Much like ice cream taste tester and TV watcher, video game streamer is one of those jobs that seems great in theory, but can turn out to be not-so-great in practice. Sure, you get to play video games all day, but when “all day” literally means “all day, every day,” like it does for many streamers, the demands of the job places on your life can start to weigh pretty heavy.
On one hand there’s the health consequences. If sitting is the new smoking, then streamers are probably doing a few packs’ worth of damage to their bodies every day with their lifestyle. One streamer attributes his heart surgery to damage to his heart incurred through many sedentary years spent working on his streaming and Youtubing career. Several streamers are reported to have suffered heart attacks while streaming. Repetitive stress injuries and severe weight gain are common.
In addition to the physical health issues, streaming all day with no breaks doesn’t really leave you much room to focus on anything else in your life. It can destroy relationships, leave streamers isolated and burnt out, and seriously harm their mental heath.
The bottom line is that sitting in a chair for 10-14 hours a day, 7 days per week, while subsisting mainly energy drinks and junk food is not a healthy way to spend your life, physically or mentally, and not something anyone can expect to do sustainably for years on end, regardless of how young and healthy they may otherwise be. It’s probably fair to say that, for most streamers, the punishing schedule involved is the worst thing about the job.
So why do streamers put themselves through this? The most commonly cited answer is that that’s what it takes to be successful. Being online as much as possible is what’s necessary to build and keep an audience. Taking even one or two days off can lead to significant drops in subscribers and other audience metrics, and make especially smaller streamers trying to grow their channel feeling like they’ve thrown away weeks or months of progress. That’s why “always be streaming” has turned into a well-known, if unfortunate mantra for many streamers. Even larger streamers aren’t immune. Ninja famously lost 40,000 subscribers when he took two days off to go to E3.
So it’s pretty clear what the problem is – streaming places unhealthy, potentially unsustainable pressures on your life. It’s also clear what the reason for the problem is – streamers need to be online as much as possible to be successful.
With these two facts in mind, I’m left wondering why streamers haven’t tried what seems like a reasonable solution: Instead of streaming separately, a few streamers could join together and share a channel and essentially stream in shifts. When one streamer logs off, another logs on. They could work out a reasonable schedule that would allow them to keep the channel up as much as they want (even 24/7 depending on the number of streamers and their time zones), while at the same time allowing each of them to some flexibility in order to avoid the grueling schedule solo streaming requires.
The synergies involved with multiple streamers may also actually help the channel overall. Fans of one streamer may get introduced to the others on his channel, and become fans of both. Also, given that such a channel could theoretically be on 24/7, it would have a significant advantage over solo streamers’ channels, as viewers would come to know it as a place they can tune in to catch a stream of their game of choice pretty much anytime.
I’m sure there’s a lot of obstacles to this working – this setup would become more about the channel than individual streamers, and the streamers involved would have to agree to work together to build the channel’s brand at the expense of their own to some extent. Additionally, many people only want to see one specific streamer, and for them there’s no getting around the fact that this arrangement would result in that streamer casting less.
However, given the fact that solo streaming is pretty much unsustainable as a long-term endeavor, it may be that we’ll see more and more streamers trying this kind of thing. A long, long time from now, 24/7 streaming channels with multiple streamers may even become the standard, the same way we have 24/7 TV channels now. Given the demands streaming can place on streamers, that may not be such a bad thing.