I want to tell you about my friend George.
George and I have worked at the same company for nearly three decades and we have both been serious gamers for most of that time. Back in the old days of floppy disc games, we would trade games (or copies of them...oops, hope the NSA didn't catch that one), so that gives you an idea how far back we go. I remember asking him if The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was a "good" game to get. This was, after all, the pre-Internet days so there wasn't a lot of available information. Nerds have to stick together.
While we stayed in the same corporate entity, we had different task masters and our departments moved from building corner to building corner. If we saw each other in the halls or the dreaded cafeteria (seriously, the food there can kill you!), we'd catch up on our latest game played. PlayStation, N64, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PS3, 360, Wii, PS4, and, of course, many generations of PC's. We never got around to actually playing together, in the same room or online, even though we mentioned it every so often and agreed it was a great idea.
George's favorite genre of games was always RPG's. He used to tell me it was the old Infocom games that got him hooked...and I'd tell him how I hated them after my experience with Zork. ("echo" my ass!) My background was as a table-top gamer, a wargamer, so I tended more toward the strategy games at first, then the more action oriented ones later. But George would spend hour after hour, usually late into the night, slaying dragons and saving damsels, from the days of the first D&D computer games, right up to the graphical splendor of Skyrim. I always admired his ability to stay with these marathon adventures. I was more like a hamster on crack - if a game didn't show me blood, bullets, or boobs (okay, those games are rare) in the first 15 minutes, I was looking for something new. (Honestly, car games and flight sims worked for me too.)
Lately, we've been working in the same department again and have had more opportunities to share what we've been playing. No surprise that he's gotten deeply into things like Pillars of Eternity, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and The Witcher 3 this year, while I've been bouncing between short experience like The Order: 1886, Journey (I know, again), and the inevitable comfort food feeling of Doom. What can I say, they named the Short Attention Span Theater after me!
I've tried to get George to try streaming, but even though I helped setup everything on his PC to do it, he never felt that anything he was playing was something people would want to watch. He always thought that people either wanted to watch brand new games or women showing lots of cleavage...or both. I had to admit he was probably right.
Anyway, there was this new game coming out, The Beginner's Guide, made by the same guy who did The Stanley Parable. Nobody really knew much about it since it was announced just a couple of days before it went on sale. So, I decided to buy it for him as a friendly gift and "gently" suggested he use it as an entry into the world of streaming. After all, it was a new game that a lot of gamers would want to see. I couldn't help with the cleavage part, but whatever.
Sure enough, shortly after starting his "First time, blind playthrough" of The Beginner's Guide, George had over two dozen viewers! He plugged in his microphone and was talking to the people as they chatted in the text window. I could tell he was having a really good time! He even turned on his webcam toward the end of the game, something he told me he would never even consider in the unlikely event that I could ever get him to stream! When he signed off after two full playthroughs (it's a short game), he had almost 40 followers. He was a natural - funny, engaging, and, with his Tron baseball cap, already making a trademark image for himself. I have to admit to feeling a little bit jealous that my friend was such an instant success. On the other hand, I had been the one to give him his start. I sort of felt like a talent scout that had discovered a new pop star, standing just off-stage listening to the crowd applaud.
The next morning at work, I stopped at this cubicle and congratulated him on his success. He was a little taken aback by how much he had gotten into the whole streaming thing, watching the archived footage and thinking, "Was that really me?" I told him it was indeed and reminded him of one of the cardinal rules of streaming - pick a schedule and stick to it! He agreed and said that 7 pm would be a good time for him maybe every Friday. "Only once a week? Why not more?", I said. George thought about it and decided that, yeah, he could probably do Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. "Sounds good!", I said. Wouldn't want my star to fade too quickly, right?
So George started streaming, deciding to go back to his favorite RPG's...and that's when things sort of went south. The games he played were "old" by streaming standards, but not popular ones like the MOBA's or CS:GO's. His followers dropped away. When people did watch, they made comments like, "How old is this guy?", "How old is this game?", "Why don't you get a better sword than that piece of crap?". and, of course, "noob!" George wasn't used to this kind of intrusion into his otherwise private gaming world. He stopped using the webcam, then the microphone, and finally quit broadcasting altogether. When I tried to talk to him at work, he either wasn't at his desk, or said he had to go to a meeting. The last time I checked his Steam profile, it showed his last played games as Diner Dash, Pinball FX2, and a few hidden object titles. Pure casual fluff!
I hope that George reads this post and remembers how much fun he had fighting dragons and demons in those great RPG's. He needs to know that he can game without being criticized, that he shouldn't feel guilty about being what he is - an old fashioned video gamer. My biggest fear is that he'll just pickup an iPad and that will be the last I'll see of him. From Pools of Radiance to Angry Birds. The thought just sickens me.
Well, time for me to sign off here. It's nearly 7pm, I need to find my Tron cap, and get OBS up and running. I'm thinking of doing The Walking Dead pinball table tonight. Folks should dig that, right?