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Conquering Camera Anxiety with VTubing
The increasingly popular practice of streaming as animated characters through motion tracking setups is helping me overcome my fear of being on camera.
My whole life, two problems have plagued my mental health: my anxiety disorder and my gender dysphoria. Though I am proud of what I have accomplished despite these making it far more of an uphill battle, and I have made huge strides permanently lessening my dysphoria, these two still test my ability to do certain things. Though a fairly social person, I have always felt especially awkward on camera. Getting into VTubing and streaming games as BB the Flying Fox has provided me a weird but powerful form of on-camera liberation.
VTubing, meant to evoke “virtual YouTubing,” is a phenomenon that has existed for years but recently gained massive traction thanks to Hololive, a Japanese agency that provides polished production and marketing to a select few VTubers who have to go through a selective and rigorous audition process. Those who are chosen are practically guaranteed fame as a VTuber, though have to keep their real-life identity a secret, and much of what they earn goes to the company instead.
However, in recent years, this technology is fairly accessible to the masses. Regular game streaming can be done with a halfway decent computer, and this merely adds an extra layer of processing atop it. A free app available on Steam called VTube Studio enables people to do motion tracking with a webcam — or even an iPhone’s FaceID for extra-precise tracking. This is just layered into the stream video like the user’s webcam would be in a more traditional setup. Everything else is the same as it would be for anyone streaming games on Twitch.
Thanks to this technological accessibility, when I stream, I am never Thorne but instead Blackberry or BB, an animated, anthropomorphic flying fox with purple hair. I never have to worry about not looking cute because BB always looks cute. She has no makeup that can be messed up — she just is a digital construct. Though streaming through BB’s virtual body enables me to emote in significant ways live as I play, it removes the room to hate how I look.
Luckily, in real life, I mostly like how I look these days, thanks to years of hormone treatments with estrogen and progesterone. Despite this, specifically when on camera, it has proven difficult to not still dwell on my appearance. VTubing technology bridges that gap for me in an innovative way. This technology is so much more than a mere way to be cute — it is a way for people to liberate themselves from the weight of their own unwarranted harsh self-criticalness.
Given I am someone who plays video games frequently anyway, streaming makes a fairly low-stress way turn that into something that feels productive and social — especially when I’m not stressing about how I look on camera. Though my day job as a software developer means I often have to spend time on the actual camera for meetings, even then, while much more anxious as myself than as BB, I find myself feeling increasingly comfortable on camera. VTubing is practice focusing on what actually matters when eyes are on me.
With how much cameras make me anxious, I never thought I would find myself behind one for hours a day willingly. But what is, on the surface, just an adorable new way for people to express themselves has become the way for me to practice being myself — even if oddly through an animated character. Though aspects of BB are cartoonishly exaggerated, such as her love of fruit, the lines between her and me are blurry. She is an extension of me in many ways.
Regardless of what it means to me in particular, I am convinced VTubing is here to stay. Though some technological trends come and go, this represents a way for people to transcend the limitations of their physical form into something different, an allure that will keep people doing it for the foreseeable future. The line between the virtual and the real will probably only blur further, in some ways better than others, but this is a rewarding means of self-expression.
If watching BB the Flying Fox stream games sounds fun, please follow the official channel on Twitch.
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