TwitchCon 2018, the end

Exit banner, Good Luck Have Fun

What did TwitchCon do right? Plenty.

The panels/break-out sessions, while sometimes questionably staffed, were varied and targeted to all levels of streamer, from hobbyist to full-timer.

The swag is high quality and looks like it’s going to last for a while. Last year’s leftover swag being in discount bin “loot boxes” was a nice touch.

Entertainment was provided for the swag line, since they knew it’d be long. Live music entertained us while we waited, but wasn’t so loud that we couldn’t hold conversations.

The Twitch Prime lounge was nice, provided a lot of seating, and both sunlight and shade. The free refreshments and breather from the greater convention were worth getting that sticker on my badge.

The con provided accommodations for those medically unable to stand in lines. At every line, there was an express lane labeled “medical” for those who needed it. I heard zero griping from the people in lines around me, and was really happy that if I choose to come back later in life, when my knees are even worse, I will still have the option to participate.

The streamer roast was both hilarious and offensive to all up on stage. Which means it was perfect.

Kevin Smith. Kevin freaking Smith. KEVIN SMITH.

Do I regret going to TwitchCon 2018? Not for a second. Would I go again? Well… probably not. There would have to be a lot of changes for me to spring for the ticket, hotel, and airfare again. It’s not impossible, but it is unlikely.

TwitchCon 2018, pt 4

The expo floor was more of the same. Or, rather, it seemed to magnify the frenetic energy, the need to push to the front to be noticed, and the stratification between community, affiliates, and partners.

Areas for booths did not provide for lines or crowds, so any booths that were popular or had timed events would inevitably block foot traffic in the pathways that surrounded them. While the entire space looked impressive and awesome from the entrance doors, no consideration seemed to be given to how one was supposed to get through from one booth to the next, how one was supposed to interact with vendors once there, if demand was anything more than abysmal. It was mostly pushing, shoving, waiting, being pushed, and being shoved.

Plenty of hype, plenty of shiny, abysmal user experience.

Let’s talk about streaming booths. TwitchCon is a convention that hosts thousands of streamers, most of which stream video games. How many of those are hoping to be able to hop online and tell their audiences, “Streaming live to you from TwitchCon 2018!”

I can tell you that I was hoping to do that. Originally, I was planning on reserving spaces for some or all of the Powerless Gaming crew at AFK GG Gamer Lounge in downtown San Jose. Our hotel was less than a block away, and I’d streamed from there multiple times. My plans were dashed when they closed their doors a few months before TwitchCon.

That should’ve been fine, right? There’s no way that a streaming convention would drop the ball on providing a way to stream, right?

There were a few long tables set up in the hallway outside the expo hall, with ten to fifteen open-air streaming stations. Each station had nearly the same list of four to five games that could be played, none of which was up my alley or my viewers’. Despite that, I checked availability. Of course, they were booked, there were thousands of streamers there!

Wandering the expo floor, I stumbled upon a couple of pods of glass-enclosed cubicles that looked designed for streaming. What luck! I found the person managing them, only to discover that these were only provided for partners, and were all booked beforehand. Did it matter that three out of four of them were sitting empty? Nope.

In the end, I was completely unable to stream from TwitchCon, and avoided the expo floor far more than I would have preferred.

TwitchCon 2018, pt 3

Waiting in line with new friends

LineCon 2018.

After the shooting in Florida, I was neither surprised nor upset when I got the emails from TwitchCon about the heightened security that we could expect once we reached the conference. The bag policy was a little onerous, but I have pockets, so whatever.

I payed hundreds of dollars for my weekend pass. Yes, I expected the turnout to be huge. I also expected, for my money, that security and lines would be handled efficiently and professionally. I was greatly disappointed.

I waited an hour and a half to get my badge the day before con. On the first day of con, the average wait time to pick up your badge was six hours. Soak in that for a moment.

Firstly, the lines were split between community, affiliates (streamers who had achieved enough stability for Twitch to offer monetization), and partners (big viewership and community). Everybody paid the same to get in, so the pecking order being established by Twitch was clear, and irritating. And they didn’t even pull that off properly! The lines to enter the convention were supposed to be spit into their respective badge types, but the crowd handlers were either incredibly understaffed, or just inept. I stood in two “affiliate” lines for about thirty minutes, before I found the -actual- affiliate line. Signage was spotty and unclear.

