A 3D avatar model made through Blender, the design was a process of using both 2D imaging and 3D modeling. Photo by Desiree Lee.
By Desiree Lee, Staff Reporter
Everywhere we turn these days, stories about COVID-19 are unavoidable. Between the number of cases spiking and dropping, to the distribution of the vaccine, and the fact that it will be a year since the United States went into their first lockdown. Like many others stuck inside, I used this time to be proactive and decided to pick up a new skill. Instead of learning how to bake bread or take up gardening, I dove into the world of gaming and Twitch streaming and taught myself how to build a brand around it.
Before COVID-19, life felt average. I went to school and work, and then hammered away on my brand in my downtime. I would often compare my brand to others and found myself emulating their same steps. Watching YouTube videos on how to grow my channel, however, always ended the same way. It felt like my brand was just another copy among the sea of other gamers who seemed to be using the same how-to videos.
Then one day I found my siblings’ digital drawing tablet. I couldn’t stop watching videos on how to create digital art, and eventually I learned how to create logos as well as my very own virtual reality (VR) avatar from scratch. I never thought that I would be able to understand or create digital art on my own because I had never done something like this before.
Two different groups inspired me to dive into this creative spiral. The first was the music group TWRP, often known for doing ‘80s style synthwave music, after I came across their music video for “Starlight Brigade.” The design of the music video was reminiscent of 1980s anime style, which inspired me to create my brand using retrowave colors and lettering. I love the way the neon colors pop and it is a design style that has stood the test of time.
Another musical group was Mystery Skulls, who are known for developing an animated video every three years, following the story of a group of friends similar to the Scooby-Doo gang. These two artists made me think of a new way to brand myself because they were so different and unique.
When I look at my Twitch channel, I felt like it looked like everyone else’s. My favorite streamer at the time was MermaidSkillz, but I didn’t want to copy her or other streamers. I wanted my brand to be original, thus I decided to change my whole Twitch channel.
A VR YouTuber named Kizuna Ai had been flooding the streaming niche for a few years before the scene had even exploded. I used to watch her videos and found them so interesting, not just because she was funny and would play obscure games, but the fact that she was streaming with an avatar instead of showing her face. I had never shown my face while streaming, which I felt was why my brand wasn’t growing. When watching a stream, viewers are more likely to come for the streamer than for the game itself.
After some research, I found a way to make my own avatar so I could put a face to the voice in my brand. The journey was long and challenging and it didn’t happen overnight. I spent tireless hours working on my avatar and obsessing over every detail. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. Eventually, I decided to scrap my entire brand and start from the bottom up with a whole new look and feel.
The lockdowns afforded me not only the ability to dedicate my time to recreating my brand, but the motivation to see it through. Expanding from digital art to learning how to set up a stream on Twitch, managing my social media, and how to create new content, I pushed myself far beyond what I ever thought I could accomplish.
I learned programs such as Clip Studio Art, and Blender which is a 3D creator suite. I learned how to utilize Twitch and Open Broadcast System (OBS) to enhance streaming and researched how to make audio and video crisp and clear. Learning these more advanced programs was frustrating and difficult at first, but over time it started getting easier.
When designing the VR avatar, I would make a design, scrap it, then go back to designing again. Modeling the proportions from a 2D sketch into 3D was a long and grueling process; it took me nearly a week to complete the avatar. After I felt comfortable with these programs, I then moved on to learning about social media algorithms and how to best utilize them for my Twitch stream.
To learn all this was no picnic. I had to watch countless videos on YouTube to understand the basics, but eventually, I found myself not having to refer to videos and figure things out for myself.
Not only was this an educational experience, but a rather fun and life-changing reflection upon myself. I used to look down on myself because I never felt that I could do something that would add value to my life. I never felt like I had the drive to be better just because I believed that I was not smart enough, or that it was not possible for me. I thought that learning something completely new would simply be too hard. But thanks to the lockdowns, something in me changed. Instead of simply dreaming of what my brand could be, I aimed for the sky and found myself among the stars. Today, the brand has gained traction, growing bigger and bigger everyday. It all started from thinking “I cannot do this,” to now wondering “what’s next?”