Things I learned before 30

At the end of this year (27th December to be exact), I’m turning 30.

When I tell people this they often want to relay their deepest sympathies, or feign shock; “but you don’t look older than 26!” etc. (By the way, I enjoy this – keep it coming, people.)

Oddly, it’s not the birthday I’m fearing, it’s simply “the end”. My OCD likes to latch onto the smallest seed of dread and replay it in my brain until the echo becomes too much to ignore. Late into the night, my mind calculates my life expectancy and the eventual absence of everything once it’s all over. And it simply started because I one day realised I had reached a level of happiness I hadn’t experienced in years.

I’ve been trying to be better recently at taking in my surroundings, enjoying seeing the world as part of my job, and – perhaps my age is a factor in this – I’ve become far more aware of my environment. Instead of inwards thinking, I’ve moved towards the opposite, and the idea of losing it is terrifying.

It turns out that the hardest part of being a freelance host is the downtime – I love working, I love being busy. Suddenly at home in an empty house, while friends work towards the weekend, I find myself thinking too much.

But I was always a self-starter – and so now I need to kick myself into touch and make something of my time off; be it heading into the outside world, streaming, podcasting and writing.

So let’s reflect on the good stuff; here are some of the life lessons – frivolous or otherwise – that I’ve learned so far.

WORK

Girls are natural born leaders, but we’re told to be quiet and commonly called “bossy” as a negative trait as soon as we start speaking. This often follows us through our teenage years and even into the workplace. After being bullied for years at my primary school, I took the 11 Plus exam and ended up going to a totally different school from everyone else bar one girl, and found my voice. I’ve lost it again in previous workplaces, but I’ve found it again in the past year or so and it’s incredibly freeing.

Losing a job doesn’t mean losing everything. Admittedly the biggest heartbreaks I’ve experienced have been from work rather than relationships. I’m absolutely someone who throws themselves into work – especially given that it takes up so many hours of the day. However, just because you didn’t “fit” somewhere, or there wasn’t a perceived need for your area of expertise, there’s a place for you and people who will love you and your work.

If you want to do something, do it. So, if you want to be a writer, write a blog – practice and publish. In this day and age, there’s no reason why not. If you want to be an esports caster, cast your friends playing a competitive match or watch out for events that allow you to “co-stream” tournaments with your own commentary. Although my break into hosting was through standing in for people onstage when I was a producer, I also made my own video content for years and got practice through interviewing people, so when I did stand in, it wasn’t obvious I was new to being onstage in that kind of environment.

Endings can make the best starting points. Work hard, and be good to those you work with and it’ll pay off when you really need it to.

That said… If someone isn’t nice to you, you don’t have to be nice back. It’s not unprofessional to not pander to someone who is making your life and your job difficult. Be firm, and stay focused on your own lane. And make sure you share your experience of this behaviour with someone you trust, so you know someone has your back when the going gets tough.

Focus on your strengths. Don’t worry so much about “weaknesses” – collaborate with others and delegate according to each others’ strengths. Team work makes the dream work, after all.

LIFE

When I was younger, all I wanted was a place of my own. I managed it – buying a shared ownership place in Bow when I was 23, with savings and by selling some shares my late granddad had left to me and my sister.

However, in the process I sacrificed freedom to move; I could not leave my place for long periods of time or take risks in work. But the same time, I loved living by myself – with subsidised rent I wasn’t paying any more than any of my other friends in London; I could play guitar, bake without feeling guilty about taking up space and exercise freely.

Being a single woman in a city like has its disadvantages. Pre-Uber I’d want to get the night bus home but I’d also be terrified of walking late at night on my own. I armed myself with door keys and occasionally ran part of the way on the nights I did “risk it”. One time, I even went into the MacDonalds at Bow Roundabout and stuffed my valuables in my bra before I took the 4am trek.

I look back now on my fervent savings and my fear of the dark and wonder how much I missed on my “responsibility-free 20s”. (It’s probably why I rarely miss an after party these days.)

Exercise is a tough habit to form, but feels awful to break. Although I did some ballroom dancing classes at uni, I didn’t really have a routine as such. Several years ago I discovered Davina McCall DVDs and got hooked. I do associate my thinnest periods with my saddest – nightly solo DVD workouts followed by a lonely microwaved fish fillet in Willesden Green is apparently an incredibly fast way to lose weight (do NOT see this as a recommendation) – but I’m bereft without my near-daily sessions of Fitness Blender or Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube. Exercise puts me in control of my body, and gives me energy; dumbbells have made me feel powerful, and public classes have pushed me to give it my all.

