Indie Streamer SeriouslyClara Told Us Why Staying True to Yourself on Twitch Is So Important

SeriouslyClara may not be one of Twitch's biggest gaming streamers, but she's definitely made an impact on people's lives through gaming.

Clara streams for her community, not to get tons of viewers. She avoids the AAA games with massive budgets and focuses on indies, makes her dialogue as inclusive as possible and disables ads on her channel, in addition to playing for charity on a number of occasions.

We got the chance to speak with Clara about what community is all about and why authenticity wins over popularity. And you have to keep reading to find out her advice for Twitch streamers everywhere!

Twitch streamer SeriouslyClara peace sign

(Courtesy of SeriouslyClara)

Sweety High: When did you first become passionate about video games? 

SeriouslyClara: Ever since my parents got my brother and I an NES for Christmas. We obsessively played Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt for months and my love for gaming never stopped. I still have a very large collection (in the hundreds) of retro games including Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Gran Turismo, Secret of Mana, Parappa the Rapper, Suikoden II and Super Mario Bros. 3.

SH: Did you ever think back then that people would someday be tuning in to watch you play video games?

I never once imagined that I would be streaming Let's Plays live. Even when I made my Twitch account, I had no idea what livestreaming was. I just wanted to see some PvP [player vs. player] gameplay for an MMO [massively multiplayer online game] I was into at the time. I didn't even know it was live. I'm still a baby streamer, but it astounds me that I have an online family willing to hang out with me night after night.


SH: What about playing games do you think appeals to you most?

SC: There are so many aspects of gaming that speak to me—it would take a book to list and detail them all.

One of them is the immersion and interaction you get that goes beyond watching a movie, TV show, play or sports game. Some video games cost more to make than movies these days, so you're getting top-tier entertainment along with direct cause-and-effect interaction. Some video games demand you get up and move around, and are even geared towards physical health. The emergence of VR [virtual reality] has taken immersion to a whole new level, and it's only growing.

With immersion, video games can also provide a form of escape to impossibly beautiful, terrifying or fantastical worlds. The things you can do in them are wondrous, imaginative and well-realized. Gaming has evolved from text-only meanderings to amazingly detailed visual adventures with equal attention to sound, music, artistic direction and gameplay.

Video games also teach a degree of critical thinking skills and outside-the-box problem solving. Part of how I excelled in school, piano playing and socializing came from my long-term relationship with gaming. It's taught me management and communications skills, to have perseverance, about risk and reward, how to be a gracious winner and a good loser and so much more.

Twitch streamer SeriouslyClara avatar

(Courtesy of SeriouslyClara)

SH: What do you love most about gaming?

SC: I love how it brings people together. Like any other passion in life, gaming has its own community. There are lighter and darker shades to any community, of course, but gaming has the power to create the most unlikely bonds, camaraderie and, with the help of the internet, friendships around the world. Because gaming has been around for generations and has grown into so many genres, platforms and innovations, the community, too, has branched out into myriad sub-groups. There's always something to talk about between one gamer and the next and excitement in their eyes when a topic in gaming sparks a conversation.

Because of gaming—and Twitch—I've even founded a local community meetup. At the time of writing, I'm planning our 11th event that will include 250 gamers, broadcasters, game developers and industry members.


SH: Tell us about how you got started on Twitch.

SC: I started regularly streaming on Twitch in mid-2014. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I did my first stream to get in-game gold towards a legendary in Guild Wars 2. I've never gone beyond casual status, in that streaming has been and will always be a hobby for me, not a job.

When I first started streaming, I thought I had to play all the AAA titles and MMOs, despite my interest in other games. I had no ambitions to apply for partnership because I thought there were too many other obligations tied to being a partner—running ads, sticking with big titles, keeping a rigid schedule, amping up production value and things like that. It wasn't until PAX Prime of that year that several members of the Twitch team I was a member of—The Hammer Squad—both recognized me (such a weird feeling!) and encouraged me to apply. The main influence was Twitch's Towelliee himself.


SH: What was the process of becoming a Twitch partner, and how has that affected what you do?

SC: The story of applying for partnership is also rather embarrassing. I was just writing up a draft in the submission form to see how I felt about applying. And instead of Preview or Clear (I'm not sure which), I accidentally hit Submit. To this day, I still don't know what I wrote, but it was apparently enough, and I was partnered within a day. I got my sub button—what viewers use to subscribe to your channel for $4.99 per month—within an hour after that.

It turned out I didn't have any real obligations after partnership that affected what I was already doing. In fact, being partnered drove me in the opposite direction. Where at first I thought I had to play major titles to bring in viewers, I decided to throw all of that away and play whatever I wanted when I wanted, viewer count be darned. I stopped looking at the count and started playing retro and indie games, following my heart's whims every stream. I stopped running ads within a month of partnership because, as a casual, I wasn't out for the money. The main bonus for me was having transcodes [viewing quality options] and, vainly, my own sub emotes.

I haven't looked back on this decision, and after working through stream identity issues, have gone 100% indies only.

