Finamenon – Retro Streamer Finds Comfort in Streaming Despite Having Social Anxiety
Tell us your history with video games
I can distinctly remember my first gaming experience. I was 4 and had begged my parents to find their Atari for months. Apparently my dad had one from when he was in high school. Eventually he found it, and brought 3 games home. I remember the windows open and curtains blowing from the breeze, and we popped in Asteroids. I was blown away by the interactive nature of it. I was controlling what I saw on the TV. Although I don’t have as big a fondness for the Atari 2600, I do remember quite vividly that first experience.
The passion for gaming just never stopped from there. Most of the gaming I did while growing up was solitary. I was obsessed with them! It is part of why I gravitated so hard to RPGs. I only got a few games a year as a kid, since they were so pricey. Lotta folks don’t know, back in the 80s and early to mid 90s, new NES and SNES games were $75 USD. Adjusted for inflation, that's over $100 in today’s cash. Wild stuff.
As for the name, it was a high school nickname that just stuck.
What’s your backstory and how did you get into streaming?
I’ve gone by the name Finamenon since 1998. I’d plan on working toward being the king of the retro category someday! I struggle massively with text-based communication, so this interview format has been EXTREMELY CHALLENGING for me. I’m a cancer survivor since 2008, which has unfortunately had some permanent side-effects to my long-term memory. I also previously worked security in the Chicago sports industry where I was privy to many a personality larger than life, where the highlight being I got to work and pick my post when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2015. Also, I am ironically very reclusive and socially anxious.
Back in late 2015, I had some friends in Path of Exile who streamed on Twitch. I didn’t really understand what it was, so I checked it out one night. I decided to see if folks liked to play retro games like me, so I looked up this god awful balanced JRPG on SNES called 7th Saga. Game is such a hot mess, but I really liked it. I ended up finding this guy named PJDiCesare streaming and speedrunning 7th Saga to hundreds of viewers. I was pretty blown away folks were that into these old games, so I kept watching. I thought that if that many folks enjoyed retro games, I could try to share my favorites too.
I had NO idea what I was doing! It was hilarious. My first ever stream was Feb 20th, 2016. I played Breath of Fire 2 from the SNES. I still have the VoD saved locally on my hard drive! Sometimes I check it out just to see how far I’ve come. There are multiple points in that video where I didn’t say a word for 40+ minutes in a row. I thought I was supposed to only talk to people in chat.
For nearly 3 years after that first disaster of a stream, I just had fun with the hobby. I realized more each day how much I enjoyed it, and worked on improving something about it every single day. It dominated my thoughts, goals, and career drive and I knew then I had to make a decision.
Tell us about your channel and community
The community I’ve fostered is one of respect for all walks of life. It sounds cliche, but we welcome all guys, gals, and non-binary pals. I have a pretty healthy mix of active chatters and lurkers. I always like to say that lurkers are the backbone of Twitch, and chatters the lifeblood. One doesn’t really exist without the other. My channel content is primarily centric around retro games and RPGs.
The fun thing about Twitch is it has rediscovered my love for retro games. I didn’t play them terribly often before the platform, but now it is my main focus!
Tell us about your brand and how you’ve been able to obtain success
My true self is always on stream, there is no persona, but I do have a unified brand in the Finny Bear mascot. There isn’t really a great story as to why it exists, but back in the day I used a teddy bear wearing headphones and using a keyboard as a “going live” image on Discord/Twitter. It just kinda stuck and evolved from that into my emotes/mascot. It wasn’t really any deliberate game plan.
This also leads to the growth of my channel. I didn’t really have a plan for that either. I think my consistency of scheduling and content type was one of the biggest strengths towards growth. On top of that, the retro community itself is a rather vibrant and respectful one. It feels like a small town on Twitch, where most of us know each other, but without most of the drama in other categories. I definitely feel a sense of belonging in the retro community. I hope it continues to get supported.
