Streaming video games is big business for some. Tyler "Ninja" Blevins reportedly makes $500,000 a month playing Fortnite on Twitch. But for the vast majority of streamers, barely anyone's watching, and precious few are paying. For the vast majority, streaming is a hobby. For others, it's the hope of something bigger - a bigger audience, perhaps, more views, more comments and, of course, more money.
So, what's it like being a low-level streamer hoping to hit the big time? How does committing to at least trying to make something out of streaming affect your life, your relationships, your day to day? For 29 year-old Admiral Peach, an Ark fan whose streams get around 20-something concurrent viewers, it's a juggling act. She streamed for 93 hours in the 30 days up to mid July 2018, but she also has a part-time job and a relationship. There's a lot going on. This is her story.
You might expect a streamer to have played games their whole life. This isn't the case for Admiral Peach. Though she's now based in Oxfordshire, she's made a few moves over the years, from her birthplace in India, to County Westmeath in Ireland when she was seven. Like many of us, she developed her love of gaming while growing up, but it wasn't from an early age. She remembers looking on enviously for years as her friends got consoles. Eventually, she managed to convince her parents to buy a PlayStation One and the fire was lit.
Sadly, the console didn't last long. Hard work was instilled in Peach from a young age. She proudly describes how her dad came from a "not-well-off family" to become a surgeon, while her mum juggled a PhD with looking after the family. So during exams, it was goodbye PlayStation. Peach was pretty determined to keep on gaming though - she remembers paying her best friend visits so the pair could play Final Fantasy and Cluedo. Most of the time she tried to lead by example for her younger siblings: "I studied. A lot. And got into engineering school." But a strict upbringing followed by complete freedom resulted in Peach rebelling, partying hard and then failing her exams. "I felt terrible that year, like I let my parents down."
Despite her disappointment, she didn't give up. Peach picked herself up and moved on to study optometry at Glasgow University, vowing not to make the same mistake again. The hard work mentality returned and she hasn't lost it to this day. But with that came challenges. On top of four years at university, she had to do a placement year - this meant working full-time, studying and constant assessments all at once. She moved from Glasgow to Inverness, far away from her friends and significant other. There, she worked in a big shop under two supervisors who had "extreme issues" with each other and would take them out on her. She hesitates as she recalls how "one of them would scream at me for no reason and I would just cry". "I spent about nine months just trying to get through my training, but it really affected my work and I wasn't doing good in my exams at all." The long hours and pressure placed on Peach, alongside the challenges of a long-distance relationship, led to her battle with stress and depression. She was left feeling helpless and unmotivated. But thanks to an assessor who came to check on her, she managed to move to another shop. Though, it did mean having to redo a full year of training and finish a year later than all her friends.
It wasn't until after her training that Peach returned to gaming, when her then fiancé built her a PC. She remembers it as "a breath of fresh air" after her struggles. But it was the ever-popular Minecraft which eventually got her hooked. Falling in love with its creativity, she started watching YouTube videos, which inspired her to create her own. "I started dreaming about how I could do it myself, I felt like I had my own story to tell to the world," Peach reminisces.
She took the plunge and created a YouTube channel, teaming up with another creator to make videos. But the time demands for recording and editing - and the need to stay up until the early hours because her co-creator lived in America - were a struggle. Even when the duo moved to Twitch, the schedule continued to take a serious toll on Peach's relationship with her husband. She worked during the day so had to start on content as soon as she got home. She was incredibly busy, constantly moving from one task to another, meaning she was sleeping at different times to her husband. They barely saw each other. "We would say hello at breakfast and that was pretty much it for a long time, it was really bad."
It wasn't until they went on holiday and had a break from streaming that Peach realised she wasn't happy. "I had a really long break when I was away and I had a lot of time to spend with my husband for the first time in ages, and I was like, oh my god, I really miss this! So when I came back I decided I needed to stop what I was doing and focus on us a bit more. He was very understanding, but I could tell he wasn't happy with how much time I was spending on it." On her return, Peach made a change and began streaming solo at UK times. Although working alone was scary, both her and her husband are much happier and can do things they missed out on before, like having dinner together and going on dates. Not to mention Peach now looks forward to streaming every day.
Although she's got her foot in the door of Twitch, Peach also works at least three days a week as a locum optometrist, allowing her to choose when and where she covers at different clinics. To balance everything, she's developed a specific system of working weekends, doing errands in the morning and streaming weekday afternoons. When I ask how she manages everything, she insists sticking to her schedule is really important, as she wouldn't get anything done if she slacked off. So there's no lie ins and it's early to bed, early to rise, as being well rested helps fit it all in.
Earning a living from streaming can be challenging, especially when starting out. In order to earn some money but still have enough time to stream, Peach works part-time. While she admits she'd be in a better position financially if she went full-time, she manages to get by on what she has right now. And though streaming "isn't a viable source of income" just yet and is still more like a hobby, she'd love to be able to do it full-time in the future. "It would be a dream come true. I trained hard to become an optometrist, yes, but it doesn't fill my heart with excitement and anticipation like streaming and gaming does."
Peach has had to make sacrifices to follow her dream. Along with reducing her working hours, she admits she's cut back on something she loves. "I'm very reluctant to take long holidays now because of the fact I'm streaming, whereas before I would've gone to India where my parents live for like a month or something. It kills me now because I'm like, no, I can't take that much time off from streaming."
Despite her success, the road to building her channel has been paved with challenges. "My first ever livestream was around July 2017," recalls Peach. "I streamed Ark with no cam and I still remember that fateful day because my mouse batteries suddenly died mid-stream, which led to a lot of death and confusion on my part and everyone posting #deadbatterymousegirl in chat, which ended up sticking around to this day!"
She's also had to learn to stand strong in the face of adversity, being subjected to inappropriate or objectifying comments during most of her streams because of her sex. This harassment is why she doesn't disclose her real name and goes only by the alias Admiral Peach. She confesses it happens so regularly she's had to build up a thick skin in order to ignore and brush off comments. But it wasn't always so easy. One of Peach's first experiences of this kind of harassment was very early in her career, before she went solo. "We were streaming Ark and it was almost as if it was a raid, a bunch of people all came into chat together and it made me think they were part of a group. They started saying extremely obscene things. At the time we had a moderator who was super fast at getting there, so he timed everyone out and instantly cleared the chat. That's one strong experience that really stuck out for me, because as soon as it happened I didn't know what to do. I was at a loss and I didn't really feel like streaming anymore." The harassment caused Peach to take a break from streaming and reconsider whether she even wanted to carry on.
But as the saying goes, time heals all wounds and she returned to doing what she loves. With experience, she's taught herself to calmly give warnings to anyone posting sexist comments and ban them if they don't stop. She knows people act differently behind screens, so opts for a fairly peaceful approach, taking attention away from them as she finds that's usually what they're after. Although most viewers are "wonderful and supportive", she says the sexism is unfortunately just part of streaming.
Nevertheless, Peach has enjoyed building her stream - it's even made her a more outgoing person. She recently hit 1000 followers, which is a "huge deal" for her. But she's not stopping there. She values giving her viewers a great experience, so she's always looking for new ways to do that. So far, she's upgraded the quality of her setup, and is considering setting up a Patreon in the future. 2018 will also mark another milestone - her first ever meet-and-greet at EGX in September with friends she's met through gaming.