Chris Schmidt (crschmidt) wrote,
Chris Schmidt

Non-captive Audience Storytelling

On Thursday, I spent most of my therapy session talking about what I get out of broadcasting a gaming livestream on YouTube gaming.

I mentioned this to someone and they were like "Wait, are you making a joke?" and I was like no, seriously! I did! What is it about running a livestream with a half dozen or a dozen people watching that I find more entertaining? Why is this something that matters to me? What am I getting out of this that I am not getting out of other aspects of my life?

The answer is probably complicated, as with all questions that are brought up in therapy, but one of the things that came to the top of my mind: I get to tell stories to a non-captive audience who hasn't heard all of my stories.

I love telling stories. (Well, really, I mostly probably love to hear myself talk, but they're largely overlapping.) I have a fair number of stories. In fact, I have enough stories that I often forget which story I'm telling halfway through a story and start telling another story. I have enough stories that in order to remember the stories, I am now creating an anecdote tracking spreadsheet to remind myself of the stories. (While writing this paragraph, I remembered two more of my stories: the Botswanan prostitute in South Africa, and the German one in Berlin. These are brief enough that they are often told together, though sometimes I go from the Botswanan prostitute to the South African casino to the cheetah in Kruger National Park.)

But in most environments, telling stories has a social cost: I have to determine whether people are interested in my story, and I have a hard time figuring out when to shut up and listen, or how to notice that people aren't interested. For example: I can literally talk about copyright and Content ID for hours; I did it for 1.5 hours with a small engaged audience just a few days ago, and I think the people involved learned something. But having the same conversation in a different audience would have worked poorly; most people don't give two craps about copyright. (Writing that sentence, I thought of another anecdote to add to the anecdote tracker.) And figuring out how to shut up before people get cranky is hard for me, and always has been; at my previous job, it was actually a significant problem for me in the work environment.

So, what's a guy to do in the case where he can't accurately figure out how to tell stories to a captive audience without boring them to tears? The answer is simple: Make the cost of leaving the conversation socially trivial: In streaming video game playing -- especially on YouTube -- *there is no obligation to stay*. No one has to watch me; if they want to, they can, but otherwise, they can close their browser, and I will never know.

Yet even when I'm playing ancient games that most of my audience has never heard of -- whether it's wandering through the Great Underground Empire in Zork, collecting the Oracles in Commander Keen, or destroying Robotnik in Sonic -- I still maintain an audience, who talks with me and enjoys my stories.

This is not actually a lot different from what creates the "vlogging" movement: these are people who have stories to tell, and didn't have another audience, and chose to tell these stories to the internet -- where sometimes, people really enjoy their stories! This is not much different than LiveJournal was for many of us for many years. (It is a difference from IRC channels: because most people didn't have personal IRC channels for themselves, you had a somewhat captive audience; monopolizing them is generally inappropriate.)

With broadcasting game play, I have:

- A source of interesting content built in no matter what.
- A somewhat engaged, non-captive audience
- The ability to tell my stories to people who haven't heard them before.

And that's cool.

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