This time 12 months ago I was sitting at my desk streaming for a full 24 hours in celebration of 3 years on Twitch. If you’d told me then what was about to happen over the following 12 months, I would have never believed you.

To say that 2020 has changed my life would not be hyperbole. I started the year as a variety streamer who flitted from game to game and streamed at all sorts of weird times. I had a core group of friends and mods who I loved chatting to regularly, but often people would drop by for the game and when I moved onto something else, they’d leave, never to return. I always thought that as much as I’d been enjoying streaming for 3 years, I’d never found my ‘place’ on the platform. Not that I wasn’t being welcomed, and I loathe to use the term ‘brand’, but I never found anything that I could stick with long enough to build a growing community around it.

I remember one day in early February sitting in my classroom and looking out at the pouring rain trying to come up with something entertaining that would be fun for viewers and finally give me a purpose on the platform. Inspired by Spofie’s huge streaming marathon (currently at 1331 consecutive days of stream), I noticed that my birthday was just over 100 days away and thought it would be fun to stream for 100 days in a row, culminating with a big birthday stream.

Now, as you know, that was a time when quite a lot of stuff was going down. Just as the Coronavirus pandemic was spreading and countries were locking down, I feared I was about to lose my job and wrote a difficult tweet about how I was cancelling subscriptions to most of my favourite channels, not through lack of interest or support, but that I was needing to be more careful with my finances. After reading this, an exceedingly kind viewer sent me a donation to get myself a copy of Animal Crossing as he felt I should experience such a wholesome and relaxing game at a time when the world was in turmoil – and this was where it all changed.

The March 2020 UK lockdown coincided with two things – the release of Animal Crossing New Horizons and the first day of my 100 Days Of Stream. It was the perfect storm.

Even right at the beginning, I only intended to play Animal Crossing for a short time. Doom Eternal launched at 11pm GMT and I found myself playing an hour of that when it was released. Not fully enamoured by it, I switched over to Animal Crossing at midnight and instantly fell in love. Here was a game that had a seemingly endless number of tasks to fulfil (I still haven’t filled that NMT page), real-time activities and a no-stress, no-game-over, no-high-skill-level game that almost instantly changed the mood of the chat. 

The following day (officially Day 1 of 100) I went back to my island and people were dropping in left, right & centre. The wonderful Toph raided me and introduced me to so many members of his community who loved Animal Crossing and many are still part of this community today. 

I had also never realised how much creativity was possible in Animal Crossing and it was that which inspired me to start doing gameshows. Starting off with Blind Date and the Roast, then later the biggest hit, Deal Or No Deal (thanks AnnieMayPlay for the suggestion), I discovered a way of involving the community in something that was both fun to take part in and also to watch. With the unlocking of terraforming after two weeks (I made a promise and I’m still sticking to it – no time-travelling), I somehow ended up with over 1,350 hours of playtime by the end of 2020.

The game, however, is not even half the story of my year. It may have brought many people to notice the channel for the first time, but the start of the year also coincided with the launch of Rainbow Arcade, a team I’m so incredibly proud to have been a member of since its launch. This is a team of exclusively LGBTQIA2+ streamers who support each other, fundraise, give advice, lend an ear – pretty much anything you could wish for from a team. As we expanded from 20 or 30 members to over 70, the team has grown but managed to keep a sense of family and one where you know that if you drop into any stream by a member of the team, you know you’re in a space that will do its best to protect you, entertain you and hold people accountable. 

In 2020 the team raised almost $140,000 for WWF Australia, The Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline combined. Incredibly, the Biggus Bunch community has contributed nearly $14,000 to this total. The generosity and kindness – whether through donations or retweets/lurks/raids etc to increase visibility for these causes has blown me away and made me regret not holding charity fundraisers earlier. I can’t thank you enough – people’s lives have been improved and saved because of this. 

And speaking of the community…

2020 was incredibly tough with millions across the world being forced to work from home and turning to Twitch to keep themselves entertained as the virus spread. As a result, I was introduced to people who I’d now call good friends and whenever I start a stream, I’m greeted by people who I didn’t know a few months ago. I’ve never known anything like it in my 4 years on the platform and whether people arrived at the channel through the Animal Crossing directory, the LGBTQIA+ tag, Rainbow Arcade, a raid, host or DevonBumpkin video, it fills my heart with joy seeing how this community has grown over the past year.

The one thing that happened this year that I never in a million years could have imagined was reaching partner status on Twitch. I had the ability to apply for partner in February thanks to a Valentine’s Day front page stream that put my monthly average to a ridiculously high figure, but never thought I’d get to a consistency where it was a reality. The mix of Animal Crossing’s popularity, a rise in consistency due to being furloughed from work and a community that came back day after day meant that I was able to apply in late March and on the 11th of June the unthinkable happened.

With the growth in the channel and increase in subs/cheers/donations, I was able to cut back on my job (only working for 3 hours in a morning) and focus on the stream in the evening. I never imagined Twitch could be anything other than a side-hobby – back when I started in 2017 affiliates weren’t even a thing – and yet here we are.

I also wouldn’t be where I am without such a fantastic admin team. Every member has their own strengths and does so much for the channel, whether it’s during streams or behind the scenes. I’m in contact with them 24/7 and they give me invaluable assistance through helping develop ideas, making graphics or giving me much needed advice when issues occur. They do get a lot of love from people in the community but always deserve a whole lot more.

With all this said, I really would like to say thanks to a few incredibly special people.

  • To ShepGordon for his incredible generosity in the fundraising streams. You’ve donated thousands in our fundraisers for Trans Lifeline & The Trevor Project and have changed countless people’s lives.
  • To MoniDoesStuff and CDNBookGrrl. I’m putting you both together to save me from copy + pasting the same. You’ve both come into the stream in the middle of the year and made such a big impression on me & those in the community. Not only do you go out of your way to make sure this place is a safe and welcoming place, but the amount of advice, time and work you put into the stream to make it look great and run as smoothly is possible cannot be understated. It feels like we’ve known each other for years.
  • To Bayleaf for being a fantastic person to talk to. Thank you for always being there to give great advice. Not only are you amazing with Photoshop, but you’ve helped me a lot as someone happy to lend an ear and give advice on what to do. I can’t wait to hang out with cocktails asap!
  • To BrendaBrzz for putting up with all this change. We’d planned to meet TWICE in 2020 and both of those trips were obviously cancelled, and the stream has ended up changing dramatically from since you first joined as a mod. Thanks for smacking those trolls with a ban hammer, attacking referees in wrestling games and, like the rest of the admin team, helping create an environment where everyone feels welcome & safe.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and I want to thank every one of you for being a part of it. Twitch has gone from a hobby that I did in the evenings when I was bored to the biggest passion in my life. When I click ‘start streaming’ and I see so many friends, many of whom I’ve made this year, it makes me so excited to see what the future holds. 

Thank you.

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