Streaming for the Soul

Design by Jared Dobro

Most nights during the week I sit down at my desk, turn off every light except for my lamp, get a glass of water, put on my pink kitty ear headset, and stream myself playing video games on Twitch. Back in 2019, I did not allow myself to spend money on consoles or games. I get extremely anxious when spending large amounts of money, telling myself that I should be saving to pay off college, or that there is a more important cause for it to go to. Even though I found so much entertainment in playing the games my close friend’s own on their consoles, I thought it wouldn’t be beneficial for me to own my own.

At the beginning of 2020, I was depressed. My friend had just passed away, and I needed a distraction. This is when I decided to impulsively drive to Target, pick up a Nintendo Switch and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, and let myself not focus on my grief.

My Switch was my saving grace in my time of mourning. Being able to distract myself with something I could enjoy was priceless. Being able to find something I could enjoy made intrusive thoughts a lot easier to deal with. However, it was not until the pandemic that I really told myself it is okay to put something off and just play a video game. It is almost a required part of my daily routine so that I do not think about all the possibilities of things that could happen in the coming months. I could either be in the world of Star Wars defending the galaxy with a lightsaber, or alone in my bed thinking about not knowing when I will get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Until recently I thought video games weren’t for me. I did not see gay men represented in any media having to do with gaming. I honestly feel like I relate to gamer girls a lot in that sense where everything is advertised to masculine-presenting men. Even the people I saw around me that enjoy video games appear to fit the masculine archetype. The people I was friends with, and the people I originally watched online doing “let’s plays”, were all straight white men. Even though I don’t typically think of myself as having a “feminine aesthetic” (even though I do feel like I fit some gay stereotypes), I really found myself not seeing a community for me in the people I was seeing.

That changed when I started exploring Twitch more. @justsaynotojoe was the first LGBT+ Twitch streamer I really started watching. The most amazing part of these streamers I started following (@tayplaysgaymes, @jackconnorz, @michaelgoku) was that they all encouraged viewers to be themselves and made them feel loved in their communities. Being a part of these Twitch streams did not make me feel like an outsider looking into a fun world for straight people, it made me feel like these games were designed for us.

One game that is common among LGBT+ viewers currently is Dead by Daylight. The game surrounds four survivors against one killer, with the survivors having to complete objectives in order to escape before the killer murders them. You can find characters from Scream, Silent Hill, Stranger Things, Halloween, original characters in Dead by Daylight. I do not think any of the characters in this game are LGBT+, but queer people still flock to this game. Whether it is because it is just a fun game, or as @justsaynotojoe says to Wired for an article entitled “The Queer Appeal of Dead by Daylight”: “You’re rooting for that final girl, especially. Gays love a strong female character surviving at the end.” This game put me into communities I love.

It might’ve been my inner communications major that wanted to start streaming. I loved putting myself out there with my podcast Bops that Slap for Passion Project, and I just felt an urge to put myself out there on Twitch as well. I started with a lot of different cables and a horrible setup involving my laptop, boxes, and a hope that things would not fall over. My love for video games and streaming kept growing. I eventually built my own computer, and met more people through my love of games. I currently have 160 followers on the platform, which is a lot more than I expected to have when I started.

I find myself really coming into my own on stream. Even though I definitely put out a slightly more extroverted persona, the person I am on my stream is still very much me. While I often feel shy meeting large groups of people, when I am on stream I am able to foster the same community on my channel that I admire a lot in others. I am able to be who I want, wearing my pink kitten ears with pride (and hopefully I will be able to make the rest of my setup cute and colorful as well).

Since beginning my twitch channel, my only goals have been to have fun and be able to meet people. I really think I am starting to achieve that. I am not only making connections across the country, though. I am also reconnecting with people I was close with in high school, solidifying friendships with people who I have always wanted to be friends with, and building a community I like to have fun with.

Twitch Channel: thejaysoars

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