SurrealPolitiks S01E038 - Shall We Play A Game?

SurrealPolitiks S01E038 – Shall We Play A Game?

SurrealPolitiks
SurrealPolitiks
SurrealPolitiks S01E038 - Shall We Play A Game?
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Late last month I posted about my first time playing Counter Strike, which was also streamed at the time. Having acquired much video streaming equipment for my podcasts, it seemed getting into the game streaming scene might be a thing worth doing, and this was among my first efforts in that venture.

Having suffered a great deal of deplatforming over the years due to our world having become so corrupted that it is considered more reputable to advocate child sexual mutilation than policies considered uncontroversial not so long ago, I found myself looking for new platforms where I might stream my shows to.

I was surprised to discover that many video streaming sites were devoted to game streaming, and I found this quite bizarre. On some of these platforms, notably Twitch, I simply streamed my talk shows too them and figured it wouldn’t hurt to be off topic. On others, I held off, to consider the implications.

In recent weeks I have begun streaming games more often, and I am happy to report encouraging early results. I have not seen many thousands of views on these videos, but perhaps the most notable result in this early stage of the venture has been that I’ve been reconnecting with audience members whom I had previously been disconnected from.

Also, whether it can be directly attributed to the games or not is uncertain, but I saw about a thousand more podcast downloads last week than in the week prior, and whatever the cause, that is obviously very encouraging.

Progression

Operator (that’s me) error left us with some technical difficulties in the first recording, but I was fortunately unable to blame my equipment.

I had made two dumb mistakes.

1. Having originally set this up to stream my consoles, I had not anticipated when I played the PC Game that the streaming app would get its audio directly from the game. Due to this, the audio from my mixer became an echo to the game audio, and this was irritating to the viewer.

2. Having become accustomed to streaming myself talking in front of a camera, and not a visually intense experience like a fast moving game, I was streaming at a low bitrate, and this caused much pixelation in the video.

I have streamed games several times since then, and these problems have been resolved. There is always room for improvement, and I’ll talk a little about that, but the streams have mostly worked out pretty soundly from a technical angle. The content produced, it’s not overall anything to write home about thus far, but we have had our moments.

Let’s Talk Tech, as it Stands Now

The computer I use to stream is a Dell Optiplex 7080 with an Intel Core i5 10th generation CPU, purchased for me by a generous listener. I have upgraded the RAM in this machine to 96GB.

That same listener pitched in the majority of the funds, in combination with another generous supporter, for me to acquire for that machine an Nvidia RTX 4070 graphics card.

On my own, I acquired an Elgato 4K60 Pro PCI Express Capture Card, and several HDMI switches.

Prior to my 2020 arrest, I had acquired, mainly for the entertainment of a prior girlfriend, a Nintendo Switch, a PlayStation 4, and a Nintendo Wii. These, and another computer (Dell Optiplex 7050), are connected to one of those HDMI switches. That switch feeds the 4K60 Pro, and has a 3.5mm audio extractor port, from which I feed the audio into my mixer. This makes switching video feeds very simple to do.

The 4K60 Pro has an HDMI pass through, and this feeds my 55″ Onn brand 4K TV.

My camera is a Logitech C920 1080p 30fps web camera. The image from this is captured by a free application called Nvidia Broadcast, which uses the GPU for high quality background removal, and artificial eye contact. To improve this quality, I use a green screen behind me, and several tripod mounted, USB powered, LED studio lights I’ve acquired.

Until recently, when doing the talk shows, I’ve used Nvidia Broadcast to replace my background with an image of studio equipment. I have changed the way I do this since I started gaming and I am very happy with the results.

I now have Nvidia Broadcast replacing my background with a bright green solid color. This makes it very easy to use chroma key in my broadcasting application (XSplit Broadcast, discussed in greater detail soon), and doing it this way allows me to remove the background completely so I can place myself, without further obstruction, in whatever scene I happen to be creating in the broadcasting application.

I use XSplit Broadcaster for all my streaming. I have been using this for years, and purchased a lifetime license for this commercial application when I got out of prison, since by that time the five year license I had bought prior had expired.

