Kickstarter Lesson #210: Live-Streaming Video

12 January 2017 | 25 Comments

A few months ago, I hosted a live chat about legacy games on my YouTube channel with Rob Daviau, JR Honeycutt, and Isaac Childress. I was really curious about the live format, as pretty much nothing else I do on social media is “live.”

Even though the legacy conversation was live, I found it difficult to both moderate/participate and relay user questions. So it didn’t really need to be live, and I’m glad that YouTube makes it easy to permanently post the video for others to watch later.

Since then, I continue to be fascinated with the idea of the live-streaming video format. The videos I’m most drawn to are those that allow for some viewer interaction (College Humor is great at this), but others are just interesting because they’re live (the video hosted by Cards Against Humanity of a hole being dug was oddly entertaining).

But despite having a “note-to-self” for the last few months saying that I should randomly try a live video, I just haven’t thought of a good/interesting use of the format. In fact, for a while I was thinking about streaming the weekly game night I host, but I quickly realized how boring that would be for viewers.

I’m sure there’s something here, though, so I wanted to get your thoughts (this is one of those entries where the comments are going to be more helpful than the article).

Here’s a quick overview of the options I’m aware of for live-streaming video:

  • Facebook: Facebook seems to highlight live videos, so if you have a good presence there, it might be a good fit. The thing that seems odd to me is that you can only film from mobile devices, not your computer. Doesn’t that make it difficult to read comments while you’re live?
  • YouTube: I think this is the only major format that records live and saves the video for future viewing. It also sends an e-mail alert to all subscribers to let them know you’re live.
  • Kickstarter Live: This seems great during projects, as it’s actively engaging backers on the project page, and it’s engaging potential backers in the exact place where they can make a pledge. (see related post)
  • Periscope: Because Periscope’s sole focus is on live video, it has a really nice interface for recording, viewing, and discovery.
  • Twitch: The primary purpose of Twitch is to stream video games, though maybe it works for streaming tabletop games, panels, and other events.

The one commonality between all of these live-streams, in my opinion, is that it’s really helpful to have someone else there to help distill the questions and comments. It’s tough to be entertaining and engaging at the same time (or maybe that’s just me).

You tell me (in the poll or the comments): What type of live-streaming video, if any, do you find compelling as a viewer?

25 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #210: Live-Streaming Video

  1. If you’re talking about something in the boardgame world then “live” just translates to “unedited” (aka rough) to me in almost all cases. The only value I would see in live is for a call in show or questions posted for an interesting guest but to do it right you have to have someone act like your producer. Rich Sommer’s call in shows are a good example and I’m pretty sure he has a producer working his board and call in line.

  2. Hi Jamey,

    I am an avid and regular watcher of live broadcasts of analog gaming on medium such as Twitch or live on Youtube. I know you’ve visited the PlayingBoardGames stream on occasion, and there are 7-8 other established regular or semi-regular channels on Twitch that broadcast live gaming sessions.

    My first and most important point about this medium: It’s not about the game. It’s not! It’s just not. It doesn’t matter WHAT you are playing, it’s HOW you are playing, how you are presenting and packaging and delivering your message about the games you play.

    There are three facets to a successful analog gaming stream:

    1) It’s about the community. (Or rather, it *should* be about the community). Livestream audiences take advantage of not only being able to interact directly with the streamers, but also with one another. If you have 50 people or 500 or 5000 people watching you and your friends/designers/playtesters play a game, they will do so because they feel welcomed and invited into the positive community that the channel fosters. Empowering trusted individuals to be live moderators of the conversation taking place in the chat area is paramount. If your viewers are toxic to each other, there is no reason for those who are incensed by bad behavior to return and watch your content, regardless of whether you are revealing Charterstone for the first time live or not.

