Twitch streamers are burning out and logging off: NPR

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A large desktop computer stands on a desk with a computer monitor.  The monitor shows a video game of soldiers being attacked.  The desk also has a keyboard, mouse and headphones.  A digitally generated image.

Michael William/Getty Images

Stephen Flaval makes his living playing video games to thousands of viewers on Twitch. When he first started streaming, he had about fifteen people watching at a time. He liked how he could engage with the small community, cracking jokes while people cheered him on.

Unfortunately, as his popularity grew, the vibe changed.

“There were about 200 viewers when it got tiring,” says Flavall. ‘Now I have 2,000 viewers [at a time] And when so many people are asking you questions and telling you what to do, it becomes absolutely chaotic. I started having anxiety, bordering on a full-blown panic attack.”

Flavall is now in a better place, but his story is not unique. Burnout is on the rise across the country, even for those who work – quite literally – for those who play.

Fewer breaks, fewer holidays

While professional video gaming may seem like an enviable gig, it’s not much different than being an artist. A streamer has an audience, a personality, and acts in the same role for a long time.

Stephen Flaval, or “Zorbs” on Twitch, with his occasional co-star, Zephyr the Cat.

Stephen Flaval

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Stephen Flaval

Even streamers can’t really catch a break. They risk losing the interest of their fanbase by streaming and logging off. Since they are self-employed, they cannot rely on paid vacation, or sick leave. This leaves streamers wondering how to navigate an income that isn’t an official “job”.

“If you have breaks during your stream, how do they work?” asked a reddit user on r/Twitch. “I’ve been streaming for a bit, but I’ve had a hard time going longer than two hours.”

Another Redditor commented on the appropriate length of a break: “20 minutes is too long. I recommend five minutes because you don’t want to lose people’s interest.”

When Flaval, who goes by work at Twitch, first started, he wasn’t too eager to take a break either, and that extended offline time for vacation.

“If it was offline for a week or two I would be worried that viewers would lose interest in my channel,” says Flavall. “But these days my content is unique enough and my audience long enough that when I come back my audience keeps coming back.”

However, even now, many of Flaval’s “holidays” are indeed still working.

“Conventions like TwitchCon, opening ceremonies for various game studios and production companies, opportunities to create personal content, and other private opportunities to have fun with sponsors or investors, all give the illusion of taking a break when it’s finally just another work weekend.” Flavall says.

Mix it up and risk it all

Twitch viewers can also request that streamers play games that they may have played. Hellion, another Twitch streamer known for playing rogue-likes, got tired of trying to escape the underworld. Hades Day in and day out. But that game popularized his stream, and his fans weren’t happy.

‘Heads’ Streamer Hellion fights bosses and his own exhaustion with the game.


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‘Heads’ Streamer Hellion fights bosses and his own exhaustion with the game.


“I was already burned out HadesBut I was splitting my time between 50% other sports and 50% Hades“says Hellion. “You get people you don’t really want to hear ‘when they go. Hades?’ ‘Why didn’t they start? Hades still?'”

What happened next was a different kind of hell. Viewership declined as Hellion began to devote more time to other sports. Few people would tune in if he wasn’t fighting the Furies or squaring off against the Bull of Minos.. As a result, his livelihood is at risk. “How interactive people are with me and how interactive I am with them, all of those things directly affect my wallet,” Hellion says.

“Every content creator goes through this, especially those who play games,” Hellion says. “They start with this popular thing, and then they try to do something else, and it’s a struggle.”

Fierce competition and inconsistent support

Twitch’s competitive culture also makes fans flame. It’s not just that a streamer can exhaust the game or rude viewers; They may also fall prey to a pervasive “always on” mentality.

Taylor Chow, director of talent management at esports and gaming entertainment company Evil Geniuses, says Twitch can be a very toxic work environment.

“When you’re a streamer, you really know that every single second that you’re not online, grinding, posting, streaming — someone [else] Chow says.

Chou also says that communication with your audience and having a support system is key to reducing streamer burnout.

“One of the best ways to deal with burnout starts with a support system,” Chow says. “When you’re a streamer, make sure your community understands it’s a person they’re watching.”

That support has helped Stephen Flaval get his mojo back. He still plays his favorite game – Kill the Spire — for their audience every week, and have a small team to help manage sponsorship contracts and interviews.

But building that kind of structure can take years, and when fans gather around streamers, they can often become stressed or harassed. This leaves many burned out and on the way to signing off for good.

Keller is a columnist for Gordon Join the game. Find her on Twitter: @kelbot_

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