Monday, February 8, 2016


The streaming life of Utah's self-proclaimed "gaymers."

Posted By on February 8, 2016, 8:30 AM

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Having a Twitch stream as a gamer is becoming more commonplace than you think, and watching others play live has become a cultural entertainment phenomenon unto itself. What can we truly say about it, other than people just love watching others play games. One of the local channels getting some love recently has been Twedesmith, a pair of self-proclaimed "gaymers" who are in fact a married couple who play hits and favorites such as Super Mario Maker, Undertale and Mother 3. Today we chat with the duo about starting up their gaming channel and where they're headed with their content. (All pictures courtesy of Twedesmith.)

Twede & Smith
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Twedesmith on Twitch

Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

The two of us have been together for about three and a half years, and enjoy spending all of the time we can with each other. When we aren't at work, we like to spend our time traveling and exploring. In between trips we watch a lot of movies and shows, read together, hit the gym, put together new projects on our Twitch channel, and spend time on air gaming with our viewers! Twitch has become a hobby that we can both spend time doing together.

What first got each of you into gaming, and what were your favorite titles growing up?

Let's face it, gaming was our world when we were kids. We’re sure that a few other 20-somethings can relate. In those young years, it seems like there was always a new console coming out that was pushing the limits and raising the stakes. I have older siblings and, despite sometimes winding up with the less than desired titles left over after an older brother had his pick, ended up having pretty good taste in what was fun and what wasn't. My favorite games growing up included 1992's smash hit Zelda: A Link To The Past and 1994's much less commonly known Earthbound.

Smith: The Smith home got its first gaming console a little later, when in Christmas of 1996 Santa Claus left an unexpected present under the tree. The basement was never the same once the N64 showed up. Many titles got endless hours of enjoyment but Diddy Kong Racing and Banjo Kazooie were by far the favorites.

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Within the past year, what would you say have been the best games you've enjoyed?

I really like the more mature, somewhat grittier, story-based adventures. We recently played The Last of Us Remastered, which tells the story of a journey across the country as humanity tries to pick up the pieces when an infection wipes nearly everyone out. The story, oddly enough, comes to a heart-breaking end in our very own Salt Lake City. Twede loved the combat based puzzles and sneaking around past zombies and guards; he is definitely the better gamer. For me, it was the incredible attention to detail and the real world the game was able to portray that kept my attention. I finished the game feeling like I knew the characters personally and had experienced their unimaginably difficult, at times grueling journey walking right alongside them. I love a game that I can get lost in just like a good movie.

Twede: We have definitely played some lighter stuff this year, too. This summer when we made our debut on Twitch, we had just finished a drawn-out playthrough of Earthbound that had gone on for almost two years. We took some of the new-found momentum after finishing, and dived right into the English fan translation of Mother 3, Earthbound’s sequel. The game had its moments of despair and heartbreak as well, but all-in-all gave us a lighthearted, at times downright funky good time. I think that best part of playing that game for us was the new friends we made along the way some of which have become staples of almost every stream in our chat.

How did the two of you first meet and eventually start having a relationship?

We like to laugh about how we met with almost anyone who asks us. Truth is, like many Mormons in Utah, we met at BYU. Even cheesier than that is the fact that our first meeting occurred in the BYU library. That night, I was attending BYU and had gone to a concert that was being held that evening in the Dejong Concert Hall. Twede had been invited by a friend from high school to come along for a movie night that was being held in the library. Twede almost didn't end up going and I was all dressed up for the concert and nearly didn't make it myself. Miraculously we both ended up there together seated one in front of the other in the theater. Before the movie started we got talking and found out that both of us were working as Spanish teachers. The movie began and our conversation ended. It turns out that Twede's friend was a good friend of mine and, through the magic of Facebook, Twede came up with my number. I got a text from him asking if I would like to go out and I excitedly replied, "Yes, of course!” About a week later we went for pupusas, a mutual favorite food from El Salvador, and saw the latest Bond film. We've been together ever since, eventually marrying in December of 2013.

