WHAT IS TWITCH?
Since it was created in 2011, Twitch has been a staple in the gaming community. The platform has been instrumental in giving life to gaming live streams, crafts, and public forum talks. It has become a contender for creator content, going up against the powerhouse that is YouTube. Incentives to host content on Twitch have improved over the years, making it an enticing home for live stream events.
One such Twitch Streamer is David Strainer aka The Bubbernaut. Adoringly known as Bub by his community, Strainer has carved out his corner of Twitch and now hosts a bevy of tabletop roleplay and video games, along with popular “just chatting” segments as a Twitch Partner. Bubbernaut sat down with Rogues Portal for a candid interview about life as a Twitch Streamer.
Reader discretion: some mild language used below, and discussion of mental health struggles.
WHO IS THE BUBBERNAUT?
Rogues Portal: You are obviously very passionate about the worlds you build and the characters you help nurture through their players. And likewise, your own. Where did that come from?
Bub: I’d like to preface this by saying that the real world in a lot of ways is shitty and dismal. From the time we are old enough to remember, we are flung into school with other children who are supposed to be our friends, but inevitably end up being the antagonist. I frequently say that children are terrorists, but I’m only partially joking. On top of that, while my folks did the best they could raising me, they were still just kids making grown up decisions and doing the best they could. I have them to thank for teaching me so many things about the world and people in general. However, my parents never got to escape, and, in turn, I was never taught how to escape in tandem. The television was our go-to for not thinking about our problems, and as a child, I more or less decided that I needed to go with the flow that this is how things are. I did that, for a long time I did just that without ever really allowing myself an opportunity to get away. Then shit got really weird for me as a teenager. Things got heavy. Depression, then anxiety. Obesity from coping with said depression and anxiety. Medical issue — the works.
Things started spiraling out of control, and I was freaking out because life was, as stated before, shitty. My only friend at the time introduced me to a game called Dungeons & Dragons. It was lettered as Edition 3.5. While I didn’t think too much of it, I always enjoyed things like Robin Hood and Harry Potter; can’t forget Lord of the Rings either. I didn’t really know about the tabletop world. It was never properly introduced and I had only started enjoying books a few years prior. Reading wasn’t something that was encouraged in the house. It’s not like it was discouraged, but I was never really encouraged to do anything aside from my chores, get enough sleep, and go to school. I’m pretty positive that I was just supposed to sidle into the workforce and grind away til I continued the sidle directly into a casket.
For the first time, something moved in me. I’m not talking like first kiss kinda movement. I made sure to avoid everything that would upset my stomach. This was the movement that cracked stone, split walls. My very foundation of understanding for life was shaken. I actually enjoyed myself playing this game. Immensely. And nothing sucked anymore. Nothing was so terrible. Not my weight. Not my heart. Nor the depression and anxiety. It was all gone because, again, for the first time, I was given the opportunity to escape. To something so different than what I know. To a world brimming with adventure and excitement. Dragons ruled proudly and dared not to be tested. Goblins pillaged hamlets and all other forms of beasties did all sorts of nasty things. For a time I was content. Not all that glitters is gold, and it was starting to feel that way. I was becoming fairly bored. Not of the world mind you, but of the story. The people I was playing with at the time were what I would define today as Rules lawyers, Immersion snuffers, and just along for the ride. The storyteller made sure at every attempt to tell me that I can’t do something because it doesn’t make sense and it would go against the grain of everyone else. Pyrite.
I’m not the type to give up on love, especially for the very first thing that actually made me feel somewhat alive. I got my hands on a Dungeon Master’s guide. I started reading and learning the process of decision making on the fly for anything under the hardcover. Eventually, I felt confident enough to try a previously created adventure. It was an Eberron experience. A world where nearly everything is magical down to the trees. Where technology has made leaps and bounds, but still tethered to the natural world and elementals. Where magic was harnessed and automatons walked freely with sentience. And that was the coolest shit I had literally ever heard of, EVER.
