There was no September. No, that's not it. There was very little of note happening in September. No, that's still not it. I think I may have forgotten how to do this, how to get the ball rolling. There used to be a time where I could just sit here, in the quiet dark of the morning, and pour my heart out. Maybe it's empty. Maybe there's nothing left to pour.
No. That's definitely not it.
I think I realized what it is that I truly despise about this post-text apocalypse we're all headed for on social media: it's these motherfuckers out here just making up arguments. First off, I shouldn't be reading social media posts. I figured that out a while ago. I should be reading books. Words that people put real thought and research into. Truth. Instead, I still find myself scrolling the infinite bonfire of hearsay and self-promotion that is Twitter. It's like I'm addicted to disaster. I need to watch the bodies piling up, see the mortality rates rocket sky-high. It's gross, and I feel ashamed every time I come away from it.
At the end of August 2020 I felt the need to socially unburden myself. I took a look out over the virtual garden that I'd been cultivating since 2008 across platforms like Steam, Origin, UPlay, the various consoles, most recently Discord, and I was shocked to see the flowerbeds choked with weeds. People I hadn't spoken to in ages, random contacts from 1-night gaming stands, former game industry contacts, and many more. I realized I couldn't do what I did with Facebook and Instagram, and just wholesale delete the platforms, but I could mass dump the contacts and see what happened. I don't have the exact numbers, but I know that Steam had something like 300. Folks I'd collected like Pokémon, stored in the Pokédex and never called upon again. What was the point of even maintaining those connections? I wanted to see how many would notice my absence.
It's now been more than a year, and a grand total of one person out of hundreds has cared enough to reach out. I find this fascinating more than anything else, how truly meaningless a name in a digital Rolodex can be. With the gaming platforms the slicing and dicing of the contacts was logically warranted. After all, I hadn't played a single multiplayer game with most of the people who'd connected there for the sole purpose of gaming in the first place! The ones that I had played with had only been there for a given game during the peak of its popularity, and once the shared interest in the game ended, so had any social communication. It got me thinking that maybe the best way to go about playing these new online games was to simply go into random lobbies and never try to foster anything beyond that. Or even better, abandon multiplayer altogether and focus on single-player experiences.
Discord was by far the weirdest, as it had the most accessible history of messaging with Friends. There were some threads in there going back five years, back to the start of the app's life, where I'd exchanged a few words with someone and then had dead silence ever since. More than a few of those threads were "ghosts", where I'd been the last one to ask a question and never gotten a response. It's worth noting, too, that as of a few months ago Discord still had no usable function to mass-delete messages or threads.
Is this just the nature of human communication in the digital age? Have we become disposable, transient in our connections? So many of us are out here chasing clout and audience, and people turn into stacks of poker chips that we use to gamble for social credit. And maybe that in itself is justification for an even tighter curation of who we establish relationships with. A return to form, if you will, of the respect and courage necessary to forge interpersonal bonds that can stand the test of time.
Either way, I've cashed in all my chips and walked away from the table.
2:30 - Gym. Walking, running, weight training, stretching.
4:30 - Shower, shave, nap.
5:30 - Five meatballs and a cup of honeyed ginger tea.
7:00 - Video games, write, or read.
8:00 - One hard-boiled egg with a tablespoon of mayonnaise.
9:00 - Deep tissue massage.
10:30 - Another protein shake, this time mixed from milk, yogurt, and a cup of frozen pineapple.
11:00 - Video games, write, or read.
1 PM - Nap.
2:00 - Chicken breasts with soup (typically tomato).
3:00 - Video games, write, or read.
5:00 - Mixed nuts, microwave popcorn, or a repeat/leftovers of any of the previous meals.
5:30 - Video games, write, or read.
7:00 - Cottage cheese.
7:30 - Bed.
I've reached the point where I'd rather play video games by myself, than livestream the experience. There's a certain kind of energy expenditure that goes into producing a livestream. Even one of those "muted" streams I've been doing. Turning the microphone off and away from my face still isn't enough to disentangle the act from the pleasure. That's really what it boils down to now: the pleasure inherent in experiencing a video game is somewhat and somehow tainted by the act of doing it live on the Internet.
Disentanglement. I think maybe this is the next stage in whatever this process of simplification has been. This streamlining of my day-to-day. This stripping down to the bare essence of things. I think it's all channeling me back into form so I can sit down and do some serious writing. That's not to say that "writing a great novel" is incompatible with "livestreaming video games". Those two acts may actually be possible for a good number of people. But for myself, I'm starting to believe that I'm not one of those people.
Nothing of value will be lost in cutting back on or cutting out the livestreaming. I've only got a handful of subscribers left anyway. I think the time has come to try and leverage my talents elsewhere. Then, perhaps in some future, I could return and gather some passive income while indulging in my first love: the love of gaming.
Time will tell.
I'm aware that the last entry had a fatalistic tone. At the time, I intended to quit livestreaming altogether. At least for the time being. But I had an idea... one last minor alteration that I could make to the process. I'd already stripped off the narcissistic face cam, deleted the schedule, gotten rid of the overblown overlays, killed the annoying and intrusive alerts, and removed the start/end stream bloat. There was only one thing left to do.
I had to murder chat.
It's been a week now, and what a glorious week it's been. Viewership is actually up, if you can believe it. Sure, I've lost a few followers. That's to be expected. But I have this theory that the majority of livestream viewership is passive anyway. The lurkers. The ones who are only there to listen and/or watch. It's provable: from enormously popular channels down to long-time streamers who've never cracked more than 50-200 concurrent viewers, the vast majority of views come from folks who can't be bothered to even emote in the chat. I know one broadcaster who blew a whole month of their life on a subscription drive. At the end of it they improved their concurrent viewership from 100-150 up to 200+, but if you go and look at the VODs there's like six people chatting during the entirety of their eight- to ten-hour broadcasts. So, in essence, the broadcaster spends a fair amount of mental bandwidth directly servicing a handful of people. To me, that's just a waste of energy.
I've always felt that dealing with the randomness of an open chat has been a major pain point. A lot of the time it's been people who are there to try and tell me how to play a game, ask to join a multiplayer session, or just outright troll. Many times it's been people who see livestreamers as some kind of mental health therapist. Playing that role is damn exhausting, because you want to keep people happy, but meanwhile you're letting someone dump their baggage into a public space. And then there's the lonely folks out there just looking for some companionship. And don't get me started on the other livestreamers who show up, desperately looking to indirectly promote their own streams. That shit's just depressing.
Regardless of who the people are, and their myriad problems, maintaining a push for "community" was draining my will to stream. But some part of me still wanted to go on presenting my video game habits to the world. So it was only logical that I excised the verbal part of the community from the equation. What's resulted has amounted to live broadcast "let's play", with some podcast-like commentary thrown in here and there. And I've never felt better about streaming.
The chat is still an open function. People can come in and type whatever the Level 4 Automod lets them. I just won't see it. This means I can play whatever video game I want, list it publicly on the Twitch directory, and never fear for a spoiler. I have to trust the technology to catch the trolls, but what does it matter? Traffic is so low right now it's a non-issue. If it ever becomes an issue, I guess someone will let me know offline and I'll deal with it. Until then, silence is golden and ignorance is bliss.
If you want to know when I go live, make sure you follow the channel and turn your notifications on. The VODs stay live for 60 days, so you've got plenty of time to catch a missed show.