I also realized I had a platform. There were people actually willing to listen to the things I said. Admittedly, I was a pretty big troll when I first started streaming, since it was mainly PvP. I decided that I couldn't take my position for granted anymore. I turned my stream around from being "edgy," to one that focused on inclusion, positivity, good mental health and acceptance. I knew that the online gaming community is largely comprised of uncertain youth and troubled people. Today, my community is a safe place for people of a common interest to congregate. And I'm more careful with the things I say—not to the point where I'm in any way compromising who I am, of course, but simply being mindful of how diverse my community is.

Twitch streamer SeriouslyClara pokemon pacman short

(Courtesy of SeriouslyClara)

SH: Is it ever hard to get on camera and share gaming on Twitch? 

SC: Being heavily introverted, it was very hard to continually get on camera. In fact, I hated streaming when I first started. I only did it because I was pestered by friends and in-game acquaintances (and because it got me more gold). Eventually, I learned to ignore the trolls and realized I was in a safe environment. Though it was live, I controlled what parts of the conversation I wanted to respond to. I had a moderator team to handle any disturbances to the peace, and I could shut down the stream whenever I wanted if it ever came to it. This all suited the extroverted introvert in me perfectly.

When I don't particularly feel like being seen, I stream without a cam, even though it usually means less viewers. When I'm in a really poor mood, I try not to stream at all—I don't want to put that on my community, and I certainly don't want my content to be affected by it. You have to go with your gut. And if you shouldn't be streaming that day, just don't stream. You call the shots.

A lot of career streamers will tell you that there are no sick days or personal days for a full-time broadcaster. But your viewers ultimately want you to be happy. They can tell when you're not enjoying yourself, and if you're worried about your numbers, the dip will always be made up for in no time at all. Your community is there for you.


SH: You've also used gaming to do a lot of charity fundraising. Tell us about it. 

SC: My first charity fundraiser through gaming benefited the Seattle Children's Hospital. A team of us got together to plan a week-long gaming marathon in which we took shifts to broadcast video gameplay to raise money. We offered incentives like game prizes, doing something silly on camera or letting viewers influence what we did in-game in order to generate donations. I can't remember how much we made by the end, but the conclusion brought many to tears as one of the organizers introduced us to his daughter, who was being treated by the hospital we were raising money for. It was a really impactful event for broadcaster and viewer alike.

I was also part of a fundraiser for veterans through Operation Supply Drop. They campaign with gaming content creators like myself to raise money. They hold many events throughout the year, the most prominent of which is the 8-Bit Salute. Many of us do some variation of incentives for donations with the help of our own sponsors, but there are usually also live gaming tournaments between broadcasters to generate more hype and donations.

Since then, I've raised money for more children's hospitals, but the most memorable was for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The organization has their own influencer outreach team specifically formed to involve content creators in their charity campaigns. They took this job seriously and even flew many of us out to their campus in Memphis, Tennessee to tour the facility, create buzz and even play games with some of the patients. Needless to say, this made a huge impact on all of us.

Broadcasters are encouraged to raise money for St. Jude at any time in the year, but this team targets specific influencers to take part in an annual month-long gaming charity drive called St. Jude PlayLIVE. Last year, we raised $2 million in the one month alone—all through gaming. This will be my third year participating in St. Jude PlayLIVE and I'm happy to report that the content creator team has grown immensely, along with our combined audience reach.


SH: What do you love in particular about indie games?

SC: I am a huge fan of passion projects. My stream is a passion project. My local community meetup events are a passion project. Pretty much anything I put my heart and soul into that isn't my day job is a passion project.

I admire and respect game developers who create something out of passion in their off-hours, burning the midnight oil and, oftentimes, with very little funding. There are, of course, larger indie studios, which I have equal respect for—they had to have started somewhere humble!

While I still do like some AAA titles, I find that too many cooks in the kitchen often creates a watered-down mess. They think every game needs online multiplayers, realistic effects down to the pores, this feature and that feature, and that it has to be 10 different genres at once. The budgets are so high with so many stakeholders that they all seem to follow the same tried and true formulae to commercial success. Obviously, there are exceptions to this notion, but by and large, I just don't see enough innovations from one title to the next.

I have a soft spot for indie games because they are games the developers really want to make. They're often very small teams—sometimes it's just one guy or girl—and they make the thing they set out to make with little outside influence. They might need to do a few tweaks based on their publisher (if they're lucky to get that far), but they sold themselves based on a concept they cooked up themselves. Instead of trying to accomplish a lot of things at once, they come up with a solid concept and flesh it out. The result is usually more interesting to me than the blockbuster hits, and, in many cases, simply innovative.


SH: What are some indie games that you wish more people knew about?

SC: There are far too many to list! Assault Android Cactus, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Count Lucanor, Gravity Ghost, Duck Game, Finding Teddy, Dust: An Elysian Tail, Her Story, Contradiction – Spot the Liar!, Rogue Wizards, Shu, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Mark of the Ninja, Milkmaid of the Milky Way, Crea, Rise & Shine, Sunless Sea, Steamworld Dig, The Magic Circle—these are just some off the top of my head that don't include the major indie hits like Owlboy, Don't Starve Together, The Stanley Parable, Shovel Knight, Stardew Valley and Super Meat Boy.

