Somewhere in the middle of Kansas, there’s an old house. In this house is a guy streaming videos to the internet. He might be wearing a dress. Or leggings. The one thing for certain is that he’s dancing to the beat of VR rhythm games while entertaining viewers around the world.
QTpop, a 37-year-old originally from Las Vegas, has been a full-time streamer for over a year now and he’s one of a growing population of individuals who make up the diverse population of VR gamers.
It has only been in the past couple of years that virtual reality headsets have become accessible for average consumers, but as interest in VR has grown, an increasing number of content creators on sites like Twitch and YouTube have been dedicating their time to VR games. Creating mixed reality content in virtual reality has its challenges, but the process is made easier through programs such as LIV, which allows the user to create videos or live stream with relative ease.
Content creators such as QTpop are important because they’re able to draw attention to virtual reality and build communities who are interested in the medium even if they don’t yet own a headset. In addition, the mixed reality setup allows people to see the physical movements of the player in real life as they correspond to the movements in VR. For those who don’t yet have an HMD, this helps them understand the physicality of playing VR games.
QT mostly plays Beat Saber, an immersive rhythm experience that allows the user to slash through blocks with glowing sabers. The more blocks you slice, the higher your score climbs.
When he initially began streaming in VR, he did so with the goal of letting people see his weight loss journey through his Twitch stream. He has lost approximately 50 pounds during the past year.
Although many people do use the game for VR exercise and fitness, it didn’t take long after Beat Saber’s May 2018 release for people to develop competitive opportunities. By the end of July 2018, the International Beat Saber Tournament was announced. Hosted by the Virtual Athletics League, LIV, and SpringboardVR, the tournament ended up being the world’s largest VR arcade event to date with over 160 participating arcades in 24 countries worldwide.
When QTpop began streaming, he expected people to be negative and talking trash, but in fact the opposite happened.
“People were actually really supportive,” he says.
Thus far there seems to be much more empathy in VR communities than in traditional Internet groups. While traditional gaming and online interactions took a bit of humanity out of relationships, virtual reality does the exact opposite. The virtual presence of avatars that actually allow users to see other people’s body language, and thus physical cues in VR environments, seems to serve as a reminder there is a real person controlling that avatar.
QTpop has also made numerous friends along the journey, including other streamers like Sourgurl and members of Team Heartland Gaming, which started out as a small local Midwest community of gaming people. This grew into kind of a central hub for mixed reality gaming and members include experts in the industry such as Cix Liv, founder of LIV mixed reality software.
Streaming in Drag
While QTpop was establishing his identity as a VR streamer and learning how to use all the tools of the trade, one night he saw a friend do a stream while dressed in his girlfriend’s clothes. He suggested that they do one together and this led to big changes in his career.
It was actually through that stream that he developed a relationship with Survios. They had seen the popular video and asked if he’d stream their games in drag if they sent him dresses.
“It was fun and it makes people really uncomfortable,” he states, explaining that he enjoys making people step outside their comfort zones.
Although he enjoyed doing the drag streams and he still does them sometimes for fun, they’re less frequent now.
“I’m a dude so it’s not like it’s that easy to find dresses that fit me.”
He is proud of the fact that his channel has become a safe space for people to hang out and chat without fear of ridicule. Like QTpop, many in the VR communities have a zero tolerance policy for hate – towards anyone.
Future of VR Streaming
Since VR has become more accessible with headsets like the Oculus Quest, there are certain to be an increasing amount of VR streamers as well. It’s great that the Quest will help more people adopt VR, but having an influx of streamers isn’t necessarily a good thing.
“As content creators,” says QTpop, “we’re going to see some low quality content.”
Some people might question why it matters, but the fact is that those of us who are passionate about the industry want to continue to see it grow. This means we must make the best hardware and software available to consumers. It also means when we market VR products, games, and experiences, we also must put quality first.
Rather than producing poor quality videos, if you want to get into VR content creation, QTpop has some suggestions.
- Do what you can to make it clean (a good quality recording).
- Use Google to learn how to do things like prepare your lighting, etc.
- Reach out to others who know what they’re doing.
- Have fun because if you don’t have fun, nobody cares.
Finally, when in doubt, QTpop encourages new streamers or anyone struggling with challenges to reach out to communities like Heartland Gaming because there is always someone out there who has encountered similar difficulties. Not only are other streamers capable of helping, but they want to help.
After all, he explains, “we’re all on the same team.”