I have been running my rather haphazard Twitch Channel for over a year now. I started by wondering if I could even “do” this streaming thing. I made the mistake of looking at successful streamers’ followers and subscriber numbers and nearly frightened myself away completely. I persisted, but it has been both a rewarding and massively challenging thing for me to do. So here goes with a heart-on-sleeve look at what it’s like for me with Fibromyalgia and streaming games.
If you’ve followed me on Twitter, or found my site purely because of health-condition interest, then you may be wondering what streaming is. In short, it’s broadcasting me playing a game and interacting with viewers. It’s a way to engage with the gaming community where, for me, the chatting part is more important than the actual gaming. Though I don’t mind streaming some content, or a particular way of playing, if it helps people out there.
Streamers can broadcast on Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and maybe others. I’m on Twitch just because it felt like I could get setup and develop my audience more easily. And it’s not Google, which (to be honest) is a draw for me!
I want to start with the challenges and difficulties first. This is because I want to end this post on the positives and send you all home happy, or something!
1. Introversion and Fatigue mean Streams are Draining
So, not only do I have chronic pain, in the form of Fibromyalgia, but I’m also an introvert. A friend once defined an introvert as: someone who gets their energy from time alone rather than with others. And that’s true of me.
Fibro on its own is tiring because I’m fighting pain all the time. Streaming is a mental exertion for me (that I enjoy, I’d like to point out!). But ‘social engagements’, whether online or offline, are really draining for me. Interacting with folks in the room, however positive, leaves me very tired afterwards. I have to be careful how long I stream so that I can still practically support my family afterwards!
2. I Often Have to Cancel
I hate this bit more than anything: the need to cancel streams is real. So is the disappointment I feel when I do. If I am in too much pain, then I just can’t do the video/webcam/chat interaction thing. I’ve considered just playing and not interacting on-stream, but I have my doubts that would be well-received. If you stream this way and disagree, let me know in the comments! But it’s the interactions that help me enjoy my broadcasts.
Although my stream days are only Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, I still have to cancel. Last week (at the time of writing) I had to miss all three. Seeing me in bad pain, or having ‘pain voice’ would not be fun to watch and hear.
Thankfully my core supporters are really encouraging and understanding. Those that regularly watch my streams, I’ve started calling them my cheerleaders, not that most of them know it yet! This is because whether I stream or not, they uplift me. And my 3 Twitch Subs are from people I know are my cheerleaders. So I know they are a subscriber to support me, not because I perform well.
3. Not Earning Can Be Demoralising (if I let it)
It may come as a surprise to stream viewers, or Twitter followers, who see a high following or a busy chat room, that these do not equate to earning much. Or earning at all for that matter. As with any industry, getting a new start-up working involves a lot of effort. Streaming games is no different.
Even knowing this to be true, however, it’s hard not to envy streamers who get 40+ people in chat, have thousands of followers and hundreds of subscribers. But that would be the equivalent of me trying to get into building computers for a living and comparing myself to Microsoft or Apple.
So being honest, because I want to provide for my family, envy is a real battle for me. A battle I’m mostly winning, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. By the way, I love streaming! I’m just opening up some of my vulnerabilities.
(Not all support involves money, by the way!)
4. I Have to Push Through Pain
Sometimes regardless of pain, I just need to, or want to stream. This isn’t so much “mind over matter” as “distract my mind from matter”. So long as I don’t have ‘pain voice’ and the pain isn’t in my head, I can usually stream. But pushing through Fibromyalgia to do something I want to do is hugely challenging. But I am never out of pain, so any time I stream I have pushed through pain.
5. Streaming Means I Can’t Do Other Things That Day
Under the general rule of pacing, I cannot “do all the things”. So I should not try to blog in the morning and stream in the afternoon. I shouldn’t record a video for YouTube in the afternoon and stream in the evening. If I push through Fibromyalgia and stream, then that has to be “the thing” I do that day.
This means I am not always able to add to my blog each week. But if I have streamed two or three times, then I’ve still done something positive.
Now I’ve explained some of the challenges, I want to share how streaming despite Fibromyalgia has been a positive experience.
1. Being Able to Voice Chat Means Lower Hand Pain
Because I’m on Twitter a lot, or in-game chat, typing is usually the main method of communicating with friends and followers. All year round, but especially in Winter, my hand pain makes typing really difficult.
