Twenty years ago, if you said you played video games for a living, people would either think you were very lucky or lying through your teeth. Today, thanks to platforms like YouTube and Twitch, it can be a viable career option.
You do need a few things before you can get started, though. Here’s a comprehensive list of everything you need to start live-streaming games.
1. A Powerful (enough) PC
While it is possible to play games from a console on a stream with additional hardware, any way you look at it, you’re going to need a powerful PC. If you’re playing on your computer, you need a processor and video card that can handle the games you want to stream, as well as the streaming software. If you’re playing on a console, you still need to be able to support the streaming software, as well as whatever hardware you need to connect your console to your PC.
This will probably be the most expensive part of getting your streaming setup together. If you’re handy with computers, building your own rig can be the best way to get the most bang for your buck.
2. A High-Quality Webcam
There aren’t any official studies regarding streaming success with or without a webcam, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that having a face cam is one of the keys to succeeding as a streamer. Invest in a high-quality webcam and choose your placement well.
Having a face cam gives you another way to interact with your followers. Not only can they hear your voice and react to your statements, but they can also see the changes in your facial expressions, giving you an entirely new way to entertain.
3. A Microphone
Gaming laptops often come with built-in microphones, but they aren’t going to provide the best sound quality. And when you’re streaming your games, you need to aim for the best.
Many streamers use headphones because it allows them to hear what’s going on in their game without worrying about whether the game sounds are going to echo back through the microphone. However, you’ll still want to get a separate USB microphone for the best sound quality possible.
The average bedroom or home office isn’t designed for streaming, singing or recording music. The acoustics are terrible at the best of times and could leave you with unpleasant or even painful echoes over your microphone.
Soundproofing your space helps to improve your audio quality. It also keeps your music, game sounds and voice from echoing throughout the house, which is beneficial if you have roommates, neighbours or you still live at home with mom and dad. Take the time to figure out where your problem spots are and start there. You can always add more soundproofing or take it way as needed to find the perfect balance.
5. Streaming Software
Next, you’ll need something to transmit your games and your face from your PC to the streaming sites of your choice. You’ve got a few options here.
The most common streaming program you’ll see is OBS — partially because it’s one of the easiest to use and partially because it’s free. Others, like restream.io, allow you to broadcast your stream to multiple sites like YouTube and Twitch simultaneously. Take the time to experiment with different programs to figure out what works best for you.
If you’ve got a webcam, you’ll need some sort of lighting. Contrary to popular belief, your monitors don’t provide enough ambient light to sufficiently illuminate your face.
You can pick up a little ring light for next to nothing — they’re popular for people who like to take selfies — and hook it up right next to your webcam. People want to see your face if you’re using a webcam, not a bunch of vague shadows.
7. Bonus — Stream Deck
If you’re elbow-deep in enemies, responding to your followers can be nearly impossible. Instead of pausing your game each time you need to type a message or send a gif, invest in a stream deck. These fun little devices allow you to customize and program each button with different actions, from sending messages to triggering sound effects. They’re not strictly necessary, but they are fun to play with!
8. Bonus — Green Screen
Another tool that isn’t strictly necessary but can be useful is a green screen. Set one up behind yourself and you can project whatever you want, from the game itself — like these incredible mixed-reality green screen setups you see for VR games like “Beat Saber” — to various backgrounds. You can even use programs like FaceRig to turn yourself into all sorts of different characters and creatures if you don’t want to show your actual face.
9. Bonus — Stream Jar
While you’re building your following, it can be difficult to earn money as a streamer. You don’t qualify for any of the partnership programs and can’t monetize your videos on sites like YouTube until you reach a certain number of viewing hours.
Tips and donations are one way to support your streaming career while you work on building that following, and programs like StreamJar allow you to receive both. You can even set up custom gifs or images that pop up when you receive a donation.
Be Patient and Have Fun
Finally, this is probably the most important thing you’ll need when you’re streaming your games. Yes, it is possible to build a career as a professional streamer. Big names like Ninja, PewDiePie, JackSepticEye and Markiplier are proof of that, worth millions of dollars each — but it’s not something that will happen overnight. Be patient, work hard and you’ll build that dream one follower at a time.