When John Hopstead descended for the first time to the virtual world of Dark Souls in 2013, his mission was to save a world in decay. Famous for its brutal and demanding game, Dark Souls is a popular game for live broadcast: if you're going to die hundreds of times, you could also die with some digital company to lighten the mood. What Hopstead did not know then was that this would be the beginning of an even more difficult journey to make connections with other people. Hopstead has been broadcasting largely to anyone for the past five years, and he is not alone in this search.
Twitch, the main live broadcast platform where people play, make crafts and exhibit their daily lives, attracts more than two million speakers each month. The number grows every year, thanks in part to how easy the live broadcast has become, and platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are also encouraging more and more people to share and watch live stories. With the push of a button on your game console or phone, you can share whatever you're doing right now with friends and strangers alike. The rise of popular (and profitable) influencers on platforms like YouTube and Twitch has also made the idea of being an online influencer an aspiration. Some parents say their children intend to unpack toys for a non-existent audience, and teachers report that their students often say they want to follow YouTubing as a career. But when apparently everyone wants to record footage or live broadcast, who ends up watching the content?
Starting a career on platforms like Twitch often means spending some time transmitting to absolutely no one. The possibility of detection is a problem: when you log in to Twitch, the most visible people are those who already have a large number of followers. While there are tools to find little-known secondary transmitters, most people who start without integrated audiences from other platforms or supportive friends and family members end up looking at a large, fat zero at their audience counter. This lone purgatory of live broadcast can last from a few days, weeks, months, sometimes even years, depending on your luck. According to the people who have passed it, the lack of audience is one of the most demoralizing things you can experience online.
"It is exhausting to play in an empty room day after day without results", wrote a Redditor in a thread now deleted in r / Twitch.
"It's damned hard to stay positive when doing this 5 days a week when it feels like nobody is passing by," wrote another Redditor editor in a different thread, after spending months broadcasting to no one. "I've realized that the transmission does not work for me."
"I've been transmitting and disconnecting for more than 4 years and every time I go back for weeks where I spend most of my time nobody", wrote another Redditor. "It's hard".
Sean Burke, a pitcher who spent about a month broadcasting popular games like Overwatch without a hearing, says it's easy to take things personally when nobody answers the broadcast. "It was discouraging at times," says Burke, who did not stop broadcasting live through everything.
If live broadcasting is a practice, the person behind the camera is the product. While there are things you can practice and improve, your popularity as a serpentine is reduced to whether people like you or not or you think it's interesting. "I [initially] continued to internalize the audience numbers to say that I was the problem, that I was not funny enough, that I was not good enough at the games." After a year of hard work, he estimates that he now gets around 10 concurrent viewers per broadcast.
Veteran streamers often have a list of conversation topics to help newbies, one I've seen repeatedly on social media platforms. . It says: be yourself. Have fun with him. Set a schedule and keep it. Make sure you have a good technical configuration. Practice your comment and vocalize your thinking. Play games that are no longer oversaturated with other streamers. Deceive your live broadcast with overlays and add-ons that make the experience more fun for the viewer, like minigames where fans have to keep a virtual pet alive. Enter social networks and tell people about your transmission. Network by joining other people's broadcasts and becoming your friends. But the hardest advice to follow is the idea that an aspiring serpent needs to be acting at all times, even if no one is watching, just in case someone comes along.
"Think like you're recording a talk show and you're the host," wrote Redditor Neon_Nazgul in a thread that offers tips for frustrated streamers. "Sometimes there's an audience in the studio, and sometimes you're filming something that the audience will see later." While this is absolutely true, that is also part of what makes the broadcast without a meaningful audience so difficult in the first place. It's a lonely practice where you have to pretend that someone is listening, with no idea how much time will pass before someone appears, or if they will ever do so.
The announcers can follow all conventional advice and still not gain much from a fan base, lost in a sea of other hopeful streamers. Some end up resorting to schemes that give the appearance of success: you can pay bots to populate your flow, which pushes you higher in the Twitch directory, or join forces with other marginal streamers to increase the number of subscribers in "follow4follow" groups. Streamers even create broadcasts where the only purpose is to allow hundreds of people to beg together to continue chatting. Most of the time, this method does not work for anyone involved, since nobody is gaining a true viewer, even if the numbers say otherwise.
"I tried to follow the follow4follow technique … but no one took the The next step and my watched channel," says Twitch user Flummoxkid. "Nothing but a lot of gaps goes in. Even the streamers that grew the F4F channels that I saw took out 180 and tried to become legitimate once they became partners and barely got any spectators in. I was naive enough to believe that people really I would return the favor. "
Despite the sometimes psychologically demanding nature of trying to get noticed on Twitch, some continue to persevere despite the cold accusation of zero. Their reasons are varied: some people with whom I spoke believe that sharing the game is so direct, that they could do so if they are already playing a game. "It's better than sitting in a dark room just in silence," the Twitch user wrote in a Reddit discussion on how to deal with having no viewers.
