A reflection on the weirdest year of my life streaming and learning to live.
Roughly one year ago in September I decided to quit streaming on Twitch (my full-time income), no longer make content on YouTube, reduce my social media usage dramatically, and abandon a community I had grown to love, for the sake of my own mental state.
The weirdest year of my life began at the start of 2019. I was working part-time at a local bookshop. I was overweight, mentally exhausted, and still fantasising about a dream that 14 year old Scott had spawned ever since he began watching TotalBiscuit show him cool shit in the World of Warcraft Cataclysm beta (Rest Well). I dreamed of being a content creator. I dreamed of waking up everyday, doing absolutely nothing but playing video-games, talking to a computer screen where nobody could find me, and getting paid for it.
I had grown up to suffer pretty hard with some mental troubles, these were all because I neglected myself, internalising emotions that needed space to breath, air out, and move on with a fresh new purpose. I had never explained to any close friends that the reasons I was struggling to meet up with them on a regular basis, were because I was constantly fighting a battle inside my own head. This battle was about whether I deserved to have those friends and the bottomless love of my family, and at one point whether I deserved to live. Eventually I decided I probably did.
When I think back to the guy I had become at the start of 2019, all I really needed to do was give myself a break, allow myself a little bit of love, and use that to grow. I inflicted a lot of self-deprecation; a hatred towards my appearance, towards my level of intelligence and my inability to maintain friendships.
As a quick note: if you feel anything similar to this, speak to a specialist, don't speak to a streamer.
Battle for Azeroth had released. I hated it.
World of Warcraft is a game I've played ever since I was 10 years old. It has grown up with me my entire life, the state of the game has often impacted my own personal mood and my level of love and respect for that title holds no bounds. However, I had made the decision after an angry stream of ranting at Blizzard that I would try Final Fantasy XIV. This was where everything went supersonic.
My first stream of the game I hit a higher viewer count than I had ever seen: 30 people. It was unreal to me that so many would be interested in seeing me play through a title, I decided to name my streams with the words "WOW REFUGEE" and went hard on enjoying the narrative experience. I had spoken with a close friend from WoW about the best ways to attract people into a stream, we both came to the conclusion that drawing on my extensive MMORPG experience, as a filler during boring content like travelling between quests, would allow for an engaging environment coupled with reactions. Everybody on Twitch likes a Reaction Andy, if you can make the Pog face, you can react. It also helps if you throw in the phrases "There it is dude" and "Yo, lets fucking go".
A few weeks in my journey and each stream gaining viewership, I decided to write a "thank you" post on the FFXIV Reddit page which gained huge traction. I explained that I was in a rough state mentally and the overwhelming amount of people being kind to me in FF was appreciated. I would soon later learn that this was a common meme, friends I made later in the FF community rinsed me for it. There were quite a lot of smaller FFXIV streamers that regularly tuned in every time I would go live, they were always so pleasant to speak to and some of them even made me my first ever emotes. I remember almost being in tears when an "AYAYA" version of me was made for free. It was heartwarming.
More and more people began asking me to do discussions on the differences between MMORPG's. There were discussions on systems, discussions on my experiences in Age of Conan, Wildstar, B&S, WoW and Guild Wars 1. I've always loved discussing MMORPG's and now around 200-300 people were more regularly tuning in to hear those discussions and see me react to the story line of the game. On stream I provided a completely over the top, deliberately unrealistic and comedically intended reaction to the Shadowbringers trailer.
Asmongold saw this and then it happened... the boom.
There has been tons of debate on whether Asmongold reacting to one of your videos is good or bad. My only memories from this are floods of viewers coming into my content on Youtube and Twitch, regularly stating they loved the video and thought it was funny. I received no personal attacks from any Asmongold fan. It was mind boggling and it created an entire career for me.
From this point onward I simply rode the wave. Blizzard kept fucking up, FFXIV kept growing in hype and I had decided to start using a feature that I've never seen in any other MMORPG, minimal item level bosses. I quickly realised I could gather randoms, not research a fight and then blast it continuously on minimal item level. It combined all aspects of good content for not only FFXIV players but also WoW players, most of us care about raids, dungeons and casual PvP. This style of content fits a combined audience perfectly: nostalgia, emotions, PepeLaughs, visually cool bosses and as far of music is concerned... absolute bangers.
