I think, in retrospect, this might be one of the things I look back on fondly, but wonder what, really, WHAT, was I thinking? This Saturday, at 3PM Eastern time, I will be participating in a Hot Ones-inspired wing challenge, with good friends and streamers.
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.
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.
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.
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. :)