To this day, I still observe Eberron as the birth place of my creative conscious, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Needless to say, I had to operate inside of this world. I was not at all prepared, nor was I warned about the characters inhabiting the world. I suddenly had to understand a slew of characters that I had never met, never knew their intentions or motivations, and I just had to make them function in the world, believably at that. Nose to the grindstone, I studied. I threw a few people I knew into a circle and grabbed some family and I told them about the game and my intentions. They agreed and we got down to it. I never looked back.
I tried many things after that. Various game systems and Homebrew rules. Creating my own monsters and factions. Developing props and creative methods of delivering them. Eventually, I settled into Pathfinder and fell in love all over again.
In a previous Twitter post, I talked about how, at the time, I was unemployed and couldn’t afford the books, so I took some of my only functioning hobbies outside of the RP world (Magic: the Gathering cards) and sold them off so I could buy the first edition books. My best friend at the time drove me to the shop, and like most shops, I was offered nearly nothing but got enough to pick up The Core Rulebook and Bestiary 1 and did just that. At some point, books stop existing as “just books” and they start becoming full-on Tomes. The Core rulebook alone was girthy enough to legitimately be a bludgeoning weapon, even if improvised.
Within my hand, I held the tome that guided my future.
Many, many books and games later, things started to shift again. Running existing games was something I regarded as easy, and I took on the task of telling my own story. Speaking of which, that’s a whole different tale I could tackle later, but for all intents and purposes, we just accept that it happened.
To finally answer the question stated above:
It started with me trying to learn my first NPC. Trying to build a complex individual with background and depth. Functionally developing an existing personality that is dimensional and believable. Developing their fears, refining their goals. Stating their motivations and hiding their intentions. It took me really taking a hard psychological look at myself and those that were close to me. This study gave me somewhat of an understanding of why people do and say the things they say and do. It allowed me to reflect and Identify things similarly to myself, and it made me want to be better. To think better and have rational reasons for saying and doing the things that I say and do. Some people might think that this is entirely “too deep” or “too much.”
We all sit down at the table together accepting that it’s a fantasy. That it begins and ends when we arrive/leave. We head back to our mundane lives doing mundane or trivial things worrying about whether or not someone is going to like us at work or if you should be loyal to GrubHub or Postmates. None of it really mattered anymore to me, and my focus shifted away from all of the bullshit, and I realized that I had a new opportunity. I wanted to make something feel real. To feel tangible and to give anyone an escape. Just a chance that from time to time I could provide people an outlet by sharing with them the passion that likely kept me alive through my bizarre teenage years. They too could be heroes, or villains. They could be anything that they set their heart/mind to, and I can help facilitate that. My new goal was defined, and I pursued.
Rogues Portal: What are some of the challenges you face while running the various games? Conversely, what are some of your greatest triumphs?
Bub: Going into this line of work has an almost endless series of hurdles. The payoff is incredibly rewarding. In the beginning, it was about introducing people to the world of tabletop gaming. Early on, I never faced an issue finding a player, but the moment I announced that I was going to begin doing it professionally and offer the services with rates? The immediate hurdle was redefining my viewer base. I lost legitimately half of my active viewer base. I was told that nobody would ever pay to play tabletop games and that I was part of, if not among, the main reasons that the game is being ruined. It was a bit of a crushing statement, but I had to thicken my skin a bit and deal with the verbal insults and nay-saying.
After what felt like too long of a time, I finally was able to rebuild the viewer base back up, and I was starting to draw a decent and proper clientele. Then I started to become inundated. I had more players than I knew what to do with, and I was definitely worried. I made a decision to re-evaluate my time to discern if my rates were too low and if I should really consider raising my rates to correspond with what I valued my time. Doing that proved that I managed to alienate some of the player base that was worried about cost but still hit a sweet spot to please me and didn’t scare away everyone.
