Ship Talk: Interview With Streamer PhuzzyBond, Part 1
Set sail with part 1 of our conversation about growing up in the Middle East, streaming, and of course, Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves is more popular than ever, due to its growing content base and Game Pass inclusion. So I’m starting a new feature with those plying the virtual seas, calling it Ship Talk, and bringing it here for you to enjoy! We had so much to discuss with Phuzzy that one article couldn’t contain it all, so here’s Part 1 of 2. Let’s fly the pirate flag and get going, shall we?!
Ship Talk: Welcome to the first episode of Ship Talk. Today we’re here with the most patient pirate on the seas, the illustrious Phuzzybond! Welcome, Phuzzy!
PhuzzyBond: Thank you.
Ship Talk: PhuzzyBond has had an interesting introduction to his streaming career and never set out with the intention of becoming a streamer. Phuzzy has a diverse background; growing up in his home country of Jordan, he was once a punk musician, an audio engineer, and a mobile game developer. So, let’s dive right in.
Ship Talk: Phuzzy, what can you tell me about video game culture growing up in Jordan? How hard was it to get ahold of games?
PhuzzyBond: It was very hard considering we’re a third-world country. Basically, piracy was very dominant. Even to this day, you know, in less fortunate areas or where there is no internet — Or maybe English is a harder language for them to speak. They cannot find or have online cards, like credit cards and stuff, to buy things, you know? They still pay with cash money and stuff. So, it (piracy) was more dominant back then. Yeah, it was very hard to get games back then. Piracy was very common; you could torrent it, especially at the time of games like Command and Conquer Generals and The Sims 3 and stuff like that.
Ship Talk: I guess a follow-up question to that would be: are there not a lot of localizations for your area of games?
PhuzzyBond: Yes, because Arabic, in general, is from right to left, you write it from right to left. It’s not like, for example, English or Spanish where you can use the same letters without any backend changes to write a different word, you know? It’s basically the same. But, Arabic is a completely different format and directions and characters that it means a lot of backend work. Of course, that costs developers a lot of money. In terms of the Arab World, there is not much money to be made, so it becomes not worth it. Unless it’s a popular game here, like PUBG and stuff, we do have Arabic localization. But, in a game like Sea Of Thieves, I won’t see that any time soon or ever.
Ship Talk: That’s interesting. So, with all of that in mind, who inspired you growing up in Jordan?
PhuzzyBond: I was more of a rebellious type of person. I like to do everything on my own. To this day, with development, I do everything on my own: video publishing and stuff. There’s not one major person that made a difference. I always felt more attracted to the chill approach, like, for example, Jimi Hendrix or Bob Marley. Artists that weren’t over the top. I also tried not to idolize so much, so I wouldn’t go out of my character and become them. Some people grow up to be someone they saw on TV. I didn’t want that. So, to a certain extent, I was influenced by them.
Ship Talk: That leads me to my next questions — and you touched on it a little bit there. You use the name Bond, play Sea of Thieves, and were in punk bands growing up. They all revolve around a similar concept of being anti-authoritarian. What is it that draws you to these things?
PhuzzyBond: Well, it’s like borderline political, but not in a way. You know how the Middle East is a louder region, in general, in terms of politics? Whether it’s good or bad, there is always something going on here. In terms of Jordan, Jordan is a very safe country and has been like that for as long as I’ve been alive. So, you know, just to break the idea that it’s the same everywhere here. No, it’s not.
If you came here, you might think it’s a Fifty-Third State, you know? Everything is organized, and the people are nice. Having relatives, for example, in Lebanon or having people in the Middle East who go through — basically, when I was young, I was hearing bad news of something happening in this country or something happening there. So, I kind of grew that you have to be tough and maybe have trust issues with authority in general.
Even though I’m not a troublemaker at all, I’m a very peaceful person and a citizen with a white sheet, as they say. I have nothing in my past, thankfully. I’m just careful in general. That’s how it is online, too. I like to keep everything under my control.
Sometimes I get approached by sponsors that I feel like I tend to say no for the sake of self-protection. It’s not like they are going to harm me or anything. I don’t feel like having one thing out of my control. Like, “oh, you have to upload a video with this” or “change the thumbnail to that.” I’d rather not have the whole deal and the money they are going to pay if they do that, which derives from my rebellious childhood in a way.
Ship Talk: I think that makes for an interesting juxtaposition. Recently, I saw you gaming with your son. I had a similar relationship with my dad as a kid. Do you remember playing any games with your dad (video games or otherwise)?
PhuzzyBond: Not really. My dad, when he was nine, he went to boarding school. He loved studying so much, and then he went to England and studied there for nine years. He is a chemical engineer and has a diploma in science and a master’s in chemical engineering. So, he has no creative aspect in his life, and he’s even told me that when I started. So, what I do — it’s funny, my older brother is a filmmaker and a musician.
