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Streaming isn’t a light career to pursue, especially if you plan to devote most of your time and become a full-time streamer. Sitting there playing your favorite games while entertaining your viewers isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Through esports competitions and streaming platforms like Twitch, watching people play games has turned into a billion-dollar industry.
But unknown to many, there is a dark side to streaming— which a lot of people refer to as the “streamer burn-out syndrome”. Launching a streaming career provides gaming enthusiasts and viewers a sustained source of entertainment but on many streaming platforms, streamers are working with a staff of one.
Games became more pervasive and complex, prompting streamers to spend more and more time playing them. This led to a struggle in finding work-life balance. A moral panic then arose: can streaming games actually be harmful at some point?
Many aspiring streamers believe they can easily earn money by playing their favorite games. This isn’t exactly impossible, especially if you’re an outstanding player and considerably lucky enough to be viral online sensation. However, cases of making it a big-shot in such a short time are rare.
In most cases, streamers work hard every day. They push beyond physical and emotional limits to continue providing content to their followers and viewers. Accordingly, this prompts them to become weary and burn-out from what they do.
They struggle to find a work-life balance for a job that they can technically never stop doing. As a result, playing their favorite games and entertaining viewers becomes more of a chore than an activity they’d willingly do whenever granted the time.
There’s a dark side to streaming that remains to be unspoken. This phenomenon we’ll refer to as the “streamer burn-out syndrome” brings some mental and emotional side effects to streaming.
Full-time streamers commonly pull all-nighter marathon streams to draw attention to their channels. While starting out, anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation all stemmed from their growing fear that fans would forget about their channel as soon as it went off-line.
A lot of streamers see it as the nature of the job, a thin fine line between vanity and fear. When left unsupervised, this can lead to a decline in one’s mental and emotional well-being.
Little Siha, known for streaming the game “Just Dance” on Twitch, opened up about how mentally exhausting streaming as a career can be.
It took a toll on all her relationships, after working hard for her 8 hours stream starting from the crack of dawn. She lived with her boyfriend at some point of her streaming career but she never saw him. She also saw her friends only once every few months because she was so focused on making streaming her primary bread and butter.
Losing a number of subscribers when taking just one day off can also be mentally taxing, especially with the way she beats herself up for it. It made her want to stream constantly, so her channel can only go upwards. Any free time she has goes towards fixing and improving her streams.
Regardless of how stressful it gets, she is still adamant that she truly loves what she does.
Some of the common physical dilemma streamers face include headache, dizziness, vision problems, fatigue, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back pain.
Gaming all day sounds pretty undemanding. However, unlike usual day jobs, streamers can’t turn to the person to their left and ask how much overtime they’re clocking to get the job done. In the online world, overtime isn’t a real concept.
Little Siha was already working 50 hours a week as a customer service representative for an internet service provider when she first started streaming. Working on her stream added 25 extra hours of labor per week, but she remained steadfast on breaking in the industry.
Dancing on stream before rushing to her day job took a toll on her body. In keeping up with the euphoric stream, which is bright and full of energy in all parts, she dances much more than she did before. As a result, her body is almost constantly sore.
Another Twitch streamer, Ben “ProfessorBroman” Bowman, also spoke about his demanding, ‘always online’ lifestyle.
Within the 168 hours of each week, he was expected to be live for as many of them as possible since he was branded as a full-time streamer. To grow his channel, he often pulled 12 to 16 hours of stream seven days a week. He did this consistently for two years.
Most notably, he didn’t believe he earns the right to take a day off until his follower count hit 400,000.
Jason Maestas, Twitch’s senior director of Community and Education, spoke about how professional creators can be likened to bootstrapped entertainment startups.
The pressure on creators is enormous and the job is not an easy one – no matter the platform of choice. The grit it takes to succeed is admirable.
Cases of Burned-out Streamers
Twitch Partner BingeHD shared his thoughts over this “fatigue” problem experienced by lots of other streamers.
He started streaming in 2011 before getting accepted as a partner in 2014. The reason why he feels burned out from streaming, he explains, is how he doesn’t have time to work for breadcrumbs in terms of income.
If you have a large and very active following on Twitch, generating revenue off your content may be a piece of cake. However, if you’re a small and growing channel like BingeHD, it might be difficult for you to rely on streaming as your primary source of profit.
He currently has 23k followers, which is enough to make it as an official Twitch partner but arguably not enough for his streams to generate a lot of revenue.
Another reason he pointed out is how his region’s viewers (Taiwan) has left Twitch for other platforms. Although Twitch is the dominating streaming platform of choice for many people— it is important to keep in mind that your options doesn’t stop there. In fact, there are other platforms you might want to check out.
Personally, he felt really annoyed with himself that he’d let his viewers down. They supported him along the way, but then he suddenly lost the will to stream. More than that, he lost the need to play the games he used to love.
The gaming side turned out to be a chore to him. Playing too much and streaming for long hours led to the burn out he experienced at some point.
Reflecting on his personal experience, he advises aspiring streamers not to overdo it and take breaks whenever they need one.
It’s also important to be thankful for the good moments you share with your viewers everytime you go live. Making new friends, reaching milestones, and laughing with them are underrated experiences one must not take for granted.
How to avoid it
Twitch streamer Catberry has some words of wisdom for aspiring streamers who want to make it big in the industry.
First, you must sort out for yourself the reason why you stream. Either it can be for generating revenue, making new friends, or just spending fun time with players who are into the same games as you.
Shift your mindset from hitting this target viewer count and money making to “I feel comfortable playing this game and I love the people I play with.”
She also emphasizes the importance of picking a game you really want to play. While you might need a break from time to time, there’s nothing quite like playing hour after hour a game you enjoy playing.
Changing one’s mindset about streaming paves a long way. Of course, there will always be down times – but it’s important to find a community that understands you’re only human too.
Another streamer, InquisitorKane, also shared his thoughts about how streamers can deal with this notorious “burnout syndrome”.
For one, he suggests you must pay attention to your physical needs first. This includes getting enough rest and most importantly— help.
You can also take a break, or do something different when you feel better. Sometimes it also pays if you have a serious talk with yourself. Determine if streaming is worth risking your state of mind.
You can get a regular job and play games as a hobby, or stream long-term and generate revenue off it. Regardless of whether you quit or find new vigor, both paths are correct.
He suggests talking to a psychologist in case things get beyond your own control. There are great ways you can try to get back on track.
Overnight success isn’t impossible, but it is rare. You can’t just rely on your lucky stars to make you a Twitch superstar ASAP. Some streamers push themselves everyday regardless of feeling demotivated and stuck in their stagnant follower count, believing in themselves that one day they’ll make it.
Whenever you feel lost, demotivated, or confused as to why you’re working so hard on your streams without observing any direct results— take a break. You should prioritize yourself first. Take good care of yourself and your well-being. This will help you become an effective streamer who can start from the bottom all the way to the top.
Remember: in this digital world, nothing is truly impossible.