Feeling Twitchy About My Twitch-Stream

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

“I am actively grumpy that I cannot watch you fighting more robot dinosaurs,” said Fox.

This was after a visit where Fox had spent their evenings curled up by my side, watching me play Horizon Zero Dawn – which, to be fair, has a story so good I had to fill them in on what happened in the plot after they left.  And it was nice playing convivially – some of my fondest moments with my daughters have been spent kvetching as one of us plays the game and the other provides sarcastic color commentary.

So I set up a Twitch account and did a stream with Fox last night, which was epic in its own way – I befriended a robot cow just to demonstrate to Fox the newfound skills I’d gained in Fox’s absence, then got into a ridiculous boss battle where I was running through a bandit camp to get away from this mortar-lobbing motherfucker.

I darted through a doorway – and there was the cow.  Standing there idly, but perfectly positioned to block the boss’s entryway long enough for me to swig a few health potions.

“I love you, cow,” I muttered – but then it got better.

The bandit tried to follow me, and the cow kicked him.

I immediately stopped in wonder, watching the bandit try to match firepower with my cow – and Fox was like, “Why aren’t you firing at the bandit? He’s open!” and I was like, “GO, COW!  THIS IS YOUR MOMENT!  MAKE THE MAGIC HAPPEN!”  And I drove back the bandit until the cow kicked him to death.

As I said on Twitter last night, “A cow saved my life tonight in Horizon Zero Dawn. I’m now adopting this cow and riding it everywhere. It’s too noble to roam free and get murdered by assholes like me.”

So that was a moment, and I could see sharing that sort of fun with more people.  I’m mouthy, and animated, and I think I’m funny when I comment on games.

But I think it’d be fun at a small scale.

I’m not necessarily good at small scale.

See, I have two bits of wariness:

First, I know how awful it is for the professional Twitch streamers, the people who start chasing an audience, because by all accounts it becomes a soul-draining process.  “People like long streams,” the guides say.  “Plan to play for at least four hours!  Play the popular games!  Engage with your fans to become a star!”  And I honestly don’t know what sort of expectations people have for Twitch streamers, but it all sounds very gruelling.

Second, I say I’d stream just for my own private amusement, but long years of practice has shown this is something I am utter shit at.

“I’ll just dork around on LiveJournal” – years later, I’m blogging merrily for an audience of thousands.

“I’ll just retreat to FetLife and blog privately about my sex life” – years later, I’m discussing sex to an audience of thousands.

“I’ll just do silly stuff on Twitter” – years later, I’m Tweeting for an audience of thousands.

And in each of those circumstances, I’ve noted my own output becoming more performative as the audience accumulates – not unbearably so, because otherwise I’d quit, but every time I’ve seen that quiet calcification as I start pondering what my audience will think.  I start writing to wall off potential misunderstandings, close off portions of my life that I don’t want strangers dissecting, debate whether I feel like writing something that I know might become controversial. It’s not terrible, but it does change the experience.

I’m used to that with writing.

Gaming has been unalloyed until now.

And I wonder: If I start streaming on a semi-regular basis, will I eventually start to feel weird if I game without streaming?  How will the experience transform if I pick up enough regular watchers that it affects my habits?  Will I start playing during “prime-time” hours, or pick games that are more stream-friendly, or – as is most likely – alter my habits in ways I’ve never even considered before?

Will it make my life better?

Ideally, I’d just do what I see N.K. Jemisin and some other authors doing, which is “Hey, I’ve decided to play tonight, tune in if you want.”  But I’ve always been, perhaps, hypersensitive to the idea of being courteous to an audience, and I know that’s too deeply ingrained for that to change. I know I’d be like, “Well, I played for three hours on my own, they don’t know what’s happened, maybe I should catch them up – or maybe I should just play all the time…”

On the other hand, as mentioned, it was convivial. I like playing games. I like making snarky comments. I like swearing (and holy fuck, do I swear a lot when I’m gaming).  And, to be what’s apparently becoming a plus in the Twitch community, I would never break out the N-word while swearing.

So I guess what I’m debating – as I occasionally mull over in entries like this – is whether it’d be a good thing or a bad thing to start playing for an audience of any size > 1.

Because gaming’s fun.

And I’m not sure whether this would be more fun or less fun.

(You may note that I have not given out my Twitch handle, on account of I’m not sure whether I want to do this.  If you’re good enough friends with me that you know my email address and we’ve held a conversation somewhere, feel free to email me and ask for it.  And yes, whether you feel comfortable enough to email me is part of the equation here.)


  1. Anonymous Alex
    Apr 9, 2018

    I’m not a PS person, but damn, I want a boss-killing cow.

    Also, do people not understand that racial epithets are not swear words? [N.B., that’s a rhetorical question.]


  2. Douglas Scheinberg
    Apr 9, 2018

    Racial slurs have one very important thing in common with traditional swear words: you’re not supposed to say them. Traditional swear words have lost an awful lot of their impact; you can shock many more people these days by saying the N-word than by saying things like “fuck” or “by God’s wounds”.

    • Anonymous Alex
      Apr 9, 2018

      Just so, but if your primary purpose is to shock and you disregard the other (arguably primary) effects of your choices–particularly where those other effects are actual harm to actual people–then I would propose (at least as a first approximation) that you’re a dick.


    • TheFerrett
      Apr 10, 2018

      You can, but there’s also the downside of remembering that the really good swear words used to get you hung or put in irons.

      There’s a balance between “shocking” and “feedback from shocking people” that’s worth investigating. (And there’s a whole essay in why I stopped saying the N-word in essays that referenced its usage – I used to do so in context to demonstrate that it was just a word, and I took Lenny Bruce’s discussion of freedom of speech as writ – but I don’t these days, and I think that’s the proper move.)

  3. PDV
    Apr 9, 2018

    Not making it public seems like the right call. Or possibly stream, but not allow anyone except a whitelist of close friends speak in the chatroom? That might mitigate the performative impulse.

    • Hel
      Apr 10, 2018

      Twitch *does* have a good suite for controlling that kind of stuff. There’s an auto-mod you can customize pretty nicely, for one.

  4. Violet Helix
    Apr 12, 2018

    I sent you an email earlier this week , asking for your handle. Did it by chance get caught in your spam filter? That happens to me from time to time.

All Comments Will Be Moderated. Comments From Fake Or Throwaway Accounts Will Never Be approved.