Have you ever browsed the channels on Twitch and stumbled on a sad-looking streamer who had that coveted Partner verified check mark, but only a handful of viewers watching? Surely you have, just as surely as you asked yourself the question: how is this possible?
It’s a commonly held belief on Twitch and even in life that success easily begets more success. Nothing draws in more viewers like an already present and engaged crowd. Once a streamer reaches a certain critical mass, it seems that they’re almost guaranteed to rack up hundreds of viewers as soon as they hit that Start Streaming button.
Indeed, most of the people I know who’ve done well on Twitch have more or less maintained around the same number of viewers over the last few years; even a few periods of absenteeism from the platform did not seem to have too great of an effect.
So, who are these strange birds with that Partner checkmark next to their names with only 8 or so viewers watching? They must’ve never had a real, Partner-deserving audience, or maybe they went into hiding two years back and just started streaming again, right? If not for those reasons, then what happened?
Well, perhaps I can help answer that question for you…
…as I myself am one of those Partnered streamers. On Twitch, I am known as Omni, and despite having a shiny checkmark and tens of thousands of followers, you’ll only see a handful of people ever tuning in to watch me. I’ve never taken any breaks from streaming, and I never got lazy on the creation and delivery of my content (au contraire, over time more and more energy and brain power has been poured into this little past time of mine).
It’s not a simple question to answer, its uniqueness as distinct as the streaming journey that it sits in judgment over. We may only be able to begin to understand it by looking at all the peaks and valleys that has come to define said journey. With that, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to record and review what turned out to be my unexpected rollercoaster ride in the world of live streaming.
Early 2017: Starting My Journey in Total Obscurity
The beginning of my journey in streaming was not the beginning of my journey with Twitch. For years before I ever thought about streaming, I was an avid Twitch junkie. I was a dedicated watcher and community participant in a number of streams. I even became moderator for a few very respectable streamers (without trying that hard, really), including for my favorite streamer: the great LobosJR.
My life up until that point revolved around passionate hard and innovative software development work for a small company I worked for. This small company was one that eventually would be acquired, primarily due to some excitingly new and shiny software I was whipping up. Then, during the January of 2017, my meteoric rise from entry level software developer to lead developer came to a sobering end.
It was a trying time in my life, with long term plans foiled and dreams dashed. Suddenly, I was out of work, with a lot of time on my hands. That’s when I first started to think about streaming.
I loved watching the entertaining exploits of the streamers I found to both be personable and truly passionate about gaming: streamers such as the aforementioned LobosJR and the great MANvsGAME. Watching them reminded me of myself, when I was younger, and how one thing I simply delighted in doing was sharing things I discovered with others, be it new music, new modes of thought, or whatever. Observing these streamers and what they did soon gave way to a hunger, a strong desire to do what they were doing.
However, even though I related to and agreed with these respected streamers on many things, I myself wanted to both do things differently as well as play a very different breed of games. I wanted to share, with a big audience ideally, the truly great game experiences that I felt few others knew about. Something I still try to do to this day, albeit in a much more extreme fashion.
So, it was during the fateful month of February in 2017 that I did my very first stream, streaming a game I felt offered a superior gaming experience to most of the games I saw on Twitch, yet one I knew most people never heard of.
If No One Has Heard of a Game, No One Will Watch
With a microphone and a poorly configured web cam hooked up, I streamed one of the best, true roguelike games out there, one that goes by the name Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup. A very difficult game that makes use of every single key on that keyboard you have sitting in front of you, not just those poor WASD keys. I was and am a seasoned vet of true roguelikes, in fact I even sport a world high score in the true classic of the classics: Nethack.
If you love games, the gameplay offered by a game like this is huge! But no one seemed to stream anything like this on Twitch. It was up to me to show everyone the light!
The need, nay the dependency on breathtaking graphics is a crippling limitation on many people today. Truly, while the game may appear as just a bunch of gross ASCII characters at first, you may find that, with a little imagination, those colored letters take on the shape and form of what they’re supposed to represent: horrifying soldier ants, or even abominable mind flayers.
I spent around 19 hours or so streaming this game during the month of February 2017, during which I had an average concurrent viewer count of just 1 viewer.
And that was just fine.
I did manage to hit a peak viewer count of 5! Not bad for a game most of the folks on Twitch probably have never heard of. How many followers did I get during this time? None! Regardless of all that, I still had a lot of fun! At least I had someone watching sometimes (a lot of the time I had a big fat count of 0 viewers, naturally).
If it wasn’t obvious to me before, it eventually became quite clear that playing a game no one has heard of will result in basically no viewers, especially if you’re a nobody. The only viewers that I did get, of course, already knew about the game! While I was pleased to have their company, this is not what I wanted. I wanted to show people new things, not rehash the same old, same old with people already familiar with the subject matter.
But you can’t always get what you want, yes? I relegated that desire of mine to the part of my brain where I stored my dreams and hopes, and indeed, this particular dream and hope would serve as the fuel for the drive that would eventually push me to put so much of myself into streaming.
If you haven’t been able to tell already from what you’ve read, let me make it clear: I never in my wildest imagination ever thought I’d ever get anything even somewhat resembling a following or an audience. I mean look at the first game I streamed! Even if you aren’t as “against the grain” as I am, not expecting the world is a very healthy attitude to have, in my opinion.
Despite my oh-so-realistic expectations, I still operated off a large dose of drive and ambition, even if I knew what I was doing was quite the long shot. So, instead of playing a game no one has heard of, I should try to play something more popular, yes?
Wading Deeper into a Sea of Obscurity
Following my streams of Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup, I decided to try out another game I was a big fan of: Dwarf Fortress.
Dwarf Fortress is a game that always makes me laugh as it is as confusing to learn and interact with as it is also simply great! It is not for everyone, and it’s definitely not your typical Twitch offering. Despite this, I actually managed to get some people watching with this second game — averaging around 3-7 concurrent viewers!
On March 1st, after about a month of streaming, I got my first follow. Woot.
To those who thought it may have been easier to “make it” in streaming a few years back, let the above statement disabuse you of that notion. And perhaps let it also sow some seeds of inspiration into any of you reading that have recently just started streaming yourselves. If you’ve gotten more than 1 follow after a month of streaming, then you’re doing better than I did!
After enjoying a bit of an audience with Dwarf Fortress, I decided to play through some other gems that I thought would do Twitch good, starting with one of the best RPG series: Gothic. This occurred midway through March 2017.
With a new game came some new faces, in fact I learned that although the Gothic series is relatively unknown in North America, it is fairly popular (relatively speaking) over in Europe. I found this interesting: the fact that in this day and age there were still regional variations in the popularity of a computer game.
Aside from getting some exposure to parts of Europe and Russia, things remained fairly the same stream-wise. Playing through the Gothic series garnered me an average viewer count of around 5 concurrent viewers or so. No real change there, which was fine and dandy for me. I may have been bristling a bit for more to take notice, but I can’t imagine, being a normal person and all, that I was bothered about it.
From there on I streamed some additional classics, one of them being Baldur’s Gate, which I started during the month of April. My version of Baldur’s Gate was a very special one. It consisted of a handcrafted collection of hundreds of mods, with code edited by me to ensure they’d be compatible with each other. The desire to share this particular heavily modded game of mine actually played a large part in inspiring me to start off on this very streaming adventure.
At the end of this first leg in my streaming journey, I had been streaming from February through April. I gained a total perhaps of 10-20 followers during these first few months and had a steady viewership of around 3-7 concurrent viewers on average throughout.
Better than nothing!
The Mindset, Mood, and Reality of a Young Omni
The start of my streaming journey took place quite some time ago, so it is difficult to remember what thoughts I had each and every day, however I know that I generally was having quite a fun time talking to myself and sometimes even others, if I was lucky.
