Video game streamers have quickly become one of the most important needle movers in the video game industry. Big names like Amouranth, CohhCarnage, Markiplier, and Ninja have all found ways to make thousands if not millions of dollars from their unique personalities. By providing a steady stream of live content and communities willing to support their drive, millions of others have sought to follow in their footsteps. If you are one of those curious about how to start video game streaming, then you are in the right place.
Set Your Streaming Goals
As with anything in life, it is important to set goals for yourself before you REALLY get deep into the rabbit hole of video game live streaming. A common goal or dream for many is to become a full time streamer. While this may sound appealing to be able to play video games all day as a job, many popular streamers will tell you that taking that route requires quite a bit. Health (both physical and mental) become a large focus as the online gaming community has the potential to be quite toxic for some.
Regardless what you choose to streamer for, make certain that you have a board or notepad or something to write your goals down. Make certain that it is someplace you will see it on a regular basis so that when you get discouraged or sidetracked, you have it nearby to remind you what you are doing everything for.
Determine The Gear You Want/Need
The gear that you need to start streaming all depends on the quality of the stream that you wish to produce. Once you decide on whether or not you want your face to be on the stream, you’ll need to determine what your camera, your microphone, and your streaming ‘capture’ device will be.
First, determine what you will be playing your games on. Whether you are on a gaming console, a gaming PC, or even your phone, where you are playing your games will affect the gear that you want and need.
If you are only concerned with getting in at the ‘ground level’ of streaming, most modern gaming gear offers the ability to download game capture software. This software will allow you to broadcast your gaming session to their ‘platform’. Apps like Twitch.tv, Youtube Gaming, Facebook Gaming, and SteamTV are platforms where you can park your playthru’s and start building your communities.
From there, you will need to identify what camera and what microphone you will use. Most PC’s have a built-in webcam and microphone. Unfortunately, the quality is usually poor and usage of them while you stream will take up precious PC resources that will reduce the quality of the video and audio of your stream.
Companies like Elgato, Razer, Logitech, Blue Yeti, and more all provide gaming related microphones, cameras, and accessories to help you improve the video and sound quality of your streams.
Once you do so, however, you will need to get familiar with terms like bitrate, resolution, frames per second, and more. As you learn more and more about how to improve the video quality and audio quality of your stream for your viewers, you’ll quickly learn that you should not stream from the same piece of equipment that you game on. In other words, the best way to get a quality stream is to have a PC or laptop dedicated to streaming your content.
Modern consoles and PCs can pump out 4K resolution video with high frame rates for smooth animation. If you want your viewers to see what you are playing the way that you do, you will need to make a decent investment in hardware to do so. A PC with a capture card, ports for your microphone, camera (and the cables to connect it), and a processor with sufficient RAM to handle high quality streaming is necessary.
Determine Streaming Platform And Software
As stated before, gaming consoles have the ability for everyone to download Twitch.tv and stream directly from the console. Slap on a gaming headset typically used for chatting online and you have the bare bones necessities for streaming. Mind you the quality of the stream (audio sync issues, resolution or frame rate issues) will quite often be mediocre at best.
On the flipside, if you are streaming through a dedicated streaming PC (or on the PC you are gaming on), you’ll have a host of options to choose from. As a result, you’ll need to determine what platform you are streaming to as well as what game capture software you’ll be using.
Platform-wise, most gamers will be using Twitch.tv, Facebook Gaming, or Youtube Gaming. If you are playing on your PC then you’ll also have the option of streaming to the SteamTV platform. While each of these have their advantages and disadvantages, the most popular choice is Twitch.tv without question. There you will have the opportunity to develop the largest community. However, you will also have the largest opportunity to encounter difficulty starting out given there are so many other streamers on that platform.
Software-wise, there are a number of choices as well. As time goes on, there are numerous choices in this department that can be easily Google’d. The most popular amongst gaming streamers, however, are OBS, Streamlabs OBS, Elgato Game Capture, and Xsplit. Of those choices, most streamers start out with OBS given it is open source and free. While it is not always the most user-friendly, it does provide a wide variety of options that can allow you to customize the look and quality of your stream.
Time To Go Live!
Now that you’ve got all of the technology setup out of the way and you’re ready to press the ‘Go Live’ button, there are a few things to always keep in mind:
- Always keep the chat visible
The number one reason to stream is to build a community of fans. While you do not need to respond to EVERY person that comments in your chat as you stream, it will be necessary to interact with some if not most of them. Building a community is hard and ignoring your chat is a sure-fire way to make the process harder.
If you are not comfortable interacting with chat, at least chat with another friend that you are gaming with online. The key is to try not to have too much silence when you stream. Talk to yourself. Talk to your friends. Talk to your pets. Whatever you do, just don’t play the game in silence. Probably the only exception to this tip is if you are trying to stream competitive gameplay. Streaming the skill of your gameplay is probably the one area where viewers would be accepting of a streamer not interacting.
- Self Promote BEFORE you stream
Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned vet, self promotion is key. You will need to optimize your time by telling people you are about to stream and WHAT you are streaming. Catchy titles for you stream will help, but sending out posts and tweets on your social media timeline are an excellent way to gain viewers.
- Test You Stream Quality Before You Go Live
Streaming gets harder and harder the more technology you involve in the process. Software constantly gets updated. When that happens, default settings are often reset which can ruin a stream. Nothing is worse than going live and streaming for a few hours only to realize the audio is muted or the video quality is too poor to watch.
To test your stream you should set everything up as usual and go live for only a few seconds. Pull up your stream (like a guest viewer would) by using your phone, tablet, or another PC. There you will be able to see whether the sound is working and the quality of the video. If everything looks good, close down the stream and go live for real. If everything is messed up, you at least have the opportunity to fix things before your real (or imagined) community shows up.
- HAVE FUN
Once you are streaming, it is often easily forgotten that viewers are watching streamers for one thing... entertainment. With that said, if you are too nervous or too tired or frustrated, the viewers are going to see it. Like they say, the energy you give is often the energy that you’ll receive. As a result, make certain that you are playing games that you enjoy and interacting with chat in a way that is fun for you. Streaming isn’t a job until you make it one!
Network And Get Involved
One of the best things about streaming as a hobby is that there plenty of groups and other communities for you to join and be a part of. Since there are so many people trying to make streaming their side hustle, there's a ton of people sharing tips and advice on how to build your own community.
As you get going, finding other friendly or like-minded streamers is a good idea. You can set up co-streams with them where you both play a game together. You can also find an Esports team or another gaming group looking for streamers to fill out their stream team. However you choose, there are plenty of ways to network with other video game streamers.
Of course, one of the biggest rules is that if you are going to build a community, you will need to find clever ways to interact with them. Once you have a little group of followers, maybe consider setting up a Discord channel for them to chat with you and each other. Many successful streamers also find ways to interact with creative twitter posts, funny Tiktoks, gameplay clips from recent streams, and so much more.
In the end, streaming winds up being another form of content creation. As your journey as a streamer begins, you'll always find that there's a ton of opportunities for those who consistently create and consistently evolve!