A lot has happened in the last 7 months: I've had back surgery, I crossed the one-year mark at my current job, I paid off my car, got to see people. These things drove me because they were highlights - things to look forward and aspire to - and they felt good to check off a to-do list. Despite these accomplishments, I craved more; something akin to the endless reward-seeking found in MMOs, but with more substance and less bingeing. My 2017 began, just two days after the New Year, with surgery on my lower back that had a possibility of leaving me paralyzed. The risk was low, however, and I opted in for having part of a disc removed that was pressing against my sciatic nerve. The effect of the surgery was immediately realized, as I was able to walk around, bend, and operate normally for the first time in nearly three-quarters of a year. Because of the extent of the surgery and the maneuvering necessary to operate where they needed to, I went into the ordeal with the anticipation of being out of work for potentially two months while everything healed, and settled into the idea that I'd need entertainment while I had downtime. Beyond browsing the Internet and trying not to make my media room a Netflix cave for days on end, I desperately needed stimulation while I was alone for hours per day, often hobbling around at best.
Fortunately, AGDQ 2017 aired while I was in my first weeks of recovery, and I was able to watch a good portion of the event. I was no stranger to GDQs, having watched VODs from previous events in the past, but this was the first I was able to watch live, and I drank it in something fierce. As the week progressed, I began talking more with such characters as tinahacks and Brossentia between their assorted GDQ activities, and had the opportunity to discuss speedrunning in earnest for the first time. It wasn't long before Tina started poking and prodding at me to pick up the sword and rise to the call myself, and within a couple weeks, she convinced me to start spending hundreds of dollars on a myriad of SCART cables, video switches, displays, consoles, and, of course, games to play. I was initially apprehensive, given that I've got performance anxiety (I still do; and I still am), but once shipments began arriving, the excitement grew to overcome the anxiety, and I started practicing Super Mario World off stream. In fact, I didn't stream for the first time until a full two months after AGDQ, when Saxxon and I did a test stream of Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, but my first REAL experience streaming was with Night in the Woods.
While playing NitW, it became apparent that our idea of lapel mics just wasn't going to work, and that streaming at 1080p60 probably wasn't the best idea with the bitrate I eventually settled into begrudgingly (I had no idea at the time that Twitch wouldn't provide video quality options, and that I'd need to stream at a bitrate that would draw in more viewers). As we streamed more and more during those early sessions, things steadily improved in quality, and I grew to enjoy the idea of casting my gameplay more.
It wasn't long after that the schedule for SGDQ 2017 was released: Mr. Bond's submission for a co-op race with TucanSam was accepted, solidifying plans to attend! I shared a room with Saxxon, Mr. Bond, and Tina for a weeklong experience that was, as silly as this might sound, rather life changing! I'd made friends with a fair bit of people from having watched and participated in Skybilz' and authorblues' Twitch channels, and was put in contact with some other neat folks who would be attending and could help me getting into randomizers during the event (shoutout to wulfy83 for being SUPER patient with me in my first Z3 randomizer attempt!). I went into this knowing, at least through chatting, probably 10 people in the community, and left being GOOD friends with many more. It was stunning to me that the entire time I was there, EVERYBODY was nothing but welcoming, kind, encouraging, and patient with me - and that's just not an experience I'm used to in the fandoms I'd frequented in the past. For the first time in a good while I felt appreciated, and that I was at home with the folks at SGDQ.
This led me to decide, without hesitation, that I'd attend AGDQ 2018, and that I'd be sharing a room with Tina and Saxxon again (in fact, I've already booked the airfare for Saxxon and myself!). Evaluating the consequences of that decision with regard to paid time off made me realize that, because I felt so at home with the SGDQ crew (shoutouts to everyone in the Drinky Drinks crew!), I wanted to continue attending GDQ and other game events more than other events I was planning to attend. To accommodate this change in attendance, I decided to part ways with other conventions I staffed and attended. This has already left me feeling far less stressed over things as a whole, and I feel my decision was sound.
The rush of strong positive emotions from SGDQ manifested itself in a strong desire to stream, even including the night we returned home from the event. Immediately Tina and I set out and started racing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past No Major Glitches (through Master Sword). The results were... unpleasant... on my end, but it was the first time I'd used a Livesplit timer; I ACTUALLY speedran something! It also happened to be a fortuitous time to want to stream more often, as Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age released the Tuesday following SGDQ - I'm still streaming that game and finished my 20th episode today! I decided a few weeks ago to stream three hours daily M-F and as often as I wanted to over weekends (without feeling overwhelmed or like it was a chore). Gradually my average viewer count rose and, WAY before I thought it would actually happen, I received my invitation from Twitch to become an Affiliate! Since then I've submitted my three tiers of emotes, had them approved, and have continued streaming a minimum of 15 hours a week. It's been slow going getting viewers, but having regulars show up means a lot, and it's been fun sharing games with them.
As for the future - not sure! I'm getting poked and prodded, still, to find a speedgame and dedicate some time to it. I'll likely have a weekend event with EnchantressOfNumbers at some point, so be on the lookout for that. In case you're curious about my stream, follow/subscribe on Twitch! I'd love to have more people to chat with while I play things badly.