    2) It’s about entertainment. The value the viewers receive from watching the specific streamers depends greatly on how personable the people on camera are, how easy it is to view the games being played, how well the presenters are able to explain how a game is played AND keep viewers engaged DURING play sessions. This means that for a live broadcast to be successful, there must be direct and active engagement between the viewers and the streamers. For example, a camera pointed from overhead at a game map, with players all interacting with each other, and ignoring the audience — that is an immediate turn-off for me. I want to feel like I am *at the table* with you. The camera should be at eye level, on a side of the table without any other players, so the camera is a proxy for the audience. Incorporating viewers from chat into the game is a fantastic way to ensure they are entertained. Playing Codenames? Let players make guesses after the spymaster gives clues, and come to a consensus as a gestalt player. Playing an abstract game on a grid? Mark the board with row numbers and column letters, and allow players to submit moves.

    For many games though, the intricacies of the game’s rules, iconography, or verbose wording on cards makes this impractical. In this case, it’s up to the streamers to describe what they are doing, so players can follow along, and still feel like they are involved even if they cannot directly take action in the game.

    3) Finally, a distant third, it’s about being able to observe the rules and mechanisms of the game in action. Is it interesting to follow along with every move of a game? Sure! But there are limitations of the medium that make that tricky. It’s taken years for companies like StarCityGames and even Wizards of the Coast to perfect the User Interface of their live streams of Magic to allow viewers to follow along as games are played. And even with the best cameras and bandwidth, information is lost. A large majority of viewers of CCG streams are already intimately familiar with the game mechanisms, and can indentify card abilities and interactions based on artwork recognition alone. For games that don’t have in this baked-in level of instant object recognition and innate knowledge of how the game works, the experience suffers. That’s why it’s much more important for the streamer to be a steward of the FEELING of playing the game, rather than just a rules explainer or player.

    I have much more to say on the topic, but should leave this comment here. For now.

    1. Eric: This is fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about all this. I think this line sums it up really well, but the details and examples you provide are also very insightful: “It doesn’t matter WHAT you are playing, it’s HOW you are playing, how you are presenting and packaging and delivering your message about the games you play.”

      You mentioned the Dice Tower below. I’m always curious how they switch around to multiple cameras during a live stream. It must involve multiple cameras plugged into the same computer, and perhaps someone is toggling between them in some kind of live-streaming software?

      1. They have two camera feeds, technically both are live streaming to youtube as seperate videos, one public, one private. Youtube (badly; doesn’t work on mobile, only desktop) lets the viewer pick which to watch and swap between them, there’s a button at the bottom that opens the camera toggle.

      2. On that, Jamey, you could take a look at the Drawfee Channel on YouTube, or even (NSFW in the least) the podcast “My Dad Wrote a Porno”. Both of these feature somebody doing something otherwise boring (respectively, drawing art and reading an erotic novel) but both have the infectious air of a bunch of friends having a laugh together.

        Twitch also allows you to save the videos for later watching, you just need to turn that function on before you begin LiveStreaming. That has the advantage of audience. YouTube audiences expect clean, edited, trimmed videos. Twitch audiences understand ten minutes of blank “countdown screen” sections of video. And you can livestream Tabletopia on Twitch – there is a community that does this.

        Twitch is the best for community “raids”, in that if you finish streaming, you can direct your viewers to go and watch someone similar. (They flood the other channel then, hence the name “raid”.) YouTube can’t do that.

        As for streaming real life board games, check out Team Covenant’s channel on YouTube. They put a LOT of effort into their tournament set-up cameras, plus interviews, plus popup info on cards played etc.

        1. kenkoden: Thanks for sharing all of these innovative uses of live video. I do subscribe to Team Covenant’s channel, and I find it interesting that they’re so focused on Fantasy Flight products (and pretty much nothing else). They seem to have built an audience doing that, though! :)

          1. I suspect they make a lot of their money from the LCG “subscription” services that they do (including X-Wing and Ashes), so it is in their interests to promote those games. It also seems they have some kind of deal with Fantasy Flight – from the exclusive access to things like SW: Destiny that they get – but that could just be a symbiotic evolution due to their reliance on LCGs and Fantasy Flight’s use of LCGs as a business model.