It is my understanding that most streamers use an application called OBS, and that this can do just about everything XSplit can, but I have developed a very strong preference for XSplit. I have OBS installed and have used it a few times, but I’ve found the XSplit interface preferable and it seems to do a better job of background removal.

In addition to the Onn 55″ 4K TV, I have another TCL brand 55″ 4K TV which now serves as  my primary computer monitor, as well as two 27″ LG 1080p monitors on a dual monitor stand. These have replaced a quad monitor stand I had until recently used with four 20″ monitors.

When playing console games, the game is on the Onn TV, but when playing on the PC the game tends to be on the TCL mostly due to control placement. I keep the Odysee chat and the streaming application visible, one on each of the 27″ monitors. I’ll keep task manager open as one of several apps visible on whichever 55″ is not showing the game, to monitor system performance while streaming. I’ll tend to have a web browser on that screen as well, so as to look up tips when I get stuck in games.

Cantwell the Gamer

When I was a kid, my parents bought my younger brother and I the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and I loved it. I later owned a Sega Genesis, and my friends and I used to play Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 for hours upon hours on a near daily basis for some years. Our girlfriends hated this, and when I discovered that people were streaming games online, I thought this was absolutely bizarre because that had previously been the limits of my experience with people’s interest in watching others play video games.

On the PC, I spent a few months back in the early 2000s playing a multiplayer hack of Grand Theft Auto 3, and offline I got quite a kick out of putting this into “God Mode” and seeing how long I could last in battles with the police.

I own the consoles I do because, as I mentioned above, I had bought them largely for the entertainment of a prior girlfriend. I liked having her around all of the time, but I would have to deprive her of my attention for long periods of time so I could get work done. She enjoyed playing Call of Duty and Fortnite on the PS4, and this seemed like a very worthwhile investment to have her nearby when my work reached a point I could take a break for some cuddles.

She had introduced me to Wii Sports Resort, and we much enjoyed the bowling game together. I’d later obtain the Wii Fit board and the game named after it, which would become my first introduction to Yoga. While on house arrest in Virginia, I found Mario Party to be a low stress time waster, with the notable exception of the fact that I find wasting time to be, in itself, stressful.

The Switch I purchased with the same idea of entertaining a (now different) girlfriend in mind, after she had gotten me addicted to Pokemon Go on my cell phone. I thought maybe both of us would get some enjoyment out of the Pokemon games for that system. Having obtained Let’s Go Eevee and Pokemon Sword, I was unimpressed, but I did find that Fitness Boxing went well with my exercise goals.

Before I got much enjoyment out of this, the FBI broke my door down and dragged me off to prison.

All of which is to say, I am not much of a gamer. I tend to view these things as terrible wastes of time, and as mentioned, I do not like that concept. If I were playing video games without some kind of business purpose in mind, I would be consumed by feelings of guilt, and anxiety over what else I ought to be doing to achieve my goals and be worthy of the financial support I receive from my audience.

Giving myself this excuse has allowed me to enjoy the experience more. I am pretty impressed, even using these now years old systems, in how far gaming technology has come since I was playing a two dimensional fighting game, high on marijuana in my teens.

The largest TV I ever owned before getting out of prison was 32″. I primarily use TV to watch the news, and I could get 99% of the information I need from this without any visual element at all. It didn’t make much sense to me to spend money on a larger screen, but after three years of fighting with blacks over the television, now having one all to myself, I decided to take advantage of a sale at Walmart to get my first 55″. Given the detail of modern video games, I am glad to have done this.

My brother owned the first PlayStation, and managed to obtain what was then a very difficult to come by copy of the first Grand Theft Auto. This was the first exposure I had to adult themes in video games (aside from the violence we now consider it uncontroversial to expose kids to), and we thought it was absolutely hysterical back then to run around stealing cars and assaulting prostitutes.

Today, gaming has largely caught up to the rest of pop culture in its degeneracy. Sex and profanity and crime are ubiquitous in gaming now. This is admittedly very amusing to me, although it does give me some apprehension about branding concerns as I mix this with my media business.

