RayEatsCookies – Data Scientist by Day, Variety Streamer by Night

RayEatsCookies – Data Scientist by Day, Variety Streamer by Night

Tell us your history with video games

My passion for gaming definitely started as a kid. Board games and video games were something that my whole family would do together after dinner at least once a week. I have really fond memories of us all playing Gauntlet Dark Legacy on Gamecube and laughing until our stomachs hurt as things got really chaotic in game (as you may expect when the majority of the team is under the age of 10). We wouldn't move past a level until we all made it out alive so we had to work together to combo attacks and strategically use special abilities which probably helped create a foundation for us all playing team-oriented sports later on. Fast forward a couple of decades and we still play games when we are all together - most recently Overcooked 2 and Lord of the Rings Risk.

My earliest gaming experience memory that I can remember is playing Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country on Super Nintendo with my little brother. During the summer we would pull all-nighters and beat these games over and over, passing the controller back and forth when we would die on a level. We pivoted our efforts a few years later to Animal Crossing when it was released on Gamecube to get our little sister into gaming with us. The night-time efforts after she went to sleep turned into "we need to get enough bells to upgrade her house to surprise her" while also ensuring he and I were taking home the gold and silver trophies in the town center. Whether we are physically together or not, we continue to play games which are nostalgic and fun.

The name RayEatsCookies originated from me being frustrated that all of the names I wanted on Twitch weren't available and happened to be eating a cookie at the time... very creative I know but I actually don't mind it now since I make sure to always have a cookie in hand for every stream!

What’s your backstory and how did you get into streaming?

A little about me! I currently work full time as a Data Scientist and have a Bachelor of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology and an MBA. I was a couple of years out of college when I built my first PC (first game was Skyrim!) and I have been hooked ever since. I'm very much a people person so I decided to just go live one day playing Hollow Knight and hoped that those who loved the game as much as me would want to stop by and talk about it. I've streamed on and off for about 3 years due to changing jobs and having to travel for work but due to COVID I am now working from home indefinitely so I can stream consistently and have had time to invest in growing the channel and community.

My mindset when it comes to streaming is to just play games that interest me, that have awesome characters and storylines that I feel like I can dive into and everything else will be what it will be. If I am playing a game and am having fun and really get into the lore, then the worst thing that can happen is that I played through a game that I really enjoyed! People may or may not click on the stream, they may or may not stay, may or may not say something in chat so I like to think about what I can control and just focus on that. There are so many amazing games out there so right now I'm primarily focused on first time playthroughs, most recently finishing Fallout: New Vegas, The Witcher 3 and Red Dead Redemption 2.  

As of now, all money that I have made through streaming I have and will be continuing to invest back into the channel. I have purchased dozens of games for previous and upcoming playthroughs and have upgraded my PC, microphone and camera to better the quality of the games that I am playing and also the audio and visual stream aspects too. I am a pretty emotional and animated person so I think a part of my channel that people enjoy is seeing and hearing my expressions and reactions to the game so I felt these upgrades could really enhance these for the community. In addition, I recently have brought on an amazing editor, Juliee, who's been instrumental in helping me start and grow on other platforms outside of Twitch as she is able to execute on creative visions in a way that I can't.

Tell us about your channel and community

I am so grateful for my community - they are genuine and funny and I feel so fortunate that through all kinds of new games and breaks in streaming they are always there. They are incredibly welcoming of anyone new or returning and when I miss something in chat they are responsive, kind and helpful. When there are long days of work or I'm having a bad day, I look forward to my stream and know that there are always an abundance of laughs ahead. If I could tell them all one thing, it would be thank you for being such a profound source of happiness in my life.

My typical stream usually starts with a Just Chatting "Ray Ramble" session, usually around half an hour before I realize that time has flown by and excitedly hop into game. I have been on a major RPG kick with games like The Witcher 3 and Red Dead Redemption 2, both of which have held the "best game I have ever played" title, and I will be starting Horizon Zero Dawn soon. I've also played through the whole Half Life and Bioshock series but I have ventured out to other amazing games like Hollow Knight, Terraria, Undertale, Portal and Portal 2.

Without streaming I think that I would still be playing through the games mentioned above but definitely not at the rate that I currently am. I think after a full work day I would be tempted to grab a glass of whiskey and play Overwatch, my go-to, Rocket League or CSGO with my brother and/or friends or get into comfy clothes (whiskey still applies) and watch some Twitch on the couch. What I enjoy about my streams are that they feel like a hangout session that are lighthearted and fun and include cookies to unwind from the day.

Tell us about your brand and how you’ve been able to obtain success

Consistency has definitely been the biggest factor in building a solid foundation for the channel and community to grow on. Having set days and times that people can look forward to and know that they can come hang out, perhaps even plan around if they don't want to miss something coming up or is important, on a stream and personal level. Another thing that helped me too was being a part of other communities that I enjoy watching because they play similar games to me or have a great sense of humor. With similarities like these between streams, there is probably a good chance that my community will also enjoy that stream and I've noticed in doing this I see a lot of familiar faces in other chats as well as my own. Almost makes it feel like we are building an overarching community that almost covers a 24 hour period so at any given point someone is online and it's like we get to hang out all day every day.