I used to be in theater when I was younger, during which I certainly acquired an inclination and desire to perform and entertain a crowd. That is for the most part how I was approaching this new world: as if I was giving a performance, and what a performance I gave and still do give (I’d like to think)!
It didn’t matter much to me whether there was anyone watching or not, I simply acted as if there was actually a crowd taking interest in my antics. I quickly figured out the importance of hiding from my sight any live indicator displaying how many people were currently watching — regardless of any amount enthusiasm or positivity being channeled by myself, it’s rather impossible to not be affected by seeing that big fat 0 viewers watching statistic.
Certainly, that’s what the statistic would have been showing much of the time during my early streams: 0 viewers.
Being what I was, a random nobody, it would’ve been silly for me to expect anything else. In fact, I was always quite thrilled whenever anyone actually said hello! I enjoyed the social interactions very much, although it was never a guaranteed thing — during some early streams, I’d even have another stream and chat open (you wouldn’t be able to see or hear it on my stream of course), just so I could interact with people in some manner.
Because this was all new to me, and because I had no expectations, streaming was nothing but a fun little adventure for myself. Sure, I desired to have a bunch of eager folks watching, but the juggernauts with thousands of viewers were simply gods; as a mere mortal, why countenance obtaining even a modicum of such a reality?
After a few months of wading into a sea of obscurity, however, a very unexpected thing occurred during the next leg of my journey; something which would end up changing everything.
May 2017: An Unexpected Gift From the Gods
Eventually, May in 2017 came rolling around, where I found myself continuing to play games belonging to one of my favorite genres: namely that of the isometric Real Time with Pause RPG variety. At the start of the month, I was nearing the end of my playthrough of my heavily modded Baldur’s Gate to an audience of roughly the same size that I was used to: around 5-7 concurrent viewers on average, with very little in the way of chat (around 3-10 or so unique chatters with a total of around 40-100 or so total messages over the course of a night).
Then, one night, while playing Baldur’s Gate II and blabbing away to an empty chatroom quite jovially I got a very surprising visitor dropping in and saying hello to me while he was enjoying a chicken dinner: LobosJR. There are many streamers on Twitch, so you may not recognize the name, but those that do recognize it know it to belong to a very successful streamer; one who has thousands of viewers at any given time along with a very supportive community.
The Shy Moderator, I Be
LobosJR’s great community was one that actually I, in my own small way, helped build. I had been a moderator and fervent viewer of his for years — indeed, he was a primary source of inspiration for me starting this journey. But I never once mentioned to him ever that I had recently started streaming. It matters little if you mean well, mentioning such things unavoidably comes off as asking for favors.
Famous streamers such as this fellow are surely bombarded with requests for support all the time. Hell, even I have been. No one enjoys being used, and when one wields some degree of power, one is apt to grow suspicious of “friends” who express a desire to benefit from it. This is understandable, as such power is not unlimited, making the act of pleasing and helping everyone quite impossible.
Who knows if any such calculus was going on inside LobosJR’s head, however such was my own empathic conclusion of the situation; so, out of respect, I never mentioned my own streaming activities to him. I didn’t mention it to anyone I looked up to and had the habit of watching. Perhaps I’m a bit old fashioned — and again, yet another example of someone who really had no business making it big for a bit (I mean, a hesitancy to advertise oneself in this me-me-me social media age? Ridiculous!) somehow actually making it big.
The Fateful Face-to-Face
What happened next after this fateful appearance of a highly respected streamer in my chat was most likely due to something that occurred during the previous year of 2016. It was during that September when I hopped onto a plane and flew out to California to attend that year’s TwitchCon, with the intention of meeting and interacting with LobosJR as a fervent fan and sincere moderator. This was all before I even dreamt of doing my own streaming. I went purely as a fan and eager consumer.
I was successful in meeting the man, and it was a very pleasant experience! He appeared as thrilled to meet me as I was to meet him. Streamers are by their very nature rather duplicitous souls, however I still to this day mark LobosJR as an exception to the rule, as he is a remarkably down to earth, kind, and straightforward fellow.
While the encounters we had were fairly brief, the face-to-face meetings with the man cemented a sort of relationship that had more weight than one merely formed through communications in a chatroom on the internet. This is something that became very clear to me on one very particular day during the second week of May 2017.
On May 11th, 2017, it was time for me to begin a new game, yet another isometric RTwP RPG: Icewind Dale. I was looking forward to it, as it was one I hadn’t actually played before. Unlike the other isometric D&D games I’ve played, this one lays upon the player the onerous requirement of having to create and fill up a six (I think?) member adventuring party right at the start. So, needless to say, I had a little bit of figuring out to do!
Then, from absolutely nowhere, I was hit with a gigantic raid from LobosJR, with the number of viewers being dumped onto my channel easily numbering in the thousands. Thousands. An absolutely insane number of viewers for a new streamer to countenance — really, an insane number for the majority of streamers on the platform.
What is this “raid” you speak of?
If your unfamiliar with Twitch stream parlance, a raid is when a streamer sends over all of his or her viewers and chatters to a target stream upon the conclusion of their own stream. All viewers watching the streamer doing the raid are essentially transferred over to the target’s channel.
The Raiding Calculus
Streamers raid each other all the time. Sometimes they know each other; sometimes they do not. Although I don’t have hard statistics on hand, the fact that there are a vastly greater number of small streamers than large streamers would seem to imply that the majority of raids are smaller streamers raiding larger streamers.
There are a number of possible motivations behind who these smaller streamers raid. Maybe they’re fans of the person they’re raiding, or perhaps they’re trying to curry favor with the other streamer. Perhaps it’s simpler than that: maybe they’re both on the same “team”, or mayhap it is all just the result of a completely random choice made by looking at the Browse page.
What I can say with great confidence is that large, well known streamers raiding completely unknown streamers is a rare event. There is an important reason for this beyond the obvious matters of supply vs. demand and social connections, and it relates to how a large streamer needs to treat his audience in a fundamentally different manner than normie small streamers.
At their level, audience members are first and foremost cogs in their business, although they are certainly made to feel more like members of a community than just profit centers. When you start to rely on streaming to pay the mortgage, that way you need to handle things changes. By raiding someone you are placing your people in the hands of someone else. It would behoove one, then, to ensure that they aren’t being given to someone who’ll make the little cogs unhappy.
Also, when one commands a large viewership, your ability to shine the spotlight on another channel is a mighty power indeed, with great intrinsic value. The rich don’t stay rich by giving all their money away; it makes more practical sense to engage in a system of exchanges whereby both of the parties involved will benefit. Shining a spotlight on a smaller streamer is an act of charity and really nothing more.
It makes more sense to circulate your viewers within a confined pool of like-minded streamers who will circulate them along with some others back to you; or, if not that, refrain from circulating them at all. This is why most large streamers only raid within their streaming teams, or simply refrain from raiding altogether.
The Effects of the Catalyst
I was just so floored when I suddenly had viewers in the thousands in my stream. I couldn’t believe it! In order to help you understand how dramatically different this stream was from my previous ones, I present to you a graph of my average viewership for every stream I did, from the very first stream up to and including the one where I was raided:
Pretty staggering that difference. As soon as the raid hit, my chat suddenly started scrolling at hyper speed — a speed at which I found to be similar to the speed at which it moves in the streams that I myself watched. I ended up getting 53 followers that night, an insane amount for me (hell, to be perfectly honest, that would be an absolute insane amount for me these days).
So, the huge influx of viewers that night, the mighty number of followers — was it this that changed everything and set me onto the path of Partner?
Not exactly. It certainly helped.
One of the hardest things to achieve in the streaming game for a new streamer is to get beyond the 2-6 viewer hump. Prior to the unexpected raid, my average viewership was around 6 concurrent viewers. I was right in that hump. After the raid, I never was in that hump again (well, not until much, much later at least; this article is called “The Rise and Fall of a Partnered Streamer” after all).