Ship Talk: Oh, wow. That is funny.
PhuzzyBond: Yeah, and my two younger brothers, one is a drummer and are into music. So, it’s completely —
Ship Talk: Ha. That’s just what he wanted. Right?
PhuzzyBond: Yeah, exactly, yeah. He used to tell me one thing, “I don’t care if you become a belly dancer as long as you have a degree, because then you can stand on your feet wherever you fall.
Ship Talk: I think that’s really great, you know, despite him not being into art and still being supportive.
PhuzzyBond: He was very supportive, yeah.
Ship Talk: So, what was your introduction to streaming? Were you a viewer before you became a streamer?
PhuzzyBond: Not really, actually. In real life, I’m more of an introvert which also derives from my past and history. I feel like I’m always at my most comfortable when I’m on my own or with my closest family. How should I say this? I used to play games on my own, but because I taught guitar a lot in my past, I had the idea of educating someone through entertainment. Being an audio engineer, I worked in film a lot.
So, basically, I didn’t watch anyone and used to be in my close circle. If I wanted a guide, I’d check a guide online. I didn’t watch streamers because I always liked to watch more highlights. Until this day, I have a few streamers that I watch because I do that now, so sometimes to show respect and stuff like that, because they come to your stream, so you have to.
Ship Talk: Absolutely. That’s a cool answer, and you lead me to the next question. Would you say that is a common myth about streamers, that they are perhaps outgoing people?
PhuzzyBond: I think it depends on the streamer and what he streams. It depends on the streamer, and you can tell from the stream itself. You can open a streamer that is always loud and has people in the house and partying and stuff like that. Real live streams, people traveling, but generally, gaming streamers tend to be less outgoing. Because that plastic screen they are looking at is their life, you know? It’s what they live from, and it’s the people they know. Everything gets funneled through that monitor. It makes that dopamine kick in whenever they sit in front of a computer — same as for me.
Ship Talk: I think that’s a great answer. So, when did you decide to do streaming as more than a passion project where you uploaded a couple of times a month?
PhuzzyBond: Here is the story of how I got into this exactly. I started when I finished the original Subnautica. One of the greatest games ever. I wanted to watch the gameplay of it to see how other people reacted to (spoiler-free) the ending of the game because something special happens there. I watched Jacksepticeye, and right after the last episode of his Subnautica play series, a Sea of Thieves video got recommended for me. I was like, “what is this game?” That was ten days before release — until this day, by the way, Sea of Thieves is not locally available in my region. Like if I change my Windows region to Jordan, it won’t appear in the store. Can you imagine? I’m a Sea of Thieves partner, and they still didn’t have it in my area.
Ship Talk: That’s wild.
PhuzzyBond: Yeah, so basically, I watched Sea of Thieves, it was Jacksepticeye and Markiplier playing the closed beta or something, and I thought, “Oh, this game looks cool.” So I preordered using a VPN. I went to Amazon, bought a key, and then redeemed it on Xbox. Like the whole nine yards, like things are harder to get here, like your first question. On release, I ended up playing it, me and my wife Jackie, whose with me all the time.
I realized that online I did not find the guides I would like to see. There were guides, but they weren’t detailed. I was like, “I already do media. I already work with film, and editing is my thing. So, I might as well throw a video up there.” So, I started making small videos of guides and it kind of picked up from there. I felt lured into it, or that I had to do something about it like there was a void there.
Ship Talk: I think that’s a great way of putting it, and you’ve got me wanting to play Subnauticia. I didn’t know there was something special there to the ending of that game.
PhuzzyBond: You played it? Or?
Ship Talk: I played a little bit at the beginning but didn’t go to the end. I didn’t realize there was something special, so I may need to check that out.
PhuzzyBond: My advice. One of the best stories of any game.
Ship Talk: Going back to your family and how scientific your dad is. How does your family describe what you do? Do they understand it?
PhuzzyBond: I’ve always been the stubborn one in the family. I listened less, I was quieter, and showed less of what I do. My father always told me, “you’re smart, but I feel like you are using it the wrong way.” I don’t blame him because he doesn’t understand what I do. To him, it is alien; it is foreign, you know? To this day, I have an uncle whose a contractor who is very well off, and he tells me, “Oh, Phuzzy, you still make money playing games?” Like, shots fired. Do you know what I mean? I don’t blame him, of course, he’s like seventy-six years old, and I don’t blame him, and I have all the respect. And actually, it’s funny when he tells me that. I tell him, “yeah, I just sit here and play games all day.” What can I do?
Ship Talk: Yeah, they just don’t get it.
PhuzzyBond: You can’t convince him like someone that used to travel all over Jordan and constructed things and built pipes, and big roads and sweat under the sun can’t understand that you can make money from staying at home. It just doesn’t make sense to him. It’s like, “I got so tired in my youth. Why isn’t he tired?” I am tired, not physically. It’s more of a brain or mental stress.
