It’s been a month since I made affiliate status on my Twitch channel, i.e. got enough people watching that I can now make money on there through commercials and subscriptions and donations and such. I know that I’ll never make much money on there, and I’m okay with that because I want streaming to remain a hobby for me. My daily video game time is primarily for self-care, to give my mind a break from all the other things I’m working on, so for my streaming to be anything more than a small, passing addition to that time would defeat the purpose of it. My natural self isn’t likely to build much more than a modicum of a following, but I’m not doing all this streaming stuff to get a following; I’m doing it because it’s an interesting exercise that continues to be enjoyable for me.
Right after I made affiliate, though, I did feel a small obligation to spruce up the graphics I was using on my streams. I didn’t have to do that much work — my twenty-six years of experience designing websites has given me some facility when it comes to doing a lot with a little in terms of graphics — but after the bulk of that work was done, I wound up studying my new creations for a while. Something didn’t seem right about them, and my efforts to figure out what was going on with my new graphics started bleeding over into other areas of my life. When I was eating lunch at work, or showering, or just unwinding before I went to bed, I’d start thinking about what I’d made for my Twitch channel, and I felt like there was something going on that was far more important than just how a bunch of PNG files were working together.
It took me a while, but I finally realized that because my streaming is an extension of myself, the changes I was making were bringing up some very fundamental questions about who I am, and what parts of myself get put out there when I go live on Twitch. As much as I’ve struggled to figure out answers to those questions, that is still very much a work in progress, in large part because I, myself, continue to be a work in progress. I suppose that I’ve reached a kind of peace with this whole process — I’m certainly not thinking about it so much now — but that peace is uneasy.
Back when I started streaming on a regular basis, shortly after I bought my Playstation 4 near the end of 2019, I got into a habit of saying “Don’t go away, we’ll be right back with more stuff!” whenever I changed the video game I was playing. This was born out of necessity to say something to mark those transitions (so whoever was watching me would know that I hadn’t just dropped off there), and I probably defaulted to the words Chuck Barris used when he threw to commercial on The Gong Show just because I adored that show so much when I was very young, loving the silliness of it all (and being blissfully unaware of what cocaine was) and feeling a kind of kinship with it. Months later, when I finally decided that my Twitch channel needed a name, I quickly settled on “Games and Stuff” to reflect my nineties side and to reference that phrase I’d been using on my streams.
I didn’t think too much about it at the time — it was a decent enough gimmick that made some sense — but in retooling my channel’s graphics, I was confronted by what felt like a very sharp contradiction. Perhaps no television show in history was filled with more drug-induced zaniness than The Gong Show, but “zany” is not a word that anyone could reasonably apply to my streaming. I make the odd joke when the opportunities for them arise, but they tend to be the kind of dry, PBS-style jokes that would appeal the most to my self-described ideal audience for my streams: “People who love Bob Ross unironically.” To a large extent, I want my streaming to be a very chill experience for everyone involved, not just for me but for my viewers, so we can all just hang out together and destress. In looking at how the new graphics I created for my Twitch channel reflected both those things at once, I felt like I’d created something that defied logic to a point where it shouldn’t exist, like a tasty chair.
Eventually, of course, I came to realize that both the super-chill and Gong Show elements of my channel are accurate representations of me, because there are parts of me that can be accurately depicted in those ways. Even if I may not squeal in glee and cavort around my apartment like Barris did when he introduced Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, I can still appreciate that kind of energy, and I’d still hold that the world needs more senseless happiness like that, a feeling that I can still remember experiencing as a four-year-old watching The Gong Show on television and craving long after the show ended. It might not make much sense in some lights, but I am under no obligation to make sense when I stream. I can put out what I want, and some people might like it while others can’t stand it, but as difficult as it was for me to make sense out of my graphics after I’d put them together, they were a natural progression of the self-expression I’d already been putting into my streaming. In their way, they work very well to convey who I am, and once I was able to really understand that, I finally began feeling an ease around all these changes I made to my Twitch channel.
The last thing I needed to add to my life this past month was a minor identity crisis, but the important thing is that I got through it. I’ll probably tweak my streaming graphics a little more eventually, but I’ve got far more important things to concern myself with right now. The graphics work for what I need them to do, and now that I’ve sorted all of this out, I want to get back to focusing on using my streaming time, the time I spend with the video games from far less complicated times in my life, to heal from the rigors of the rest of my life, and help me get the mental release I need to go back to the important work I need to do with new energy and a fresh perspective. With one final caveat that my Twitch channel definitely isn’t for everyone, I hope to see some of you tuning into it here soon, and I hope it helps you find some mental release as well.