This formula of content combined with a progression of the game's narrative eventually led me into one of my largest streams ever, surpassing a thousand viewers, attempting to kill a well-loved boss in FFXIV's community, on minimal item level, very close to Shadowbringers release, that stream was our last chance. Square Enix sent me a collectors edition which I thought was very cool, thank you Square.
Moving onward with Shadowbringers release, I saw a massive drop in viewership due to the narrative being a primary aspect of players desire for the game, they do not want spoilers, and that is totally fine. I noticed my VOD viewership had skyrocketed during this period, so I transitioned my focus into making the VOD experience as clear cut and organised as possible, I believe my VODs are still there today for this period of my streams.
After this point things began to get messy. The first raid (tier?) had released and I made a video explaining that I wasn't too big of a fan of its length. The length was expected, however after blasting through 9 years of FFXIV content in a few months, I think I had developed a larger expectation than was realistic. This was pointed out by a few friends I had made in the game, however I felt I'd still share my thoughts as many viewers wanted to know. The title of the video had also been more negative than intended, I decided to change it and think it probably helped.
After this video released, the overwhelming negative reception was interesting yet also confusion to me. I had come from an environment where criticism and opinions were usually met negatively if they were unreasonable, but not with the same force that I had suddenly been exposed to. On top of multiple DM's and messages attacking me and my content, the people I surrounded myself with and explaining to me, often in great detail, about how I was undeserving of living, having an audience and that I should go back to WoW because "we don't want you". I was received an email that actually shook me to my deepest core. A person had written a message that explained they were going to kill me in person. They had attached not only my local town but had obviously taken the time to invest money in buying information about my house. I later found out out you can pay for this info online, they had my address and house number, later including locations of my family's work places. The only demand from this person was that I stopped playing FFXIV and returned from where I came from because apparently I was making the game worse.
I had received death threats before but never to this scale, I was understandably completely shaken.
I streamed, blocked out the information of my home address and showed a snip of the message, explaining to my community that I would be taken time away to process and feel safe. I was then banned for 1 month by Twitch with no explanation as to why. I can only assume it is because I left the fake email address used uncovered. This breaks Twitch ToS.
This exact moment led me to a realisation. My opinion on a game could *potentially* lead to the harm of myself or someone close to me, and I would never risk that under any circumstance. I also came to the realisation that if this was to be a career, I would be at the complete mercy of Twitch. If they decided I was going to lose an entire months income, I would lose it. They could decide I don't get payed for 6 months for whatever reason they deem. This was a realisation of the path I would be following. After a discussion with my incredible sister and my wonderful parents, I decided to move away and focus on using my degrees to construct a life away from the internet and more focused on those I love.
I was shaken, confused, frustrated, pissed the fuck off, and sad.
This whole story takes place in the span of roughly 8 months.
it is now 2020. Covid has taken over the world, every single month a new tragedy happens and I am currently waiting to begin my training in October, following the path of Teaching, with a goal to bring the same inspiration, happiness and comfort that my teachers provided me. I had to resit an entire year, away from the boys, in-order to get the grades I wanted and go to University. My teachers gave me nothing but hope, no matter what I did wrong, they always showed me what was right and exactly how I could get there. If I can be a fraction as valuable as they were in another persons life, I will be happy.
I haven't played FFXIV in any serious capacity since November 2019. I believe FFXIV has a bright future for a different type of audience, however I don't believe I am part of that audience. Those developers poured their heart and soul into reviving a dead game, they have succeeded.
I am no longer mentally troubled, I am trying to reconnect with those I lost time with long ago, I have since worked on my physical health and can state that I am no longer overweight. While it may take some more time, I have begun to allow myself to heal, I'm waking up and finding there is something about myself that another person might also like. I've gone from a boy who was at the literal limit of mental strain to a young man who has a bright future, a new outlook on the world and is taking the time to actually look after himself instead of others.
Thank you to everyone who was around during this period of my life. I'll likely never forget it but I can definitely say that I was not meant for the online world. I will remain enjoying the beauty of life. I want to see the world and experience its magical places, I want to dedicate my career to helping people find their way, and I want to be the person of value that I should have let myself be long ago.
Please stay safe, please look after yourself and thank you for reading.