It’s been several months of streaming on Twitch. I’ve hit just over 1000 views and 250 followers which is, quite frankly, not that many is the grand scheme of Twitch progression but yet significant to me and my efforts thus far. I hope to take some time in this post to reflect critically on streaming on Twitch and the community of people I’ve met along the way.
Update for the update: I have officially migrated streams to a new account: twitch.tv/AlexandraLive
How I Frame Myself on Twitch
My Twitch channel incorporates some of the basic information that can be found on most established channels: An About Me section, games I’m currently playing and a section for donations and donors. It’s all good stuff. I’ve also done things to mitigate the discomfort people feel when saying my username out-loud including a definition of “Invagination” which people don’t think what “Invag” is suppose to be. I dug myself into a hole on that one and Twitch won’t let me change my username so I’m stuck with the awkwardness for now. Front-loading such a dense term as my username and identity was not the best choice for drawing in viewers with a critical mindset.
I also frame myself as an academic, who brings a certain level of commentary to the streams. It’s honestly exhausting to be throwing out theory left and right as I’m playing but it comes about as fits and I think the viewers actually appreciate it. One of my first regular viewers is a fellow grad student so I am seemingly reaching a few of you out there. I’ve also begun streaming my game research by streaming games on my comprehensive exam b-list, live note-taking and all! It’s a mixed bag as to who does or does not appreciate academic commentary. It’s always a challenge using non-academic language to explain academic concepts but as a teacher and as an editor of FirstPersonScholar it is my job to make it right. The downside is that another hobby gets turned into work. Streams where I just play League of Legends are fun because I don’t have to professionalize my commentary to the extent that I do on analysis streams.
The *~Female Streamer Experience~*™
The most common question I get about streaming is whether or not my viewers are shitty assholes, which, is a fair question when so much of the women-in-gaming narrative is chalked up to these instances of extreme harassment. However, I have been fortunate enough to have experience no more than mild annoyance in regards to viewer interaction. Yes I’ve been raided by people from 4chan (which I loving call the people from “a land far away”) and yes people have tried to trick me into clicking inappropriate links but none of that surprises me. I’ve been around the internet once or twice and know all the tricks in the raiding handbook. Besides those off-hand events, some of my regulars have also been known to be disrespectful, annoying or downright misogynistic with me.
One of the biggest questions I get on my stream is how old I am.
Why this matters, I know not. These are the simple, seemingly innocent questions that don’t get asked on a male’s stream, ever. Some days I answer truthfully and some days when I don’t feel like answering that question, I make up shit. And that’s what I’ll advise for anyone dealing with harassment, or weirdness while streaming:Don’t scream or yell at any one because it’s fuel for the fire but just calmly react in a way that’s comfortable for you (although if that means screaming and yelling, by all means ). For me, I don’t always want to block everyone so I just have fun with it.
The reality is for a small stream like mine, you run a low risk of getting bombarded daily. Yes, I have a webcam and mic, but using them does not mean you will instantly become a target. Shaping a supportive and respectful viewership has a lot to do with the behaviors of the streamer. All too often I see streamers with a list of rules of conduct, usually including bannable offenses such as racism, sexism, no posting links etc. but the reality is that people who are going to be negative in chat are not going to abide the streamer rules that are posted in a description box. Getting your chat mods and regular viewers on board with the kind of behavior you expect in chat are great ways of forming the kind of community you want to foster.
Be aware that a large majority of Twitch users are male with varying degrees of respect for women who display themselves playing games. Be prepared for backseat gamers, in-depth “discussions” of your makeup, fashion and hair choices (it’s amazing how many beauty experts there are on Twitch!) and solicitations for sexual acts.
But Alexandra! How do you have time to stream while you’re studying for exams, teaching, editing….?
It’s not for everyone I will tell you that. Streaming is not relaxing and it took a lot of work (and some money) to get my channel to the level of polish which I was happy with. I keep to my schedule which at even two days a week, can be overwhelming at times when work demands me to continue late into the evening. Additionally, academic hiring committees care not about these kind of side-projects despite the fact that they fall under the government’s goals for today’s humanities research. I might have reconsidering starting streaming when I did, if I didn’t think I could use my experiences for a paper and/or my dissertation. That being said, I look forward to streaming and it gives me a goal to work towards during my day. I get really bummed out when I cannot stream. Stream highlights are something I can show my family and other non-academics to explain what kind of work I can accomplish due to my research and training. I’ve also met a lot of new friends including a lot of badass women who have a serious passion for gaming. Finding my place within these community of women is by far the most important for me personally and professionally. Begin able to support and be supported by these women may be small in the grand scheme of the Twitch community, but it is a start to breaking the stereotypes that come with being a woman on Twitch.