See what I did there ^^^ Reflection, pond, picture… I need to get out more
It’s the Wednesday morning after Tuesday night’s stream. I finally calmed down enough to fall asleep sometime between 1:30AM and 2:00AM last night (or I guess technically this morning). I’d decided to give Jurassic Park’s Escape Nublar wizard mode one last speed-run attempt a little after the time I normally stop my stream and thank everyone for watching. And of course that decision took me 20 minutes past my normal stop time of 12:30AM which then pushed back the normal “go-to-bed” time of roughly 12:50AM. I usually give myself about 20 minutes to shut down the stream, pinball machines, lights, and pack up my computer gear for work the next day. But I had completed the wizard mode a few times and chat had been quite lively. Not to mention I had just finished a beer so it took a little longer than normal for sleep to find me.
My alarm went off at 7:30 and I wanted to snooze for an additional 2 hours but I had a software architecture meeting scheduled for 8:15 this morning. I got ready and into work just in-time to hear some people drone on about something vaguely resembling software. Honestly, I don’t remember much and I don’t think I added anything of value to any of the conversations.
Now I’m sitting at work with 20 minutes before my next meeting thinking about the fact that my 250th stream is coming up Thursday and I’m struggling to focus enough to write something about this milestone but it’s tough to make it past the occasional ringing in my ears and intense headache with the accompanying pain behind my eyes that 4 Excedrin Migraine can’t seem to touch. I’ve got a latte from Starbucks to my left and a Mountain Dew to my right that both seem to be judging me every time I take a sip. I remember reading somewhere that caffeine was supposed to help pain relievers like Advil and Excedrin, but it doesn’t seem to be working and I don’t have the guts to try and give the latte or mountain dew a hard time about it. I need them too much.
My first stream on Twitch was on 5/10/2018 for almost 12 minutes. And since then, I’ve streamed for 490.5 hours across 249 streams. Why do it? Why spend 2 hours streaming with an additional hour of prep time 3 times a week for almost 2 years? There have been more days like today than I can count on all my fingers and toes. I buy Excedrin in bulk and drink entirely too much coffee and Mountain Dew than is healthy for someone much younger than me to drink.
I can say this honestly without reservation:
At no point since I’ve started streaming have I ever considered stopping.
But let me take a step back before I get to the why:
A Quick History
The idea to “stream” pinball was non-existent at first. In fact, it was similar to my introduction to pinball in the summer of 2017. And I do mean “introduction”. I thoroughly disliked pinball prior to investigating a purchase of one as a present for my wife. I liked old-school arcade games, it turned out that Jess (my wife) liked old-school pinball games which was news to me but was quite in-line with our relationship so far. I like spontaneity, she loves scheduling things. I like technology, she loves her pen and paper. I loved Science-Fiction and Fantasy, she loves Romance novels… We’re a relationship of opposites that work well together.
But pinball!? Who actually likes pinball? Who likes that feeling of constantly flailing about trying to keep the ball from draining for as long as possible? It all seemed as pointless as hula-hooping to me.
But she wanted one and I’ve always considered myself an overachiever so I thought I’d do some investigation into pinball and buy one for her.
I ended up at a little subterranean bar in the middle of old town Fort Collins, Colorado called Pinball Jones. They had recently acquired a liquor license and I had an hour before I needed to pick my wife and kid up from a class across the street. I sneaked down the stairs and found myself in something from a movie like War Games or Hackers. 80s music was blaring out of speakers all over the place, Christmas lights adorned the ceiling and walls along with art and posters for concerts both recent and long past. I walked past the 20 or so people milling about, playing games and found the bar and ordered a local craft brew. If you haven’t heard me talk about the amazing craft beer culture in Colorado or more specifically the amazing breweries in Fort Collins, you should check it out. I asked what to play and they mentioned that they had recently got in a Wizard of Oz and a Ghostbusters that I should try. I walked over to Ghostbusters and put a few quarters in.
I hated it. The art was wonderful and the call-outs (as I would learn to call them) were perfect, but… it was pinball. And I felt stupid putting quarters into a machine to have 10 seconds of enjoyment.
But there was a guy next to me that was making a game called Medieaval Madness go crazy. It was yelling and knocking, the building was exploding and making fun of him with trolls popping up out of the field. And that wasn’t what surprised me. What caught my attention was how he was playing. He was in a multiball (which I didn’t know at the time was the term) and cradling 2 balls on the left while shooting the castle with a third ball on the right.
I watched this guy play one game of pinball for over 20 minutes. And when he was done, I introduced myself and this guy (who later helped me join a pinball league) walked me through some of the basics of pinball. And I was awful.
But I had seen what good play could be. I was hooked. I bought us a Ghostbusters premium.
Notice I said “us”?
And next up was Star Wars premium. Then Dialed In, Iron Maiden, Guardian’s of the Galaxy, and the list goes on and on.
It feels like decades I’ve been in the hobby, but its only been a couple of years. In fact, it will be 3 years since we purchased our first pinball machine this summer.
