Environmental Activism and Community on Twitch, an Interview with Hunter Wild

Hunter Wild is a Twitch streamer, activist, and the co-founder of a streamer education program called Streamer Square. After working in game development, as a fine artist, and getting a degree in environmental philosophy, Hunter now brings these various disciplines together in streaming with especial emphasis on community.

Hunter Wild, image courtesy of Impact24 PR

As he mentions below, for all our connectivity and learning online, many of us are still filled with a strong sense of isolation and loneliness. (And the recent Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma explores this aptly, demonstrating how features like the infinite scroll on social media sites, and highly personalized algorithms, are meant to monopolize people’s attention.) If all we’re doing is consuming media, and not really engaging with it on a deeper level, we’re bound to feel an emptiness or alienation of some kind.

So then, through Streamer Square and on Twitch, Hunter’s work focuses on influencing both the industry as a whole and streaming culture on an individual level. For example, Streamer Square produces several talk shows which explore topics like inclusivity, financial best practices, mental health, and other avenues within the streaming community. There’s also a focus on charity work and building a network of sustainability-oriented content creators. Resources like these, and that emphasis on connection, are helping bring streamers and audience members from all walks of life together.

Andrew Cheek: Could you share a little about what you do?

Hunter Wild: Absolutely. I think in the broadest terms I’m a creator and community leader. I primarily stream video games on Twitch, but the gaming content is a lot like pizza dough that acts as an edible plate for the stuff you really want, the toppings. My streams are really focused on connectivity, sharing stories and lives and experiences and identities, experiences that aren’t created for the community but rather with, conversation and dialectic.

In an age defined by an infinite expansion of and access to human knowledge, with endless opportunities to see people and be seen by them, we still often feel a profound loneliness. My aim is to connect the disconnected by way of authenticity, vulnerability, and intertwining my life with others. It’s really a career that’s in service to greater ideals and a just cause for me.

From Hunter’s Twitch channel

“I get to craft beautiful experiences directly for those with whom it resonates instead of the old approach during my fine art career of showing works in a gallery and just hoping it strikes someone enough to buy it.”

Andrew: How has your background in environmental philosophy and fine arts tied in with Twitch streaming?

Hunter: These have been so impactful for streaming! I’ve got a really diverse background that helps me empathize with the experiences of my community. My first real career as an adult was as a game developer, which is incredibly valuable for helping folx assess the value of a brand new game launch, which is a huge focus for my channel as we usually host several launch events a month with marathon streams and really unique content.

My philosophy studies were very extra; I stuck with the university program so long that I had enough credits for two philosophy degrees, and they actually had to start charging me additional tuition because I just wouldn’t leave! I use the skills I acquired there every day in streaming by engaging in dialectic with my tribe, getting to the heart of questions and issues, tackling big subjects, and being able to speak in broad terms as well as diving into nuance.

The focus on environmental philosophy created a unique opportunity to focus on the greatest existential threat humanity has ever faced, climate change, which is critical to our daily lives and drives in the 21st century. Topics that are constantly in play are matters of justice, responsibility, and ethics. I studied these broadly, but also specifically with subjects like environmental justice which explores the grossly imbalanced impact of environmental issues on marginalized and underprivileged groups. These easily get extrapolated to discuss ubiquitous issues like identity, social justice, privilege, and internet culture.

As for fine art, it’s something I’ve been building back into my daily life and career through my Patreon. I have a public feed where I’m posting my art process, which includes the many failures and struggles as well as the triumphs and inspirations. Through this, I move away from the “highlight reel” we all tend to see on social media that showcases victories and grand achievements which often creates an imbalanced perception of our own lives. And I just love to allow my creativity and creations to serve others, to bring joy to folx, and add to people’s lives! Through Patreon, I get to craft beautiful experiences directly for those with whom it resonates instead of the old approach during my fine art career of showing works in a gallery and just hoping it strikes someone enough to buy it.

Andrew: You co-launched Streamer Square, a streamer education platform, some time ago I believe on YouTube. Could you tell us about it and how it got started?

Hunter: My business partner, Lowco, actually started it some six years ago by herself because the quality of information that was out there for streamers was so disappointing and weak, and she wanted to share her growing wisdom and knowledge with the rest of us who yearn to make streaming a career. I came on board three years ago as a show host, but Lowco and I found that we shared the same intense drive and vision for helping others cultivate the success that we had made for ourselves.

From the Streamer Square talk show

Since then, we’ve produced a number of fantastic projects and initiatives. Most recently, we established StreamerMusic.com as a resource to help content creators navigate the treacherous terrain of music rights and DMCA issues. We’ve created hundreds of hours of deep conversations with a wealth of content creators across the industry on our streams and created countless articles and guides on our website, StreamerSquare.com, all made available for free for everyone.

We are currently working on a few massive projects that I can’t quite talk about but have me absolutely amped for the future! I’m so continually proud of all the great work we do in service to so many amazing creators who, in turn, get to bring so much more joy to their communities and the world.

