These days, gaming is much more social than just inviting your buddies over to play Mortal Kombat. Now, you can share every game you play online with hundreds of people. Here's how to broadcast your games live, or record them to share later.
Illustration: Tara Jacoby
Why Would I Want to Broadcast My Games?
Broadcasting games to an audience of strangers is a relatively new phenomenon. Like with Snapchat, Instagram, or even Facebook before them, the question everyone has to ask is "Why the heck would I want to do this?" Also like every other social service, the answer is "Because it's fun."
Presumably, you play video games because they're fun. Sometimes you pull off some sweet trick. Sometimes it's entertaining to watch someone else screw up. Sometimes the story is so engaging, it's almost a movie. Watching movies is fun, so why wouldn't watching cinematic video games be fun?
Well, all those videos you've ever watched of people playing games online have to come from somewhere. Broadcasting is easier than ever, and you get to share your experience with other people. They get to see what a game is like before they buy it. They can get the gist of a game they don't have time to play. Best of all, you finally get an audience for that killer move you pulled off. If you're enjoying a game, there's no reason to think other people won't also enjoy it.
Broadcast Live with Twitch
When it comes to game broadcasting, there's Twitch, and then there's everyone else. Twitch allows you to broadcast your gameplay live, embed the stream on your web site or blog, share it to social networks, and it even comes with a built-in chat room for your viewers. If you want to share your games online, this is your first stop. Steam has a broadcasting feature as well, which we covered here, but it doesn't actually broadcast or record until someone's watching, and it's limited to PC users. So, we'll be focusing on Twitch. For all of the methods in this section, you'll need to register for a Twitch account, so go ahead and do that now here.
How to Stream From a PC
To stream from a PC, you'll need special broadcast software. Twitch has several selections here. XSplit is one of the easiest options, but it also requires a monthly subscription for some of its more advanced features like custom logos and annotations. It will work for casual play, but we'll also cover Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) for those who want a more powerful free tool and don't mind a steeper learning curve.
To get started with XSplit, just:
- Create an XSplit account and download the server. If you already have a Twitch account, you can do this here.
- Start XSplit and log in to you Twitch account.
- Open the game you would like to stream.
- Press Ctrl-Tab to open the XSplit interface.
- Click Broadcast to begin streaming.
XSplit will pause broadcasting if you close the game, or alt-tab away. You can also use the XSplit overlay to add your webcam footage, mute your mic or system sounds, or chat with your Twitch channel. If you're using the paid version of XSplit, you can also use this overlay to add annotations or customise logos.
Open Broadcaster Software
Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is a little more complicated, but completely free. Once you've downloaded and installed OBS from here, you'll need to log in to Twitch first. OBS does not support the ability to log in to Twitch directly, so you'll need to obtain a "stream key" from Twitch, which you can get here. This key changes periodically, so you may need to update it each time you stream with OBS. Once you have it, follow these steps:
- In OBS, click the Settings button in the lower right corner.
- Select "Broadcast Settings" in the left-hand pane.
- Next to "Streaming services", select Twitch.
- Next to "Play Path/Stream Key", enter the key you acquired from your Twitch dashboard.
- The first time you set up OBS, you may be prompted to change some video settings, depending on your setup. These will be displayed at the bottom of the window in red text. If any of these exist, fix them before moving on.
There are plenty more settings you can adjust here based on your video needs, l. When you're done, you can move onto setting up broadcasting. Starting a stream will require a little more setup than XSplit, but it's still fairly straightforward. To get started, follow these steps:
- Open the game you want to stream.
- In OBS, right-click in the "Sources" box.
- In the Add > menu, choose "Window Capture". (You can also use "Desktop Capture" if you want to be able to share more than just your game window, but for now we'll keep it simple.) Name the source and press Enter.
- In the dropdown at the top of the next dialog box, choose the window of your game. Click OK.
- When you're ready to begin broadcasting, click Start Streaming.
You can add additional Window Capture sources to add things like your own webcam. OBS also has a collection of plugins here that can extend the app's functionality. While OBS is a bit more complex to use, it also has a lot more features and customisation options than the free version of XSplit, so it's up to you which you want to use.
How to Stream From an Xbox One
With the Xbox One, broadcasting is actually baked into the OS, so you don't need to install a separate app to share your current gameplay. To get started, you'll need to download the Twitch app to your console. Before you can broadcast, you'll need to link your account. To do this, follow these steps:
- Open the Twitch app on your Xbox One console.
- On the left side of the app menu, select "Log in".
- Open twitch.tv/activate on your computer or phone.
- Enter the six digit on your TV to link your account.
