Jonna’s guide to Twitch streaming
“For me, it doesn’t really affect my style – but it changes the way you are as a person and the way you play. It just feels different, in the sense that people are always watching.
“When I played in the eDivisie, I used to travel to Amsterdam twice a week, and in the beginning it felt so different because I was used to just playing FIFA in my room, with no-one else there…
“Then I had to get used to playing in a seat in front of thousands of people, both live and on YouTube. It’s very different and you have to get used to it.”
Video gaming has long since departed being simply a pastime – for hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated players, it can now represent big business, a viable career path.
A sub-section of that are Esports competitors like West Ham Esports’ very own Jonas ‘Jonna’ Ghebrehiwot, a 25-year-old professional FIFA player from Groningen, Holland, who shot to stardom in his home country’s gaming scene two years ago.
Having only started gaming competitively in 2015, and then FIFA in 2017, Jonna’s fledgling FIFA talents were spotted in an AFC Ajax competition where the prize was a professional contract with the club.
After losing out in the final, however, he was signed up by PEC Zwolle for the eDivisie – a domestic FIFA league in Holland which sees top-flight teams play one another regularly, attracting audiences of tens of thousands of viewers.
Against all the odds, the hitherto unknown Jonna delivered memorable success against his former suitors in 2019/20, fighting back from a low ranking to eventually win the competition outright.
The platform was there for Jonna to capitalise on his newfound fame by rounding out his media profile – the main manner in which talented gamers can forge careers.
Whether it be a big personality to showcase, a niche audience to serve, or just sheer talent in a popular title to display, live gaming streams can attract vast viewership and, with it, big-money sponsorships and other financial pay-offs.
The most popular platform for video game streaming is Twitch, founded in 2011; a decade later, some 326 billion minutes of Twitch content has been viewed in 2021 thus far alone, with 2.9 million average concurrent viewers in February at any one time.
Twitch sees 26.5 million daily active users. 1 trillion minutes of content were watched in 2020. Simply put: streaming might yet become the new TV.
“Becoming a professional Esports player made me start streaming,” Jonna confirmed.
“I never really did it before that to be honest, because I wasn’t really a guy for social media, but the moment I signed my first Esports contract was when I first started an Instagram!
“I first started streaming on Twitch not too long ago either – just two years ago for me personally.
“I started off playing games on YouTube because that was the platform I knew best, and it was where I used to watch streams, but a lot of people who stream on YouTube tend to switch over to Twitch because it’s a way better platform for streaming and building a community.
“When you go onto Twitch, you expect to see gaming, whereas on YouTube, it’s usually to watch videos. That’s what most people think.”
Suddenly, Jonna was not only playing games for himself – but for anybody who wanted to watch him, as well.
“It’s really something you need to enjoy in yourself,” he admitted. “You have to get used to it, because it’s different from when you’re playing at home and no-one’s watching, and you can just be yourself.
“For some people, going on stream can really affect your way of playing a game.”
Yet with 9.7 milion streamers going live each month, finding your audience can be an uphill battle – and when you do, it becomes vital to build your community correctly.
Instead of streaming for four hours every day, take three hours to work on your social media and see if you can get some content to go viral on TikTok, Twitter or Instagram
“For people who are starting to stream, it can be really frustrating right at the beginning,” Jonna warned, “especially when you don’t have many viewers, or even when your screen shows just one viewer – yourself!
“In my opinion, before you start streaming, you need to make sure you have a decent social set-up – a Twitter account, an Instagram account – and gain some followers to create a little community on your platform.
“Instead of streaming for four hours every day, take three hours to work on your social media and see if you can get some content to go viral on TikTok, Twitter or Instagram. When you have a good amount of followers on those channels, you can share when you go live on those networks, and your Twitch viewers will go up.
“It’s something you need to be very patient about. A lot of people just stream six or seven hours a day and just expect their viewership to get higher and higher by itself, but that’s not how it works.”
As for what Jonna enjoys most from streaming, his answer is one of not just a professional FIFA player or professional gamer – but, these days, a professional performer.
“It’s just a way that you’re entertaining people basically, and getting confirmation that people like what they’re seeing when they keep on watching.
“It just feels really good to have people watch you play, being interested in what you’re doing and asking questions, like ‘how can I become a pro FIFA player?’ or ‘where are you from? You have an accent!’ It’s really nice.
“Be positive. That’s what I like in a streamer – having those positive vibes.”