But being able to stream means I voice chat back to viewers in the chatroom, saving my hands as much as possible. So although I’m tired after a stream, usually my hand pain is pretty manageable. That depends on what I’ve been playing, or the kinds of content/combat I’ve been going through of course.
Being able to voice chat means people can see my facial expressions (I think that’s okay, hahaha) so it’s a richer form of communication than purely text.
2. Engaging with the Audience
For me, this is the best bit about streaming. I likely would be gaming anyway or in a game working on a blog post, so merely broadcasting me playing would not add to the enjoyment. But people coming into chat, engaging with the questlines, making me laugh and asking for help – these things make a great stream. For me at least!
And again, I want to thank my cheerleaders, my regular viewers for initiating that. Because often it is my core viewers that kick-start conversations or comments from other folks in the chatroom.
I don’t get a buzz from completing content during a stream. But I do get uplifted by how people interact with me and others during a broadcast. And it’s that which makes it worthwhile.
3. Informing Stream Viewers about Fibromyalgia
While this is not a focus or reason for me to stream, I have had the odd opportunity to share about chronic pain. Here are a couple of fairly recent examples.
No, these are not gaming gloves!
It makes me chuckle, but it does help me to use Twitch as a platform for informing others that gaming with Fibromyalgia is a challenge. But not just in the negative sense, but that my pain management methods enable me to blog and game.
Stream Growth Suggestions
A few streams ago a viewer made a fab suggestion! Well it would have been a fab suggestion to pretty much any other streamer. It wasn’t their fault, they wanted to be helpful. The suggestion was to run SWTOR Operations with viewers and stream it.
That would normally work well. If people are involved in a group’s stream, they’re likely to tell their friends about it. However, organising a group is stressful (so would put me in pain). But more important than that is that Operations (or Raids, as they are in SWTOR) are usually long, intense and challenging. Those three words do not result in a good outcome for me. As well as the hand pain covered earlier, intense and complex gaming is draining and often adds stress to my neck and shoulders.
So I was able to chat a little bit with this viewer and say that their suggestion was great, just not in my case. And to talk about Fibromyalgia on my stream is a positive thing.
3. I Usually End a Stream Shattered but Happy
Yes, streaming is very tiring. But usually I am very happy with how it has panned out. People often make me laugh during streams, either by their own merit, or in reacting humorously to something in-game.
If I’m clearly in pain, people are encouraging and uplifting. They even (shock!) encourage me to stop the stream if that’s what I need – or what my family needs. I really appreciate that kind of support, because it means people are watching who they want to see and not what they want to see. The distinction may be subtle, but in my case, it’s invaluable.
4. Streaming Games Distracts me from Fibromyalgia
Gaming is one of my main coping mechanisms with my pain levels. Usually gaming itself will help by using distraction as the main technique. But streaming is really distracting and that’s a good thing. I have to keep an eye on chat, read quest text, check my software is still broadcasting and actually do the gaming bit. So unless I have a huge pain-spike in the middle of a stream (which has happened) or my hand pain gets worse (which often happens) I can be distracted from the pain for 2-3hrs, making it totally worth it.
5. I Do Earn a Little Bit
As at the point of writing, I have three twitch (paying) subscribers so I do earn a little bit from my streams. With Fibromyalgia meaning I can’t hold down a proper job any more, any pound or dollar I get through what I do is a positive step forward. So if you’re one of those three, thank you so much! So long as I ignore other streamers’ statistics, I will continue to see this in a positive light. So thank you for your encouragement!
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TL;DR Fibromyalgia and Streaming Games – What Gives?
As an introvert with Fibromyalgia streaming games is a huge challenge. They are tiring and sometimes I have to cancel because of the level of pain I’m experiencing. As a new streamer (and one who suffers from depression) it can be difficult to maintain positivity especially if I know I’m not really earning.
But these challenges do not detract from the very positive aspects of it; voice chat eases my hand pain, people are funny and encouraging in the chat room and I can almost forget about my pain levels during a stream. So I will continue to balance my chronic pain and continue to grow my streaming. So why not follow me on Twitch and Twitter and come be part of my little community? I’d love to see you there!