Game Jox is an Abacus3-sponsored podcast where Josh Gabay sits down with the gaming industry’s insiders, influencers, and players.
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Streaming From a Hobby Into a Business – Zach “Zeenigami” Nguyen
Narrator: You’re listening to Game Jox: Gaming for All, where we talk about all things related to video games and the esports community at large. Find out more right now with our host, Josh Gabay, sponsored by Abacus3. Here’s your host of Game Jox, Josh Gabay.
Josh Gabay (JG): Hello everybody. This is Game Jox. I’m here today with Zeenigami, who is a YouTube content creator and also a Twitch personality star. How are you today?
Zeenigami: I’m doing great. How are you?
JG: I’m doing well. Thank you for joining us. At Game Jox, we discuss various aspects of gaming so that everyone understands what it’s like out there because it’s more than just competition — there’s a whole community out there. Zeenigami, please introduce yourself and let the crowd know what you’re up to.
Zeenigami: My name’s Zach, but I go by Zeenigami. I am a full-time Twitch streamer and YouTuber. I’ve been doing it for over five years and full time for over three years now. I got my start playing a mobile game, and now I play all sorts of things and focus on creating a lot of educational content, mostly teaching people how to be better content creators and look at what they’re really doing wrong and why they’re not growing and ways they should be growing as an influencer.
JG: Absolutely. Well that’s really exciting. So, tell us how you got into streaming.
Zeenigami: I got into streaming because I was sitting at home playing all my games and decided hey, if I’m going to be sitting here playing games anyway, I should try to be at least a little bit productive. If I stream, then I’ll feel like I’m doing something while I’m playing games. I can work on how well and how clearly I’m speaking, try get rid of “ums” and “uhs”, try to annunciate a little better, get better posture. Now that’s all out the window, I slur my words, and I am slouching all day long. But those were my initial ideas of how to better myself. That’s what I told myself I would, so that way I can sit there, stream and play a lot of Diablo, League of Legends, and HearthStone as much as I want.
JG: Absolutely. And how do you feel right now looking back to just a couple of years ago when you were just starting off? Now removing the “uhs” and the “ums” and all those filler words, how do you feel both on the camera and off the camera now?
Zeenigami: Oh, it’s definitely something that you get more comfortable with over time. Streaming is a skill that you practice and get better at. Speaking clearly, keeping track of chats while playing the game — these are muscles you build up and continue to reinforce over time as a streamer. So, it’s very different than doing live content, where you get used to doing pre-recorded content, where you want to be better at working off a script and get better at video editing, make sure you hit the beats and your jokes. And when you’re doing live streaming content, you really need to just be able to have your personality “on” for extended periods of time.
JG: Obviously, getting into streaming takes time. You mentioned that it’s not always scripted. Things are happening on the fly, and a lot of it can be improvised. What makes the streaming community so special for you?
Zeenigami: I really enjoy streaming because you get a lot of direct and immediate feedback from your viewers. Whenever I make a [pre-recorded] video, I’ll record it one day, edit it that night, and upload it the next day. It isn’t really until a day or so after that I start getting comments back on the video to really know how your audience feels: did they like this game? Did they like this video and the topics discussed? You can’t sit and have a conversation with somebody. It’s like having someone as a pen pal – it’s like writing an entire essay, then you have to wait for their response. Streaming is so immediate with the feedback you get. You’re literally having a conversation with someone while things are going on, and it’s just great to be able to have a large community that you are sharing something with live.
JG: Do you think that helps you in the long run when meeting them at conventions or at speaker events?
Zeenigami: My audience is really strange because it’s such a niche audience. I really have a lot of viewers spread all over the world. In fact, 20% of my viewers are actually German and only 25% are American.
JG: Why do you think that is?
Zeenigami: Germans like their anime! The Germans, they know what’s up, and I can tell you from experience, from all of our viewers, they love their anime and that’s what my audience is. We’re just a bunch of people who like anime girls.
