Beginner’s guide to video game streaming

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Video game streaming has exploded in popularity over the last decade, with the industry almost doubling in size in 2020 so far.

Dominant platform Twitch has proven tough to topple from its perch, with the closing of rival services demonstrating its resilience. It is not just audiences that are growing, as the number of people participating on the caster’s side of the equation is also on the rise.

For any novices who are looking to bring themselves up to speed with all that this pastime has to offer, here is an introduction to the wonderful and often weird world of video game streaming.

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The Games

Although streaming is arguably a personality-led arm of the entertainment industry, there is no denying that many of its stars first gained attention for the games they played.

Unsurprisingly the titles with the biggest player bases also tend to have the largest viewerships on Twitch. League of Legends, Fortnite, Dota 2, and Call of Duty all appear regularly in the top 5 most-watched games, while other staples such as GTA V, World of Warcraft, and Hearthstone enjoy peaks and troughs of interest as new content arrives.

Of course, there are hundreds of other games being played by streamers at any one time, covering everything from people puzzling their way through indie darlings like Supraland to playing at a casino online to showcase their poker skills. The ‘Just Chatting’ category is also hugely popular, allowing viewers to see their favorite streamers kick back and chew the fat without having their hands wrapped around a controller.

The Stars

Understanding the cultural impact of game streaming on the younger generations that are lapping it up in their droves is easier when you consider the huge followings and impressive incomes of the biggest personalities.

Fortnite pro player Ninja, for example, earns over half a million dollars a month and has inked multi-million dollar deals with streaming platforms and sponsors alike. Furthermore, it is not just the top streamers who can make a career out of playing games in front of a live audience; there is room for lower profile personalities to earn a comfortable living with the subscriptions of just a few hundred dedicated fans, in combination with support garnered via services like Patreon.

The Setup

Dipping your toe into the world of video game streaming as a viewer is straightforward. Head to Twitch or YouTube, see what channels are live and click through to see what it is all about. To actually begin your journey as an amateur streamer, you will need to deal with a few more complexities.

First, there is the hardware. While you do not need a monster PC to stream effectively, it will definitely help to have a decent amount of horsepower under the hood of your computer.

You will also need a webcam if you want to include a live feed of your face while you play, as well as a headset and microphone so viewers can hear your witty repartee. Investing in a studio light to illuminate your features is a good idea, although this purchase can be deferred until you are sure that streaming is the hobby for you.

From a software perspective, there are a few options to consider. OBS Studio is perhaps the best of the bunch for beginners, as it is free to download and use and comes with a host of tools. You will need to spend some time tweaking your stream setup, adding games so that they are displayed correctly, and linking your Twitch account to the streaming software for seamless broadcasting.

The Tactics

Once you have found your feet from a technical perspective, you will be able to start streaming and hopefully connect with the community of viewers. Using your social media presence to let people know that you are going live is a good move if you want to gain momentum early on.

From the outside, video game streaming can seem like a strange thing to do, yet it has proven to be compelling for viewers and lucrative for those who are lucky enough to go pro. Now you know a little more about it, perhaps the time is right to check it out for yourself?

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