I have been running the Radical Agenda name and font as a watermark on the videos, and playing the SurrealPolitiks music as an outro, which as an aside, has a very cool effect to it as the character gets into his car and drives off to end the show. My original idea was to use the game streaming as a way to bring new eyes and ears to the political content, so from this perspective it makes sense to mix the brands, but as I’m running around as a black car thief in Grand Theft Auto 5, I find myself tempted to register a new LLC and domain name to separate these things from one another…

Online Player Interaction

I think an important part of this enterprise going forward will be interacting with other players online, but I am approaching this with some caution due to the knowledge that one can easily be banned from platforms for uttering crimethink, which I have some notorious habit for doing.

On our Counter Strike stream, we had some interactions with other players and these were very entertaining. In subsequent streams, mostly using my consoles, there has been absolutely none of this since I am playing solo.

It is my decidedly limited understanding that I may have a bit more room to breathe playing PC games in this way, since I can obtain some of the games, such as Counter Strike, for free, and thus it will not be the end of the world if I have to create a new account. This is a substantially more serious problem with the consoles, since games are associated with a user account and/or a specific device. For the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation online features, a paid account is necessary for online interactions, and the costs of these are much lower when purchased a year at a time. To pay for a year of online service and then be banned for political speech could very quickly get expensive.

The mechanics of this are something I absolutely must become more familiar with so I can learn how to navigate it. There is very limited entertainment value for the audience in watching me play games by myself, and I am minimally inspired to provide my own entertaining commentary when interacting with NPCs who cannot hear what I am saying.

My talents will be best applied when I am able to speak in real time with other players, and this is a high priority element I need to focus on to make this worthwhile.

Audience Interaction

Audience interaction has thus far also been limited, but I set up a Discord server just for the game streams recently and this has netted positive results.

During the first Counter Strike stream, I was communicating with the listener who suggested I play within the game itself, and at some point during that broadcast I placed our text chat as a semi transparent overlay within the game, but I wasn’t even watching the audience chat, which is how I failed to notice the echo and pixelation issues.

In subsequent streams, I have made a point to keep an eye on the Odysee chat, and to respond to comments during game play. I at one point tried to place the Odysee chat as a semi transparent overlay atop the game video, but this was not much liked by the audience. It was wisely suggested this be limited to paid superchats, and this seems like a thing worth figuring out, for sure.

But more complete audience involvement has long been a signature of my open phones shows. Last night it was commented by a viewer on Rumble, that I am at my best when speaking directly to the audience, and though this is a nice compliment, and I recognize the truth in this, my scripted monologues are a labor intensive process to write, and my off the cuff commentary, though often some of my best material, does require some prompting and is not something that can be summoned on demand. Conversation is often the best way to prompt me to come up with something worth saying, and in the last two streams, viewers joining the Discord while I played the games served this purpose quite well.

However, access control here becomes the problem. In the course of a fast paced game, keeping an eye on the caller ID, bringing callers in, ending their calls, and being attentive enough to drop a troublesome caller before he gets too much disruption out onto a live broadcast, is a very substantial challenge. So, the existing call in telephone features I use for the live shows does not seem a viable option.

The most obvious way to do that is the SurrealPolitiks Member Chat function, but this has long been an unsatisfying technology which I have sought to replace. This past Wednesday, I was completely unable to hear two different listeners. So I have just canceled my subscription to that service.

When I first launched SurrealPolitiks, I had intentions of using Discord for audience interactions, and acquired software to limit access to a Discord Server according to membership status within my websites. This was met with audience hysteria from paranoiacs, most of whom likely have never paid me a dime, but the noise level was sufficient that I have for the most part abandoned this part of the project.

There’s also some question as to the merits of limiting audience interaction to paid subscribers, if the goal is to bring new people in through the game streams.

For now, I’ve gone ahead and set up a completely new Discord Server. I won’t link to it here for the time being, but I have begun placing expiring invite links in the game stream descriptions for those who wish to participate in this way.

I’ve been tinkering with Rocket.Chat and XMPP servers when I have time to do so, and just fired off an email to two people who have been helping me with my tech burdens, asking them to move this to the top of their priorities. One got back to me and we are testing a Synapse server, which is based on the same software as the “Matrix” messenger service.