JG: When you first got into streaming, did you ever think you would reach an audience in Germany, America, and also in other countries? Did you feel like you had to stick one path
when you initially started, or did you have to adapt?
Zeenigami: I always knew I was going to be wildly successful. From the moment I started, I knew my name would be up in lights all around the world. One day I would be teaching people how to floss on Times Square. But it’s, really weird the way things have worked out and having such a diverse audience around the world. You really wouldn’t think that so many people who are not in the same country as you and don’t even speak English as their first language, or second language even, would be hanging out and talking to me on such a regular basis.
JG: What are the experiences that you had prior to streaming that influenced your way of being in front of the camera and becoming the personality that you are?
Zeenigami: Oh man. Where to start…everything I’ve ever done has culminated to where I am now. A lot of the experience I have is from a lot of businesses that my dad has run. My dad is very big in entrepreneurship, so he has many businesses. All of our businesses are small, family-owned ventures. Most of them failed. We owned a cafe. We’ve owned several software companies, an auto repair shop, and we still have a sports bar. That one’s been around for 13 years now. My dad is a software developer by trade. That’s where he got started making software for optometrists, and then branching out from there. Seeing him and branching off from there — I could buy this software from somebody or I could develop my own and then sell it to others. We had all of those businesses, and we even had a strip club for a year. Being in an Asian family, my parents owned me. Before I was even old enough to legally work, they had me working at every single one of these companies. It really forced me out of my comfort zone to work with people. I remember the youngest time I was at a trade show we used to go to for the optometry practice managers. We used to go to optometry conventions all the time. My brother and I were homeschooled, so my parents taught me and my brother at home and drug us around to these conventions all the time. In the middle of the school year, we’d be in the Las Vegas at the American Optometry Association Convention. Middle of the school year, the only two kids in the entire building, dressed up in little suits so we looked professional. My brother and I just wanted to sit down and play Pokemon on the GameBoy. The doctor comes up, and we get dragged up and the doctors say, “Tell me about your system”. My brother and I explain, so and so is how you do it, blah blah blah. And my dad will tell you the rest.” Then we sit down and play again. All these things really forced me to get used to talking to a lot of people and that definitely helps. Being used to starting conversations with people that you’re not familiar with at all, especially in a semi-professional environment, really helps with streaming.
JG: Are there any experiences in particular that stand out to you that makes you feel outside your comfort zone still when you’re streaming?
Zeenigami: There have definitely been times that I don’t feel completely in control or completely comfortable with what’s happening. Like the first time you’re speaking on stage for a singer, hosting an event, or just being a guest at different events…you get nervous, even if it’s a smaller group of people. But if you’re doing a live event and you get to see them live in person, it still gives you those nervous little butterflies, and that’s really good. You want to have those nervous butterflies when you’re doing these things. It keeps you on your toes, keeps you sharp, and it keeps you making sure that you don’t flub your lines or that you’re acting properly whenever you’re in front of everyone. It’s scary to a lot of people. I enjoy that little bit of fear…like I’ve got to make sure I don’t mess up in front everyone, I have to make sure I do this right.
JG: Are there any fears that you have when you’re talking with your audience where you’re asking yourself, “did I do the right thing”? Or is it more of, “if they like me, great. If they don’t, they can move on to some other personality.”
Zeenigami: Oh, I am absolutely arrogant and confident in my content creation and my viewers. If they don’t like what’s going on, they definitely will find someone else. There are a lot of people out there doing stuff, and I trust my audience to like the stuff that I like and trust them to dislike whatever they want to dislike. What I do is not going to line up with them all the time, but I’ll take all my energy and put it behind stuff that I really enjoy and if I enjoy it, I know somebody else will in turn enjoy that as well.
JG: Does that keep you on your toes and keep you motivated to continue doing what you’re doing?