I've had countless wonderful experiences in the unknown, unloved realms of the indie world. I could never come close to naming them all.

Twitch streamer SeriouslyClara smiling

(Courtesy of SeriouslyClara)

SH: What life lessons has being a gamer taught you, and what advice do you have for girls who want to get into streaming themselves?

SC: I talked a little bit about this earlier, but another lesson—and an important one—is never to give up. Also, you are equal to anyone else out there. Just because you are this or that—be it your gender, your religion, your race, or anything else—you have just as much a right to be in the gaming community as anyone else. Girls aren't even in the minority anymore, if online statistics are true.

To add to this, I personally identify myself as a gamer, rather than a girl or female gamer. I feel that adding that extra label only serves to further segregate us. What do we really have to prove? We're all gamers. Now I'm not saying we need to hide the fact that we're female—far be it. But I don't see any males declaring themselves as boy or male gamers. If something comes up in voice chat that offends me as a woman, I'll absolutely speak up. It's just not the first thing I put out there. When someone comes into my channel and makes comments about finally seeing a girl gamer playing games, I take the opportunity to educate him—politely—that we make up over 50% of gamers now. We're everywhere. We just don't need to scream it out loud.

Something useful that I learned was not to encourage or enable backhanded compliments or pet names that imply a familiarity that someone hasn't earned. I used to think getting called things like "beautiful" or "sweetheart" were flattering because, when you're starting out, you're always looking for some semblance of acceptance and belonging in a new community. I've since learned that I need to hold myself to the same level of respect I hold my community to. I wouldn't allow this sort of behavior to happen "in real life," so why would I allow it online? Unless our relationship has gone deeper than viewer to streamer, people address me by my name. If they don't, I say, "Just Clara will do, thanks."

When someone comments on my appearance positively or negatively based on their preference—for example, "You look better without makeup" or "I like your hair down more"—I squash that immediately. Same goes for, "Finally, a female gamer who's modestly dressed." It sounds like a compliment, but it's not—plus it implies you agree that other women who show more skin are bad. We can wear whatever we want without our gaming skills being judged based on it, just like anyone else can. Don't like it? Look elsewhere.

Lastly, never forget who you are. Your identity online is as important as your identity offline.


SH: Any other tips for streamers?

The landscape in content creation changes swiftly and dramatically, and it's not slowing down. It is hugely different this year than last year, and it will evolve even more by next year. If you want to make streaming a career, you have to keep up. If you're like me and you just want to stream as a hobby, there's less to worry about. Stream what you want when you want.

You build your community to your standards. Stand up for yourself. Have a mod team that's on the same page as you are. Just as viewers choose who they watch, you choose who gets to watch you. Do not try to convert every troll. Give a chance only to the ones you think might have something valuable to add to your community after some quick education. The rest don't deserve you. Think of it this way: Why spend all that extra energy on someone who doesn't want to be there when there are people who willingly chose to be in your community in the first place?

Know the difference between a sell-out and someone who's just getting paid for what they do. A sell-out is someone who goes against their personal beliefs or values in order to benefit or make a quick buck. You are 100% allowed to endorse products you believe in and feel are a good fit for your community. Selling out would be playing games you don't actually enjoy just to get more viewers or getting sponsored by a company who you know makes inferior products.

On sponsorships, partnerships, and affiliations: Don't sell yourself short and never settle. In the beginning, you may be tempted to take anything that comes your way, but don't. Take the time to research the company and their products. Is this something you actually want to associate your brand with? How would your community react to this partnership? Do any competing companies offer better products in your opinion? Oftentimes, you will be signed on to be exclusive to that type of product. How was the offer made? Was it personal or a mass outreach? Does this company offer a culture you want to be a part of? These are all important questions. Know your worth. You have reach.

Don't put other streamers down—especially other women. Let's be allies, not enemies. Do not judge other women for streaming in their own way. We are in the age of body positivity, individuality and capitalism. As long as they're happy with what they're doing and it doesn't hurt them or anyone else, who are we to judge how they make their content and to which audience?

Don't compare yourself to others' success. Instead, define your own success and measure yourself up to that.

Know you have a platform—big or small. Don't abuse it. Don't take it for granted. Exemplify the person you'd want to watch.

Use social media. At the very least, be on Twitter.

The biggest hurdle to streaming is starting. If it's something you want to do or even try, just do it. Don't bother with the fancy cam or mic or intros or effects. Just do it. See if you like it first, even if there are no viewers, and then build up from there.

And lastly, do not start streaming with it being a full-time job right from the beginning. Do not become a full-time streamer if you're not 100% financially secure first. The stress will damage your mental health, which will in turn damage your content, which will affect your community.


Now that you know about how to play games, learn how games are made HERE in our interview with The Sims producer Lyndsay Pearson.