Once inside, the line to get in to the swag shop was about an hour wait. Let me say that again. After standing in line to use the badge I’d paid hundreds of dollars for, I was made to wait in line for another hour simply to give them more money in exchange for swag. Twitch, you’re owned by Amazon now, you really should get this efficient shopping experience thing handled.

To their benefit, the conference managers fixed the entrance line nonsense by day two. I’m unsure about the badge line. The swag store line, if anything, was longer on the second day.

TwitchCon 2018, pt 2

Skippy makes a face after the line

We talked about age range; let’s talk about behavior and attitude. Again, my sample, so to speak, was only those that had the means to attend TwitchCon.

I don’t think we can talk about either of those without talking about brand, The marketing concept of personal brand was central to everything at the con, from what hardware you used to stream, to the clothes you wear while on camera, to the community that you’re building.

With that in mind, most of the convention attendees, with several amazing exceptions, came off as vapid, narcissistic, and oblivious. While I was there, I dismissed them for this, and for not being more professional when it came to their livelihood. A great many of these streamers are making a living at this, or trying to. After reflecting further, I realize that this is a direct result of the brand that they’re building.

So when I, and my compatriots, found ourselves pitched to by other streamers, often times poorly, as if we were viewers, I was taken off-guard. But the lesson of “don’t treat your peers as if they have the same motivations as your viewers” hasn’t been taught, let alone been reinforced through the way this business works.

I was wrong to dismiss the behavior, and the people that behaved this way. What I should do is look into resources that are available to them to better their business skills and professionalism.

No, the irony of me being more professional than others isn’t lost on me. :)

TwitchCon 2018, pt 1

TwitchCon 2018

This is the first time that I have been simultaneously impressed and disappointed with a conference or a convention. TwitchCon 2018 did that, and did it hard.

Now, keep in mind that the attendees are able to attend. That means they were able to afford the ticket and whatever housing and travel that they weren’t able to acquire by other means. So, when I say that my preconceptions about most streamers were confirmed by the age range, behavior, and attitudes of the attendees, please understand that I’m speaking only of those with the means to attend.

The attendees were quite young, compared to me. There were exceptions to that rule, and I was pretty happy to see as many streaks and full heads of gray hair as I did. I wasn’t the only one there dealing with an arthritis flare-up. That said, the skew toward the younger brought with it a frenetic energy that I found myself needing regular breaks from.

On the other hand, no one in their right mind would scoff at or dismiss the amount of enthusiasm and passion that both streamers and community members brought to TwitchCon. We were all among our brethren, and whatever our reasons for doing it, the love of streaming was everywhere.

It’s not surprising to me that I was exhausted by the same thing that inspired me. I suppose that comes with age.

The problem with my favorite game.

Hob box art from Runic GamesHob is my favorite game. It’s a puzzle/action/adventure game with absolutely zero dialogue. That’s right, no text, no voice over, no nothin’. The few characters in the game do communicate, but you’re not let in on it. You explore the world, and you discover that it’s your job to put it back together. To fix the world.

This powerful idea spoke to me immediately. I signed up for the newsletter and eagerly awaited the game’s release. I didn’t even think that as someone who played games on YouTube and Twitch that I could’ve signed up for a free copy. I’m still facepalming over that one. In any case, I immediately purchased the game on release. When Runic Games shuttered weeks later, I picked up as much Hob merch as they offered, in case it disappeared off the face of the net. I streamed it from start to finish, and every time, I bemoaned that my next streaming schedule had the gall to be a whole week away. Oh, how I griped.

Have I convinced you that I love this game? Because I do. It’s a powerful, amazing story that I was immersed in, and invested in. I cared about the main character (I still don’t know if Hob is his name), and about the robot who gave its arm and its guidance.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The end was… problematic. An alien creature had landed on their world, and wanted to become part of it. At being excluded from having representation, it became enraged and sent the entire world into disarray. That’s not the problem. The natives of Hob’s world, including the ruling council, seem to be all male. The alien presence, and the warrior that fights for it, is decidedly female. The difference was obvious and emphasized.