During the first month after the raid, my average viewership had shot up to 16 concurrent viewers; clearly, the raid had provided me with a cast of individuals that ended up regularly attending subsequent streams.
But the raid itself actually wasn’t the most consequential event that happened that night. A bit after the raid came into my channel, I was informed by my benevolent benefactor that he was adding me to his auto host list.
That was huge.
Hold on. What is this “auto host” you speak of?
Auto hosting is a bit similar to raiding, but different in its execution. When a streamer is offline, going to that streamer’s channel page would normally result in an empty “Hey there! I’m offline, sorry!” type of static page. That is, unless the offline streamer is currently “hosting” another streamer.
When a streamer hosts another streamer, that other streamer’s broadcast will be displayed on the hosting streamer’s channel instead. Anyone watching that way are counted as live viewers for the target streamer’s viewer count.
If you are on someone’s auto host list, you will be automatically hosted if you are online and they are not. Of course, these lists typically consist of more than one streamer; if multiple streamers on the list are online, they will be hosted in the order corresponding to their place on the list (more or less, a number of configurable options influence the process).
Pretty much every streamer engages in some level of auto hosting. A streamer can easily find themselves on many, many auto host lists, regardless if that streamer is big or small.
You’ll find that many a small streamer auto hosts other small streamers they have met and “befriended” during their journey as well as larger streamers they’re fans of. This activity is not restricted to streamers; tons of folks who don’t even stream add the streamers they like to their auto host lists.
The Inefficacy Of (Most) Auto Hosts
I would imagine most people think that auto hosting is a nice way to give some exposure to approved streamers while they themselves are offline. If a bunch of small streamers auto host each other they’re helping increase the exposure of the streamer that receives the host — sounds great right?
Unfortunately, auto hosts from small streamers or viewers have virtually 0 impact on a channel’s growth.
Just some truth. The above sad reality, however, is not the case at all if the auto host is coming from a large streamer. If you are a small streamer, this can have a huge impact on you over time.
The problem with auto hosts from smaller streamers is that for the most part it will not result in anyone coming to your channel except for the incredibly curious viewers that happen to:
- Browse to their Following page,
- Scroll down past the channels they follow to the Live Hosts section,
- Click on the Show More button to expand the live hosts (which is ordered by viewer count, and you 99% of the time will not be at the top of that list, if you’re small of course),
- Click on the now visible Show All button to let every single stream being hosted by a streamer you follow appear (as it is doubtful you will show up on the two or so additional rows of streams resulting from the previous step), and then finally
- Click on your stream.
The above sequence rarely happens, and really requires a huge pool of followers in order to produce any meaningful quantity. Although variations are a thing in this world, your average auto host is going to yield something akin to 1-3 additional views over a long streaming session. And, bearing in mind “miracles” do happen, those additional viewers probably stuck around for just a total of ten seconds.
The Efficacy of Big Boy (or Girl) Auto Hosts
Auto hosts from large steamers are very different. They have a huge pool of followers, so big that you might get a meaningful amount of folks doing the steps listed above. Because these streamers are large, there’s probably a good number of people following them that actually care about who this awesome streamer is hosting.
You can recognize these individuals when they come in all happy with the larger streamer’s emotes on display; many times, they will announce that they are from that streamer’s community, or that they are here because of <insert streamer’s name>.
And that’s great, but still not the biggest deal in the world (but, again, still quite important!). The biggest advantage offered by auto hosts from large streamers is a direct but less-than-obvious result of said streamer’s largeness.
This should not come as a big surprise to you, but many times people who have a stream open may not actually be engaged or at their computers. This is because of that thing we call life. You turn on a stream and then you have to go do some crap.
Big streamers, more often than not, are so big that they have many times more people tuned in and not actually watching (or even physically nearby their computers) than the number of people you have normally watching you.
That means that when that auto host rolls around to you, given a streamer that pulls a viewer count in the thousands, you’re almost guaranteed to get a pretty significant bump in viewership. Depending on when the large streamer last streamed, that bump might be 50-70 additional viewers worth, or even hundreds if their stream was recent enough.
If large streamers do auto host anyone, it’s typically other large streamers. What does ~50 additional viewers mean to another large streamer? Nothing. What does that same amount of additional viewership mean to a small streamer? Everything.
As stated before, success begets more success; more people will be likely to click on your stream if you have more viewers in it…simply because you have more viewers! Of course, some people will be less likely to click on your stream, preferring a smaller stream; however, these people are absolutely in the extreme minority and are more likely to have expectations and needs that are not necessarily conducive to your continued success in the long run.
So…the Effects of the Catalyst?
In regards to the streams that immediately followed the raid, the differences were very minor from previous streams — but again, a little bit goes a long way, especially when we’re talking about coming up from nothing.
At first, it appeared that nothing changed. During a stream of mine during the very next day, after a few minutes of chat silence, I was greeted with this:
back to lonley chat tonight FeelsBadMangodmodeenabled
Following that affirmation of reality, I slowly had the people who were coming in to watch me prior to the raid (who most certainly were only there because I was playing this game, and who were most certainly “experts”) also came in. We laughed, rejoiced, and continued to go on our fun little hardcore isometric RPG questing gameplay.
But then something quite extraordinary happened: people who were a part of the raid the previous day also began showing up. People who really didn’t know all that much about the game, but were interested in what I was doing.
My ideal audience. People to show things to!
The stream that day had more interaction between me and the chat than any stream (except for the giant raid one of course) before it. But really, the biggest thing I gained immediately from all of this were my very first true regulars, there to watch me and not solely because of the game. They were the beginnings of my first community. Indeed, many of the folks who showed up the next day following the raid would continue to come, with more following in their wake.
How Do I Get a “Catalyst”?
I honestly do not know what to tell you. If it wasn’t made clear above, then let it be known that I literally did nothing in the way of trying to obtain what was ended up gifted to me by the wonderful LobosJR.
I never even broached the fact that I streamed, mainly because I thought it was quite rude and rather suspicious to mention one’s own “enterprise” while in someone else’s domain. I never mentioned it privately either as I felt it would fundamentally change the relationship into one where I was asking for favors, making me out to be a user.
These are, I’ll admit, rather extreme views, but I still view them to be correct. At a much later date, I asked LobosJR why he decided to do what he did for me. He told me it was because I had spent years prior helping him build his community as an involved moderator and fervent appreciator of his work. He thought it was only fair that he gave some love back.
My advice to you would be maybe to get involved with other, already established communities, and make yourself well liked. Unfortunately, if you act on that advice then you would be getting involved with the intention of benefiting from it — that thought never once crossed my mind. Unless you’re amazing at such deception, it is really easy to see through most people who are there because they want something other than a good time.
So, unless you deserve it and you are very lucky, you aren’t getting the kind of catalyst I got. You will need to find your own way to get that essential initial “bump”. Just remember, if you are doing what it seems everyone else is doing, you will end up where most people are at: nowhere.
The Mindset, Mood, and Reality of a Catalyzed Omni
Absolutely shocked, befuddled, and energized. Those are the emotions I was feeling at the time. I still was too new to all of this to have formed any sort of expectations, however the amazing gift bequeathed to me with the raid and auto host absolutely lit a subtle but intense fire within me.
I had a clear idea of what I wanted, and now I had a potential opportunity to make this fun little “dream” perhaps possible. The gears would eventually begin to turn in my mind in regards to strategy and tactics for channel growth.
But not yet — immediately after this absolutely unexpected raid I actually conducted myself exactly as I did before. I went through with my playthroughs of Icewind Dale and its sequel, and then went on to the amazing Planescape: Torment and the newer Pillars of Eternity.