When you lose a friend, they’re never truly “gone”. My friend Ben passed away just over a year ago. I’d never experienced the death of someone so young before, or so unexpectedly. Without him, life continues, but when those milestones – weddings, christenings and the like – arrive, we raise a glass to our absent friend, and in the day-to-day we see him in the most ridiculous of observations.

My older sister recently gave birth to her first child. My impatient niece arrived a month too early while I was in the middle of a production meeting about the Overwatch World Cup. I finally got to meet her a couple of weeks later and, while it was lovely to finally see the new arrival, I was also very much overcome with just how incredible my sister is – I’ve never been prouder of anyone my entire life.

WOMEN

It appears to be a horribly unfair reality that a lone woman in a workgroup of men will represent “all women”. Whereas if there is more than one woman, then they will be pitched against one another. When I appear onstage or play games online I always have that lurking within my subconscious. However, I also use it to drive me forward; if you want to place me on that “all women” pedestal, I’m going to show that women can absolutely knock this out of the park.

Women are also pitched against each other in contemporary updates of the “whore/madonna” parallel. I can hardly see my friends’ posts on Twitter for a sea of dirge – boys (and sometimes grown men) projecting their fears via critiques of how women present themselves. Notice that they don’t critique how other men are appearing on stream.

LOVE

It’s very easy to give up part of your life to accommodate your partner’s. It’s not even always your partner’s fault – women in particular will make the effort on entering their other half’s life and feel guilty about asking their partner to reciprocate the effort. Don’t lay your identity down for anyone. After years of automatically doing this, I had the most “selfish” year of my life, spending long weeks (often consecutively) away from home – and it turned out my boyfriend just wanted what would make me happy. And when he was offered a three-month theatre tour, I supported him back.

If you start to feel like a shadow of your former self, leave. Even if you’ve got a mini break to Venice booked and you know for a fact he’s already bought you a Christmas present.

Just cos your mate fancies him, doesn’t mean you have to fancy someone else.

Jealousy is natural. Making someone change the way they behave because you don’t trust them isn’t. If you can’t get past that sinking feeling, maybe they’re not “the one”.

Nan knows best. Or at least she does in my case – she decided my boyfriend was a catch when they first met six weeks into what became a long-term relationship. Although explaining you met on Tinder to someone close to 90 is quite the challenge.

Dating apps aren’t bad, but they get repetitive. Although I’ve not used Tinder for close to four years now, I lost count of the number of profiles that featured men skiing, surfing or in groups where you couldn’t determine who the eligible bloke was. Sometimes profiles were solely comprised of the latter. I have only met one man who I couldn’t impose my Tinder profile feedback on (I’ll admit, I’m terribly nosy on this front).

Arguing doesn’t mean you’re going to break up – just don’t be stubborn and talk it through. If both sides aren’t out there, it’s going to be hard to move forward.

If someone doesn’t like you, that says more about them than it does you. That goes for all aspects of life.

I realised recently that my boyfriend is my best friend. It’s quite helpful as we share many things (including moisturiser, inventing our own catchphrases and doing impressions of Tom Hardy in the vastly overrated BBC drama Taboo), but if anyone wants to know our “secret”, I think our relationship works because we’re privileged enough to be able to afford a cleaner.

HAIR

Finally, if you want a damn fringe but your hairdresser won’t give you one, find a stylist who will. Bloomin’ gamechanger. (Although, don’t do DIY highlights on your own… trust me on this one.)

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My Life in Pixels – episode 13: Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez

The latest episode of My Life in Pixels is here!

In this episode, I chat to one of esports’ most in-demand hosts and casters, Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez. Initially starting out with his sights on being a pro player, Alex talks about the event that set him on his path as a caster, and his future role on primetime NBC entertainment show The Titan Games, alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Follow Alex on Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube.

You can now listen to My Life in Pixels on more platforms than ever before…

 

“It’s not my job to dress for the audience I don’t want”

Another week, another twitter thread about “titty streamers”. Occasionally I find myself tagged in a group response that describes me as part of a “virtuous” group of crew neck devotees; “but these respectable ladies stream in wimples! They’re not like all those other girls.”

“Exactly: nun clothes – it’s for the fetishists! Such thottery does not belong on Twitch!” hisses the reply. (There’s just no pleasing some people.)

“Women on Twitch?! But girls don’t like games! Except Candy Crush, but that doesn’t count as a real game. Actual games have guns, or mana. Man-a. They’re just exploiting teenage boys.”

Twitch streamers are entertainers. On television, in cinema, onstage and in our social media, entertainers the world over perform in outfits that range from casual to skimpy. They sometimes draw outrage – Little Mix will be criticised for wearing crystal or pleather leotards, because the finger pointer found their debut single Wings empowering several years ago and doesn’t think the girl band’s output should change with their age.

