In any event, last night on Twitter, speedrunner Vorpal made a series of Twitter posts expressing concern for people trying to make a living off of streaming. It ended with this tweet. Being me, I have some thoughts on this.
First off, the bigger issue to me is that sites like Stream Big (Which I’m a fan of, despite some of the things I’ll be mentioning here) downplay some aspects of streaming. First off, as I mentioned in reply to Vorpal, streaming is like any other “creative” pursuit (And yes, I’m aware I’m stretching the definition of “creative” here) in that you can do everything “right”, but you still won’t make it to a point where you can make any money at all out of it (Let alone enough to make a living) without a healthy dose of luck. Stream Big and related sites are great, and give a lot of sound advice, but just following them blindly won’t be the automatic path to streaming superstardom that some seem to think.
Another frustrating aspect of streaming is this: Essentially, a person streams so that they can be noticed by other people. While not all streamers want the kind of relative popularity that comes with, say, MAN vs. GAME, a streamer, in the back of their mind (If not the front), wants people to see their stream. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t stream–it’s a lot easier not to buy the equipment, take the time to set up, and so on, if you’re only going to be playing for yourself. Yet admitting this, for a long time, wasn’t allowed in the streaming world–even now, asking “How do I get more viewers?” is likely to get you called a sellout (At worst), or told something to the effect of “Don’t stream for more viewers, stream for the fun of it!” (At best) That’s all well and good…except that “more viewers” is inherently part of the fun of streaming. If nothing else, I’m grateful to Stream Big and its ilk for showing A. a path to get more viewers (Even if it’s far from guaranteed–see the previous paragraph), but also by implication B. the fact that wanting more viewers and/or to make a living off of streaming doesn’t automatically make you the worst streamer ever.
This is all ancillary to my point though, which is as follows:
First, while Vorpal is correct that the Internet is a giant boom-bust cycle–though I think it’s more accurate to say that time moves much faster in the Internet Age in the sense of “What’s hot now is old hat six months from now”–there’s just as much evidence that streaming is here to say as there is that it’s going to die out anytime soon. Recall that video games themselves were thought of as a fad ~30 years ago. Now, they’re healthier than ever, and despite concerns about the age of Twitch’s audience, the average video game player is 34 years old according to ~2010 data from the ESRB. It stands to reason that streaming’s audience age will follow that of the larger game-playing population.
The second aspect of this is that I disagree that, should the streaming wave crest and break, that bigger streamers are “Back at square one.” If they’re entrepreneurial enough, they can leverage the things they learned in streaming into other careers. As some examples, working with mixing/streaming software gives people audio-visual skills they can use elsewhere, and the very act of streaming shows an ability to multitask (A skill basically any workplace would want). There are probably other things I’m missing, but the point is that streamers can leverage what they learn to fit into either the more “traditional” marketplace or whatever video-based technology succeeds streaming.
In short, those people will be fine.