Reflections of a Guardian: GuardianCon 2017

It feels… tacky, for lack of a better word, to describe an event as “life-changing” before you’ve had a chance to actually live your life after it, yet I still can’t think of any words that describe my experience at GuardianCon 2017 better than those two. Because I can already feel the change, the drive, that little extra “oomph” taking hold in both my heart and my mind, and I know myself well enough to know that this feeling is the signal of something much greater than momentary excitement. I know that because it’s the same kind of feeling I had at the end of last year’s GuardianCon charity stream, and that feeling drove me to actually change my life.

So really, maybe it’s not so tacky.

Let’s back up a bit: prior to GuardianCon 2016, I was 26 years old, living with my mother, didn’t have a job, and had basically never worked a normal job, period. I had my reasons for all this, but the point of sharing this is to say that regardless of the reasons, that was the state of my life when the first GuardianCon charity stream went live. Thanks to CaptainTwaz’s suggestions and encouragement, I’d already become familiar with the Destiny community on Twitch, so I knew what this charity stream was all about well in advance: The streamers involved were going to try and raise $200,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over the course of a week-long, 24-hour a day marathon stream as a way to not only build hype for the convention, but to use that hype for the benefit of a worthy cause.

What I and basically everyone else didn’t know was just how powerful that hype would get, and how quickly that hype would get there.

By only the third or fourth day of the charity marathon, that original $200,000 goal had been utterly annihilated, and the goal was then bumped up to $350,000. A goal that, once again, the Destiny community absolutely destroyed. By the time the marathon was actually over, the community had raised over $500,000. That’s over half-a-MILLION dollars, raised by gamers; a group of people that society has been all too happy to dismiss and demonize as a bunch of lazy, maladjusted, basement-dwelling, socially inept pizza-gluttons that would never amount to anything. That kind of universal disdain seeps into your mind and colors your thoughts no matter how far removed you may be from that stereotype in reality, and watching my fellow gamers prove just how disastrously wrong that stereotype is lit a fire in my heart that I had never felt before.

I realized then that I needed to be a more active member of this community. For me personally, it wasn’t enough to be a lurker or a chatter anymore. I had to do more, I had to be more, I had to contribute more. I had to give just as much back to this community as it had just given me by so spectacularly shattering that gamer stereotype.

I had to become a streamer, but more importantly, I had to make it down for the next GuardianCon.

Regardless of whatever it would take to get there.

And so, just a few weeks after I started streaming, I got my first real job: working as a courtesy clerk for my local grocery store. It wasn’t particularly fun, and it certainly wasn’t glamorous, but my co-workers were legitimately cool people, and I was getting up and out of the house and active in ways that I hadn’t been before. I lost over twenty pounds just by virtue of doing my job and walking around all day. My shyness and severe dislike of interacting with strangers melted away, and my self-confidence rose to levels far higher than they’d ever been before.

In every way that mattered, I felt like I was finally becoming the version of myself that I’d always wanted to be.

All because of GuardianCon 2016.

Which brings us to today: one year later. It’s the first morning after GuardianCon 2017, and the things I’m feeling in my heart are so much more powerful than what I felt after the GuardianCon 2016 charity stream. It’s that same, almost physical need to do something more than I am, only amplified because things aren’t just relegated to computer screen in someone’s office.

Things are now, for want of a better word, real.

Coming to GuardianCon and being able meet people in person, so many of whom I’ve looked up to and admired as examples and inspirations as a streamer, was an experience that was powerful in ways that defy description. When a streamer recognizes you as a name in chat, that’s one thing. But when that same streamer physically shakes your hand and then pulls you into a hug after hearing who you are, that’s something else entirely.

And that’s how virtually all of my streamer-meetings went.

From Angry_Iceberg at the pre-convention WingHouse meet up, through Vibronium and 3vil_Aura towards the end of the first convention day, and every other awesome person in between (ThatTokenGuy, Imqulse, StarlordCap, Jadahawk, and ReleaseTheGamerGirl? I’m lookin’ at all of you!), all those meetings and hugs really drove home the unique point that one of GuardianCon’s founders, King Gothalion, made during a video interview about the convention. “Community means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.”

In more ways than I was prepared for, coming to GuardianCon felt like coming to a gigantic family reunion.

And perhaps explicitly because of that feeling, the reality of the charity half of GuardianCon hit me that much harder. I was not at all expecting an actual St. Jude representative, let alone the Vice President of Communications, to speak at the convention. Nor was I at all expecting or prepared for an actual St Jude patient and his family to make an appearance on that same stage to tell their story. You can talk numbers until you’re blue in the face; when you’re in the same room with a real person that the charity you’re helping to support took care of, and you’re listening to them tell their story, it drives home the flesh-and-blood reality of it all in manner that I don’t even think it’s possible to brace yourself for. I was on the verge of tears for almost the entire length of that speaking event, and that only made me double and then triple-down on my commitment to simply be the Light I so often find myself looking for out in the world.

Because my ultimate take-away from attending GuardianCon was the following:

This is where I truly want to be, this is the work that I truly want to be doing, and this is the community I truly want to be a part of.

This where I belong.

I’ve never felt that before, and feeling it now takes the flames I felt at the end of last year’s charity marathon and turns them into a wildfire. A wildfire whose Light I intend to channel through both my writing and my streaming so that I can use both to help others find their own way through the Darkness.

Because that’s what being a part of this community, what being a Guardian, means to me.

#LittleLights

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Controllers: My Triumphant Return to Destiny

You know, it’s kinda funny. I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post for nearly a week. Yet now that I’ve actually found the time to put fingers to keyboard, I don’t know what to write. 😛

So, failing a subtle introduction, let’s just dive right in!