Zeenigami: I find that a lot of people burn out on content creation. A lot of people push themselves too far and too fast and don’t really pace themselves or give themselves enough time to relax and get away from things. The way I work is definitely a symptom of, once again being homeschooled, growing up watching my dad run all these businesses from our home. The front rooms of our house used to be his office, so the phone would ring, and we had to be quiet. We had to pretend like we were in an office where you can’t have kids running around. Once my dad hung up, we could yell and scream as much as we wanted again.
I’ve grown up just watching the hours involved in being your own boss. I know whenever you’re an entrepreneur and running your own company, you, you know, you can have all the hours you want and take whatever breaks you want. You can go on vacations, take the weekends you want, but you are also working 24/7. The moment you wake up to the moment you’re going to sleep, you are on the job. A lot of people let themselves do that and don’t give themselves enough time to relax, and they feel this constant pressure to be working. This constant pressure to be performing is just incredibly overwhelming. I like that when I work I’m playing games after all, so it’s not like I’m working that hard, and I’m always doing something else at the same time…like watching a YouTube video or doing something else while I’m editing a video. I’m definitely not that diligent, but I knew long before I started streaming the hours involved and that’s definitely helped out a lot in making sure that I don’t get burned out.
JG: I feel like that’s somewhat of a misconception that people don’t understand what streaming is. There’s so much behind the scenes. It’s still the video being put out whether it’s live or posting it on your social media. There’s this hustle and, as you were saying about being your own boss, I think that is really important for the audience to really know that you can turn your hobby into a business. But once it’s a business, it’s got to keep flowing.
Zeenigami: A lot of people get into streaming, and I think they see what happens in front of the camera. They see this person is very outgoing. They see this person is good at talking and playing games, and then they think…hey, I can talk. I can play games. I can do all of that. When really the act of playing the game is only half of what you need to be doing as a content creator. You need to be managing your brand. You may be sending out emails, you need to be editing your videos and managing your social media – Discord, Twitter, Instagram…all these different things that you need to be doing to become successful enough so you can hire someone else to do all of these things. That’s not cheap. So, you’ve got to either grow to a point or have some sort of investment to be able to throw at someone else to help you with these things or have a dedicated team to help you with these things. Or you’ve got to learn to do all these yourself, which can be very intimidating to a lot of people. And a lot of people don’t know about it before they get into because they just think they want to play games and get paid. Golly that would be great. But not many people are ever going to get to that stage. I’m not at that stage where I can just play games and get paid.
JG: But with the experience that you have, you are definitely becoming a leader in the field. I know that there are people out there that are still in their streaming 101 phase. Tell us a little bit about what you’re planning to do and helping those people to get off the ground and running.
Zeenigami: I’m a part of a team that is a streamcoach.tv. We are now teaching other people how to be better streamers and how to improve their content. We have a six-week curated boot camp basically that’s going to go over a lot of different topics to help you improve as a content creator. There are seven of us on the team. It’s going to involve a lecture first, then a discussion, then one-on-one time. It’s broken down into phases per week. So you have your lecture that you’re going to watch, then we’ll have a large group discussion about the topic of the week, and then we’ll break up into individual one-on-one times. That way you can really talk to a lot of the different coaches get their different perspectives on the different topics. And we can give you answers to whatever questions you have. And outside of that, I’m also working on my own personal YouTube where I’m going to be working on weekly videos to really just talk about streaming and content creation and how you can improve that.
JG: That’s very interesting. I find that really awesome for those who are wanting to get into this space. What would you say is the bigger picture for streaming content creation? In this age of abundance, there’s so much content out there. Where do you see this leading to for the coming decade?
Zeenigami: Streaming is definitely becoming more and more mainstream. We see streamers participating in what we would consider older media events. We see Ninja in Times Square. Names like Ninja and the Doc are starting to become household names. And that’s amazing to see these things just working their way from something only nerds do to something that is becoming generally more accepted by the general population — seeing our hobbies and the things that we enjoy, not just being these little niche things that kids do, seen as potential careers.
