Since I was very young, I have hated playing video games in front of people, especially if I’ve never played the game before. This goes double for expos and tournaments, anywhere where strangers can watch and quietly judge, shaking their heads at how “just learning” must surely be a euphemism to excuse this clear evidence that women are terrible at games.
Today Peter Mawhorter and I set up a Twitch channel, Scholars Play. We ran some test streams to get everything set up and working, and then played Sunless Sea for a bit. We’re games researchers, so we figure we’ll schedule a couple of hours each week to play the games we’re researching and broadcast the experience. With luck, it may include thoughtful intellectual commentary. Sometimes it might just be us laughing a lot.
The whole affair was much less pressure than I was expecting. In fact, I had a lot of fun.
I was surprised to learn that the dehumanizing filter of the internet works both ways, and the audience I had feared didn’t feel real anymore. Nobody stood over my shoulder and jeered. Nobody was even there. I didn’t need to obsess about an Audience; the audience wasn’t real. I was more distracted by people walking down the hall outside than I was by the imaginary people on the internet—imaginary people that I actually know in real life.
We streamed for about an hour and didn’t get very far into Sunless Sea. I was really enjoying the game when we had to stop for prior commitments.
Twitch lets you save videos, but we decided not to save the video for this one, since it was just a test broadcast. We plan to save videos in the future. Academic Let’s Play videos are increasingly becoming a thing, so maybe we’ll also toss the videos into other places on the web once we’re really up and running, and watch with popcorn at the coming wars over how to properly cite YouTube videos.
As with anything, I expect streaming will get easier the more we do it. For me, streaming with another person felt natural, since we could just talk to each other about the game as we played it rather than feeling the need to perform the game for the audience. There was admittedly some level of performance to our readings, but at no point did I feel artificial or forced, even if we might not have been on our best “intellectual commentary” game besides pointing out an allusion here and there.
But that’s okay. We’re trying not trying to put too much pressure on it. It’s supposed to be fun. There’s a reason we called it “Scholars Play”.