I doubt it will be a revelation for many of you, but the first game I ever streamed on Twitch was Destiny. Pretty much everything about Twitch for me can trace it’s origin back to this game in some form or another.  It was how I even discovered Twitch in the first place! And it was the community on Twitch that has sprung up around Destiny that inspired me to start streaming the game myself.

However, if you’ve been following me for any length of time on Twitch, you’ll know I didn’t stick with Destiny for very long. And the reason for that is very simple: I’d caught myself trying to be something/someone I’m not. At the time, my only frame of reference for being a streamer were the rock stars like KingGothalion and ProfessorBroman, so I thought the only way to be entertaining on Twitch and amass any kind of audience was to be like them.

Turns out, trying to constantly be someone you’re not is an exhausting undertaking; one that will suck out all the joy and love you once had for something.

The end of this chapter will not surprise you; I stopped streaming Destiny. I realized that if I were ever going to make anything of myself on Twitch, I first had to figure out who I even was as a streamer. Where did my energy level naturally land? How well could I actually balance interacting with chat and playing the game? How much did I want to interact with chat on a moment-to-moment basis? There were a lot of questions that I needed to find answers to, and the only way I could find those answers was by playing other games.

So I started small, and simple. I took a game off my shelf that I’d never played through to completion and decided to start streaming it. That would give me the excuse I needed to finish the game itself, and give me a chance to find my footing as a streamer without the pressure of expectation bearing down on my shoulders. That game was Alien: Isolation, and streaming it proved to be a wonderful experience. I was able to just relax, breathe, be myself, and most importantly of all, actually enjoy the game I was playing.

And to my immense surprise, people actually started watching!

To be clear, it wasn’t like there was no one watching me play Destiny, but in a very real sense, that wasn’t me playing Destiny. That was me acting like I was playing Destiny. With Alien: Isolation, that was pure, 100% me playing the game, and more people were tuning in for that than they ever had with Destiny. That was the moment when I discovered that I really did want to be a Twitch streamer, independent of whatever game I was streaming, and that discovery is what prompted me to take the next big step.

Streaming from a PC.

Up to this point, I’d been streaming straight off my Xbox One. While it was entirely functional, I wasn’t able to have all the same bells and whistles that attract me as a viewer on Twitch. That meant no overlays, no alerts, no nothing. Those were things I could only get by streaming from a PC. So I saved up some money, did my research, and eventually rebuilt my computer almost from top-to-bottom in order to transform it into a dedicated gaming/streaming machine. After that, the only question left was “What game do I stream now?”

The answer, as many of you know, proved to be Mass Effect.

With Mass Effect: Andromeda then on the horizon, and the franchise in general being one of my all-time favorites in the gaming world, streaming the first three games felt like an absolute no-brainer. And in practice, streaming the original Mass Effect trilogy proved to be an overwhelmingly” positive experience. One that resulted in this blog post. However, moving on to Mass Effect: Andromeda as my stream game of choice has revealed a problem for me that I hadn’t anticipated.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is not a social game. Not for me.

I was able to make the original trilogy a social game because I was already so familiar with it. I already knew everything there was to know about the characters and the story, I already knew how I was going to play said story, and so that made it both easy and fun to share my gameplay with all of you. With Mass Effect: Andromeda, I don’t have the luxury of pre-existing knowledge, and that’s made it difficult for me to stream it with the same energy and enthusiasm that I felt I was able to bring to my streams of the original trilogy.

Now, by itself, this is not an insurmountable issue, and a potential solution has already presented itself to me. However, this issue is not by itself. As of March 28th, it’s been joined by it’s bigger, badder, and older brother: Destiny. 

Prior to Bungie’s release of the Age of Triumph update, I hadn’t played Destiny at all in ages. Not since the first month or so of the Rise of Iron DLC. But when I learned all of what Bungie was doing with Age of Triumph, I knew I had to at least give it a shot.

I was not prepared for what happened next.

I fell hard for Destiny; head-over-heels back in love with a game that I’ve been playing since the open beta. In just over an hour, I was reminded of all the reasons I had grown to love the game so fiercely, and why I’ve kept coming back to it over and over again no matter how many times I drifted away. And thanks to joining in on a viewer raid with Angry_Iceberg, I was reminded of why I wanted to start streaming the game in the first place.

The community.

The Destiny community on Twitch is second to none. Truly. When I stop to think about how many amazing people I’ve connected with through it, I legitimately get a little choked up. To say nothing of the truly mind-boggling charity work the community has done! Raising more than half a million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital? Mind blowing. This community is the reason I’ve been saving every penny I can spare to go to Florida for GuardianCon at the end of June. This community is the reason I ever even thought about becoming a Twitch streamer, and this community is why I’m writing this blog post.

Because I’m going back to Destiny.

People always say that home is where the heart is, and for me on Twitch, that’s the Destiny directory. I love Mass Effect to Andromeda and beyond, but at the end of the day, there’s just no getting around the fact that Destiny is my home. And after so much time on such a lovely vacation, I’m ready to go back home.

So, this is me, announcing my return to the world of Destiny streaming in WAY more than 140 characters. I don’t know exactly when this return will take place, as it will require a significant change/addition to my current streaming setup, but it will take place. And for those of you fearing for the future of this author’s adventures in Andromeda, fear not. I will be doing a complete playthrough of Mass Effect: Andromeda on stream, but that will likely take place after I go through the campaign once myself for the full-immersion, role-playing experience that makes the Mass Effect franchise so much fun for me.

I know this is a pretty big shake-up for my Twitch channel, but I hope you all will bear with me as we go through it. Streaming Destiny was always my end-goal on Twitch; I just always thought I wouldn’t reach that goal until Destiny 2 came out. 😛

Speaking of which, have you guys seen that reveal trailer?! 😀