Use of a Gaming Headset

The headphones that I normally use for shows are reasonably high quality, and came with a cord that has a microphone built in. I never particularly liked this style of microphone even for using a phone, and certainly it is unfit for professional audio. Fortunately, the manufacturer offers a boom mic attachment, and I have acquired one of these.

At the same time, I purchased a Hyper X Cloud III gaming headset, that is supposed to be among the best wired gaming headsets one can acquire.

I was troubled to discover these are very difficult to connect to my mixer.

These use what are known as electret microphones. They require a low voltage power supply to function, similar to a condenser mic.

To facilitate this I purchased an XLR to 3.5mm adapter that also reduces the 48V phantom power of my audio mixer to the 3-5V required by the electret microphones, and this works perfectly, with one notable exception.

While my mixer is capable of outputting 48V phantom power, this power is not carried through my noise gate. Thus to use the electret microphone with the noise gate, I required a separate 48V power injector, to which the XLR 48V to 3.5mm 3-5V adapter may then be attached.

I ordered one of these recently, at a cost of $37, and it has been delivered, but I still need to go pick it up as of this writing. The unit I purchased has some unique features, in that it is a two channel device, so I can actually connect two microphones to it, and it also has a separate 3.5mm audio out, so I can take that audio into a different feed if I have cause to.

This will coincide well with my recent acquisition of a pre-amp for my Shure SM7B, which is currently having its gain boosted by a TC Helicon voice changing effects box, with said effects disabled and only used for increasing gain. This has always been suboptimal, but tolerable, and I am looking forward to replacing this.

Timing

Over the years, I have had a few different time slots for my live call in shows. We did 5-7pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for several years. We still do Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but have been doing them starting at 9:30pm US Eastern in recent months.

It has been suggested that this time slot is suboptimal, and some deliberation on changing this is in order.

I have not been streaming the games on any particular schedule, and this has had the effect of helping me connect with people I would not otherwise connect with, from the show’s history. At least two have joined the Discord to talk to me, and others have commented on the Rumble chat that it was only through this late night streaming that they realized I was out of prison.

Streaming at different hours, predictably, makes me available to different audiences, and it might be prudent to keep this unpredictable so I can continue bumping into new people, and those not so new but whom I’ve not seen in awhile.

Relatable

On last night’s stream I was joined by a talented fellow who runs a podcast of his own that should probably be more popular than it is. He observed that playing the games has the potential to make me appear more relatable to people who are not immersed in the subject matter my shows are known for.

That seems to me a wise observation. When we are involved in politics, particularly unpopular politics, much is invested into ingroup identification, and these ingroup identification techniques are often offputting to outsiders. There’s a theory in which this is actually beneficial, so far as the ingroup identification goes, but it is not conducive to recruitment.

“I’m just a normal guy like you, playing video games, let’s talk about whatever” is much different than “Check out my edgy political talk show” and it opens up opportunities for engagement that would not otherwise exist.

Unique Combinations

One of the things that made the Radical Agenda successful was that it reached people as very unexpected to see a man cursing up a storm and throwing around racial epithets, mixed in with high verbal intelligence, eloquence, and sophisticated subject matter. This was then quite uncommon, I would guess it still is, and people found this a very novel form of entertainment.

In media, in any business, one must innovate to get ahead. Doing the same thing over and over again places substantial limits on what one can accomplish, and so I have always made some attempt to do this whenever I sense things are getting stale, as judged by my own satisfaction, and what I can measure from traffic stats and audience engagement.

Restrictions placed upon my resources and ability to travel in recent years have proved burdensome on this effort. I am all too conscious of the perils I face in man on the street interactions, and doing these in my home city carries with it extra risks I cannot afford to incur. Online gaming provides opportunities to have interactions with strangers without incurring that risk.

I do not know much about the game streaming business, but from what I’ve been able to discern I am the only one doing this. A political talk show, hosted by an edgy comedian, with a visual element in the form of a video game, appears to be a unique product with the potential to have some popularity. Time will tell.

Visual Element

I have long considered my productions a radio show with a studio cam. The audience and competitive pressures have dragged me kicking and screaming into this century, compelling me to introduce a more substantial video element.