Coming Back to the First Question, Why Stream?
We now had two pinball machines (Ghostbusters and Star Wars) but my wife who initially was really excited about the games became a little frustrated with how often we played them. She “liked” pinball but she didn’t have the bug. The bug she gave me by the way…
I was forced to chill on playing pinball when people came over or when it was just us and was forced to play when Jess went to bed. Now I was playing by myself. And that got boring REAL quick.
Note: There were many opportunities for juvenile remarks in the previous paragraphs and I appreciate your adulty-ness in not pointing those out.
At the same time I was figuring out pinball, I spotted a YouTube station called Straight Down the Middle that did reviews on pinball machines. I used their review on Ghostbusters mainly when making the decision to buy my first game. I loved what they did. And then they started occassionally doing “live streams” on YouTube. I struggled to understand why/how you would do a live stream but didn’t care much because SDTM saved their content and put it online for consumption at will like standard YouTube content.
I watched these with an idea forming unconsciously in the background of my mind. You see, what I saw in these “live streams” with SDTM was that Zach and Greg were interacting with people who were chatting with them live as they were playing. The people in chat were making suggestions on how to play differently or talking about unrelated things like sports or general pinball stuff.
When I figured out that I missing that sense of community, I made the move to playing on-location in a league. And that was fun, but most places close around 11:00PM in Fort Collins on week nights and I usually worked until 10:00PM every night (weird hours). So I kept coming back to what Zach and Greg had done a few times now and that’s what led me over to Twitch where it’s all “live streaming” and more specifically a streamer by the name of Deadflip. He was streaming 5 days a week for several hours and was having a blast talking to people late at night. But it was late-at-night for someone in Chicago. Not Colorado. I found several others that were streaming in the early to late evening like Owlnonymous and BuffaloPinball.
But there wasn’t anyone streaming at 10:30PM MT when I got off of work. Hmm…
The Path to Streamer
I found out instantly on a few test runs without cameras and what-not that talking and playing pinball at the same time is difficult. Especially without an interactive audience. I picked up some beginner equipment and started doing local recordings where I just talked about what I was doing and why and did that a couple of times a week for about 3 months. I uploaded several of those to YouTube where they reside still to this day. They’re awful and unfortunately still there. I don’t recommend watching them.
My wife thought I was crazy talking to myself like that in front of a camera but I knew that I wasn’t very good at multi-tasking (as she loves to point out) and it would take me some time to get to the point where I could do both at the same time somewhat convincingly.
Note: I still have not mastered this and never will. I wouldn’t even say I’m good at it. But maybe I got a little better than when I started?
I tried my first live stream on Twitch and that first stream was a kind of “Hello World” (a standard program you’re forced to write as the part of an introduction to every programming language. The Hello World program has become a right of passage for developers). I’d done it technically. Now it was time to setup a schedule and begin doing it in earnest if I wanted to build up the kind of community that would make playing pinball by myself late at night fun.
And that’s exactly what happened. Over two years (2 year anniversery will be on 5/10/2020), the people in chat made the hobby of pinball fun for me. And I could do it all from my basement while safely drinking a beer without concern about the cost of an Uber to get home and how I go about picking up my car the next day.
There is so much more to the story of my first stream to 249, like how Owlnonymous started messaging me directly with suggestions on how to improve the quality of my stream. How 60 frames per second was the way to go. And my first couple of big investments in hardware to make that happen.
There have been meetups and pinball gatherings where I got to meet other streamers and players in person. I’ve had fellow pin-heads like DirtyToes and Seribi take me out when visiting to not only the best location I’ve ever been to in Next Level, but they also introduced me to Mod Pizza, an addiction I still struggle with today.
I was “adopted” by the RenoPinball group at Texas Pinball Festival and Pinburgh in 2019 and neither of those events would have been the same without Dave and Jim letting me tag along.
Or how another streamer MPT3k joined in on one of my streams asking for a walk-through of the Shadow but I sold it before I had the opportunity to stream it again. How that sparked a conversation on the Discord server and we both recognized a lack of information on how to stream pinball on the internet. We took what information we had accrued, lessons learned, purchases that turned out to be worthless and put together a series of streams on how to stream pinball well: Second String Silverball
And that doesn’t even touch upon the mountain of experiences, laughs, thrills, and fun I’ve had streaming 249 times on Twitch.
Why I Stream (For Real This Time)
There have been tournaments, drinking streams, on-location streams, push-ups, good streams, great streams, fun streams, wizard modes beat, wizard modes lost, and streams that weren’t fun even a little along the way. I’ve had them all.
But there is no question that the community in pinball and more specifically the community I get to chat with 3 times a week is why I stream.
It’s why there are 249 episodes of Don’t Panic Flip and why there will be many more in the future.
On the eve of my 250th episode tonight from 10:30PM – 12:30AM MT on Twitch, I want to say THANK YOU to the community that makes streaming fun.