around them is what makes me uncomfortable. If I pay for Giant Bomb nobody cares. They don't even know. I support the product and I consume the product but I don't influence the product. However when you donate on Twitch the streamer feels compelled to publicly notice you and call out your name. This is not inherently bad either, except that donations start interrupting the flow of the stream for everyone as the streamer responds to people who are paying for attention.

It's like going to a concert and in the middle of the songs the people in the front row toss money up on the stage and the singer pauses the song to acknowledge them. It just makes me a little uncomfortable and also, from my perspective, damages the quality of the streams. A lot of popular streams just break down to someone playing a game while calling out random screen names and saying "thank you so much for the donation" every 15 seconds or so, and I don't understand why anyone finds that enjoyable. I also think that people who are literally paying someone to acknowledge them can be in a weird situation. It's one thing to toss someone a $5 tip because you like their content, it's kind of another to feel the urge to literally pay for someone to acknowledge you and it's not clear where the line between the two sits.

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Efesell

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I guess I don't really notice much disruption in somebody just taking a breath to say Hey Thanks Whoever. I guess at worse I can think of a couple of channels that have at high amounts play elaborate alerts or something and those can be kind of distracting.

But I dunno.. I just let it rock.

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Humanity

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#15 Humanity  Online

@bisonhero: Twitch in general is mostly just kind of gross in the monetization aspect. Whether directly or indirectly it is a culture preying on people susceptible to unhealthy behavior of poor impulse control. There is a small light at the end of the tunnel where incredibly popular streamers like Pokimane are setting their donation cap to $5 because of how much money she is already making from advertisement deals and so forth - she doesn't need you to donate more when she is literally making millions on her own. That is a great move that honestly is saving a lot of people from themselves. Unfortunately the vast amount of popular Twitch giants out there will never do this - not to mention the streamers actively pressuring their audience or belittling them for not donating.

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cikame

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This topic is why i think Aris at Avoiding The Puddle is the best Twitch streamer, you need to follow his number 1 rule, both of them.

Loading Video...

He's regularly calling the chat out on how stupid they are, they love it, he loves it, donation messages get cut off or ignored, he's running his stream how he wants and it totally works. If anyone gets REALLY mad at Aris they're just missing the point, they shouldn't be there, if he doesn't want them there mods take care of it "somebody kill that guy" and they're gone, i really appreciate how he does things just to see the honesty of it, there's no pretending going on, he doesn't have to like you.

I know not everyone can be like him, he's put himself in a really strong position against the chat, i've been watching a lot of Hololive vtubers recently and almost all those characters are built on the idea that being kind and cute to the chat is how that job is performed, i've seen them cry when receiving criticism, i've also seen many of them deal with it well, but "chat" as an entity is an instant portal for nasty messages, i hope more people can embrace the Aris approach and brush it off like it's nothing, because it's nothing.

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Gundato

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#17  Edited By Gundato  Online

@cikame: That the same Aris who argues that sexual harassment is intrinsic to the FGC? And actively refused to comment on any of the abuse allegations/revelations/receipts and made sure to have his mods "kill that guy" when people brought it up?

Because that just sounds like conservative talk radio. Make fun of the "bad" parts of your audience so that "the good ones" will love you even more because they are REALLY your friends and "get it" rather than all those people who are crying because they don't see the honesty in it and are missing the point of someone who is willing to tell it like it is. And keep promoting horrible agendas in the process.

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cikame

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ToughShed

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#19  Edited By ToughShed

I agree with your assessment. However some of them make a lot of money and I do think there are all the same reptile parts of your brain that most people have which respond to social media positive feedback and attention going into this on an overdrive level that I can't deny is probably satisfying as well, if not something I could or would get to the point of doing myself.

I feel bad for a lot of women in positions of attention too.

Also add into tying your whole income into a shitty company who could turn the whole thing upside down in an instant with some decision they make.

@cikame: Not familiar with this guy but I do always like and enjoy this kind of dynamic. As a long time Radio listener, this was always kind of the Shock Jock position but I always thought that was, in most cases, a fun and funny dynamic.

Anyways, I really appreciate people trying to engage others in good faith and all but to me there has to be a boundary and filter through which it is done which preserves the person's vision who is running a show. I mean, or not. There are others who like that kind of thing but not me. It also makes watching anything after it was live usually a terrible experience and shows a scattered boring mess.

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ToughShed

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#20  Edited By ToughShed

@shinyd3mon: Agreed with your post and also though, as I mentioned in my post above, the weird toxic relationship has to go both ways, as far as getting validation and attention for the streamer from having that audience. Definitely not a good healthy thing and you see it across multiple things, particular a certain type of Pop music (I wont' say more no one get mad at me lol).

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colourful_hippie

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#21  Edited By colourful_hippie

Definitely feels like you need some sort of thick skin and self-ascribed red lines that you have to enforce on chat in order to make this work in the long run otherwise you're just going to wear yourself down into nothing trying to appease a bunch of bossy nihilists.