On stream and in person you will always get my true, authentic self which 99.99% of the time is a genuinely happy and easy going person. In my life I have always been driven to get to know and help people so my hope for the stream was that if people saw the real me that they would be willing to be open and be themselves too. I love to laugh and poke fun at myself, love good and bad jokes and want to be a positive person and provide a positive environment to everyone that joins the stream.

From the time that I joined Twitch in May 2017 I was able to reach affiliate in about 2 months - I was playing Hollow Knight and my viewer average was around 6. Over 3 and a half years later I was accepted into the Twitch Partner program and playing through various RPGs my viewer average is now around 115. The biggest challenge I have had while streaming has been trying to balance it with my career and having to travel and work during "off-time" hours. It was impossible to keep a consistent stream schedule and when I was home and available, I would try to get streams in very late at night into early morning hours. This eventually took a toll and I felt like I had to take a break before it impacted my work, eventually leading to taking 2 years off of streaming. Due to COVID fully restricting to heavily reducing travel and the shift to more virtual collaborations and meetings I realized that I was able to fully commit the time necessary to sustain and grow and that I felt the community deserved it.

Right now I am not able to stream full-time but interested to see where we will be down the road. I am passionate about and feel fulfilled by my career but I would like to keep an open mind for a future where I could maybe have a hybrid schedule of the two. I don't really have the words to accurately describe it but there is something about my job and streaming in which I feel like each makes me grateful for and appreciate the other.

How do you balance streaming and life?

I have really struggled with this one and it takes a lot of work for me. A typical stream day starts with the first work meeting of the day, usually between 7 - 8 am. I'm not a morning person so it's generally pretty tough to get breakfast in before the call so I rely a lot on grab and go things, overnight oats for example. I'll have meetings for about 50%+ of the day so I have to be really disciplined with blocking off time to actually get development work done so I don't have to play catch-up at night (which I will sometimes do on non-stream days) and also try to block off an hour to get in a workout and eat some lunch. I'm generally done by 5 or 6 pm at which point I'll make and eat dinner and then I'll start streaming around 8:30 pm until 12:30 / 1 am. I always end my stream with hosting someone so I like to hangout for 20 to 30 minutes before heading to bed. Weekend streams are such a treat because I don't have to worry about anything work related and can extend stream times, usually 2pm - 8pm and it's much more time-zone friendly than the weekday streams. I stream both weekend days so I'll still have work on the non-stream weekdays but get to bed earlier to catch-up on sleep!

I enjoy being around other people so I miss not going into the office and seeing people face-to-face so virtual happy hours and Zoom calls have been okay for getting by during these times. With having to be completely virtual with everything you start to get used to not physically seeing other people which has made chat interactions that much more impactful and why I spend the first bit of my streams just chatting and catching up with how everyone is doing and what's new, etc. I think because of COVID forcing so much of life to become virtual, streaming makes a lot more sense to people and I have friends and family that will watch consistently, especially during the stream start chatting sessions, to stay up to date on what I'm doing.

I want to stream for as long as I can and have thought about the future and maybe some things that I could do in my lifetime that shows someone else that anything is possible. For example, showing a company that productivity and success are still possible by making the "traditional" 9-5 work schedule more flexible (to make room for streaming in different time zones) or what streaming could look like while growing and raising a family or taking care of parents and any combination of the above. No parts of life should feel like they are being neglected or left on the table because another aspect is, or feels, like it is confining.

Tell us what tools you use for your stream

Currently I use OBS Studio to stream, Streamlabs for alerts and notifications and Moobot for commands. These are the super basics but they have all been tried and true so I haven't ventured out to try out others but probably should! My Discord is another huge part of the stream and community, it has all sorts of good stuff like game suggestions, memes, general chats and is where I am most consistent with posting when I am going live or if there is an announcement or anything.

I am not artistic or crafty and have previously made my overlays and banners and they looked terrible. Through Twitch I have met really talented people who have blown me away with their abilities and I would like to give them each a shoutout because they are so worth it!

  • Juliee - Editor: YouTube videos, Instagram and Twitter clips
  • Jack - Social media banners, Twitch panels and away screen, cookie icon and sub & follower alerts
  • Teal - Sub badges

Being a data scientist, I love the analytics available in Twitch and other platforms, like YouTube and Instagram, and I have absolutely exported this out to Excel to be able to pivot and dig out additional information. That being said, from the analytics I haven't really changed course in terms of my streaming mindset of playing games that make me happy.

What are your top 3 streaming tools? 

  1. OBS Studio
  2. Streamlabs
  3. My PC!

What advice would you give to small channels trying to reach Partner? 

Play games that interest you or that you like and make you happy! People will be more drawn to someone who looks like they are having a good time and besides, the game you are playing and yourself are the only things that you have control over. Plus worst case scenario if nobody watches or joins chat then you have still played a great game and had fun. Consistency with stream schedule is also really important too for those who enjoy your channel and want to come back again.

If you could change one thing about Twitch, what would it be? 

Discoverability for smaller/growing streams! 

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