The COVID-19 lockdown here in the UK is now gradually starting to come to an end. Although we’re all now looking forward to getting outside and meeting up with friends and family again, nobody can deny that the past three months have been a great time for video games.
I’ve played more games since the end of March than I have done in years. Looking back over my stats, it seems as though I’ve completed over 25 titles in that period and tried a whole lot more besides. We may be missing the annual gaming expos but the digital events have made up for them somewhat by giving everyone the opportunity to experience demos from the comfort of their own homes. My wishlist continues to expand thanks to LudoNarraCon and the Steam Game Festival, with a new release being added as soon as one is removed.
But online fatigue is now hitting hard. In a post last month, I explained how I was growing tired of spending so much of my days in front of a screen and this had caused me to seek activities outside of playing video games. It’s been fun trying new hobbies such as bread-making, cross-stitching, jigsaw-puzzling and tabletop-gaming; and a family scavenger-hunt via WhatsApp had some hilarious outcomes (including drawings of Pete like the one opposite). I’ve also found myself watching far more channels on Twitch than I’ve ever done in the past.
This is the result of a few blogger-friends making their streaming debuts during the lockdown and their reasons for starting now were quite varied. Some felt it was a good opportunity due to the extra time they found themselves with, particularly those who had been furloughed from work. Others were searching for a new hobby to fill the hours, like myself with the activities mentioned above. And some were inspired to finally give it a try themselves after seeing their friends do the same.
We formed an informal group and I think this was a lifeline for us. When you’d had a long day working from home and were tired of never-ending conference calls, were worried about the latest COVID-19 announcement from the government or just wanted to let off steam, there was almost always someone live on Twitch. You could go hang out in the chat-room with blogger-friends while watching one of them play a game. It became a substitute for doing similar things in the real world and this kept us going through a period when everybody felt unsettled.
But then something changed for me and the dynamic shifted to one which made me unsettled. You may have noticed that my other-half and I have been rather absent from Twitch recently and haven’t streamed ourselves for over a month now. This is because my motivation levels for both blogging and streaming took a massive dive in June and I wasn’t feeling positive. After a long conversation with Pete, we decided the best thing we could do was take an online break to give ourselves some space for a while.
The things I was thinking may have been just in my head but they felt real. Whereas previously we’d streamed because we enjoyed it, I now imagined pressure to do so. We couldn’t let the other members of the group down by not going live because then they wouldn’t get their daily dose of chat. There was an awkwardness about timings too and I stressed over schedules: I believed I had to be careful about when we streamed because going online at the same time as a friend would be seen as disrespectful.
I’d also convinced myself there was an unspoken rule about your Twitch presence. When you weren’t streaming yourself and keeping everybody entertained, you were expected to watch friends’ channels to socialise and show your support. Your absences were noted and sometimes even commented on – and, although this was done out of concern for your well-being, I didn’t see it that way. It added to the pressure of feeling as though I had to make myself available online constantly and then beating myself up about it when I didn’t want to.
The very thing I’d been trying to get away from was now the thing I was doing all the time. I’d been searching for activities to remove myelf from a screen but ended up being glued to one while trying to meet these imaginary Twitch requirements. They were starting to take up so much of my attention that other areas of my life stopped getting the focus they needed. When I realised one Sunday morning that my blogging, work and mental-health had all been suffering as a result, Pete helped me see that I had to step away.
So that’s where we’ve been for the past month: taking a break from Twitch, giving work projects the attention they deserve right now, and simply enjoying playing video games without anyone watching us. I’ve also made an awful lot of cakes and eaten far too many of them but the early-morning walks through the local nature reserve and lunch-time HIIT classes will hopefully sort that out. I guess a part of me feels guilty for saying this but I can’t deny it: I no longer want to make myself constantly available online.
I must make it clear though that how I’ve been feeling is in no way the fault of those who started streaming since March or the bloggers-who-stream group. Having more of us on Twitch is a good thing because there are new people to talk to, an increased variety of games to watch and the opportunity to get to know bloggers outside of their writing. The pressure and obligations I felt under were those which had been created in my own head, and I wanted to share an explanation as to why Pete and I disappeared suddenly and without any notice.
We’re using this as a new start. As I draft this post, my other-half is sitting at the other side of the table while working on some new animations for our channel and I’m planning a series about our streaming journey (keep your eyes peeled over the next two weeks). This will include an article about those blogger-friends who stream and deserve your follow. I may not be online nowadays as much as I once was but I want to show them my support, and let them know I’m still proud to be one of the #CoolKidsofWordPressonTwitch.
Pete and I have missed streaming and want to come back to it soon but we’ve realised we have to take our time and do it in a way that’s right for us. He’s also made me see that there’s nothing wrong with taking a break occasionally and it can be just the thing you need to get your motivation back up. Your health and happiness are far more important than viewer and follower counts – and what do those numbers mean anyway, if you’re having fun and getting to hang out with friends on stream?
As Pete himself would say: big loves, chat. We’ll see you again soon.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.