Stefan Li, better known online as TheSushiDragon, isn’t your typical content creator. The performance artist and streamer has gained fame for dancing against digital backdrops and avatars on Twitch while he live edits his streams using multiple PCs and cameras connected to a device strapped to his wrist.
Li is bringing his show to an even bigger audience, thanks to VENN, a free-to-view network aimed at attracting those raised on gaming and streaming. Li is the star of the Sushi Dragon Show and the Sushi Dragon After Party, which mixes performances, comedy and interviews leading to an energetic show unlike almost anything else out there.
“Every hour I put into myself, my own video game, I improve to create this immersive world,” Li said. “That’s the end game, to create this immersive world that feels real. A place where you can let go of whatever concerns you have because you’re seeing this world come to life.”
It’s been a long journey to this point. Li first started creating YouTube videos in 2011 when he noticed a troubling trend in content creation.
“Content shifted to low quality, quantity over quality and became easily digestible and easily disregarded,” Li said. “I wondered what happened to the care for the craft, the creativity and the content? When I felt good content, it lives in you forever and inspires you. I wanted to find more of that kind of content and, if not, I had to create it.”
But his YouTube channel failed to grow as he hoped and Li began working at a retail job in the meantime. Around 2015, he discovered Twitch and everything changed.
“What attracted me to Twitch was I could make all my content at the computer,” Li said. “Creating content is free and there’s a community that supports creators. I thought it was amazing. There’s no middleman. It’s pure creative independence.”
There was just one issue. He needed a computer good enough to stream. Li, who didn’t have any technological background decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I was on the forums 12 hours a day researching the best PC parts for my budget,” Li said.
Li controls everything from his wrist, thanks to a pad he made. It was no easy task for someone who never studied computers before.
“I had no background in computer science,” Li said. “I couldn’t code. I couldn’t dance. I couldn’t really do anything well. How my system works is similar to World of WarCraft multiboxing where one guy controls six accounts on six computers with one mouse and keyboard.”
There is another thing that Li deals with: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which requires him to have constant stimulation. Live editing helps him achieve that.
“With my ADHD, I can’t just chill for a while,” Li said. “I want to entertain. I want to put on a show. This is my life. I want to do this forever.”
What started as playing Overwatch in front of a green screen in 2017, has evolved into something more, but it was something that took a while to take hold.
“I never doubted this was the right path, but I doubted if I was going to get anywhere where I could sustain it,” Li said. “At times, my main goal was I need to make this much to pay for my electric bill and then I’m happy. Statistically, I should have quit six months in. But if (what) you’re expecting are views and money, your channel probably isn’t going to grow. You have to genuinely be passionate about something.”
Things changed in a big way when streamer Kitboga raided his channel in 2018. Today, he has more than 200,000 followers on Twitch.
“What resonates with me is finding people who want me to keep pushing my innovations and my crazy ideas,” Li said. “I’m collaborating with the chat room. They’re creating the content just as much as I am. We’re fueling each other and feeding our souls.”
Now, he’s ready to reach a new audience at VENN.
“I was looking at three networks and I told them, which one of you guys really knows me and would creatively give me freedom and independence,” Li said.
VENN stood out to Li for their commitment to preserving his creative freedom while giving him more resources to use. The show, which airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. and is followed by the Sushi Dragon Afterparty at 8 p.m., provides viewers with a unique experience that has to be seen to to be understood.
“The sky’s the limit with what I do, I’ve been told,” Li said. “As soon as I figure out the hardware, which I’m pretty close to figuring out, it’s just unleashing my crazy imagination.”