Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Twitch Review: Not Just Entertainment

Twitch Review: Not Just Entertainment
I decided to write about my experiences on this topic, and what I have witnessed over the years since I joined Twitch. Its titled 'Not Just Entertainment' because I am about to explain why Twitch is an important social tool for networking, making friends, and even therapy.

I joined Twitch thanks to my friend TheGingerGinger introducing me to it when he started streaming. My first experiences were watching him play The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. I got addicted to watching because the game's specialty was its unique runs every play through. This lead me to searching for other people who also played that game when Ginger was offline. That was when I found CobaltStreak and Richard_Hammer. I checked out a few others who were also playing it, but these two just had a charm about them that kept me hooked, especially when they did things together. I was now addicted to Twitch.

Before I knew it, I was "wasting" hours of my day on Twitch enthralled by all the content I could pick from. The variety of games and streamers is endless to search through, and I love it. Perhaps there is a game I like to watch, but the streamer isn't really a personality I enjoy... so I move on to another streamer playing that same game until I find one who's personality fits with me. Personally, as you've read in my other blogs possibly, I am drawn more to 'positive' vibes. Mind you, there are quite a few... ahem... questionable streamers I thoroughly enjoy as well; and they're self-proclaimed assholes.

The difference between a controversial personality I like and one I don't, is how they talk about others. A streamer who makes dirty jokes and aggressive banter with their mods and regulars is actually alluring to me because it shows a sense of trust and kinship with them. Richard_Hammer was one of these types. Then there is a streamer who curses every other word to be edgy... talks down about other streamers... makes fun of people in their chat who they don't like... THAT is a streamer I will avoid in a heartbeat. So by all means, the "asshole" persona can absolutely work on Twitch; if you do it properly. The key to that is... you can be gruff, swear sometimes, playfully trigger your chat, critique the games you play, and still treat your viewers with respect and gratitude. Being a genuine dick to your viewers will only attract trolls to your channel who want to spam the chat, make fun of you in return, and contribute nothing productive to anyone. Sure you'll still get views, follows, even money... but I doubt you'll have as much loyalty as other streamer's communities.

That leads me to touch on the main subject of this blog. Twitch communities, and how they affect people on a personal level. When I started to expand my viewing away from just Binding of Isaac, I came across my first real "community" on Twitch. This was a Dungeons and Dragons stream called HowReRoll (see my other blogs for more on this stream.) My very first impressions there were positive; the mods welcomed me, the viewers welcomed me, and the streamers welcomed me. My voice wasn't lost in an over-active chatroom this time, and it gave me the opportunity to actually get to know the people in that community with my regular visits to the stream. If it wasn't for HowReRoll, I wouldn't have the genuine friendships with some people I have now. I made several friends in that community, some of whom have aided me in my times of need, and some (such as Bane) who I actually plan to meet in person after I move because I'll be closer to them.

To be able to go into a chatroom of a stream and say hello, and have the streamer greet you back and genuinely pleased to see you... its very nice. Sure, not all streamers can do this after they have reached a certain growth in their channel (because chat becomes far too fast to properly speak to everyone), but they find other ways to keep up with their regulars such as 'Sub Only Discord' channels for example. If you are a streamer... I CANNOT express enough how important genuinely talking to people in your chat affects them. You never know what your viewers are going through or how they are feeling; its possible they are depressed or just had a really bad day. So they open your stream to distract them from their own harsh realities, and just a smile and hello from you to them could totally change their mood. Some people will be excited by the fact a streamer they enjoy actually noticed and engaged with them as a real person. That's the magic of Twitch compared to YouTube. The social connection will draw in and keep people there who might be lonely. Sure, Twitch is obviously known for its entertainment aspect. But I think people under-estimate the power of the social side. I'm certain many of you reading this blog now can say that you have either made a friend on Twitch (whether that be the streamer, or someone in the chat community), or that a stream has been a tool at helping you not feel alone because you know if you felt like chatting... there would be someone somewhere on Twitch who would chat with you.

I've witnessed over the years both friendships and relationships blossom thanks to Twitch that otherwise wouldn't have happened. I'm not even talking about just the streamer themselves. The community some streamer's build can grow into a tight knit group of people with similar interests. They'll begin recognizing each other with regular visits, and slowly get to know one another's personalities. I've seen how closely Mods can bond, and become protective of "their" streamer and community. Its amazing to me to just sit back and watch strangers bond on such a level online. I even watched a streamer named Kismet use all his tips (as told to viewers) from Twitch to take his Mods to Twitch Con with him for all their support of him and his stream. STRANGERS bonding online over games, and then coming together to support one another so they can all meet in person and enjoy a trip together for something they all love? Absolutely beautiful to me.