All of which are games that were near and dear to me (with the exception of Pillars of Eternity, which I never played before; however, it belonged to a genre that was, of course, near and dear to me). Clearly, besides some additional confidence instilled in me, I was absolutely the same person. Indeed, I continued playing even more classics which were not very popular on Twitch through the rest of May and June.
As I reached the end of June, however, I really began to have a steadily growing community and viewership base. During the month of June 2017, I had an overall average viewership of 20 concurrent viewers, with some days having an average viewership of 40 concurrent viewers. I managed to increase my viewership remarkably compared to what it was when I started. I was actually garnering a particular number of viewers that, I must say with repressed wistfulness, often exceeds what I manage to attract these days.
After failing to attract a single follower during my first month of streaming, I suddenly find myself gaining 356 followers in the month of June alone. Insane. These were the times of bright-eyed wonder, and child-like curiosity towards this strange new world.
Things continued as usual, and then July 2017 hits, and that’s when I stumbled upon what would eventually lead me to my actual path to obtaining a large audience and that Twitch Partnership.
Mid-2017: Stumbling on the Way to Greatness
As time continued to roll by, I was continuing to play games that I both enjoyed and felt deserved better representation on Twitch. In a sense it was me being “true to myself”, but there began to be some strategizing behind it all. It was clear to me that streaming a very popular game would result in no one ever being able to find my stream amongst the sea of other streams, whereas streaming a less saturated game would allow me to stick out more easily.
All that required was a little bit of an existing audience, some meat if you will, and a proper choice of game. The game couldn’t be too obscure, like all the games I had playing up until that point. As far as having enough meat goes, I was fortunately and consistently broadcasting to a recurring cast of regulars and such at this point in time — I’d have on average around 20-25 concurrent viewers watching, and I’d be getting a least a few follows (and sometimes more than a few) every time I streamed.
While I had a cast of regulars, I didn’t really have anything like a “community” formed yet. I was just a guy playing some weird (but amazing!) games. Communities would come a bit later on, and yes, there were multiple communities. But what mattered was that initial bump to keep me out of the 0-viewer zone consistently, so I just needed a proper game, but it had to be one that I wanted to play.
Oblivion and Beginning the Death Branding
Luckily, one of the games that I felt a great need to share with the world was my specially modded The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It contained the mighty Oscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul and a bunch of other mods, all packaged into a sort of mega-mod known as FCOM. I originally played it during my days at college, and thought it was one of the neatest things. Specifically, it added a lot of content, disabled scaling, and made you die a lot.
This was a perfect game to play, I eventually discovered, as the Elder Scroll series has maintained a large fandom throughout the years, consisting of some very fervent individuals eager to watch their favorite games be played. On top of that, these games were absolutely not saturated with streamers on Twitch, and at the same time there were just enough people playing it for the game to not be too far down on the Browse page.
In the middle of July 2017, I decided to debut my FCOM Oblivion. It was the first time I began to advertise the stream and my content as something where the focus was playing games made to kill the player (me) a ludicrous number of times. This was a very important development as that bit of branding persists until today.
It was very convenient for me, as not only was it something that was useful in standing apart from others, but also because it was truly the way of playing a game that gave me the most joy.
I began achieving some very interesting results even on the first day of playing Oblivion. During that very first stream, I gained 52 followers, a number of followers that I struggle to get over an entire month these days. The next day I got 59 followers — insane! On the third day I got 84 followers. I mean, I soon doubled and then tripled my follower count within days of starting this new game.
What the hell was going on?
Let me stress, all of these follows were legitimate, but an unknown, and probably large quantity of them were not exactly normal in terms of where they came from. We’ll discuss it later as I didn’t begin to seriously wonder about them until a point in time where my growth became truly tremendous.
One thing you’ll discover from reading this article is that nothing in the world of streaming is ever absolutely clear, however I would discover a partial answer to the above question eventually. You would be correct in assuming that when I was seeing all these follows come in that I was both shocked and elated.
But, despite this, I merely assumed they were all legitimate, normal follows, and that I had found a game that, when combined with a starting semblance of some kind of branding, was resulting in success and growth.
These Modded Elder Scrolls Games Appeared To Be a Hit
At the end of July 2017, I gained 1,374 followers, a 1,074% increase. If you, the reader of this lovingly crafted article, are a small streamer, then I’m sure this is a figure that you’d literally kill for. I’d definitely would (well, not literally) today.
The majority of this increase was during the period of time I started playing Oblivion. While my average viewership was all over the place, I was reaching new highs on my own, sometimes even getting at many as 30-35 concurrent viewers on average.
Numbers aside, I began to attract a more solid and fervent collection of viewers that were truly being entertained by the game I was playing. True, most of them were there at first because they were fans of the game series, however I was playing it in a way that they hadn’t, and they were enjoying seeing all the ways I was getting my ass kicked playing it.
Because I was riding high from my success with Oblivion, it was easy for me to decide which game I would be playing next. It was also a game that I wanted to share with the world, because even though I’ve seen many other, very popular streamers play it, none of them played it in the way that I did privately. And it was with this game that everything changed in regards to my stream and even my life as a whole, to be a bit dramatic.
The First Skyrim Playthrough
The game that follows The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in the Elder Scrolls series is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Therefore, given that Oblivion seemed to be quite the hit, I decided to stream to the world a bit of myself playing some of my own, special Skyrim.
Skyrim, I felt, was probably the worst of all the Elder Scrolls games. In particular, I felt this way due to how the writing was greatly dumbed down from Morrowind. It seemed more aimed at dumb children than those of us who enjoyed being immersed in the strange, alien world of Morrowind. Like the other Elder Scrolls games, it also suffered from being far too easy of game.
I originally played Skyrim when it was released a few years after I graduated from college. A year after I beat it, I decided to revisit the game and see if I could make it any better with mods. I eventually pieced together a collection of mods (Requiem being in the forefront) that really made the game uniquely difficult.
I mean, really difficult. It would be hilarious how quickly and often I would die. It definitely was yet another game that acted as a driving force in getting me to start streaming in the first place. I wanted to show people this version of Skyrim that was actually challenging and entertaining (I hoped) to watch.
I debuted my special Skyrim near the start of August 2017. The results were immediate: on the first stream, I nabbed a total of 215 followers. I was starting to get so many followers that I had to do what the big boys do and turn off the audio alerts for the follows. I would continue to get followers in the hundreds each and every day I streamed it.
But that metric aside, the most important metric, average concurrent viewers, slowly began to rise as the days in August rolled by. I began the playthrough with my average viewership hovering around 20 or so, but then eventually it began to rise to the 30’s, and then into the 40’s. By the end of the month, I was nearing an average viewership of 50 concurrent viewers.
This was a steady and consistent increase in viewership, a true sign of growth and display of good performance. There were days of course where I would have an average viewership of 90 concurrent viewers, however these were days where I would be either raided by LobosJR, or have his auto-host.
At the end of the month of August, I gained a total of 7,012 followers, a 410.3% increase. This is a staggering amount. Most importantly, my average viewership rose to 42 concurrent viewers, which was an undeniable confirmation that the stream was growing.
Were the hosts and auto hosts from my friend LobosJR a help? Absolutely! Approximately 20% of all views during this period were most definitely from that source. So, the majority of viewership was organic, however a little bump from friends, especially a sizeable bump like 20%, does help quite a bit.
Before we can go on and talk about what happened next, there still remains much to talk about in regards to important developments that occurred during the period of time when I first played Skyrim on Twitch.
My First Community
Soon after I started playing Skyrim, I started to form an actual community of people very interested in watching me play games. This was a very different breed of viewers than what I had attracted to my stream before this; they were definite fans, full of praise, very happy to see the content, and definitely entertained.
We had a Discord channel made and they all flooded to it, using it very frequently whenever the streams weren’t going on. These viewers quickly became friends with each other, talking with each other during, before, and after streams — giving the whole thing a real community feeling, if you will.