JG: I love to hear that, and I think that’s a lot of what resonates with what this podcast is — to make the nerds and the gamers cool again, well they’ve always been cool. And now to know that streaming is becoming mainstream — it’s really exciting to see how developed it’s become and how fast-paced this industry has become to the point where the influencers nowadays are making the decisions for those in the young demographic to even in the later generations. Your influences and what you’ve been doing so far has been really awesome to see. My big question though is…how do you explain to people what you do?
Zeenigami: I find that relating to the fact that basically everyone knows what YouTube is. How, I mean, how do you not know what YouTube is? So I just start out there. It’s like, you know about YouTube, you know people make videos online now…I do that live for gaming. That’s basically where I start. Then they’ll ask like, “oh really? And you get paid for that?” which is always a question. Well, yeah, absolutely. The same way that if you watch TV, you know there are commercials on TV, and you watch YouTube, there are ads on YouTube, and that’s how I get paid. Whatever I do, I’m making content, and there’ll be ads run on that contents, or there’ll be people who want to sponsor me to create certain types of content or put things into my videos or on my stream or on my social media — and that’s how I get paid.
JG: What are other methods for people to support you other than paying you through donations or through any advertisements that you put online? What are ways for people in your community and those that haven’t yet joined to continue to support people like you?
Zeenigami: This is something that comes up every once in a while. It’s like you have someone in your chat who’s probably younger. He is probably in his teens or in school – he has little money but a lot of time. You get older now, you have all this money and no time. And a lot of people want to support you and have time on their hands but don’t have the ability to subscribe or to donate or to give money to your page or anything like that. And they want to know how they can help my channel grow because they really liked your content. And one of the biggest things they can do is just be around. And I don’t just mean like watching, but I mean responding and being an active part of the community.
And it’s great because when you do that and you’re a part of someone’s community and you are talking in their chat and commenting under YouTube, you help change and help shape the way their community works out. If you are really positive and you put all this good energy into somebody’s chat room and being really active and talking to one another — not only talking to the streamer but just talking to the other people in chat, you’re putting all this good energy out there. It really changes the way that the entire community feels, and it’s so incredibly helpful to the content creator. Whenever you do that, not only do we get to see that you’re enjoying it like we have, you’re there and we see that little number. As a viewer, we see you on the list or we see you on Discord. We know that you’re there, and we know that you’re enjoying it.
Being able to hear that you’re enjoying it and see that you’re talking and engaging…it’s so amazing to get this direct feedback on what we’re doing — it’s basically validating our content creation. You’re telling us by talking in our chats that you like what’s going on. Whenever someone new comes into chat, one of the scariest things to do is to say “hi”. To be able to say “hi” and break past that little barrier that you have of online anonymity can be scary if no one else is already talking. No one wants to be that person who walks into a brand-new room and introduce themselves to the entire group. But if you walk into a room and everyone’s chit chatting away and someone says, “Hey dude, what’s up?” that is amazing. That starts a conversation that breaks down your responsibility to be the one to say “hi”. Now he can say, “Oh, hey, I’m doing great. How are you? What’s going on here? What are we doing here today?”
JG: It’s that two-way comm. between the streamer and the viewer. It’s, it’s so crucial. It’s just anything day to day. It’s getting that response back and knowing that you can continue the conversation, continue moving forward with whatever you’re doing, whatever the person that’s listening is doing…it goes down to what we do on a daily basis.
Zeenigami: And that’s the big difference between streaming and making a video. When you make a video, you’re making stuff that’s either going to be evergreen, so it’s going to be stuff that’s going to be relevant for a long time, or you want to make something about a topic. Whereas streaming’s just kind of talking and having a conversation with someone else. A video is writing an essay and performing that essay in a very eloquent way, and streaming is where you’re going to flub your lines and just talk and be very casual with your audience.
JG: Would you call this content creation, this streaming capability artistic? Would you define content creators as artists?