Ship Talk: Calling it alien is key there and really on point. So, does streaming take the joy out of gaming for you? Do you game offline from stream?
PhuzzyBond: Definitely, it does. But it depends — For example, because I do Sea of Thieves while I stream, and I do Sea of Thieves off-stream whenever I’m working on guides and videos, right. Like, right now, I was just filming and writing the script and stuff like that. Now, when you do that a lot, you’re talking about at least eight hours a day in Sea of Thieves. You just can’t play it anymore for fun. I mean, I enjoy playing it, but from how much people look at what I do on stream and the viewers and they enjoy. I feel responsible, like I cannot play the game without sharing my experience with a live audience or on YouTube; otherwise, they might miss out on something. I feel like a caretaker like I have to share my experience with them.
Off-stream, whenever I have time, I play other games to prevent burnout. I have to balance it out because if the scale is always on one side, it will break.
Ship Talk: So what kind of games do you play when you do things on your own?
PhuzzyBond: My favorites are hardcore survival games like Subsistence a lot. It’s a lesser-known game, but it’s like Rust, but more laid back and yet ten times harder. Green Hell, Subnautica too.
Ship Talk: I guess that’s why I didn’t think Subnautica had some type of special ending. I thought it was just a survival thing.
PhuzzyBond: No, no, no. When you play Subnautica, listen to the radio. You know when you go on the landing pad? The radio is what tells you what to do, like “we received a signal that there is a beacon in that area, go explore what it is.” Once you go there, the story unfolds. There is a lot of magic to it.
Ship Talk: Okay. I’m definitely going to have to revisit that.
PhuzzyBond: When you finish it, thank me later.
Ship Talk: What kind of prep goes into a stream?
PhuzzyBond: This is something I would like streamers to know about. It’s that: Hitting “live” or hitting “go live” is the last step of streaming, you know? Starting to stream is the last step of streaming. On OBS, it says, “start streaming” this is the last step, right? Because there is a lot before that, like what are you going to play today? How are you going to deal with possible trolls? There is so much that could be happening that you need to be fluent and flexible with. For example, yesterday, Sea of Thieves servers had issues with them. I streamed yesterday and passed one hundred thousand followers on Twitch.
Ship Talk: Congratulations.
PhuzzyBond: Thank you. And it was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life because I streamed the menu of Sea of Thieves for six hours. The servers were down, and I was trying to log in, but I kind of managed to just chat with the viewers for six hours, and they really appreciated that. So, basically, all that happens on stream is from experience I gained before the stream. What do people like to do? When a viewer comes, do they like to be recognized? How much of a chat should you lead? All of that stuff is the preparation for the streaming and learning from the mistake of your previous stream.
For example, if a troll comes into the chat, I answer him and give him more recognition than they deserve. I realize that the views drop from six hundred to five-fifty, which means that’s something not to do again. If a troll comes into a chat, minimize the impact and let the Mods deal with it. So, all that stuff that happens before streaming, the preparation for streaming making sure that it flows.
Ship Talk: Well, I think you had a really interesting answer a couple of questions back. You said you felt like a caretaker; you felt responsible for your viewers. I think that’s a cool view of the parasocial relationship that we don’t really hear about. So, I really appreciate a streamer saying they feel obligated to their viewers.
PhuzzyBond: Yeah, yeah, and it’s true.
Ship Talk: Beyond preparation, what do you think makes for an entertaining stream?
PhuzzyBond: Well, there is a bittersweet truth there. Many people there say we are here because of the steamer. In reality, it’s always the game or the skill that brings the person in, not the streamer himself — that’s the beginning. You can bring the horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink. I just have to make that lake clean and comfortable enough that the horse actually drinks there, doesn’t feel unwelcome, or there is a threat.
So when a viewer comes, you want them to feel at home, if you know what I mean. That is the best form of entertainment because life is stressful, and humans always seek comfort. I believe through psychology and mental value, you can provide comfort just as good as a massage in a spa. So, that’s my core. I always tell the viewers (for watching entertaining streams) is that these are just colored pixels; the true value is what we provide through them.
Like, what made you and me meet right now is the game and my content. What you do, writing articles, and what I do crossed paths, and that’s what caused us to meet. If I wasn’t a content creator, maybe we would never meet. That’s basically the value provided through the colored pixels is what really matters, and this is what I try to focus on through the stream to make it entertaining. As long as I hit the stop stream button and the viewer turns his face, stretches his arms, and feels good about what he watched, that’s success to me. Because they are going to come back again, and it’s going to grow a loyal community that’s way beyond colored pixels.
We’ve got so much more to bring you from our talk with PhuzzyBond, so make sure to come back for Part 2 of the interview tomorrow!
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