Once your accounts are linked, you can start broadcasting. Simply select the "Broadcast" tile to begin sharing. You'll be given the option to enable Kinect video or audio with your microphone. If you're a Kinect user, you can also say "Xbox, Broadcast" to begin a streaming session once everything is all set up.
How to Stream From a PlayStation 4
The PS4 can also stream directly to Twitch, which makes the broadcasting process a lot easier. The new PlayStation controller has a Share button on it that you can use to start the process. To do this, follow these steps:
- While playing a game, press the Share button.
- Choose an online service. We'll use Twitch, but the PS4 supports both Twitch and Ustream out of the box.
- Link your account. You'll need a computer handy to open up their respective websites.
- Give your stream a title.
- Select "Start Broadcast" to begin streaming.
Of all the platforms, the PS4 seems the easiest to stream from, as it doesn't require any special downloads. You can also use the Share menu to take screenshots or record video clips. You can even set up the Share menu to upload clips directly to YouTube. All in all, the Playstation has the most robust broadcasting options of any platform.
Record Your Games to Show Off Later
Broadcasting live can be fun, but once the stream is over, you (or your viewers) may want to re-watch it. You can also make highlight reels, or just show off something crazy you pulled off (looking at you, Goat Simulator). If you're using Twitch, as we've recommended in this guide so far, there's an easy way to make that possible:
- Before your broadcasts, open your Twitch account on the web. In the top right corner of the site, click your username and choose "Settings".
- Select the "Channel & Videos" tab at the top.
- Scroll down and enable "Archive Broadcasts".
With this option enabled, you can choose to save broadcasts for later viewing. Twitch will not save your entire broadcast indefinitely (currently, whole broadcasts will be saved for 14 days), but you can export your videos to YouTube. If you're already into broadcasting, this is the simplest method to record your videos. However, if you want to save and edit them before they go live, there are other ways.
How to Record Games on PC
To record your gameplay on the PC, you can use either of the applications that we talked about in the broadcasting section. Both have simple screen recording options as well. However, XSplit has an extra fee to record in anything beyond 720p without a watermark. This may not be that big of a deal for some, but since we have a completely free option with OBS, we'll focus on that. To record your gameplay with OBS, follow these steps:
- Select the "Settings" button in the lower-right hand corner of OBS.
- Click "Broadcast Settings" in the left-hand pane.
- Next to "File path", choose the directory where you'd like to save your output files.
- If you want to broadcast and record at the same time, select "Automatically save stream to file".
- Click OK.
- Open the game you want to play and add it to the Sources pane.
- Click Start Recording.
Your gameplay will be recorded to your hard drive while you play, and will be available for viewing or editing as soon as you click "Stop Recording." You may need to fiddle with your recording settings if you find that the quality of the video isn't up to snuff. Keep in mind you're playing graphics-intensive video games and recording them on the same machine. This can be taxing on your computer, so either reduce the graphics quality on your game, the resolution you're recording at, or both if you find the video stutters or skips too much.
How to Record on a Console
Way back in the ancient era of just a couple years ago, recording or broadcasting console gaming meant plugging your device into a capture card on your computer and using the same apps like OBS or XSplit that PCs use. If you're using an older console like an Xbox 360 or PS3, that's still your best bet, unfortunately.
Recording newer consoles, however, is much easier. Our sister site Kotaku has a lengthy guide specifically for recording, but here are the key steps for both consoles.
If you have a Kinect installed, you can start recording by saying "Xbox, start recording." You can also use "Xbox, record that" to start a clip that includes the last 30 seconds of gameplay (thanks to a video buffer that the Xbox constantly keeps). If you don't have a Kinect, follow these steps:
- Double-tap the Xbox button.
- Choose "Snap an app" and choose Game DVR.
- When you're ready to record, choose "Start recording". This will record up to a five minute clip.
- When you're done recording, choose "Stop recording" from the same menu.
- Select "Show my clips" to save the clips you want (otherwise they will be deleted automatically as you record more).
You can edit your clips in Microsoft's Upload Studio if you want to adjust endpoints or string multiple videos together (which is particularly handy given the five minute limit). If you want to transfer the videos to your PC, you can install the OneDrive app on your Xbox, upload them to your storage, and access them on your computer.
Sony has made recording your gameplay just as easy on the PS4 as broadcasting is. The Share button, once again takes centre stage. To record clips, double-tap the share button. This will immediately start recording. You can press the Share button once to change recording settings if you'd like. If you want to record more than a few minutes of gameplay, you can set the maximum recording length as high as 15 minutes.
Sony also has a built-in video editor called Share Factory to edit your clips. If you want to export them to edit on a computer, you can plug a USB stick into your PS4 and use the Capture Gallery to copy them over. From the Capture Gallery, select Options and choose "Copy video to USB".