In the end of the game, we discover that the all-male ruling council of this world discriminated against the female alien, who was just as smart and as capable as they were. In response to this injustice, the game creators have this world’s embodiment of femininity throw a giant fit and decide that if she can’t have it, no one can.

To add insult to injury, there are two endings to choose from. You can side with the ruling council, or you can side with the alien. If you side with the council, you destroy the alien, and return the world to its status quo, allowing all of the other (male) citizens of the world to come out of hiding. If you side with the alien, in response to her being the victim of discrimination, you see your robot friend open up another bunker, and the story starts all over.

This ending perpetuates the myth that women are overly emotional. It sets the status quo of an all-male government as the good ending, and the rejection of that as a world-destroying apocalypse. That’s not exaggeration, the main character is putting the world back together from exactly that.

I wish that Runic Games hadn’t closed, so I could ask them why they chose to do that.

Am I going to abandon my love for the game because of a problematic ending? Nope.

Am I going to stop telling people how amazing this game is? Nope.

Am I going to warn them that the ending comes across as anti-woman? You bet I am.

Talking shop

Not writing shop, this time. Not even parenting shop. I want to talk about my other creative outlet, of late. Sharing video games.

Let’s put aside the question of whether or not playing video games and sharing the experience even is creative, and assume for the moment that it’s been answered in the positive. Let’s talk about hosting and sharing platforms. Let’s talk about monetization. Let’s talk about audience availability.

I’ve been uploading my gaming videos to YouTube because that’s where my vlog went. Everybody knows YouTube, and every social media, blogging, mobile, and console platform bends over backwards to make sure videos play and play well. They’re huge, and despite their roots in small-time producers, they’ve shifted focus to their subscription service (YouTube Red) and their live TV service (YouTube TV). This has, by necessity, changed their attitude toward advertising.

I’d only heard of Twitch in passing, and had considered it a place for more hardcore gamers than I’d ever be. I started watching when a friend (more so since I started watching, to be honest) returned to streaming as a job, and discovered that I’d been really wrong. Twitch has streamers that are at all experience and intensity levels. They have competitive communities, communities surrounding fandom, and non-toxic communities, just to name a few. The only things they lacked were video archiving for viewing later, and an app that was anything other than frustrating. But I had YouTube for that, so I started live-streaming to Twitch, and exporting to YouTube for non-live viewing. And it was working great! I was even bringing in some pennies from ads on my more popular videos.

And then I logged in to YouTube’s Creator Studio and got a banner notification that my monetization had been revoked. They had removed it from all creators with less than 10,000 total views. This would have happened earlier, but there had been a bug and I’d slipped through the cracks. That was all the communication I received.

No grandfathering in of current creators, no heads-up emails, no appeal. Now, this is entirely within YouTube’s rights, and makes sense with the business pivot I noted above. That didn’t make it any less irritating.

So I started looking for alternative platforms, with no luck. Until I took a look at my past videos on Twitch. Some that I’d thought deleted were back, all the way to August. There was a new option for collections, which is their implementation of playlists. The decision came down to this – was I ok with the trade-off of a less well-known platform and a problematic non-browser viewing experience for great communities and a business model focused on sharing gameplay?

Yes, I was.

So, I’m going to be uploading and streaming through Twitch for all of my gaming stuff. I’ll still be putting my vlogs on YouTube, and my blogging will stay here.

Let’s see how this goes!

2K, seriously?

So, I got The Bioshock Collection for the PS4 for Yule. I asked for it, and getting it made me very happy. (Thanks again, brother-in-law!)

Later, I found out the hard way that 2K disabled streaming from their game on the major consoles. Odd, because they’d used Let’s Play videos as a way to spread interest in the game. While a bummer, I still had three games I wanted to play, that I’d get to play. I just wouldn’t be able to share them.

I had an idea today while watching one of my stepson’s videos. Had they disabled the console’s video recording feature? If streaming was off, that should be off too, right?

Nope.

I’ll be able to record my gameplay and share it after the fact! Yay!

But, wait. Why go through the effort of turning off streaming at all? WTF, 2K?