“In an age defined by an infinite expansion of and access to human knowledge, with endless opportunities to see people and be seen by them, we still often feel a profound loneliness. My aim is to connect the disconnected by way of authenticity, vulnerability, and intertwining my life with others.”

Andrew: What are some of the ways you like connecting as a streamer with your audience?

Hunter: Our streams are overwhelmingly conversational. I’ve had some folx who’ve been around for nearly seven years. I’ve gotten to watch them graduate college, move to other countries, have kids, lose friends and family, change careers, endure trauma, get married, manifest their dreams, and everything in between. That kind of vulnerability and intimacy is both precious and precarious, but that’s indicative of the connections we craft.

It’s really all about the live conversations, I think. I’m only just now sort of easing into the more one-directional communication where I’ll create a video for my patrons and send it out on Patreon without any immediate feedback. For the most part, Twitch and Discord create the opportunities for that very immediate, very active back and forth for which I strive and through which I thrive. On Twitch, conversations can switch gears instantly, moving from epistemology to some bizarre quest in a game to a series of terrible puns to mental health struggles, all in a matter of minutes or even moments. There’s a beautiful chaos to it that feels very organic and natural.

On the other hand, Patreon comments on my posts also go a long way in making me feel alive and connected. I take my time to craft some of my replies to my patrons’ comments, and there’s a lot of consideration and thoughtfulness that can go into that sort of slow reply dynamic. It’s very different from what I’m used to, but also has its own beauty, as well as lives forever in the replies rather than dissipates into the ether of Twitch chat. As time goes on, I’m learning to love all of these forms in their own way, to intertwine with these lives in our shared world.

Andrew: If you had the opportunity, what’s something you would change about streaming platforms or social media sites today? (This can be specific to a platform or broader to sites as a whole, e.g., how most sites have a news feed.)

Hunter: Oooooo, that’s an interesting question! I think curation of content and feeds is a major factor that could probably use considerable work, and that’s definitely a task for minds significantly greater than my own. This algorithmic curation is great in so many ways but we’re seeing more and more how it’s creating accidental echo chambers, reinforcing hidden biases, feeding into harmful tribalism, and limiting our exposure to more diverse content and worldviews. There might be an easy answer to all this, but I think if it were easy then this problem wouldn’t be such a monumental, albeit surprisingly hidden, plague of the Internet Age that’s only becoming more self-reinforcing as time goes on.

We’ve started to take it into our own hands, though, and make this a lot more human and social rather than driven by algorithms and performance indicators. The deep connections we make as content creators and community leaders create a level of trust that allows for an organic cross-pollination, more word of mouth and community-oriented exposure to people and ideas.

While that can easily have a downside, those of us who take our responsibility and impact seriously, and engage with empathy, are aiming to both comfort our communities and challenge them toward growth. I suppose one answer to this question, then, would be to create better tools and products in conjunction with the users and creators to put more of that power in our hands instead of us having to find workarounds to steal control for ourselves.

Andrew: What excites you about the future of gaming, especially with VR and other simulation environments increasingly advancing in the last decade?

Hunter: Shared spaces and worlds! As we’re increasingly tied to our homes, couches, and desks, the way we engage with so much of the world is through our virtualized interfaces. To some people, that seems incredibly limiting, especially because there’s the ever-present hazard of becoming insular and myopic, limiting ourselves to the same old comfortable digital spaces day after day. But we are so hardwired for creativity, facing challenges, exploration, and invention that the opportunities being seized and pushed for virtual worlds and experiences is profound and nearly transcendent.

We’ve already seen things like VRChat absolutely explode, allowing people to cultivate unique subcultures in their own virtual spaces. Augmented reality has boundless opportunity to overlay the virtual with the objective worlds and open the door for novel experiences in both the physical and digital world simultaneously and without limit.

Pokemon GO, via giphy

A game like Pokemon GO, which I fall into deeply a few times a year, has so much brilliant beauty to it with geolocation and overlaying a virtual ecosystem onto brick and mortar locations, even with out-in-the-physical-world events that have caused me to run into other players at the same street corner and start up friendships. Hybridizing our virtual and physical spaces is rich with possibility, and creating whole worlds for communal engagement is going to be a huge part of our future as a species, and a lot of it starts with gaming.

Andrew: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Hunter: It’s a beautiful and savage world out there. I’m trying to live my life in service to making it a little more beautiful and interesting for everyone who wants to join me. Thank you for asking such interesting questions and giving me an opportunity to lend my voice to them!

*To connect with Hunter, check him out on: Twitch at TheHunterWild // on his Website // Twitter // Instagram // Patreon // or visit Streamer Square for resources, talk shows, reviews, and coaching in the world of streaming.

*This interview was edited lightly for length and clarity. Thanks for reading!

Writer, runner, music enthusiast. Exploring connections between creativity + art, lifestyle, and entrepreneurship through a series of interviews.