Unlike every other place on Twitch, I really didn’t have a name for the community. I really didn’t like any of that nonsense, and I still don’t. This silly bit of stubbornness is another piece in the (imaginary) “proof” showing how I should’ve never made it in the first place — people enjoy the community branding even if I always viewed it as a bunch of cheap fakery. Anyway, we made due with a mumbling of the word “chat” that was uttered from my lips one night: chad.
Yup. Everyone referred to themselves as chad.
I made a lot of interesting observations from this very first community of mine, and if I ever commit them to writing, you’ll be able to find them in a separate article dedicated to the topic. General observations aside, as far as this community was concerned, their engaged activity with the stream definitely helped procure additional viewers and follows throughout the months I was playing Skyrim.
Let’s hit up then the other elephant in the room: the insane amount of follows I was getting.
Where Were All These Follows Coming From?
As stated before, I ended up getting 7,012 followers during August (when I first started Skyrim). I continued to play Skyrim through September, during which I gained an additional 4,088 followers. By the time October 2017 was rolling around, I went from around 500 followers mid-July to nearly 13,000 followers. I’d imagine growth of that magnitude to be quite the wet dream for the majority of streamers out there.
What’s the deal here? One thing that you may be thinking, and indeed it would be exactly what I at first thought, is that they were fake. No random no-name stubborn gameplay elitist (but overall friendly chap) could possibly pull off this kind of growth.
Except they aren’t fake. Around four years later, I still have the majority of these follows. Fake follows have a limited lifespan, and eventually Twitch purges them. This is the same with any social media platform — the AI or whatever they use to detect this sort of thing will eventually isolate a bunch of bad accounts and delete them. No, these are legitimate follows. I even brought up the matter personally with a Twitch employee I knew, and they guaranteed to me that these weren’t fake follows.
Were they follows that came as a result of someone watching my stream, liking what they saw, and then hitting the follow button? Maybe some of them, but, as I came to finally figure out, probably not most of them (who knows in the end). After doing a lot of digging and figuring out, I found out that these follows more than likely had to do with a short-lived Twitch feature known as Auto Follow.
What is this “Auto Follow”?
I don’t know if that was the official name, but it basically summarizes the nature of the feature. Apparently, around this time period, there was a special onboarding process for new users to Twitch when creating a new account on the Twitch mobile application. After entering in all of your particulars, the streaming service would then query the new user as to what their favorite games were.
Following this, the service would then automatically follow the top streamers (this being defined by their ranking in that particular category by number of live viewers at that given point in time) for all of the games the user listed as their favorites.
That’s how I got lots of follows early on.
Now, of course not every streamer on the platform was getting 10k+ followers, so there’s probably a bit more to it than that — but it goes to show how popular Skyrim was without it being an oversaturated gaming category. I was doing well enough that I was in the top 3, and thus subject to the auto follows bonus.
Certainly, I was getting plenty of legitimate follows, and all of this is conjecture anyways. In the end, who really knows? Other than Twitch.
The Mindset, Mood, and Reality of a Newly Popular Omni
This is probably when the changes started to set into me. Prior to any of this, even during the phase where I got my very first mega raid, I was a normal fellow like most people on the Earth. I worked hard, and really expected neither praise nor recognition for anything I did.
As far as streams went, I was always surprised when people showed up. I knew I was funny, and hopefully entertaining, but really just viewed myself as a Joe Shcmoe, quite happily I might add. But then I started attracting a very involved and energetic community of fans.
Having fans is a strange thing for most of us. We’re not used to anyone other than our mothers or maybe our bosses (assuming we have nice ones and we are all doing good work!) giving an actual crap about anything we do. So, when you start having a bunch of people telling you how great you are, it feels really nice.
This is especially true if you are an entertainer at heart, which one assumes an ideal and likely attribute for someone who wants to stream anyway. Streaming is lonely because, even if you are being funny and entertaining, you aren’t going to be able to hear anyone laughing to your jokes or applauding your efforts, because there is no physical audience in front of you. They have to reach to the keyboard and type something — which takes effort!
That means you really need a nice amount of fairly involved people before you start getting any kind of feedback to all those efforts you make in the hopes of being entertaining. And when you do, it’s ambrosia! It feels really good. So, I was feeling really good, but at the same time, I began, for the very first time, to actually bank my happiness on my performance. When my stream wasn’t doing that well, I would begin to feel the opposite of how amazing I felt when it was doing well.
Thus started the emotional rollercoaster, of highs never experienced before, to utter lows I would become all too familiar with. This was overall a happy time, the epitome of which being represented during a 24-hour birthday stream that I did September 2nd, 2017. It was a blast, with so much interaction from the community, and I loved it.
Late-2017: Community Death and The Partner Grind
Near the end of September, I finished my very first Skyrim playthrough, riding very high on the success of the run. It was night and day, the state of my stream prior to, and after this playthrough. I had a vibrant and dedicated community, and I was having the time of my life.
But I had just beaten Skyrim. So, what would I do next? Well, as I did before on stream and like I did in real life, when I beat a game, I moved on to another game. I had so much more I wanted to show the world, and now that I had a sizeable number of very interested viewers, they would serve as the perfect audience for these new and unknown wonders!
It’s quite amazing to me, while writing this, how utterly naïve I was at this point in time.
The game I decided to do next was my specially modded Fallout 4, which was also a Bethesda game that had a lot of the same kind of mods that my Skyrim had — a focus on heavy beating from enemies, huge spawns of them, and many, many deaths. The game actually did, more or less, as well as Skyrim did, with around 40 concurrent viewers on average or so.
While I was doing this game, after being begged to by my community, I decided to apply for Twitch Partnership for the first time. Things back then weren’t very well defined as far as what you needed in order to get Partnership. A lot of my viewers thought I was doing great, and wanted me to try! So, I did, and got rejected, with a recommendation that I try again whenever I managed to be clocking in 75 concurrent viewers.
I sort of expected this, but was probably a bit miffed. Either way, I would continue to play my specially modded Fallout 4 to an interactive crowd full of engaged viewers.
After I was done with that game, however, I wanted to get back to my RPG roots, and do some more actual RPGs! Fortunately, there was a new game coming out that fit the bill exactly: Divinity: Original Sin II. I decided to play that next.
A very different game, and decidedly a game not christened by the Bethesda crowd. At first the streams had some meaningful interaction and warm greetings from people, but eventually things started to grind to a halt. One night, for the first time in a few months’ worth of successful streams, I had a very, very dead chat.
This made me, well, sad! And I began to feel rather poor about the whole affair. Indeed, believe it or not, but those very same fans that I mentioned previously, these very dedicated viewers who were quick to give praise and prop me up, made their last appearances during these Divinity streams and then I never saw them again.
Chat was no longer gleefully following my pursuits, Discord became quiet; really everything grinded to a halt. I quickly abandoned Divinity and went through a waterfall of different games, quickly falling back to only around 20 concurrent viewers a stream. I seemed to have lost what I gained before, and was slowly falling back into a sea of obscurity.
And then one day, I realized the key to it all. It was looking right at me.
The Key to Getting Partner
Here’s the secret to getting a Twitch Partnership:
Find a game that works for you, and then never, ever, play anything other than that game.
The game that worked for me was Skyrim, therefore that would be the game I would play — and that was the only game I played starting at the end of the crappy October month, all the way through November and December. People would indicate that they’d love to see me try out some other game, but I would just smile, knowing that such things would be incredibly foolish — by now I learned the incredible fickleness of people, and wasn’t going to fall for the “variety streaming” trap or “play what you want” crap again.
It wasn’t long until this new tactic started to pay off.
