Living and livestreaming: WKU students broadcast themselves to the world

Michael Crimmins, Investigative Reporter

A college student’s day can be stressful. With tight schedules and a constant stream of homework, it has never been more crucial for students to carve out time for themselves. There are many ways students can unwind after a long and demanding day in the classroom, and some have turned to the activity of livestreaming.

Livestreaming is a hobby that has taken off in recent years. Young gamers can broadcast their video game playing sessions on a platform like Twitch for a public audience and can interact with viewers through a real-time chat feed. 

Samantha Hynes is a senior broadcasting major at WKU that dabbles in streaming. She said what started out as a classroom assignment has become a favored way to spend her downtime.

“I never really thought of streaming until I took a game theory class,” Hynes said. “Part of the curriculum is to stream. So it started off as class work, but the more I got into it, the more I was like ‘huh, this is kind of fun.’”

This semester, Hynes is taking five classes and a lab totaling 16 credit hours. In addition to her class work, Hynes holds two jobs. She works at the PBS station on campus and is a sales lead at the Journeys shoe store in the Greenwood Mall. 

Given her packed schedule, she said she mostly streams on Wednesdays and Fridays late at night, with the average session usually lasting around two hours.

“Right now, with my class work, I only have time to stream at 9:30 at night on Wednesdays till like 11, so it’s pretty late,” Hynes said. “I can usually find time late on Fridays, if I’m not going out with friends or anything, but usually I only have time to do it once a week.”

She said she plays games on her PlayStation while recording footage with her phone through the Twitch website, while a few of her friends tune in to watch her play video games like “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order” or “Detroit: Become Human”.

Hynes said livestreaming offers a unique personal connection between the streamer and their viewers, something that simply can’t be replicated by just uploading videos to YouTube.

“I like the interaction that the streamer has with the viewership,” Hynes said. “You get to directly interact with not only the streamer but with other people at the same time.”

After graduation, Hynes said she could see herself sticking with livestreaming as a hobby. 

“It seems fun and it could tie into my major because I’m on the technical side of broadcasting, so the behind the scenes setup and stuff,” Hynes said. “So all that is pretty fun to me and streaming is like your own production.”

Unlike Hynes, who streams for fun, Tyler Breneman, or “Tyler Breadman” as he is known on Twitch, is trying his hand at it professionally.

Breneman is a junior majoring in photojournalism with a minor in graphic design. Much like Hynes, he first started livestreaming as a hobby.

“The space of online content creation got really flooded during [the] time of COVID because everyone wanted to do something online, everyone wanted to be a content creator,” Breneman said. “I kind of found that as my time to jump in as well, and then excel past the people who just want to use this as a hobby because at that point it’s like, ‘why are you even doing it?’”

Breneman currently takes 15 credit hours and holds a job at Best Buy. Even with all his class responsibilities, coupled with his shifts at work, he still finds time to post two or three times a day.

“It’s a pain in the ass,” Breneman said. “It’s a lot, but also I’m able to do [everything] at the same time. It’s a weird balance, but it’s also trying to find as much time as I can to spend online.”

He starts his day around 8 a.m. each morning doing normal college student things. At around 10 o’clock he finds time to make his first post of the day, usually a TikTok of stream highlights from a recent session.

“I want to check in with my community and see how they’re doing,” Breneman said. “I’ve got the time between classes and then I’ll just take a quick minute to post a TikTok, that way there’s some kind of outreach.”

After his morning outreach, Breneman goes back to his normal college day before making his second post around 2 o’clock, once again on TikTok.

When he does stream, it’s usually at night, and he plays games ranging from shooters like “Valorant” to sandbox games like “Minecraft”. He said there was no particular genre he enjoyed the most, but he likes to put on a “variety” type stream.

Breneman said he has made some good friends through streaming, even some that “he’d invite to his wedding”. He also said streaming has been able to provide help for people in the real world.

“I’ve had a lot of my community members reach out to me like ‘hey, I’m not feeling so good and I don’t want to be here anymore,” Breneman said. “It’s mostly just reassuring them and telling them ‘hey, it’ll be alright, life’s tough but you’ll get through it’. I like to help people I guess…I want to foster people who don’t have a place, because that’s how I was.”

Breneman also approaches streaming as a business, and he has landed sponsorship deals in the past by either reaching out to companies directly or accepting deals when businesses find his streaming project. These deals have ranged anywhere from promoting gamer energy drinks to a computer mouse made into a ring.

All in all, Breneman hopes to continue streaming well after he graduates from WKU.

“I do wanna do this as a full time job, and that’s really ambitious, especially where I am right now, but I want to try to do this as a full time job because this is something I enjoy,” Breneman said. “I want to make a safe place basically. I want to create a community that all loves each other.” 

Investigative Reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michael_crimm.