The capability to pay my own way and not be a financial burden on my wife or roommates made things manageable in my life again. At that point, it was all a matter of pushing forward and growing. From there on, I was able to redefine my own goals and continue pushing what worked best to make myself happy along with my audience. My goals became about constructing a community of like-minded individuals who were capable of being accepting and acclimating to a safe space. This meant to me that people were comfortable being whatever they were, be it LGBTQ+ or introverts, perhaps those struggling with social issues or disorders that made them feel as if they would normally be unwelcome in some communities, but not here. I’ve been pushing the ideals of equality despite our differences and, while we have had some challenges and outliers who made it cumbersome, it was entirely worth it. I now look forward to seeing a lot of the people who populate this little corner of the internet daily.
There is value in the hard work that I’ve put in. The payoff has been very worth it. While we are not always available to each other, we check in frequently and hold each other accountable the best we can. We motivate and encourage and do whatever is possible from the distances we have between us.
When I’m told that what I do has given confidence or deliberately changed their lives for the better, I see this as a tremendous triumph. Being told that by just being real and showing them that it’s ok to have emotions and opinions about life and the journey we are on has given them a reason to keep waking up day in and day out despite the struggle is among the biggest and best gifts anyone can be offered.
Finding and defining my own confidence because of this/them. Honing my talents to a degree that I’ve been brought into other projects as a paid entertainer was a big pat on the back and showed me that I have even more value than I had originally thought. Being brought in as an acting contractor on an active broadcast cemented the fact that I do have talents and should be proud of what I’ve become.
Bubfest is by and large my favorite triumph.
It’s a lot of hard work, but it pays in dividends every year. Sure, I may lose out on finances every time, but the memories, smiles, and tears I get paid back in is worth infinitely more to me. I get to step away, put down the technology and work life, and I can just be Bub for awhile. No need to entertain, just a chance to be with my peers or my friends and relax around a campfire with a cool drink and something delicious!
Rogues Portal: What is one thing in the future that you’re looking forward to?
Bub: Oh man. The thought of future actually gets me tremendously excited. I have so many ideas that I would like to make happen in the creative space. I’m actively working on a One-Stop Hub for creators and artists alike to share their assets and work if they are so inclined.
Additionally, making these people publicly available as commissioned artists and creators will only draw them more business, which I think is important to normalize in any space that hard work should be compensated fairly regardless of what the job is. There are a few classic television shows that I see a lot of potential in creating in the streaming space. I would love to spill the beans, but I want it to be as much of a surprise as I can get it to be.
Heaps of tabletop spins on the things that helped create and establish my own creative mind. Regardless of wherever this journey takes me, I still have the same end goals: Bringing new people, young and old, into the tabletop world and igniting their creativity and imagination.
Aside from new projects, I generally just look forward to the influence of new players upon me. I firmly believe that we are the sum of all of our experiences and rarely do people have an earnestly fresh idea birth from them, just an idea that previously existed and is touched/tainted by the people we meet and the experiences they leave upon us.
Every new game I run is totally different and arguably better after the influence of new ideas and words. Social currency is the greatest wealth to offer and to be offered to those of us in the world, and I spend it without remorse or care. I think the future is big and bright for both stream and all of those that are willing to invest a little in me, because I want to invest and share my passions with them.
I had the opportunity to attend Bubfest 2019 this past September. Within minutes of meeting Bub, I could understand his magnetism and feel his passion for what he does. The path he walks is not an easy one. Social norms and expectations tell us, as Bub himself stated, that we should get a traditional job, live a traditional life, and be content until our inevitable death. Bub has elected to live a life he is passionate about and to make that his career.
He is a delight to be around, and has a knack for storytelling that rivals even the most gifted of performers. Those in his community have grown to look to Bub for more than just entertainment. He has started conversations related to personal growth and has even encouraged others to join him on his amazing journey towards better health. The stories we enjoy define who we are, and the paths we take are not so very different than those of the characters inside a D&D campaign. His community entrusts Bub to be the custodian of the stories in which they actively participate. They seek his advice and counsel, and they take shelter inside the home and around the hearth he has built for all who will find it.
WHERE TO FIND THE BUBBERNAUT