I soon reclaimed my 40 concurrent viewers average, and then, after weeks of continued Skyrim streaming, I began to grow into new, higher places. Within the month of November alone I surpassed 50, 60, and then eventually 70 concurrent viewers on average during some streams. At the end of November, I managed to hit an overall average of 52 concurrent viewers, a new high. With that came 540 followers, this time free from the “auto follow” taint.
At the end of December 2017, I managed to achieve an average of 92 concurrent viewers, a huge gain. This is the stat that truly mattered. Also, I managed to snag 851 followers, a really solid amount. Hell, this put me into Partnership territory, so I definitely applied again for Partnership around this time.
Interactivity was high, bits and donations were coming in, and people were subscribing. I was breaking triple digits with a lot of the streams in December, with viewers numbering well over 100! Everything appeared to be going according to plan.
The Mindset, Mood, and Reality of a Pre-Partnered Omni
As alluded to previously, during the first time since I started streaming, I began to feel very down when my stream wasn’t doing well. Fortunately, I didn’t just waddle in the mire of my own pity, and came up with my successful strategy to grow the channel.
During that grind to Partnership, I started to accumulate, once again, a new community full of fans who really appreciated the content. I was truly riding high, getting drunker and drunker on being significant and worthy of so many eyeballs. People really enjoyed my ultra-hardcore Skyrim, and it felt good hearing from them how much they enjoyed it.
This was very much a high point of streaming for me — my chat was literally blowing up, I really never had so much fun in my life. On top of that, given that I was starting to command sizeable audiences, I was starting to get respect, and if anyone tried to take a dump on me, I’d have people lined up to defend me. And you know what, I deserved all that. Plenty of us do, although few of us seem to get that kind of support.
While this was a “high time” for me, it was also fairly stressful. The Partnership application process is and always has been a mysterious beast. It sometimes took months for Twitch to get back to you. During this time, it was assumed that they might be secretly watching your streams, although you would never know. As a consequence of this, any time you dipped below 75 viewers, you would begin to fret that you were messing it all up.
I was definitely incentivized against doing anything “risky” during this period of time, like playing games other than Skyrim. To do so may cause the application to be rejected if it ended up garnering less than beautiful results. Fortunately, things were going my way, so although it was stressful, I enjoyed the fact that I was killing it.
Early 2018: The Strangest Time of My Life
Unfortunately, amidst this backdrop of supreme exhilaration that was streaming for me, a very sad thing was happening in my life: my mother had terminal cancer, and would pass on during Christmas, at the very end of the previous crazy year. Fortunately, I was able to show her some videos of me streaming shortly before she passed (for the first time, as I sort of hid the activity from my parents; I’m sure I’m not alone in this).
It was such a strange time in my life, as I was riding incredibly high from my streaming success while also riding incredibly low from the very sad passing of my mother. It was such a strange feeling, to be both incredibly happy while also grieving. The passing of my mother is something that still pains me today, and I don’t doubt that my streaming experience helped temper it at the time, making it more bearable.
Regardless of how I was feeling, taking a break from streaming was simply not an option, and, it shames me to say, I actually was stressed out as to whether or not having to take a short break to attend my mother’s funeral would jeopardize my chances of getting partnership. Of course, I went without a second thought, however these were the anxieties playing out in my head.
The streams of Skyrim continued into January 2018. Then, on January 11th, 2018, it happened: I got a somehow-still-surprising-to-me Partnership raid from a bunch of Twitch employees announcing my new status.
I made it! I consistently clocked in at 150 to 250 concurrent viewers on average, and got my shiny Partner badge, less than a year from when I started streaming.
Well, I was now a Twitch Partner! With lots of emotes to fill — luckily a member of my community already prepared something like 20 emotes (much to my complete freaking surprise) for me to use. So, sporting a ton of new emotes, and with the confidence one might only find among movie stars and recently Partnered streamers, I plotted out the next course in my streaming adventure.
Well, Skyrim was fine and all, but that was a means to an end. Don’t forget when I first mentioned Skyrim that I also said it was my least favorite Elder Scrolls game; really, I felt it was a crap game that could only be tolerated when propped up by tons of mods. I was ready to move on! I’m a Partner now!
So, I played Subnautica on stream, and things were good. Times were as crazy as fun, follows were coming in, chat interactivity was high, and so on, and so on.
The Mindset, Mood, and Reality of a Recently Partnered Omni
Never before in my life had I such a rock star feeling. I achieved my goal that I set forth for myself (rather casually and half-jokingly) all those years ago during 2016’s TwitchCon. I was able to tell all the people I looked up to that I made Partner, and they (rather gratifyingly to me) welcomed me into their little club.
I was never anyone super famous on the platform, but I certainly felt like it. People would recognize me in chat in other channels, and sometimes the streamer would go crazy simply from me being there! I tried to always keep it humble in these circumstances, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was super cool being cool.
I was starting to make some serious money from streaming as well — indeed I could nearly pay my bills with it (just barely). I was working at another software place at the time, however the workplace culture was incredibly toxic, so I decided to call it quits and spend more time doing this wonderful streaming thing. I wouldn’t say that I really intended on going full-time with streaming, but I felt it could certainly tide me over for a bit.
The frenetic activity of the chat, the ever-growing Discord usage, and all the other trappings of success were great…while they lasted.
Mid-2018: Stagnation, Rebound to New Heights
Things however soon began to become stagnant. The energy behind the drive to Partnership that my community had earlier soon evaporated, indeed so did the community over the next year. As I continued to play other games that I wanted to play, the hustle and bustle that came with my sudden rise to Partnership more or less evaporated.
Things were still good, however, especially in retrospect, but the community interaction simply wasn’t there for whatever reason. Yes, another full-blown community of mine essentially went the way of the dodo and died, the majority of regulars no longer showing up at one point. Once one regular disappears, another one who was a friend of said regular is likely to go as well, etc.
Was it because I stopped trying, or maybe because I became boring? Well, I never was one to ever take it easy, but I was genuinely worried that it may actually be due to the latter reason, in that I was found wanting by the public. I started to toy with the idea that maybe my brief success earlier that year was a mistake, that I was a fraud and really didn’t deserve any of that success. The truth to why everything started to dry up was rather simple however:
It was because I wasn’t playing Skyrim anymore.
So, desperate to save everything before I lost it all, I began to form a new strategy that would ensure my stream would be kept off life support, while also satisfying my own needs. First of all, from all the gathered evidence and observations I made since starting this “journey”, it was very clear that stream growth only ever seemed to occur when I was playing Skyrim. So, I needed to play Skyrim.
But I also wanted to play other games. Really, that’s what I wanted to do on Twitch: I wanted to do what folks like the great Dansgaming did: that is, play random games and have a community enjoy it with you. I never thought I was anything special before, but I managed to put together a community and get Partnered! So, I must’ve been something, right?
After much deliberation, the plan I devised became the following: I would play Skyrim during the week, and then random games on the weekend. That was the plan! The majority of content would be what I knew farmed and cultivated a crowd, and then I could enjoy games I actually wanted to play with that farmed audience for little bits at a time. Once the weekend was over, it’d be back to Skyrim before any serious damage was done.
And that’s what I did, starting sometime in July 2018. I stuck with this plan very consistently all throughout that month and the following months of August, September, October, and November. I even swallowed some earlier-formed stubbornness and pride and eventually started doing (what most people probably remember me by) my own special kind of permadeath Skyrim streams.
At the end of it all, I reached 500 subscribers, my highest ever, and the peak of my streaming journey. But it was all about to come to a jarring end.
The Mindset, Mood, and Reality of a Post-Partnered Omni
The most important thing was having a lively audience. It really mattered little to me what game I was playing; I derived the most pleasure from streaming when I had an interactive and engaged audience. That is and has been the main point of it all for me ever since I attracted that first large crowd. It was all about entertaining bunches of people. Nothing compares to it. Whether I’m “enjoying the game” matters little; I enjoy playing to a crowd.