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Shindig

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Thick skin or a thick skull. DarksydePhil goes off at everything he considers a bruising of his ego but he's too dumb to try anything else. It's lucrative but all he's done with the money is land a $500,000 bankruptcy.

It's when you see that side of it, when you see too much of the life behind the persona, it becomes the grimmest long-running social experiment.

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colourful_hippie

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#23  Edited By colourful_hippie

These examples of assholes that fight chat are not exactly a solid reason as to why someone shouldnot develop thick skin and boundaries for a toxic chat. You can't let strangers walk all over you because you will lose yourself in the process. I guess I'm just not surprised in the slightest that the people who naturally have thick skin also happen to be assholes, that just goes hand in hand.

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Efesell

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The wrong lesson is absolutely “My chat is full of assholes so I need to become the Alpha asshole.”

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TurtleFish

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It’s too bad that you can’t fix the actual problem, which is a lot of people need to learn common courtesy. Its bad enough that I very rarely engage in chat on any social platform anymore unless I know it’s heavily moderated.

To paraphrase Ryan, there are people who need real world consequences for their Internet BS, to learn that there are real human beings with thoughts and feelings on the other side of the camera. Sometimes being an asshole occasionally can be funny (none of us would watch GB if we didn’t believe that) but, if you’re an asshole all the time? Then you’re just an asshole.

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bigsocrates

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@turtlefish: I dunno, if there's anything the last year has showed us in the US it's that people are perfectly willing to be assholes even in public where everyone can see. So many people respond with rage to "please wear a mask in public so you don't kill my grandmother" that it's hard for me to imagine that the issue is really that they don't know there are real human beings out there that they're hurting.

For a lot of people that seems like a large part of the appeal.

I think it's pretty much impossible to make a substantial minority of the population behave well (I do think the majority of people will be decent in most circumstances) and the best you can hope to do is keep them out of your online (and meatspace) communities if they can't behave themselves.

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sombre

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Also, most people don't respect you because of the state of your peers

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MerxWorx01

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@jasonr86: It seems like when it comes to chat and how streamers deal with chat there is an on going process where the streamer cultivates what kind of viewer they want and how that fits into the shows and platforms they use. Along with GB I found myself watching "creators" on both Twitch and Youtube and this also includes Marz.

She is still cultivating the kind of viewer she wants on her streams and it's tough to do since the games she plays are notorious for having nitpickers actively critique you. Being primarily a YouTube let's player, she ends up balancing her usual edited videos which her YouTube community wants while uploading distracted Twitch VODs where she usually says up front that she might be less talkative and more focused on the game. Hopefully reminders, along with a combo of human and automated mods can steer the chat away from being overtly toxic.

I've watched more Twitch stuff in the past six months than I care to say but it all starts with the streamer either putting a hard foot down making iron clad rules about what will get comment deletions, muting or bans, and making examples of the offenders on stream. The other spectrum of this is if you are on the upswing in views and have a relatively healthy chat and some form of human-mod/automod, not giving rules breakers the time of day by not vocalizing an infraction while deleting all their comments is also an option.

There is no silver bullet to all this and there are no guarantees but making hard and fast rules of what's not acceptable is the first step and accepting that nothing will change over night.

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Efesell

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For as much as there is to worry about audiences or best practices on twitch the real nightmare still seems to be for the career youtubers though.

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BladeOfCreation

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@efesell: If you can't monetize your crocodile tear-filled apology video, are you even a capitalist?

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apewins

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I genuinely don't understand people who engage in Twitch chat rooms, every time I've looked, it's just people spamming memes, insults and bad advice. Actually calling it a chat room is misleading because nobody there is chatting, everybody is monologuing. Any attempts at having a conversation is drowned out by all the noise. My advise for streamers would be to not look at the chat, ever, but I get that these people are the ones that pay your bills so you have to do it. But even as a watcher it is painful to watch streamers as they are constantly being interrupted by the chat.

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Gundato

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#32 Gundato  Online

@apewins: I've read a few articles on it over the years and it tends to fall into three real categories (maybe more by now):

  1. The feeling of being in an audience for a live show. There is a unique feeling of being surrounded by fans as you all wince because someone got super kicked so hard that no leg slapping was needed. Or cheering because everyone around you ALSO were way too in to this song 20 year sago. And so forth
  2. A lot of streamers do a great job of making the audience feel like they are part of a conversation. Some of it is very much being built around catchphrases. If you know EVERYONE is going to say "wabba doo" then you can react to that in a way that makes each of those funkysts (TM) feel like you are speaking directly to them. Same with having jokes with very expected punchlines and so forth. You know, the shit Steve did on Blue's Clues to make kids feel smart for telling him to write with a pencil instead of the back massager he found in mommy's nightstand.
  3. People wanna get themselves over, as it were. People think that if they are funny enough or clever enough the audience will rally around them and they will be the star of the show... from chat.
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csl316

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#33  Edited By csl316

Streaming doesn't really appeal to me, which is why I skipped a whole lot of the GB Lockdown content.