This is where I will touch on the 'therapy' aspect I mentioned earlier. I can personally say I have witnessed several cases of genuine despair from both streamers and viewers. For example, maybe a streamer just lost someone important in their life. You can see on their face how sad and broken they are, and yet they found the strength to still stream. Why? Because like in the physical world... being with people you know care about you can be healing. When we're facing loss, the last thing we want to do is feel alone. So a streamer turns on their stream, and usually (depending on the community) they are welcomed with genuine support and love from their viewers. That can make anyone feel better. Its not just the streamer who gets support either. If a viewer mentions in chat something they are going through, perhaps a health problem, I have seen the streamer call for a show of support for that person (in the form of positive emotes usually) to let them know they aren't alone in their struggles. I witnessed one person who was struggling with cancer and chemo treatments say that visiting that stream and its community helped get them through the constant sickness and eased a lot of their suffering. This is the positive 'therapy' social aspect of Twitch that I've witnessed, and I'm barely touching on what I've seen.

Like any place in the world, you will have your bad people/streamers too. Ones who lie or deceive their viewers into getting more money for example. Assholes are everywhere in the world though. My experiences are just a tiny fraction of the Twitch community in my years spending time there. I have seen that while there are lots of 'troll' and 'gimmick' style streamers there... if you look, you can easily find a community you can fit in to and maybe even make a friend. Smaller streams are usually better for this, as the chat's are slower and people can keep up with communications among one another easier. But don't automatically dismiss larger streamers for this; I've seen more than a handful of high view streams still have a functioning chat community and an interactive streamer who does their best to at least greet you.

So if you're lonely, and looking for more of a community style atmosphere online along with your entertainment... Twitch is a great option for you. I know it was for me. There are even 'community' categories now that cluster streamers of similar interest or personality into one place for you to find easier. My personal favorites: 'Variety Streaming', and 'Positivity'.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Twitch Streamers: Bane Blackstar

Bane Blackstar
Twitch Handle: BaneWares

This wonderful lady is someone I met on Twitch and quickly became close to. Though we cannot meet in person (yet) I consider her a friend and someone I could talk to on a personal level if needed. I already did one blog of her at the start of the year, but a lot in her life has changed and I just felt like making a second blog on her new adventures and why I think she deserves more people checking her out.

Bane is an underappreciated talent that deserves so much more than she's gotten so far growth wise. She does both gaming and crafting on her channel. She also occasionally does streams that are for the betterment of her and anyone that wants to join her, such as discussion about life, organizing, health and more. There are plans for some stretching/yoga style streams soon as well which I personally look forward to. As my health has gone down these past couple years... I find Bane to be a personal boost of encouragement for me to try harder. She lives with chronic pain and other health issues that really interfere with her dreams and goals... yet she still pushes forward through it and keeps trying. I admire that trait in her a lot.

Streams based around positivity often draw me in on Twitch. Sure, I enjoy an occasional meme-like or troll'ish stream sometimes for a laugh, but I don't stick around those very long because it gets old and I take away nothing from them except having gotten a little laughter. This streamer has not only given me laughs, but she taught me to crochet through her streams, and I learn about more crafts by watching her processes. This is a SKILL that I can take away just from watching her streams, and possibly apply it in my own life in the future to get extra income as well. Few other streamers on Twitch can give you that.

Her gaming streams are fun too. I believe some of my favorites have been her relaxed lay-back Stardew Valley ones, her dwarven sibling World of Warcraft role play, and then her funny 100 Baby Challenge on The Sims 4. My absolute favorite streams were her Hunger Games ones of the Sims 4, which sadly had to end because the mechanics in the game changed to make it impossible to kill the sims off the way she had before. She also made really cool house creations in the game with her unique sense of style that had me in awe. She's been enjoying Don't Starve lately too. Its not a game I'm particularly into, but its still fun to watch her and her subs/patreons play it and get into random scenarios of trouble.

So please, if you are a streamer or a twitch viewer or even someone who has yet to enjoy Twitch... check this woman out for a stream or two at least. Everyone has good and bad days, but on average Bane provides great quality and genuine personality; she's very interactive with her viewers. Please enjoy a few of my favorite moments below in these Twitch Clips over the years to get a taste of Bane.

Live Clip Moments of Bane

Her Genuine Appreciation of People's Support

Bane Making Junimo's from Stardew Valley

Narrating a Sim's Fight

Amazing Hand Crafted Items by Bane

See more in her shop!!
Hats, scrunchies, sweaters, charms, etc.