Obviously, when I’m doing poorly, then yes, I rather be playing a game I’m enjoying; however, I will still be having a rather poor time, as I’m failing in my primary function. This was basically how I was feeling during the “stagnant” time of my streaming journey. Undoubtedly, it was how I would feel during the later, darker parts of my journey as well.
As I alluded to earlier, I began to feel worthless at times when my stream started doing poorly. I never had these kinds of feelings before, but they became so much easier to feel after doing so well. When you’re doing great and then do terrible in comparison, that’s exactly how you feel.
It was due to my happiness becoming increasingly tied up with how my stream was doing that led me to once again step into the Skyrim beast. I fortunately had some very helpful community members, who I greatly depended on, and who aided and helped organized my Skyrim permadeath runs, as well as some general community events. This, along with my efforts, is what led me to my biggest success yet.
Of course, when I hit 500 subscribers, I thought I shrugged off all those previous problems hinted at in the earlier part of the year, and that I could move forward, continue to grow, and get an even greater audience; perhaps, an audience great enough that growth could be sustained through sheer bulk alone, without me having to play Skyrim.
Late 2018: TwitchCon and Depressing Revelations
Not long after hitting my 500-subscriber count record, it was time for me to head over to TwitchCon 2018. As you can imagine, I was riding high for many reasons: my stream had just been performing at its peak, and I was about to go to my very first TwitchCon as a Partner.
I was going to see all the friends I made over the years through Twitch. Many of these people were established Partnered streamers that I would now be able to converse with as another Partner. I was going to be able to hang out in that exclusive Partner Lounge with all the cool kids, and hit up that Twitch Partner party to hobnob with the greats.
I had other expectations as well: chief among them, I expected to be able to interact with the gaming industry as a whole. I assumed that, being a Partner, certain doors would be open and I would be able to start to form contacts with people in said industry. This could lead to sponsorships, access to games prior to their release for streaming, etc. I assumed that I would be able to find all of these things in the areas limited to Partners, such as the Partner Lounge.
I wasn’t aware of anyone flying out to meet me — that was something I was, for the most part, comfortable with; I mean, it’s asking a lot to expect someone to buy airline tickets and get their ass out the front door just to say hello to you. I knew my place, and it wasn’t at that level yet. Still, I thought it would be neat if I managed to run into someone who recognized me who maybe wanted a picture or something.
Expectations Dashed in More Ways Than One
Forgive me if I go ahead and spoil the reader: TwitchCon 2018 was not a good time for me. I met absolutely no one from the “gaming industry” while at the convention. There was no one in the Partner Lounge looking to speak to new talent, there was really no one there looking to speak to me at all.
But my friends were there! Indeed, I was able to connect with the many streamers I knew, some of which I mentioned earlier, and many who I looked up to and admired greatly. It was wonderful to connect with them and exchange hugs. I was looking forward then to maybe going out and perhaps partying it up with my friends, socializing and the like. I was told this happened at the convention, and it does!
However, that did not happen. Any socialization was quite brief and limited. This is because all of my friends had packed schedules and any bit of revelry they engaged in was done within the confines of walled off, private parties. Parties I had no access to at all. Parties that I assume was where one could actually find those industry contacts to plan some future business with.
At the end of it all, despite all of the hours I put into making myself a streamer, even managing to get Partnered, I was still nowhere near their level. Unlike many other “smaller streamers”, I really had no other friends that were themselves small. All of the people I interacted with and knew were already quite established. Wonderful people, mind you, but living in a different world from me.
But even among people closer to, or beneath my level (audience-wise), I was sadly missing from any of their pre-planned “hanging outs”. This means that, at the end of the day, I was utterly alone in this place. I went home every night feeling completely bored, isolated, and more than a little depressed.
What I Took Home From the Convention
At the conclusion of the convention, although I had some nice times, I felt like a fraud and a sham. I felt disconnected from everyone I thought was a friend, and incredibly naïve for ever even thinking I could count them as such. This has absolutely nothing to do with any of them, and everything to with me, I suppose.
Other than that, it taught me how little I mattered. Which is fine, really, right? I mean, I was quite comfortable not mattering at all at the very start of this journey, however at this stage in my life it seemed anathema to my very existence.
I went there as a Partnered streamer, and came home feeling like a hollow shell. I consistently questioned the veracity of my success, and really started believing that I didn’t deserve any of it, and that it was perhaps luck or just complete happenstance. It sounds ridiculous, but I truly felt like a phony.
This, rather negative, outlook to things followed me home and would persist, leading to me being, I suppose a rather depressive fellow (at least internally, I knew how to wear a smile) during the next year. It wouldn’t be long until my confidence would soon be completely shattered.
2019: The Crash, And The Slow Death
This section doesn’t have a subsection dedicated to my mood and subset, as the focus of this particular year was one purely of the mind and how I dealt with everything crumbling around me.
After really grinding Skyrim through the better part of 2018, I eventually realized that I had hit a ceiling. I was the #1 Skyrim streamer, yet I really couldn’t break past an overall average viewership of 130-150 concurrent viewers. I rose almost meteorically to Partnered status so quickly, however I could not grow much further past that.
Part of me worried (incorrectly as I eventually came to see) that it may be due to me being someone who actually wasn’t very entertaining, despite all of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The more logical side of me, however, figured that it might have to do with me reaching a limit in the possible viewership that might be offered by a particular game. If I’m #1 in a category and no longer growing, that means the audience base for the game itself is probably no longer growing.
This would make sense, since Skyrim is an older game, and one wouldn’t expect an old, dead game to have a growing player base, at least for the most part. No, I had to find a similar category with a higher viewership. This is what made the most sense. So, I looked for another Bethesda game that was still receiving updates, since it was my observation that these Bethesda fans can only seem to stomach other Bethesda games.
So naturally, one such game was The Elder Scrolls Online. I tried to do with that game what I did with Skyrim; however, doing anything even remotely similar to my Skyrim runs was rather difficult, given that The Elder Scrolls Online was (wait for it…) an online game. There was no opportunity for me to apply any cleverly put together collection of mods or whatever — there was only one experience possible.
This eventually led to me becoming frustrated with the whole thing and finally being honest with myself in regards to my hatred of Bethesda games and frankly their strange, stuck-in-time viewers. I went ahead and just abandoned strategy altogether. I attempted then to grind some other games, unrelated to the Bethesda universe, but too late, the damage was done: everything was falling apart.
A little ritual that Partners engage in is celebrating their one+ year anniversary of the day that they got Partnered. A lot of times these will be subathons or some such, where people will subscribe to keep the streamer online longer. It was certainly a sign of things to come then, that when my first Partnerversary arrived that I was playing not-Skyrim and my average viewership was a devastating 26 concurrent viewers.
Quite a dramatic fall from grace.
Well, this really bad turnout on an important day certainly did the job of cementing in my mind that I truly didn’t deserve any of the success I had before. How could I have fallen so far otherwise?
The prophecy was beginning to become fulfilled: a few months later I’d find myself having streams where I was only averaging 11 concurrent viewers. What an insane fall. I didn’t know anyone else who fell so much so quickly like I was falling.
If you think I’m overreacting a tad, put yourself in my shoes. Initially, you have rowdy, loud crowds throwing praise at you, so much so that you become used to it. Then, rather dramatically, all of it vanishes, save for 10% of the audience, this remaining segment happening to be primarily made up of your faithful lurkers. There is perhaps one or two people left who actually seem to want to talk to you. You’re happy they’re there, but in comparison to how it was before, it is difficult for it to feel like anything at all.
Any other streamer I paid attention to, or with whom I was “friends” with, for the most part seems to have maintained the same number of viewers since I’ve known them. Yes, there are always peaks and valleys, but not the kind of valleys I was falling into. Certainly, none of them dropped all the way to near single digit viewers.