But being a streamer seems exhausting. I can't imagine doing 8 hours of shows, when the average person is watching like an hour or two? It feels like a waste. It's why the GB style with set videos works for me, because you can still occasionally catch a show and chat. But then people can also mingle with comments on the Quick Look or feature of that day, without having to catch a work day's worth of content just to get an in joke.

I'm 35, though, so I guess I can't relate to this. I feel like the only reason Twitch rose to such prominence is because monetizing on Youtube seems like a pain in the ass, too.

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Gundato

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#34  Edited By Gundato  Online

@cikame: Then maybe it would be a good idea to not signal boost him and hold him up as an example of a good streamer?

I am sure we can find some examples who aren't on the record for thinking sexual harassment and abuse is a good thing

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icoangel

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Maybe due to being old but I don't get the appeal of twitch style videos, I have tried to watch it a number of times but I don't get the appeal of watching someone talk to chat and shout out donations.

Then again I still think Giant Bomb moving to live video was a mistake and I think just means you end up with lower quality products, so maybe I am just super out of touch.

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selbie

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Streaming is definitely not for everyone, and if you are doing it purely for attention and not engaging with your audience then you will attract a certain type of crowd that is different from someone who has more of a community focus.

The best streamers are often the ones that can offer some kind of value to viewers whether it's informative, social, or just pure silliness for the sake of entertainment. They also make an effort to directly interact with chat - with a moderation team that is actively filtering out the crap for everyone's benefit. In Marz' case playing a game "blind" should be clearly indicated in chat rules etc and mods should apply a liberal amount of banhammers to emphasize the consequences.

For all the toxicity that be present on the internet, the flip side is that a streamer can gain a massive amount of satisfaction cultivating a community where they can form very meaningful friendships and share in life-changing events. You just have to be someone who is self-motivated just like any sole business owner and build a lot of resilience around your job.

Source: Twitch viewer for over 6 years, and volunteer mod for around 4 years.

Also: It is getting a little dated now, but I can recommend the documentary Living the Stream on Prime Video - it gives a good summary of the streamer life.

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theonewhoplays

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That's one thing I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Why would anyone work hours as a mod for free for a streamer who profits from it? Why should anyone? Or do at least some mods get paid?

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ToughShed

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#38  Edited By ToughShed

@colourful_hippie said:

These examples of assholes that fight chat are not exactly a solid reason as to why someone shouldnot develop thick skin and boundaries for a toxic chat. You can't let strangers walk all over you because you will lose yourself in the process. I guess I'm just not surprised in the slightest that the people who naturally have thick skin also happen to be assholes, that just goes hand in hand.

Also I would say for myself, who was saying above I can like a confrontational at times approach, I was not saying you need to be mean really or try to "out alpha" anyone. Its more that I have grown up listening to Radio shows, from Howard Stern to Don and Mike, where the hosts clowned on many of the callers in and it was all treated light heartedly. I think that it was all in good fun though and again, for me, keeps the interaction through a lens which preserves the shows integrity as someone's vision. For example, in a stream that would prevent having to deal with people trying to backseat game you constantly and nag you when you're playing Souls if you can goof on those people doing so and laugh it off.

It's a fine line as always. I listen to a podcast now that does the same thing in spirit, but it isn't about being disrespectful or mean. Its a good community that raises money for good causes and is generally really positive and fun. But there are certain callers that the host might trash and its all part of the fun. Most of them are even regular callers.

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bigsocrates

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@theonewhoplays: Aren't the Giantbomb mods unpaid?

Some mods do get paid but it's a very small number.

On the positive end of being a mod some people want to contribute to the communities they participate in and make spaces nice for other people. It's not really different from volunteering to beautify your city or clear trash on the highway (though of course it does benefit not just the streamer but Twitch itself, which is owned by Amazon, and volunteering to work free for Amazon is a little weird if you think about it.) I've done free modding on message boards and subreddits for this reason.

On the negative end some people just love power, no matter how little, and get off on the sense of control and importance. This is how you get toxic mod teams, which do exist.

And of course with streaming there's the sense that if you're a mod you get to interact with the streamer and sempai will definitely notice you!

I will say that the Giantbomb mod team definitely tends towards being more pro-social in my opinion. They can be a little quick to lock stuff for my tastes but I think their hearts are in the right place.

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LonelySpacePanda

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I love BawkbaSoup and watching him grow over the years to a massive streamer has been interesting. I think scaling moderation as you grow is key but even then it's easy to have your day ruined by one person spoiling a game or backseating.

I've always been impressed by Kripp. He always had massive, massive numbers but always seemed so chill and personable like only 10 people are watching. I think it takes a certain personality-type to survive long-term. You need to have a thick skin and not be easily swayed to trends, staying true to what actually excites you.