  3. I also realize that The Dice Tower is at this moment livestreaming games.
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKbaPfFK4rE is today’s stream)

    Over the years, I think that they have dramatically improved how they handle livestreams, changing the positioning of the camera, the angle, the quality, colors, graphics displayed, and ensuring that engaging personalities are on-screen and make a point to interact directly with the camera.

  4. Livestreams I’ve watched (live) in the past – Q&As, Live gaming marathons, whatever Chaz Marler’s The Metagame is, I haven’t quite figured that out yet but I enjoy it.

    For Q&A formats – and I’d include panels in that – I definitely agree that the person answering the questions, or moderating the discussion, shouldn’t be the person picking the questions, because that divides attention (It might work for 1:1 interviews, but it doesn’t for panel discussions) – In the same way that you ideally want the person picking who’s question to address next shouldn’t be the moderator of a panel discussion (In fact, the mic should be with the next person by the time the panel’s finished addressing the first) – they often miss who’s had the hand up for longest, etc, in a way that a seperate person is better at not missing.

    There’s a couple of interesting streaming platforms designed purely for Q&A formats that the Extra History folk have used in the past for their monthly Q&As, which seperates questions from chat, allow upvoting of questions one holds archives behind a paywall, the other doesn’t to my knowledge, but also doesn’t delete Questions after they’re answered – Even there, I think they work better when someone else is managing the chat to moderating the discussion, because there’s often stuff to do with the chat that isn’t related to picking questions which both these services either automate or make a lot easier (highlighting things that the people answering questions should look at apart from the Q&A, moderation duties, pasting relevent stuff into the ‘current topic’ thing to emphasize, etc.

    Twitch… I think people use it for things other than video game livestreams, and the process of switching twitch to youtube seems to be extremely streamlined in that people do it regularly and I don’t think all of them pull the video from Twitch and then reupload to youtube to do so.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Stephen! I totally agree about the necessity of a moderator. The streaming platform you mention (the one with the upvotes) sounds awesome. Do you know the name of that platform?

      1. Able to properly check now: https://huzza.io/ for the one they currently use (last Q&A I attended didn’t remove questions after being dealt with, but archives are free), seems to be more designed to integrate well with Patreon than anything else; the one they used to use is irrelevent since after hunting it down it turns out Spreecast no longer exists (archives were hidden behind a paywall after a couple of days; but did remove topics when they were dealt with)

  5. Jamey,

    I agree almost entirely with Eric’s comments, except the premise that it doesn’t matter WHAT you’re playing. For me, it absolutely matters. I’m a huge fan of Wil Wheaton’s TableTop show. However, if they’re playing Dead of Winter, I’m hooked…if they’re playing Zombicide, I could care less. IN the end, it’s very much about the content. If the content is attractive to me, I know that I’ll enjoy the banter, rules explanation, etc, because the filming is professionally handled on the show.

    Cheers,
    Joe

    1. Joe: Yeah, that makes sense to me too–I’m the same way most of the time. Though there have been episodes where I didn’t care about the game, but the guests were so intriguing or entertaining that I wanted to watch anyway.

  6. A couple of years ago during International TableTop Day there was a live stream camera setup at the event that almost all of my friends were at, and I remember checking in throughout the day online becaue I was stuck at work and unable to attend. For the most part, it was pretty boring because everyone acted like there wasn’t a camera there and it was pretty quiet. At one point, I saw a friend sitting in front of the camera just reading the rules for a game they were about to setup and sent a text message to let them know I was watching and to do something interesting…which they did not wind up doing.
    I thought it was a clever idea at the time, but just wasn’t executed well enough to keep an audience engaged. Maybe if the games being played in front of the table with the camera required more talking to other players or if the people had simply talked through their turns to explain to the audience what was happening it might have been more interesting. But watching a live feed where it’s just mostly silence and a little bit of people moving pieces around the game boards wasn’t even enough to keep me interested even while I was stuck at work with nothing else better to do– in that scenario, a cell phone game was more engaging.
    If done right, I think a live stream of some games being played might go over well with certain audiences.