Zeenigami: Oh, absolutely. I would, depending on how you define artists, maybe not, but I would say it’s a creative endeavor. It is definitely a creative endeavor and as a content creator, you are a creative person the same way that a writer is a creative person…the same way an illustrator is a creative person. We’re all just using different parts of our creative mind in order to bring entertainment to people because at the end of the day, as a streamer, as a YouTuber or as a content creator, the number one goal for you is to entertain people. And how you do that depends on you, and it depends on the type of content you make. If you’re going to be making funny voices, or if you’re going to be appealing to their intellect…if you’re going to be just relaxing and being very down to earth to somebody, all these different types of streams, all these different types of videos, all these different types of content are creative endeavors that you are going to have to do every single day as a content creator. You’re going to wake up, you’re going to turn on your stream, and you have to do something new because no one wants to watch the same thing every time. That does take a certain part of the brain to work. I have to plan what we are going to talk about today…what we are going to do today.
JG: You know that you can turn on the mic and talk and people respond back to you. Another quick question…with streaming and turning this hobby into a business, things can get hectic. Your schedule starts to change when people are trying to make plans with you during the day, and you may have to push them out for a rain check…where you can find yourself at peace where you can do whatever you want or remind you of your childhood? That is what I consider the place of calm.
Zeenigami: I’ve grown up on the computer for as long as I’ve known and been in front of a keyboard and typing and talking to people online, so that’s what comforts me. I’ve been playing games and MMOs since as long as I can remember. And being a part of online communities is really, really relaxing to me. I played a lot of MMOs in my life and used to play World of Warcraft and be a part of guilds with a lot of people from all around…. just the nature of it changes. Instead of hanging out with people playing games, I am hanging out with people who play games, and we might not be playing the same thing at the same time, but I can pop into Discords a few Discords that I’m actually active in and “hi”, and I know that there are people there to say “hi” back.
JG: Talking back and forth with folks gives that sense of trust. Zeenigami, I really appreciate your time, building that trust with us, and telling your story about streaming and how streaming can be for anyone out — there to build their brand or personality. You can get started right away through having a mic, a camera and your favorite video game – actually it doesn’t have to be a video game. It can be whatever you want to talk about — knowing you can have an audience that will want to talk back to you, knowing that you have some common interests with them is great. So Zeenigami, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Zeenigami: No, I really appreciate you being here, and thanks for letting me in on this.
JG: Awesome. Thank you for your time, and we’ll talk soon. And I hope to hear from the Game Jox audience really soon. Thank you and have a good rest of the day.
Game Jox: Gaming for All is sponsored by Abacus3.
Building Collegiate Esports on Your Campus – UCLA Esports
Episode #3 Checklist
Host: Josh Gabay
Guests: Cole Schwartz, Esports Engagement Coordinator for UCLA
Cathy Ge, Assistant Director of UCLA Esports
Naveen Sheik, Marketing Director of UCLA Esports
Sunny Yen, Founder of UCLA Esports
About UCLA Esports:
UCLA Esports is the first officially sanctioned esports program at UCLA. Founded in 2017, they strive to provide a platform for fans to follow the progress of UCLA collegiate teams and to provide support and infrastructure to their athletes. Long-term goals include building permanent collegiate support on-campus, scholarships, and permanent infrastructure dedicated to the growth of UCLA presence in collegiate gaming.
- Create a team of individuals who are passionate about esports and video games when starting a club at your university or school.
- Academics should always be a priority. Plan esports activities around class schedules. Consider using a calendar app to manage time and keep track of important events.
- Be persistent when working with your school’s administration. Understand their perspective on esports so that you may address their concerns and garner support on campus.
- Always make club experiences worthwhile for the participating members. Provide opportunities in esports that would not otherwise be available to students without the club, such as travel, internships, and live events.
- Engage with your community on social media, regardless of size/reach, by regularly posting content that interests them and gives them an inside perspective of the club. Take photos at every event, create graphics for matches and team additions, and post video content.
- Develop friendships and treat your athletes with respect, but always hold them accountable for responsibilities and team expectations.
Game Jox: Gaming for All is sponsored by Abacus3.
Let’s create something great together.