Bane Social Media:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/banewares/
Personal Twitter: https://twitter.com/BaneBlackstar
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/banewares/

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

News/Autobiographical: Wild Fires

This is the first I've had internet in a couple days, yet I'm one of the lucky ones who still had power at my house. I live in Northern California, where if you have seen the news... you know that we have several devastating fires going on right now. I know friends in several of those fires who have now lost their homes. People have also lost their lives. The air at the moment is hazardous and people are advised to not only stay indoors but in the evacuated areas to also boil their water. You can get the numbers and official news online easily enough if you search... I'm going to take a moment to write down my personal experience and feelings in this blog. It may even help distract me from the pain in my lungs breathing this smoke.

My experience began at 4am the 9th when my neighbor (bless her) and someone I consider family was heard pounding on my door. I'm not exactly sure how long she had been out there knocking... but I know my dogs were barking at least a couple minutes before I relented from my sleep to get up. I still hesitated a moment, not sure who would be pounding on my door at such an hour. I've had experiences in the past where strangers need help and rush into my house for 911 followed by their assailants... so I am cautious by nature now. I finally opened the door though to hear her panicked explanation of what was going on. We had a fire not yet in town but right on the line, just north of us and it was spreading fast due to the very large wind storm we were having that night. I instantly felt empathy for her as she also went on to tell me about ANOTHER fire in the county down from us, where she has more family (and my friends) evacuating from fires as well! I later learned sadly that her daughter and their family lost their apartment. They had to evacuate with two children, one of them only recently having been born, and lost everything. The irony in that was... they were just about to move too. My heart is broken for them. So I gave her a hug and told her to come to my place if they needed water or anything, because I've stocked up just for these type situations. She returned home (a block over) and I went to check the news.

My net was down.

I had no way to check the news! Not only that, but our cable was out as well, so no news from local or state stations either. As I said before... I was one of the lucky ones to at least still have power; many of my friends were not as fortunate. I went into emergency mode and got my supplies and everything prepped by the door and in the car incase we had to leave, as well as made sure my phone was charging. That was when I remembered I could get to Facebook through my phone at least. So there, I managed to scroll through on my tiny screen (a very old LG tracfone) to try to find any news I could on the fires. It hadn't taken long for it to get worse. By morning, the fire had entered my town too, and the area the fire had started had not only been mandatorily evacuated, but several of my friends lost their homes (or are still waiting to SEE if they've lost them.) Roads were closed, and an entire section of the town was closed to the public.

Several people wisely chose to evacuate when the voluntary area was issued, however... our town and neighboring towns ran out of regular gas. Last I heard, only premium was left... and I don't know if that lasted or not. I can imagine any stores open were probably drained of their water and other resources too. Then I started to see news of looting and stabbings!! It always blows my mind that people resort to violence in these type situations. That is human nature though; fight or flight. So I also had to make sure my car and house were locked up and that if I had to go outside for any reason to take my dogs with me, just in case.

My Mom is elderly and disabled. If it came down to having to evacuate, it is not going to be easy to convince her. She has agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house) which has kept her in this house for years with maybe one or two brief trips outside. Her panic attacks are brutal, and she's almost 70 now. It scares me to think that in order to keep us alive, I may very well end up killing her with the stress by having us leave. Then there are the dogs we'd need to take with us, and my poor bird... who I know for a fact would die if I took him with me from a heart attack (cockatiels are notorious haters of being moved) so I would have to abandon him too. Don't worry, I do have a plan to give him his best options of survival if it did come down to having to leave. I'd never ever leave my animals trapped in a situation they can't escape from to face a horrible death.

As I write this blog, news has said that our fire (#SulphurFire) is about 10% contained and luckily the wind died down significantly. Our neighboring fires #Tubbs and #SR as well as one to the north of us in Mendicino Counties are still going strong. The air here is so bad. I made a plan in our house that blocks off the back from the front, where we have a fireplace that is letting smoke in. So where we are in the back, the air is more tolerable at least than the front of the house and the outside. I'm sensitive to smoke... always have been. My allergies are going crazy, my head is pounding, and my lungs are burning. Mom luckily doesn't seen too affected yet which eases my stress a little. I do have to go outside sometimes for the dogs and other things, but I've limited it to only when absolutely necessary.

So there is my story, for now. Things could change at any moment still. I may have to evacuate, I may not. As time moves forward, I'll read and learn of more and more heartbreaking news about my friends and community. I have plenty of horror stories in my mind of things that can still go wrong, but I'll spare you from my neurotic worries. Thank you for taking the time to read this. My story is mild compared to others; I'm fortunate so far, and thankful. My thoughts are with everyone in California affected right now. Be safe, stay strong, look out for one another.