Most of my shows visually consist of little more than me speaking into a microphone. That is more than sufficient for many, but it is far from obvious to anyone scrolling thumbnails on a website that such a thing is worth watching.

The games provide a very compelling visual element, with a functionally limitless potential for variety.

Cognitive Demands

I am not so good at playing these games, and it is not my goal to become so proficient at them that I could be a competitive player. I do however hope to be able to play them more competently than I currently do.

Especially on last night’s stream, it became evident that the challenge of keeping a thought for a complex discussion proves competitive with competent game play. At times this disrupted the game, and at others it disrupted the conversation. Seeking commentary on this from the audience, it was mentioned by at least one that the game disrupting the conversation was the more damning of the two for entertainment value.

There is, however, reason to expect that I’ll be able to manage this better as time goes forward. The most disruptive parts to the conversation last night were when Grand Theft Auto 5 introduced new controls, such as when I went from driving a car to riding a bicycle or swimming, during which I needed to learn in that moment a new method of directing the character in the game. This is altogether less problematic when I am just driving, a function I have become familiar enough with that I can talk while I do it.

The Games Themselves

I have so far streamed the new Alex Jones video game, which sucks, Counter Strike 2, Need for Speed Heat, Postal 2, and Grand Theft Auto.

Each of these has unique elements for online content.

I do not think I’ll play the Alex Jones game again, since it is not very compelling.

Counter Strike 2 has a limited map, but excellent opportunities for player engagement. Since it is a free game, it is not the end of the world if I get banned from the system, as I can always create a new account and come back with a new identity for new interactions.

As mentioned, I have not attempted the player to player interactive element for the console games, but these are available and will be experimented with in the near future.

Grand Theft Auto is a story intensive game. It is thus far my favorite to play, but it may be the case that the story line of the game is hostile to the conversational element of the streams.

Need for Speed Heat seems more conducive to this element. The lives of the characters seem significantly less important to the game play, so talking over them, the viewer loses little in terms of story line.

I have not streamed these yet, but I have also acquired Mortal Kombat XL, Mortal Kombat 11, Street Fighter 6, Tekken 7, and WWE 2K23. These fighting games would almost surely be the most conducive to the conversational element, since there is no story line to speak of that I’ve been able to discern. It is a rather straightforward matter of executing maneuvers within a short match up, upon the completion of which, a new match up begins.

Not Quite Omegle

Though not directly pertaining to my decision to begin gaming, I was inspired a great deal by the talents of a fellow who calls himself Handsome Truth, when I stumbled upon videos of him interacting with people in a video chat service called Omegle.

I had hoped to begin doing this myself, until a legal question had arisen about the wiretapping laws in my home state of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire is an  “all party consent state” in which one must inform all parties in a conversation if that conversation is recorded. This stands in some contrast to most of the country, where any party is welcome to record their own conversations, even if the other parties are unaware. In those states, only a non-party who records intrusively runs the risk of legal liability.

Omegle, sadly, was shut down anyway, and while other services exist and are sure to reap the rewards of Omegle’s closure, the game streaming routine has the potential to serve a similar function. Rather than being directly paired with random people to chat, I am essentially throwing a line into the water and hoping people will bite. The desired effect here is that I would similarly end up interacting with strangers, and here the disclosure of the recording comes in the form of them finding the opportunity to chat with me through a stream. The caller knows they are being recorded, and thereby relieves me of any legal obligations to say so.

Join Me

I have accounts on PlayStation, Nintendo, and Steam, as well as a few others. We can be friends on these systems.

  • Nintendo: My name is RadAgenda
  • PlayStation: My name is RadicalAgenda
  • Steam: My name is SurrealPolitiks

I’ll add to these in the future.

Going Forward

I must stress again that I never aspired to play games online. I should hope you all have better things than to watch me do this, and I certainly have higher ambitions than stealing cars in a computer game.

I am looking for new and legally safe ways of interacting with people, because I believe this is a good application of my talents.

I am very interested in exploring all options for this, and I will be supremely interested in your suggestions on how I might do so.

 

 

If you would like to help finance this my quality productions, I try to make this easy enough to do….

 

 

Follow me elsewhere, listen, watch, and keep in touch…

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