July 2018 was the day I made the switch to full-time content creation. During the previous year, I realized I was starting to get a pretty decent average viewership, and a lot more subs and support than I had ever expected! I decided to spend a year saving up money to try the gig full-time, assuming zero revenue. Just enough to live on for a year. That time was also spent contemplating or reflecting on whether this was the right decision.
3 years later I’m still full-time!
After almost nearly six years of streaming as a hobby and then a career, I finally hit Partner. It was really unexpected when I received that email 2 days after my application that I was accepted.
What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received from a viewer?
Of the millions of channels on Twitch, every viewer chose this one. Never forget that. This applies to literally every stream that has 1 or more viewers. All the TV shows, movies, books, comics, and videos out there, folks are hanging out with me and each other.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you because of your streaming?
I really don’t have any huge moments like this. I think that only happens to the biggest in the industry. What I do have is a collective of tons of smaller life events all related to the profession. Folks have helped me rebuild my childhood retro game collection that was stolen/sold off from me over the last few years. That has been quite affirming.
How do you balance streaming and your day-to-day life?
I tend to start most days sipping coffee and catching up on emails, DMs, my Discord, and social media. An hour before the stream I load up the 2nd PC and get everything ready for the night’s content. Routine is pretty essential to my day-to-day discipline, or I lose track of said dailies far too easily and get overwhelmed. I end up working 32-40 hours on cam and another 5-15 off-cam each week.
Days off are another story. I have to -force- myself to “relax” on Tuesday, or I risk burning myself out. Unfortunately I really dislike days off! I’m the kind of person that has to be doing something ALL THE TIME. I get stir crazy if I’m not working on some project, tinkering with some hobby, enjoying some game, or reading a book.
As someone with some real social anxiety during personal interactions, I naturally gravitated towards streaming. It might sound ironic that someone who struggles with social anxiety would choose a very forward-facing, public and social profession. On the contrary, I see it as logical. In the stream space I am almost always in control of my environment. If I get a bit overwhelmed I can walk for a bit. If someone is problematic, the conflict resolution is often as supremely easy as hitting timeout/ban. If I struggle with conversation or interpretation, I don’t have to worry about reading facial expressions or looks of confusion or disappointment.
At any given point I can close off the environment and recharge for another time.
Most folks I know are pretty supportive of my stream career, if a bit confused by what exactly it is. I kind of like the mystery of it, it makes it harder for folks to have expectations of me that way!
For most folks this isn’t a good way of life. I love every second of it, but it is absolutely a labor of love. Too many people think that making a living off streaming is just getting paid to play games, but there's a reason we don’t see folks like that making it big on Twitch. They all tend to devalue or ignore all the real work that goes into preparation, decision-making, event planning, collaboration, professional correspondence, PR, social media, etc… We have to have/learn a TON of skills! I hope to be streaming for a long time, I have some big inspirations I look up to who have been in the content creation scene for well over a decade now.
Tell us what tools you use for your stream
Some tools I use are: OBS Studio, Streamlabs, Streamlabs Chatbot, plus several custom bots that serve specific tailor-made roles I needed. Two of which are automatic tracking of daily subs and sub score. We do silly wheel spins every 5 subs and this has been a lot of fun for the community. Another bot tracks all bits and tips for the purpose of tracking votes for our community choice longplays.
One of my favorite tools is a machine learning chatbot that reads all the chat in stream, and uses an algorithm to post random messages. Some of them are eerily on point more often than is comfortable. It has started learning channel memes and subscriber emotes.
I also have a lot of plugins in OBS to create 3D effects or apply shaders to source at my discretion. I can create some pretty interesting visual effects this way. One example is how I angle my video player to emulate the look of a movie theater during breaks. Gives it more of an immersive 3D visual.
As far as layouts go, I do pretty much all of them myself. If I don’t know how to do something, my go-to tends to be to grind at it for hours until I figure it out, or realize the skillset is too demanding and look to commissions. I really enjoy making new layouts when an idea inspires me. It might take days, weeks, or even months for that spark to happen but when it does I find myself sitting there saying “Whoops, looks to be 5AM why am I still doing this?!”
