With the world moving towards a digital age, further accelerated by the global pandemic, the status quo of media consumption today has also slowly shifted from the big screen of cinema and television to the more accessible screen of computer and smartphone.
This shift has given rise to numerous new forms of media creation and consumption, and among them are those who livestream on video platforms for an audience and community, with each live streamer usually having their own dedicated niche and activities that align with the viewers’ expectations.
Live streamers focussing on streaming video games are part of a niche that is getting traction not only in Brunei but across the world.
One such local streamer is 33-year-old Mohammad Shahrulnizam bin Juhar, who is
active on the popular Facebook platform under the name Et GamingX.
He recalled how he started streaming near the end of 2019 for fun and at random times while experimenting with playing video games for an audience. With encouragement from viewers, he decided to go live as a part-time streamer.
“That was when I decided to live stream for two to three hours a day, with Saturdays and Sundays off,” he said.
Mohammad Shahrulnizam admitted that he initially did not have the proper setup, relying only on a due to the lack of laptop or PC. “After that, I bought a second hand PC specifically for streaming,” he said.
Coupled with his scheduled stream, the steady income has slowly allowed him to expand, in terms of his capability and equipment.
“I didn’t think a career as a streamer could be profitable. All the equipment comes from my efforts as a streamer as well as the support of my viewers.”
The support, he said, was not immediate. He started with two to 10 viewers, with many friends being supportive of his endeavour. With guidance of fellow streamers, he continued to grow his fan base of people who like to play and experience games together.
“It was 2020 where I started to get more views, with 50 to 100 people watching me go live,” he said.
This carried into 2021. He became a permanent streamer for the popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game Mobile Legends and by the end of the year, he was given the opportunity to partner with Facebook.
Partnering with Facebook, he said, “was one of my many goals, in all the times of ups and downs. I am fortunate to have the support of my parents and family who have given me the courage to pursue what I want, and friends who motivate me.”
Asked how the global pandemic has impacted his streaming career, Mohammad Shahrulnizam said it’s led to surprising success.
“It didn’t affect me as a streamer. I was able to draw an audience of 100 to 200 people, many of whom watched me play the game during the movement control measure from 8pm to 4am,” he said.
In addition, he noted the online nature of a streamer as well as the games played allow for interaction with the audience through the streaming platform, such as conducting fun tournaments online with the audience and spectators.
“As we were all instructed to stay at home, it provided me the chance to entertain an audience that I otherwise would not have been able to while bringing them together to play games while I was online,” he said.
The ability to turn an audience into a community is not uniquely to Facebook. Another Bruneian streamer under the alias of Cymonic streams on Twitch.tv.
Muhd Hanif bin Hassan started streaming on Twitch in 2018, following a brief success in making short videos on YouTube. Having started prior to the pandemic, Hanif shared the challenges he faces as a local streamer.
“The biggest problem I had before I started streaming was that I was financially strapped and had a limited Internet quota, which was why I streamed for a short period back in 2018. When I was financially more stable in 2019 and got myself an unlimited bandwidth, I went all out,” he said.
Another problem he faced was finding the right platform to stream for the right audience.
“I was a rookie and had no grounds to stand on. After meeting a couple of friends in the Bruneian streamer community, they helped me launch a streaming career,” he said.
Despite the challenges encountered, he forged ahead and streamed on a regular basis to a small audience playing games he liked with friends.
In face of pandemic, Hanif saw the up side. “It gives me more time to refine my content and stream more. Before COVID-19, I was working shifts and could only stream during my free time, which I struggled to find that suited my needs.”
He noted that the pandemic measures gave him more time to refine his stream as well as the opportunity to gain more experience.
While both Mohammad Shahrulnizam and Muhd Hanif have seen their fair share of success, there is still a negative connotation when it comes to streaming video games.
For Mohammad Shahrulnizam, he noted that some may view it as a waste of time. But he maintained that it is possible to strike a balance between working as a streamer and bearing personal responsibilities.
“I always make sure my responsibilities are the priority, such as performing daily prayers and spending time with my family. And what’s stopping me from using my free time to stream? If our neighbouring streamers can do it, why not us?” asked Mohammad Shahrulnizam.
Muhd Hanif is aware of gaming is usually associated with the stereotype of laziness and like Mohammad Shahrulnizam, sees gaming as a form of enjoyment and streaming his experience for an audience helps to spread the joy.
“Gaming in times of COVID-19 is the best place for people to gather and enjoy each other’s company,” he said.
He believes its dependent on how one makes use the game; and to abuse such luxury may fuel the bad reputation that gaming used to garner.
As creators and entertainers, both Mohammad Shahrulnizam and Muhd Hanif believe in the importance of character, noting that how streamers project themselves must not be taken lightly.
“It depends on the character of the streamer; we are all of us different. It is like meeting new people and making friends in real life. At the end of the day, you stay with the people because you enjoy their company,” said Muhd Hanif.
Mohammad Shahrulnizam shares the same sentiment, though he finds that negative comments can sometimes sour the mood. “I am a streamer that has no intention of competing with others; rather I like to entertain people and fill my free time. We don’t have to be great at playing games but we do need manners when communicating with our audience,” he said.
With Brunei still slowly embracing the growing trend of streaming, it will take some time before local streamers can stand out on the international stage. But despite the lack of experience, Mohammad Shahrulnizam and Muhd Hanif share a positive outlook for local streamers. Mohammad Shahrulnizam believes that when it comes to streaming, it’s like starting a business. When we first start, not many will know of our activities. So we must make the effort to bring attention to ourselves in hopes that one day, Bruneian streamers would experience more success.”
Muhd Hanif noted that streamers around the world share similar traits in terms of having a clear understanding of their audience, as well as being consistent and enjoying what they do. “Don’t stream with the ideas of instant success; like the saying, ‘it’s a marathon, not a race.’ Success doesn’t come overnight.”
Mohammad Shahrulnizam meanwhile advises those who want to stream to avoid competing; instead to be supportive of one another.
“Be strong and always think positively. Plant positivity in the heart so that we do not give up. If others can do it, why can’t we?”
With the growing support for streamers in the country, Mohammad Shahrulnizam hopes to see streamers unite and exchange ideas to spur the trend that dominates other countries.
“We have proven that, as streamers, it is not an activity that wastes time but one that can bring results if the right path is chosen,” he said.