Many, however, are looking for something more. One streamer I spoke with and who spent three months without an audience, MaverickRPDM, says they kept the broadcast games live with zero viewers because they saw it as a way of self-improvement. "Streaming has made me more interesting, more witty, more sociable and extroverted," says MaverickRPDM. "It has helped me to feel more comfortable being myself, and by virtue of that I have become more myself, more often, even out of the ordinary"
Perhaps the greatest motivator for people who transmit for long periods "The reason I started broadcasting was because I was looking for human connections," said Richárd Szélesy, a serpent who has spent the last few years mainly broadcasting hardcore games to zero. Viewers Szélesy says he grew up feeling isolated, largely spending time in front of the brightness of a computer. "[I streamed to] escape from loneliness and depression," he said. While he has been broadcasting primarily without an audience, from time to time a wandering person approaches and stays. Even if this person never comes back, and often does not, the little spark is enough to keep Szélesy going.
"Strangely as an adult I have one that is easier to make romantic connections than to meet new friends," says Szélesy. "I would not even know where to start! Do I approach a random person and I'll go?" I, like you Dark Souls ? & # 39; "Twitch also gives you a way to expel yourself from the unpleasant people. "[It’s] it's much easier to call or eliminate the kind of people that look great, but they say racist / sexist / homophobic / transphobic / etc."
Hopstead, who spent years transmitting almost everything to anyone, says he is a socialist who cares about the minimum wage, and Twitch gives him a way out to talk about his beliefs that he does not have in real life. "I'm not a social person, so I do not look for opportunities to talk about things, like in discussion forums, especially about politics, I feel comfortable spending the day without talking or interacting with anyone," Hopstead said. "Twitch certainly helped me try to break my nature as a hermit, but I think I'm feeling more comfortable with being alone for the rest of my life."
While wandering the wasteland of viewers on Twitch it can be daunting. , some of those who follow him are happy to have done it. Many streamers really remember the exact moment when their view counter went from zero to one.
"The first spectator felt almost surreal," Szélesy said. "Twitch is set to push those who are already established, so if someone finds you, they were looking and thought you might be the kind of person they wanted to see." Although these views or interactions do not always lead to the following, not much to the deeper connections, it's always great, because hey they found me in my little hideaway here and they decided to hang out. "
After months of not having an audience, finally getting someone to look at you It can be harrowing and exciting. You prepare for that, sometimes for dozens of hours and now it's show time. Someone is on the other end. They are here for you. What do you do?
"I remember my first viewer and when it happened," said Reddit user TheWhiteLatino69, a transmitter that initially started broadcasting on Twitch to have a difficult time. At first, TheWhiteLatino broadcast without an audience to help create the illusion that he was dating. "I was broadcasting Subnautica for 0 viewers, of course, I took a look at the chat to see an 'Hey' when I saw that, suddenly, it hit me, I was no longer alone, I had Some eyes looking at me, I got more and more nervous as the transmission went on and I nervously chatted with them It's one thing to pretend that you're talking to someone and another person to be really talking to a human being … [It] He told me the whole number. "
Based on conversations I had with dozens of streamers, taking that The initial immersion when you're not sure someone is going to look can be like throwing a message in a bottle to the sea. Maybe someone will find it. Maybe the bottle ends up lost in the abyss. We all play our way when we communicate with us online, whether we go directly to Tinder or use a hashtag to find people with similar interests. We may end up feeling more alienated than ever, or we may find people who make it all worthwhile.
Lolimdivine, a Redditor resident who estimates that they spent nearly eight months transmitting to anyone, says that they love the community they have built after overcoming that initial hump.
"My regular clients and I always talk about our lives, and we all know things about each other," said lolimdivine. "It's as if we had our own little Internet family honestly, I see these people as my friends and not as spectators, we welcome people with open arms from all over the world, and we remember things about people who can only spend a Once a month, it's really amazing what Twitch can do for loneliness or groups of friends. " Many of the streamers I spoke with said they initially became interested in Twitch after finding a personality that entertained them at a difficult time, such as the loss of a loved one.
Khryn_Tzu, a Twitch transmitter who spent weeks without viewers, is approaching his first anniversary on Twitch. It's an important date, because without Twitch, Khryn_Tzu would not have met a particular viewer.
"Many days with 0 spectators, I did my thing, I learned what works, I still am," said Khryn_Tzu. "Then it happened, there was a spectator, and they stayed in. They did not say anything because of some currents, but they kept coming back, so one night I had to go to AFK, so I put some Metallica in. It shows a good choice in music. Metallica. "It was such an exciting feeling to have someone completely unknown to me to stay with MY content. It had been a hard push. "
While many dream of having an audience of thousands, that person ended up making a difference in the life of Khryn_Tzu." We started talking, we started chatting, and she made sure to start giving the I welcomed the people and talked to them also when people showed up, "says Khryn_Tzu." Soon people started to stay … And it became much more than that too. These spectators who enter? They become your friends. Sometimes more. That first spectator? We're dating now and I could not be happier. "
Most people do not end up finding a love interest in Twitch, but for many others, that's not the point.
" Games can be beautiful, smart , silly and funny and I like being vocal with my appreciation for them, "Szélesy said." Even if nobody is listening "