Streaming League of Legends: The roller coaster ride.
Alrighty! Here we are, I am penning what is the first of the commentaries since the post announcing the schedule I hope to stick to. In that blog post I speculated that the problem I would encounter trying to be constructively critical of my streams. This largely owing to the fact that numbers and stats that are easily accumulated could be misleading. So, I’ve decided this week to focus on League of Legends, the game I have streamed the most since I resumed streaming in August of last year.
To give anyone new to me and my channel a little bit of context to my experience with league, I have been playing since Season Two and actively engaged with following the professional scenes in EU, NA, and Korea, dabbling in the Chinese league to keep up with my favourite teams. It’s safe to say that I have loved the game and invested countless hours into it. Sometimes seeking to improve, other times just to unwind and lose myself in games for a while. For years, my favourite form of broadcast entertainment has been the professional leagues, almost completely phasing out television and movies to the disappointment of my friends. I thought that I’d experienced the vast majority of what the game had to offer as a viewer and a player. However, as I made the transition into streaming, along with tackling familiar obstacles, I found myself squaring up against entirely new hurdles.
Right, now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s address the obvious bugbear that most players and even fans of other games are familiar with where league is concerned. The community. It is no secret that competition, whether video games, sport, board game or really any other form of competitive activity can and often does bring out the very best and worst in people. Competition can drive us, rewarding successes with dopamine rushes and feelings of achievement but it can also be crushing and perpetuate negativity and even lead to hostile behaviour. As such toxicity is not unique to league and I am inclined to believe it gets a somewhat inflated reputation for it as I have experienced similar levels of toxicity in the majority of competitive video games I have played.
Even for people that just play the game in their spare time toxicity can create problems. In the first place nobody likes to lose, let alone endure insults or the blame of people they have been teamed with. I’ve sat there many times fuming at the nerve of players daring to say the loss of a game was exclusively my fault, or been deeply upset (yes I have emotions) by people telling me to go kill myself, get cancer, or any other unpleasant thing they could think of. It wasn’t pleasant and would often lead to me going to play other games or even throwing myself back into the fray unfocused and perpetuating the cycle by playing worse and inviting the toxicity to tea. While this is something I have always struggled with in regards to League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, Dota, Overwatch, you name it, I’d gotten pretty good at blowing off steam by swearing profusely, playing other games etc. What I was not prepared for was how broadcasting the game would change my experience of it, both the highs and the lows in equal measure.
So lets briefly touch on something that I consider to be a core tenant of my stream. I want my stream to be a fun, relaxed environment. Why, cause I want people watching to have a good time and that’s the kind of stream I enjoy. League can make that almost impossible for me as some games, honestly just make me feel miserable. It doesn’t even have to be losses. A player flaming, a game in which I feel like I messed up repeatedly for example can lead to a negative attitude towards my play or the game that I have a hard time shaking. The simple reality for me is that the game has its ups and downs and can elicit a wide range of reactions, and as a person I have a habit of fixating on my own mistakes and getting inside my own head. Something that doesn’t help in league where confidence and PMA (positive mental attitude) can be so crucial.
As this is a critical commentary I want to move away from talking about the game and how it can effect me. Largely because that deserves to be post in itself and I have limited words to construct this piece. I want now to look at what I have done to try and create a consistent broadcast and how effective they have been, as well as looking at things I hope will make a difference in future.
The first and most notable change I have made is switching the type of game I play from Ranked, to Normal. This may not sound like a big change, I’m still playing the same map, largely the same champions and toxic players and bad performances by yours truly can still create a negative spiral that impacts my broadcasts. It is, in fact a massive change. As a naturally competitive person, I’m harsh on myself for errors and seek to excel in whatever game I am playing at any given time. (Regardless of level or my actual abilities.) A good example of this is Starcraft Two, I love watching SC2, observing the best in the world go head to head. From this I have gained some understanding of what works, what doesn’t, how I should respond to certain scenarios etc. But when I play SC2 I get incredibly frustrated, cause no matter how hard I try, I see thousands of things that I should be doing better and can’t. This attitude doesn’t change, but there is a level of prestige which comes from attaining certain ranks, ranks which act as a measure (accurately or inaccurately) of my skill as a player. And that, is where the ranked system digs its claws in deep. If I play a normal game, my rank doesn’t change, I don’t lose internet points, I just lost a bout. It sucks but it is easier to move on from, than coming away from League at the end of a day having demoted with the attitude that “today sucked” and pushing myself to stay up later and play more games in an effort to claw that back.
I think most people can see that this would suck, but undergoing this in front of an audience, becoming more and more frustrated. Feeling that you are wasting your time cause you are just making things worse, that hit harder. The change to normal games alleviated some of the things that were leading frankly to self loathing and disappointment that I was experiencing on stream, that was affecting my ability to create the kind of environment I strive to. This in turn led to another important realisation. That although some people do want to watch higher level players, I, at this moment in time had to make a choice, did I focus on my level of play or my stream. This was a question I wrestled with for quite some time. In the end I decided that trying to level up my stream, came at the price of levelling up my play. If I wanted to truly improve at league, with the pace I wanted. I would have to remove it from my streaming schedule and honestly potentially stop streaming to create the space for that kind of improvement.
Consciously making this decision turned from Atlas, to a man with no excuse for bad posture. All joking aside however it allowed me to tell myself that it was okay I didn’t play at 100% because, talking to chat, making jokes and providing good commentary, was all more important to me, than winning the game. It was a huge weight off of my shoulders and although it hasn’t completely removed my problems with falling into negative moods or struggling to cope with loss streaks it has allowed me a different outlet. Instead of constantly trying 110% to win and getting mad when I couldn’t, I am now more able to discuss why we are falling behind, make jokes and use chat as a way to get out of that negative headspace and focus on the broadcast. It is still difficult but taking away unnecessary pressure and accepting my limitations as a person has helped a great deal.
S0, I am going to go over my set maximum words here but I want to lay out a few of the other things I am trying to do to make improvements so I can discuss them at greater length in a future commentary or separate blog post. The first is to stay hydrated and make sure that I eat. Streaming an average of five hours per day means that I can often find myself low on energy just because I am not fuelling myself appropriately.
The second is to try and work gentle exercise into a daily regiment, taking short walks when health allows etc.
Thirdly, I want to make sure that I don’t play league for too long in any one sitting. This is something that I have been working on already trying to stream two games every day. A few hours of league and then something else. In doing this I can try to make sure that I bring my best focus to playing and to broadcasting league.
Alright, lengthy post done. There have been steps made but there are many more to follow. I hope you’ve enjoyed this commentary, such as it is. If you have any thoughts, experiences or suggestions on how to make streaming League or competitive games easier, feel free to drop me a comment below!