Don’t mistake me, I would never wish what was happening to me on them ever! But, rather, it begged the following question in my mind: What was I doing wrong? Well, I was always a believer in taking responsibility for one’s own situation and not blaming your own problems on others. So, in my head, it was clear: I actually just wasn’t very special or entertaining at all; yes, it was the same repeating nonsense from before gaining new ground in my head.
Useless negative thoughts were in abundance, however I had a really hard time disproving them with logic, given that the “people had spoken”. This year truly then became a lost year.
Followers in the Negative and the Loud Silence
After consistently getting more and more follows with each stream I did during my growth period, when 2019 came around I actually began losing followers faster than I was gaining them. This is something which continues still today. After hitting 20k followers sometime during 2018, once 2019 hit I would go through periods of getting maybe 100 followers one month, and then losing 150 the next month, etc. They were never in large chunks; they were small numbers of people just deciding to finally give up on this lost cause of a streamer named Omni.
Slowly but consistently, viewership continued to go down. I continued to stream for many hours, but nothing could prevent the average from steadily dropping lower and lower. Chat interactivity soon became non-existent save for one or two people at a time.
I was in low spirits for sure, but I learned much earlier on to mask my emotions, so I won’t lay all or frankly any of the blame upon me being “sad”, or anything like that during the stream. I learned that Twitch is full of people who (other than the amazing and beautiful people also present) are there to use you, and if you aren’t happy, then you are completely worthless to them.
Despite the crushing slow death of everything I had built up, I was trying harder than ever to be interesting, entertaining, etc. All while hoping that I actually was any of the above. It really became harder and harder to believe that I ever was. Regardless of what I wanted, I could not shape reality to my will — 2019 became a year where I would once again become familiar with those long periods of absolute chat silence that were common in the first few months of me streaming.
I was aware of the potential ramifications of dropping Skyrim, and I don’t regret it at all. I did have some hope however that I wouldn’t completely drop off — I got rather unlucky in the end, it would seem.
Learning to Love Thyself
It took little to no time, in the grand scheme of things, for me to grow the stream from nothing to something; to learn how to accept endless amount of praise and accolades, and to get very used to being someone with some kind of significance. It took much longer to unlearn all of that.
That was the real sense of progression in 2019: learning how to disconnect my happiness from my stream’s performance; learning how to treat it as something I could direct my passions towards, while knowing that ultimately it was just there for “fun” again. Really hard to do when we’re considering myself, someone who is ambitious to a fault at times. I eventually achieved this; however, I do sometimes still struggle with it. Thankfully, any struggles I continue to have are small, brief, and nothing like how I was struggling with it before.
The rest of the year was full of big ideas and big failures. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t spend an awful lot of time rehashing each and every one of them. I repeatedly attempted to reinvent myself, to try to do something in order to get back what I previously had. It was only when I learned to let go that I truly was free to do what I truly was meant to do on this platform.
And that came with my epiphany and very original idea to take the hacking of games into my own hands to make them how I want, better known as Omnified gaming.
2020: Omnified Purpose, and Back to Where I Started
This last year was the first year where I finally put to use all of my available facilities (programming experience, masochistic leanings in regards to games, etc.) in order to truly create some unique content finally on this platform. As you can tell, I’ve only been working harder and harder on this little streaming venture of mine — performance be damned.
I won’t go into great detail regarding this year, mainly because I already covered it in great detail in my article, “A Reflection on One Year of Omnified Streaming“. If you’re interested in the most exciting chapter of my time here, check that out, and check out my streams! I’m finally building something I can be proud of.
To summarize that article: I am very happy and enthused to be creating truly original work, as well as grow in my skills while I create it. And while I’m pleased with the content, it also must be said that I performed even worse in year 2020 than in all my previous years. I lost more followers than gained, viewership is at its all-time lowest, and interactivity in chat has sunk to levels far below what they were even 5 months after I originally started streaming.
And that’s just fine. Well, most of the time.
Most of the time. I’m still working on it.
Well, There It Is. My Story.
At the end of it all, I learned that the answers to the questions I often asked myself such as what the old me had that the new me doesn’t, or whether I was ever any good in the first place are ultimately unimportant.
After years of pondering, if I had to actually provide answers to these queries, they’d be who knows and who cares? As unlikely as it was for this stubborn, social media avoiding try-hard to get big for a little bit, it happened. On top of all that: I did it my way. I don’t regret how anything unfolded or how I processed events, as I’m sure many others would have reacted just as poorly as I did to a sudden change in their fortune.
The fact that I’ve recovered my sense of self and am still streaming today to those still interested in watching, however, speaks volumes of my own perseverance. I’m quite sure most others would’ve thrown in the towel, but I can’t, as I still have more to show you all.
8 thoughts on “The Rise and Fall of a Partnered Streamer”
Bravo Omni, bravo. Thank you for taking the time to painstakingly, lovingly and eloquently crafting your story to share with us. Much love, respect, and admiration for your journey through Twitch streaming.
I look ever forward to what new innovative experiences you’ll bring to the masses — to not only Twitch but your personal projects as well. ♡
Thanks Inky, I’m glad you appreciated it as much as you did. Thanks for all of your support and all the confidence you instill in me! There will be plenty more to come in the future. 🙂
Interesting article. i just read it for the first time a few minutes ago .Fascinating stuff. I think it will, as a historical document help explain this vast beast we know as Twitch. Other streamers I think might be interested in your experiences I think. My own condition of following you, as you know, was outside much of what you listed, and was glad to have the additional background info. I think you should keep in mind, most of us who still follow you, are following you and not someone else. I have told you this before, I really think (and it has been helpful to have the friends you have had certainly), whether they show up or not…there are a ton of people who want to know you are there, and if possible what you think, about *anything*. That “autofollow” stuff you mentioned is some crazy stuff, and i’m not at all suprised you were (justifiably) freaked out by it.
Roger! Thanks for reading and your interest as always!
A great and heartfelt read, Omni! A cathartic approach to appreciate and learn from. However your journey isn’t over, and I’m looking forward to where it leads you next!
Greg! Thanks for reading, and a deep heartfelt thanks for all the years of support!
Well, where do I even start?
I came here do to a snippet of WordPress Code I found floating around the interwebs for Discord and somehow found your story right here. I read every last word. What a ride! I felt my own YouTube journey in your Twitch story. However, I never made it that big. I am at my largest now at almost 700 subscribers and each video gets a view or 3 or 4 here and there. When the ones I get hit the thousands of views marks, I get all giddy inside and when they don’t now I just shrug it off and go on to the next.
Back to your story. I truly do appreciate your effort in putting this together. I enjoyed every last word of it. The part that truly made me feel as though I was right there with you was the Twitchcon part where all your friends had their own parties to go to. However small my channel is, I have been rubbing shoulders with majorly big YouTubers for years now ( 1 in particular has almost 2 million subscribers) and I always get asked to “Hangout” with them but at the end of the day, meh ….. that environment isn’t really me or I’m just not there yet. I feel that fraud feeling that you brought up as though I shouldn’t have been there hanging out. Their people isn’t mine. I’m just a little fella from the middle of nowhere.
Thanks again and I don’t get on Twitch very often. I am an old RPG’er from way back in the day and have played dang near every Final Fantasy game known to exist and many others. You speak my language. If I run across your stream, I hope I can swing in and say hello.
Take care and best of wishes! Thanks again for the awesome journey story!
Ray! Thank you so much for the heartfelt comment and kind words. Really appreciate that you got so much out of the article! We can be “imposter syndrome” brothers, lol.
More seriously, sounds like you got the perfect attitude: do what you love, if something does great, then cool; if not, then whatever, the main point is just doing it and doing it with passion.
Say hi if you see me on Twitch! I’ll be starting up my Omnified streams once again in a bit and will put up a schedule on here eventually. Thanks again!