  7. I prefer on-demand videos for most things, but there are two instances where video livestreams are apt.

    First, is when you’re there to receive feedback. You have a later blog post (when it comes to teaching) where you talk about submitting questions in advance (which is a good tactic) but when that’s not possible, livestreams are probably the best way to gather those live questions. The only caveat here is that, as you mentioned, it helps to have someone at the helm moderating comments. Also, some people have dual monitor/computer setups, one to stream, the other to monitor the chat comments, to facilitate this process.

    A tangent for video games (or basically any game where your opponent isn’t in front of you) is that when playing a game, the streamer can explain their thought process for making their decision. I can see this working for a game of Scythe (where “hidden information” is limited to objectives and battle cards) where you’re streaming in front of a group (each player explaining the rationale for their actions), at the cost of partially revealing their strategy to other players. People could potentially ask questions then and there why they made that decision, or to articulate their explanation further if it’s not clear. (Or if there’s a rules clarification.) This would probably make most sense with the Automata rules for Scythe.

    The second is for group bonding/shared experience. In much the same way that people tune in for big events like the Superbowl or the NBA Finals, there’s a shared experience when people are tuning in to something live. (Personally, I only tune in to streams for Dota 2 tournaments for example.) I think in a competition context, this would apply, but for board games, it needs to be a special event (such as Tabletop Day), especially when you incorporate the first point.

    Also the various social media venues you mentioned have their own audiences/behaviors. Twitch for example is first and foremost a live-streaming venue (they’re currently expanding to go beyond video games) and have cut back a bit on their on-demand staff, so it’s the largest platform where people tune in for live-streams (and developed a reputation of the toxicity and prevalence of memes in their chat). Personally when viewing on-demand videos on Twitch, the experience for me is sub-optimal (e.g. there can be lag). YouTube, on the other hand, is the reverse (people usually go there for on-demand video primarily and tune in to live events sparingly–although YouTube wants to change this behavior). Facebook is good for those within your Facebook network, but inaccessible if you don’t have a Facebook account or unfamiliar with Facebook live features. (Re: your question about streaming from your desktop, it’s now a built-in feature for Pages [but not individuals] https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/12/facebook-pages-can-now-go-live-from-the-desktop-add-live-contributors-and-more/ ; if you want to stream as an individual, you need access to their API, so it’s possible, just not intuitive.)

    For some game designers, videos/podcasts of your game night is valuable information (with regards to playtesting), but aside from that, interaction with the audience tends to be the biggest value to livestreams (as opposed to video on demand).

  8. Hey Jamey,

    Another interesting article. Just wanted to add my two cents about streaming board games on Twitch. Using the Tabletopia interface for this makes a huge difference in making it more user friendly because it can then be thought of as streaming a video game due to just needing to capture the game window. I’ve participated in this type of stream as a viewer, player, and even being the one running the game. It was an interesting experience, and could see it working well as a tool for allowing backers to be a part of the development of upcoming projects, or even just a “join me for a play through of the game” type of event during a campaign. It ability to record the stream could also be useful to allow those who couldn’t make it, or even future backers, to watch the stream at a later date. I’m anxious awaiting OBS integration with Kickstarter Live which would combine the best of both worlds I think because if someone wanted to back your project during the stream they could do so without having leave the stream or open a new tab. Also being able to thank them on stream is pretty neat as well, which wouldn’t be directly possible with just a twitch stream.

    It is also possible to configure your Twitch stream to accept donations, and will notify you of people who either follow you or subscribe to your content the latter involving a financial commitment of some sort I don’t completely understand, mainly because I’ve haven’t really looked into it.

    I think the bottom line is that there is a lot of potential if done right and am excited to see what the future of live streaming, especially of board games, brings.

    Raymond

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