The desire and ability for the individual to create and share content grew exponentially with the introduction of YouTube in 2006. Early “streamers” debuted regular pre-recorded episodes of things as simple as game walk-throughs or “Top #10 Plays” compilations.
These were always fun to watch, especially with text overlays or camera zooms that made you laugh at just the right moment. The editing process for those videos must have been extensive!
Years later, the trend of filming yourself playing video games has become a normal, everyday activity. With live-streaming technology, so many more than just the OG Youtubers were able to rise in rank to reach millions of viewers worldwide with their gaming content.
Some of my favorite YouTube personalities started producing content in the early days of the platform. Their followings grew to the tens of thousands and some even stand to this day!
Of course, ten year old me started thinking about ways I could create my own content and become an Internet personality. Over the course of a decade, I’ve experienced an evolution of video content creation. More recently, I even gave full-time streaming a try.
I began producing my own YouTube content when I was 11. I started by making cute little music videos with Windows Movie Maker. This was a really fun (and time-consuming) activity, but most notably, I learned some super valuable hard skills in video editing that I’ve called upon in my adulthood.
When I was introduced to World of Warcraft, I started filming some of my raids and top PvP plays with audio overlay of our voice communications. I’d send the clips to my guildmates and friends and have a laugh (or to show off).
I even started hunting rare spawns in the game and filming the moments I captured them with instructions for other collectors. It was a great way to combine both of my interests in video content creation and gaming!
When I started playing League of Legends more competitively in 2014, and with the introduction of Twitch in 2011, I started thinking about streaming as a hobby. Although I wasn’t a highly-ranked player, I was planning to rely on my vibrant personality and comedy to draw in an audience.
The first few streams that I broadcasted from my parents house were of horrible quality! My internet connection could not handle the upload speed, so I had to work with what I had despite the pixelation and lag.
These first broadcasts were fun to make, and even though it was just my friends (playing in the same games as me) watching, it felt exciting to put myself out there doing what I loved. After a few broadcasts, however, I got a little discouraged by the lack of viewership and decided to shut down shop for a while.
Fast-forward to 2018. After graduating college and moving into my own apartment, I was able to set up my battlestation in a larger area and equip it with FiOS, so streaming would be a bit easier and much less laggy. After settling in, I decided to give it another go with a bit more planning.
I developed a name and a message and just started being myself on camera while playing games with friends. I felt more comfortable this time and spoke freely. More followers started trickling in, and I had a small group of about 30 until real life obligations tore me from the screen.
Another move and a job change later, I found the time (thanks, mandatory quarantine!) to pursue streaming again for fun but with more bells and whistles. With some of my unemployment money due to losing work from the pandemic, I invested in a higher quality webcam, green screen, and microphone.
Then I tried again. This time, with a little more intent.
Ultimately, I wanted to keep composure and maintain a steady routine over the quarantine. This was an investment in my mental health. I live alone, and the events surrounding the pandemic were isolating, so I needed to find an immediate way to satisfy my basic need for human connection.
Then, my brand identity started to form. Doctor Awz: Prescribing positivity to the world.
I wanted to send good vibes out into the world by building a community to help my viewers develop healthy eating, exercise, and mental habits by sharing my knowledge and experience.
I didn’t really know what to expect walking back into the Twitch scene in 2020. I started watching popular female streamers and taking mental notes about presentation, attire, community engagement, etc. to get an idea of what expectations were of the general Twitch audience.
My findings were kind of disappointing, but I expected nothing different. It seemed that, the more effort a female streamer put into her appearance and fit the unspoken expectations of viewers, the larger her audience was. Whereas for male streamers, looks seemingly played virtually no role in determining popularity.
This wasn’t something I was super comfortable with, so I didn’t make many alterations to my appearance outside of putting on more makeup than usual and doing my hair. I wore what I would normally wear at the gym and what I would normally wear lounging around playing games.
Then the weird comments started trickling in during my fitness streams. After undergoing a 70-pound weight loss transformation, I started developing bodyweight fitness routines and broadcasting them in the morning and then streaming games later in the evening.
Random folks would come chat on my stream and start talking about my body in a provocative way despite how clearly uncomfortable it made me. It was easy at first to silence and ban them, but it got really annoying after a sustainable few months and growing my following to 115.
The harassment, coupled with finding the consistent routine of streaming twice daily too limiting, led me to leaving streaming again. This time I was grateful to learn that despite trying three different times, streaming just wasn’t for me right now.
This experience, although short-lived over a period of 3 months, reshaped the lens in which I view streaming. Someday, I hope to gain the courage to go back up onto the streaming platform, but for now, I’d like to sit back and observe.
I hope that with efforts like Ritual Motion’s Women in Gaming initiatives, women can feel welcome and safe to play equally and fairly on the virtual field in every way, including their content creation.
With the help of everyone working tirelessly to bring equity to the gaming community, I hope that future female streamers won’t feel the need to look a certain way for the camera and instead feel inclined to present themselves as they are.
On that day, maybe I’ll turn the camera back on one last time. ^-^