The Power of One

When I was first asked to join team AcaGameia eight years ago, I was just a lifelong gamer with a lot of passion for my hobby. My friend, our team captain, asked me to join and help the team raise money for Flint’s Hurley Children’s Hospital.

I lived over a thousand miles away and was, by distance, isolated from the rest of the team which had mostly gone to college together and forged a very tight bond. While the majority of the team was able to meet up for the game day and experience live tabletop play, I had a different situation.

I had no experience streaming and had never done Extra Life before. That first year, when I sat down alone and pressed go live… I was in for a learning experience!

The Gameday of a solo streamer, while in many ways similar, is also much different than for a group. Now that I have years of streaming solo behind me, I want to share some tips to help others who want to run their own solo Gamedays, and hopefully make the experience easier and less daunting for first-timers.

Extra Life Should Be Fun!

This may sound self-explanatory, but you would be surprised at the number of butterflies you can get just before going live for a twenty-four-hour solo stream. You have to pre-plan your meals, snacks, drinks, and incentives, How are you going to know if you got a donation? The short answer is, plan what you can and take note of what you want for next time. Try not to worry about the details.

The goal is to have fun and raise money for charity at the same time. Here is a powerful secret…most people who stream for Extra Life are tabletop groups with a tabletop mic and a webcam. No one who sees Extra Life streams regularly is going to judge you for not being a pro streamer.

Streaming itself can be difficult, and even when you do it daily like me, you are going to make many mistakes during a twenty-four-hour stream. Your mic is going to cut out or crackle. You are going to leave yourself on mute for a while by accident. You are going to cough and sneeze and yawn…

Your community will come to the rescue, or you will realize and correct the errors, and people will take pleasure in scaring you back awake with alerts if you have them! All content is good content, win or lose as long as you are hanging in there and interacting with your community of friends and family.

The sooner I realized that a perfect twenty-four-hour stream did not exist, the sooner I could have fun just being myself and playing games for Extra Life!

Every Twenty-Four Hour Stream has “The Void”

You’ve been hanging in there and got a few donations, you are just about twelve to fifteen hours in and then suddenly it starts getting quiet. You look up and it’s one a.m. Your chat has been dead for an hour now and…

Wouldn’t you know it, if you live in America, everyone east of you is asleep now. It’s very early morning in England so you won’t see any randomly curious Europeans for a bit and unless you have a few European friends it’s more than likely that you have a quiet five or six hours ahead of you.

You have entered what I call, “The Void.” This is one of the hardest times for a solo streamer. Many groups of Extra Lifers have split their streams into two twelve-hour days to avoid this exact moment in time.

As a solo streamer, you are more likely to fall asleep right now than at any other time in the whole event. You don’t have friends with you to share the night like tabletop gamers.

Now is the time to open that very first energy drink and get pumped up. You are going to give the empty channel the best dang stream you have ever given because you need any spare pair of eyes that happens to click in to see what’s going on, and to be entertained enough to engage with you!

This is the time to play Fortnite, League of Legends, Rocket League, or some other high-intensity game that gets your heart pumping and makes up for the fact that you are entirely alone for the next six hours. You need to be having an adrenaline party to compensate for the quiet hours.

Once that sun comes up outside your window, you’re going to start being able to keep your eyes open easier and your friends and family are gonna start waking up and rejoining the stream!

You have made it past the void!

The Call to Action

Extra Life provides a streamer tool kit every year with many different tools and best practices that you can read and use to your benefit. But the strongest fundraising tool you have is your enthusiasm for helping sick children get the lifesaving care they need. You can have all the donation perks and goals you want, but connecting with your viewers and showing them how much their donation can help, who it can help, and why you are part of Extra Life makes it personal and real for them as well.

The call to action is the single most practiced and prepared part of my stream. I may not know what I am playing, when I’m playing it, or who might be a guest star in Discord before I press go live, but what I do have is a nice little list of all the points I want to touch on during the stream on a clipboard.

If someone asks me “What rank is your children’s hospital for heart disease”, I want to be able to say Seattle Children’s Hospital ranks number twenty-three in cardiology and heart surgery. I try to have as much knowledge as I can about my hospital on hand and ready to roll.

I am by no means an expert, but I do want to be able to accurately depict the level of care, and the research that donations are helping to fund. The ability to be a champion or ambassador for your hospital is not a necessity, But I have found that it does help quantify for donors just how much their donations are helping to save lives.

The more informed you are, or the more information you have readily on hand, the more people will take you seriously when you read a statistic about your hospital. A little prep work goes a long way, and I have never regretted pre-printing a few updated fact sheets about my local hospital before the stream.

Overall the reward for solo streaming is knowing that at the end of that long grind of twenty-four hours, you did everything you could to put on a good show and do your best to help your local hospital. As part of Team AcaGameia, I help provide a bit of solo content and run some events at different times and intervals. As a team, we cover more total stream time with me being separate most of the time and not remote playing in.

But you could also find a group where you all meet up virtually to play together over Discord or another video chat. The options are endless!

So if you are worried about starting off alone, my best advice to you is to just fire up your stream and do your best. Let all the complexities organically grow as you gain experience! You will find your formula for success.

After all, when times get tough, we play to help make a difference.

-Zekk Walker-

Leave a Reply