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When did the idea come about to start up your own Let's Play channel?

You know, it kind of happened on a whim. We are big media nerds and have a system setup that allows us to run a server for most of our media content. One night, we enabled the ability to stream from Twitch and began to watch a few of the channels that were live at the time. We found a lot that we liked and a few things that we didn't which started the conversation about what we would do if we had our own channel. From there we started to research what it took to pull a channel together and broadcast, and pretty quickly found that it would be much more complicated that we thought to achieve the high bar we had set for ourselves.

Twede: We ordered some equipment that we knew we would need and started piecing things together. Soon enough we felt that we had the bare bones for a channel, and one night I just decided to go live and see what would happen. Oddly enough, people started popping in. It was a short first stream, mostly full of dialing in a few settings and some brief gameplay, but the next night we both sat down together and had our first real stream as Twitch’s Twedesmith. In the time since, we have found the need to continually push the limits. We have reinvented our channel over and over again trying to fine-tune our look and achieve that high standard we set months ago when we talked about how we would do things differently. It's amazing how much work we've gone through, but since we get to do it together, we're nothing but smiles. It's been a really fun way to spend time working together on something.

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Why did you choose Twitch over YouTube, and what benefits does the stream have above making clips?

We actually do a little bit of both, so that our old broadcasts are available after Twitch stops hosting them. Right about the time that we started streaming, YouTube was preparing to launch its own version of Twitch. At the time, they had even convinced some of the big names from Twitch to jump ship and kick off their new service. We only had a few streams under our belt when the whole thing went live, and had a discussion about what to do but, ultimately, Twitch and the audience we had there was starting to feel like family to us and we couldn’t turn our backs on that. Now, looking back at what we decided to do, we are still very happy with our decision.

Twede: As far as benefits from streaming versus making clips, for us, it is all about the chat. That is probably the number one thing that we love about being able to stream. We would probably be playing games together without Twitch, but having the chance to get together with friends from around the world and have the adventure together is everything for us. YouTube has its comments and some other mechanisms that may be able to compare, but the live interaction is just so much better.

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What was it like for you to start playing live and building a following?

It was scary at first. Being on stage in front of a worldwide audience really has a way of making you feel small and self-conscious about everything. We were worried about what we were wearing, how our hair looked, why we sounded so dumb when we opened our mouths, the list of insecurities can go on and on. It was the friends that we have made that started to make us feel a little bit more comfortable in our own skin. It is really amazing to get everything set up, login and open the chat to find dedicated followers there waiting for the show to start. Our kind viewers have sent us messages of support, made donations to keep our channel alive and help it move forward, and a few have even sent us some Twedesmith artwork that we have on display in our studio. The progress has been slow and taken a lot of dedication in our limited free time, but the people we have met along the way have made it more than worthwhile for us. We are inching ever closer to our goals every time we start a broadcast.

As opposed to other gamers, you tend to do casual playthroughs. What made you go for content that wasn't necessarily about completing a game or meeting a challenge?

Twitch is about a lot of things for many people. Some are competitive, some speed run, others play the same games over and over again. For us, our show is all about enjoying our time together. We broadcast as a way to unwind and have some fun and we think that resonates with our late night audience. We have played a huge variety of games and like to go with the flow. There are certainly some things that we do that get better engagement than others, but at the end of the day our channel is about having fun and spending time together with our friends.

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What games did you find worked best with the audience as you went on?

