Everything you need to know about the people behind the screens
The evolution of electronic sports (eSports) in the early 2010s coincided with the popularization of online streaming. While an eSports event will typically offer high-level gameplay in a competitive atmosphere that caters to many spectators worldwide, gaming streams can offer an exclusive viewer experience that varies by content creator and channel.
Richard Blevins, better known by his online alias Ninja, burst into mainstream pop culture in March 2018 when he played Fortnite Battle Royale on the streaming platform Twitch, with highly touted hip hop artists Drake, Travis Scott, and Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. More recently, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez streamed Among Us on Twitch in order to reach out to the younger American population to vote, playing alongside well-known streamers such as Pokimane, HasanAbi, and Myth.
As a result of the growing demand for live content, streaming has become a viable career option for individuals who are proficient in video games. However, while a career in the industry is seemingly simple on the surface, making an adequate living requires incredible commitment and effort in developing a personal brand that is both captivating and unique.
“I think people do not realize just how time consuming it gets,” said Michael Luker, a professional Hearthstone player and full-time streamer on Twitch who uses the name of Luker on the platform. “In my case, I stream for roughly five hours regularly. On top of that, I’m editing videos to post on YouTube, actively interacting on social media, and collaborating with other streamers and partners.”
Hearthstone is a free-to-play digital collectible card game developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment in 2014.
According to Luker, the most successful streamers are constantly promoting themselves beyond the scope of their streams while offering a healthy dose of entertainment and skill on air. He added that despite playing the game for hours on end while broadcasting live, he must put additional time into independently developing his skills as the upkeep of his stream and the ongoing distractions make for unfavourable conditions for improvement.
“At the end of the day, I’m still doing what I love and get to play video games for a living,” Luker said. “These are good problems to have and I’m grateful for that.”
Luker was amid a school winter semester during his third year at Champlain College when he was able to qualify for the 2017 World Electronic Sports Games (WESG), an international tournament held in Haikou, China.
Luker was one of seven North American qualifiers for the event and finished runner-up in the respected competition that saw him earn $60,000 USD for his efforts. Upon returning to Canada, he officially left college in favour of pursuing a career as a professional Hearthstone player.
Luker started streaming full-time in April and has since devoted a substantial portion of his time towards his steady community of fans. His self-made platform allows him to indulge in his passion while serving as an informative hub where viewers with similar interests can interact.
“If there are 50 people talking to me in my chat, I am reading everything and having 50 conversations at a time,” Luker said. “Meanwhile, I’m simultaneously focusing on the game at hand.”
Streaming has found an entirely new meaning for some individuals during the pandemic. Brian Kim, known as brianyokim on Twitch, has always considered himself a casual gamer at heart but made the leap to streaming his gameplay to make the most of negative COVID-19 circumstances.
“Through streaming, I’ve been able to get social interactions that are hard to come by while working at home,” Kim said. “I’m still an amateur, but I love the idea of not only networking with old friends, but also making new ones in the process.”
In these trying times, Kim believes the relationships he’s already been able to forge with other streamers in the community thus far greatly outweigh the financial incentives to stream his gameplay. You can catch both Luker and Kim streaming regularly on Twitch.
Photo courtesy of Michael Luker