Another tool I love to use is analytics. It is SO easy to get caught up in the numbers. There needs to be a healthy balance, but analytics can be demonstrably important in getting an idea of the larger picture of growth and successful content decision making. There are many sites like Sullygnome, Twitchtracker, Socialblade, and Twitch’s own dashboard to find out how well a stream did or did not go.
What are your favorite streaming resources?
My own Discord was designed to be a streaming resource itself! I didn’t have help when I first started Twitch, so I wanted to facilitate an environment where others could find the kind of Q&A interaction for specific problems they encounter. Every once in a while I check up on creators like Streamer Square, Harris Heller, or Stream Scheme. All super knowledgeable folks with excellent presentation and digestible content.
Which 3 streamers inspire you the most?
This is really hard to say, there are so many inspirational creators out there, I don’t like to single folks out, so here are just a few names to throw into the hat.
ProtonJon: His longevity in the content creation industry is 15+ years now easily. He fosters a very creative community built around amusing/interesting/strange/nostalgic retro-based content, with smatterings of humor and modern interest. The way he has fostered his community is a huge inspiration to me, and I hope to have similar levels of engagement someday.
AshSaidHi: The Queen of retro. An ineffably positive and vibrant face of the retro community on Twitch. She rose to Twitch ambassador and even had her face in Times Square in New York. She also has so dang many video game plushies we have dubbed the collection “Mount Plushmore.”
Will_Shand: Shand basically plays awful indie games or hidden gems exclusively. To his credit, this allows his stream to be as free-flowing and stream of consciousness weird and oddball that has made him extremely unique. No matter how bad I am feeling on any given day, if I go to his channel I end up laughing.
What are your top 3 streaming tools?
OBS Studio has allowed me to use what is basically a livestream software as a dynamic canvas for collaborative events like D&D streams, dynamic layouts for specialized game layouts, and more.
The Elgato Streamdeck has the basics down, and many might downplay it because “you can do it on mobile” or other forms of naysaying. It is rather steep on the price, but you pay for a fully integrated software suite that seamlessly hooks into OBS Studio or other stream software. You can do some insanely intricate creative effects with just a stream deck.
Ultimately, my routine and consistency is my top streaming tool. Self-discipline is the #1 reason I can do this for so long.
What advice would you give to small channels trying to reach Partner?
Don’t stream to become partner. Don’t stream to make money. Twitch is, and should be a hobby for 99% of the population. This doesn’t mean don’t try, or you’re not cut out for it. It means, the only reason you should be getting partner or accolades in the first place, is because you put in the work and time into your efforts to create something great for everyone.
Twitch Partnership is not the end goal, it isn't a ticket to the easy life, it is just a checkmark that recognizes that you’ve done some amazing things consistently. Focus on what makes your content good and the recognition will be the side effect.
I made a lot of mistakes in my time streaming, and I have no regrets. Our mistakes are lessons that become the foundation of skill and success. I wouldn’t change a thing.
If you could change one thing about Twitch, what would it be?
Their inconsistency in rule enforcement. It creates a very unpredictable atmosphere on the platform, and has a rather nasty chilling effect on who makes what content, because they’re never sure if this is okay or not. The almost complete lack of transparency in decision-making, and from the outside it also seems like their respective departments within the company NEVER communicate.
What are your plans for the future?
My most major reaching goal is to become one of the biggest retro streamers on the platform. I have a long way to go! Reaching partner was a great step towards that path, but it still feels like the beginning. One of my absolute favorite things about success is being able to lift up those around me. With a bigger reach, I can support others who deserve recognition. With better revenue, I can sub to more great creators, donate more to charity, and support more charities of my own. With more recognition I can bring visibility to those who are marginalized.
I’m headed in that direction. Wanna take the ride with me?
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