The games that draw the biggest audience for us have fallen into two categories. We have played some older games that have a draw for the nostalgic viewers who have played them dozens of times, and we have also found success with some newer titles that the Twitch community is curious to experience for the first time. The games that have really done well from either category are the ones that people can watch casually. Not everyone has several hours to tune in two to three nights a week, and if we are playing a game that has important pieces of a story happening at every turn, our viewers tend to feel a bit lost. When we have played games that offer a more bite-sized approach that allows quick, even sporadic consumption, we have a lot more people roll through. Lately, Super Mario Maker has been a gold mine for us. Not only is it a new, popular game that many are curious about, but we have been able to set up a system that allows our audience to contribute content they have created for live play during our show. Super Mario Maker has definitely helped us do some serious growing.

What kind of challenge has it been building a subscriber base and getting people to follow you?

Exposure is hard to come by in the online world. It seems that almost any network you turn to is so saturated that competing for some air space is always a huge challenge. When we started out, we were playing games that had cult followings and fiercely loyal fan bases. Every time that we would switch to a new game, we would come by a lot of new viewers, but almost always lose most of the old ones. What we found was that we have to mix things up and keep it fresh. We can’t spend a month straight playing one game and then transition to another and expect everyone to keep coming back.

Smith: We have talked a lot about what we need to do to help move the Twedesmith channel closer to our goal of making it more than something we are just doing for entertainment and are seeing more than ever that we have to treat our channel like a business. We have to advertise and market ourselves in new and more creative ways. We have to be a real constant in the lives of the people we are trying to reach. It’s hard work. We have spent hundreds of hours on our channel and slowly improving it. In online media, the payoff is never immediate and we know that. We are in this for the long haul.

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You've just started getting into making YouTube clips. How has it been creating content for that service?

This is one of the areas we have big plans for. In the past few months, most of the content we have created and uploaded has been entire broadcasts. YouTube has kind of taken the form of a storage bin for us to archive our old streams and share them with the world. We are looking forward this year to creating some tailor-made content that is going to allow us to market our Twitch Channel on the YouTube platform. There is a lot of good content that happens during the course of a broadcast and we are planning on relying on our audience to help us identify what they would like to see posted through a new tagging system we are looking to implement. More details coming soon!

Are there any other gamers you like to play with? Are you looking to branch out and do more cooperative games?

We love to travel and eventually one of the things on our wish list is to take Twedesmith on the road. What we hope to be able to do is connect with our loyal fans and other friends from the streaming community in their cities around the world to host Twedesmith episodes remotely with guests. Up until now, we have only ever had one guest on the show. Our follower ApplesDosApples lives here locally and was our top donor when we hit the 200 follower mark, so we invited him over. We had so much fun that we have been working to plan some other streams with our local fan base here in the near future. Our Twedesmith road tour is still a long way away, but a goal we are aiming for, nonetheless.

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Where do you hope to take the channel in the years to come? And will you be going to any conventions down the road?

This fall we are planning on attending TwitchCon 2016 in San Francisco and really look forward to rubbing elbows with some of the streamers we idolize. We know that networking is one of the most vital parts to moving forward in any career and see conferences as a great way to do some of it. For us, a career is what we hope Twedesmith can become. We both have our day jobs and the things that we have to do, but we have found a lot of happiness in being able to take our channel and really put our whole hearts into it. Ultimately, we aim to achieve the highly sought-after “Partner” title within the Twitch community in hopes that we can monetize our stream enough to have it be viable to spend a much more significant amount of time on air. For right now, we are putting our all into growing our fan base and enjoying the journey toward our dreams.

What can we expect from you both and your channel over the rest of 2016?

Right now we are working on some new projects that we hope will give our audience their daily dose of Twedesmith on even the days we won’t be streaming live. A new website is under construction that will serve as an aggregation point for a lot the content we are creating. It will be the permanent home for the eventual Twedesmith Media Network and a place for our fans from across the web to gather together for some time with the two of us when we aren’t on Twitch.

Twede: We are also working on some exciting new ways for our audiences to connect with us and participate in the streams as they happen live. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make our show more interactive than it has ever been. For us, the interaction is the part of streaming that really keeps us going. We are looking forward to giving our audience the ability to make the show their own.

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