One of the hardest parts of maintaining a Twitch channel is deciding on games to stream. There are so many factors to consider: the sort of titles your audience likes, the releases which are popular with viewers right now and what you actually want to play.
My other-half and I have been streaming together for around five years now and, if you disregard the audio issues which seem to plague every new streamer at the beginning of their journey, I’d say that choosing the right games has been the biggest difficulty for us. Participating in GameBlast marathon streams for SpecialEffect has given us the perfect opportunity to gain some experience though and our 50-day challenge for the event earlier this year was an interesting learning curve.
Our goal was to stream every day for at least an hour from 05 January to 23 February 2020, to raise funds and awareness for this awesome charity. That meant an awful lot of planning and having to decide which releases would be featured in our extended schedule. After 50 days, over 136 hours of streaming and more than 40 games, we met our objective and managed to raise £600 for SpecialEffect – and came to the realisation that some titles were far better for being played live on Twitch than others.
The most popular session during our challenge turned out to be the evening we spent with Detroit: Become Human. Some of the friends who joined us in chat had already completed it themselves and wanted to see how my story would differ from their own; while those who hadn’t tried it yet were eager to join in by giving their opinions when it came to making choices for the characters. It helped that the plot inspired some pretty strong emotions and those displayed on stream were all genuine reactions (sorry for the swearing).
The choice element could explain why Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure proved to be successful too. A tabletop-RPG title like this – which relies heavily imagination because it doesn’t show the action – really shouldn’t work but allowing the audience to get involved by making taking turns to make decisions enhanced their participation in the stream. The fact that this got our character killed several times during the session made it more hilarious and it was a fun, shared experience with friends.
These shared games result in some of the more memorable streams and Contradiction: Spot the Liar! provided one such session. Viewers joined in with this full-motion video (FMV) title by helping us figure out the location that should be investigated next, which non-player characters (NPCs) shouldn’t be trusted and ultimately who the murderer was. There was also plenty of discussion around the actors involved and how good their performances were; we all fell in love with protagonist Detective Jenks and his expressive eyebrows, played by Rupert Booth.
Moving away from narrative-based releases for a moment, we’ve found that games based around levels or quests also work well for us on Twitch. Taking a break between each section gives you the chance to talk to friends who have joined you in chat, stretch your legs or grab a cup of tea and sneaky biscuit. A good example is Neon Drive: it’s not the sort of thing we’d usually play but it was well-received during our 50-day challenge, with Pete and I swapping the controller between levels so we were both fully involved.
Diablo III is another title made for streaming because you can stop between battles without losing track of the gameplay – but be prepared to receive advice from viewers who are more experienced at it than you. It was a game we started just for fun but then stopped when we realised we were frustrating some of our audience by not playing it ‘seriously’ enough. We’ve had similar experiences with multiplayers such as The Elder Scrolls Online and Sea of Thieves, where people have popped up in chat to tell us how to play ‘properly’.
I love story-based games but, as much those mentioned above have been successful, they don’t always work well on Twitch. The final episode of Kentucky Route Zero was released during the 50-day challenge and I’d been waiting for a long time to play it but it was just far too slow for the stream. I also made the mistake of choosing to play Ether One at 04:00 in the morning during a previous GameBlast marathon: it’s a great game but there was a real danger of me falling asleep because there wasn’t enough action to keep me awake.
Perhaps the worst titles you can choose to play though are those you’re not enjoying. Streaming is meant to be fun and there’s nothing worse than having to sit game which makes it feel like a chore; it’s not fun for you and it certainly isn’t fun for your audience. My least favourite session during our charity streams this year was the evening with Felix the Reaper because the controls were horrible and I just couldn’t get to grips with them. So we made the best decision we could: turn it off and start playing Grand Theft Auto: V at our viewers’ request instead.
So you see, choosing games to feature on your Twitch channel can be a bit of a minefield, but there’s a bit of advice I can give you which will solve all your problems. Forget about playing releases which are popular or cool because chasing followers isn’t going to get you anywhere fast. Instead, focus on playing something you’re actually going to enjoy. Some of the best streams I’ve watched are those where the streamer is genuinely excited about a new game or are playing something older and are willing to share their experience with it.
This is definitely something Pete and I will keep in mind when we return to streaming later this month after taking a break. In the past, we’ve spent far too long stressing over which games are suitable for the Later Level channel and have even made the mistake of choosing things which seem like a good fit over our own enjoyment. From now on, we’re going to stream when we’re feeling motivated to do so – and we’re going to play titles which we’re truly looking forward to getting stuck into.
Hopefully, if we’re having fun, then our friends in chat will too.