But, for the most part, we don’t bat an eyelid at a person in the public eye wearing a low cut number as they host the National Lottery draw, or enter the Big Brother House – because these people are on camera and, understandably, they want to look their best. Being conventionally attractive is an asset – and woe betide anyone who doesn’t appeal to at least a sub section of society.

But when it comes to Twitch – a platform where “creators”, as the company calls them – broadcast gameplay, creative ventures or conversation – a vocal group has strong views on the presentation of female streamers. These women, who feel comfortable in their bodies and may feel at their best in a tank top, have been lumped into a group they did not volunteer for; the “titty streamers”. Meanwhile, women who wear jumpers are routinely set up in opposition, whether we like it or not. And let me be clear – as flattering as it is to have my channel recommended, I do not agree with being weaponised to attack other women. (And yes, I bite back.)

As a host, I can literally make a joke about my tit tape on an awards show broadcast and not be grouped in this “shameful” society – but appear in leggings and a “modest” top playing for high scores in Just Dance, and I become part of the gang. Because this isn’t about tits. Not really. This is about the unhappy voices feeling unheard; lacking self-esteem so much that they think an attractive woman’s content is being held in higher regard than their own. It is jealously that has blindsided detractors to the point that they can’t see why they have a problem.

People will watch who they want – and maybe people do watch me because they find me attractive – but they won’t stay if I don’t entertain them and cultivate a community that focuses not only on me, but the familiar usernames in chat and the people behind them; the moderators who maintain a sense of humour as they ban offenders, the updates from our respective lives, the cries as I cry out at a surprise frag and I accidentally blow a load of ear drums.

It’s not my job to dress for the audience I don’t want.

For all the arguments people have against streamers wearing what they want, every one can be shut down with a link to the Twitch community guidelines. Although Twitch Partners have an agreement in place to make money from streaming, we are self-employed; our bedrooms are our offices and we set the dress code. If it doesn’t fit your standards, switch off.

#PUBGChickenCarry – Thank You

On 30th September, the Twitch community raised over £3,000 for the mental health charity Mind as part of the #PUBGChickenCarry.

Despite a nervous week or two prior to the event, when me and over half the would-be carriers discovered I’d bloomin’ booked my event on the same weekend as the qualifiers for Twitchcon’s Broadcaster Royale (my bad), we managed to pull off an event that raised money and awareness – with over 3,000 viewers watching concurrently at the broadcast’s peak (thanks to a cheeky host from Sacriel).

PubgCarryAnnounce (1) final final

Without further ado, here’s a list of some of the incredibly generous people who helped me put the first ever #PUBGChickenCarry together…

The carriers… Scoom, Weefreemen, Annabanana_TV, Cyanide, MrTweeday, AndyPyro, Spamfish, Two Angry Gamers, Sacriel, Esquire, TechGirl, MrAlexDanger, Henry “BigTruck” Cartwright, and channel community members The Saiint, ThatHawko, Unas84, verity45, Zaramath and FreeloaderHS.

The hosters and raiders… there were a load of generous Twitch channel hosts from the community – so to each and every one of you – thank you so much. Raids from Sacriel, and TSM’s Rawryy and Break were particularly huge boosts for the stream.

The donators… from £5 to £200 – I can’t quite get my head around the generosity of you lot. (You can still read their messages and donate here.)

The designer and the coder… Nicholas Brigando put together the amazing promotional and overlay graphics together (see some of his work above), while my friend from Production.GG Adam Mumfrey created code to pull in the Just Giving donations into the overlay. (The wonderful Okaydrian also hooked me up with coder Ehsan Kia, who I hope I get to work with in the future – you two are ace.)

The sponsors and the platform… Dan Whittal – the EMEA community manager for PUBG, my agent Ben Woodward and the team at Code Red, and Amahni Evans from Twitch – your support means everything. Also, to Doug, who patiently read out 20 weapon skin key codes to me as I logged them into a spreadsheet for giveaways.

THE MOD SQUAD! Isobelle77, JT5ingh, QuantumDelta – ❤ ❤ ❤

The swag givers… Simms, Sacriel (what an MVP) and Simon.

To everyone who watched and spread the word… thank you.

(We had a laugh, didn’t we? Shall we do it again sometime…?)

The Charity Chicken Carry

A year ago, I said goodbye to my friend Ben on the train back into London from Luton Airport.

A group of us had just spent the week in Southern France and Italy. I’d flown straight from the chaos of running the Twitch Stage at gamescom 2017.

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Somewhere that's green…

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It had taken me time to adjust to being abroad for holiday, rather than work, one day bordering on a panic attack as we swam in actual seawater on an otherwise idyllic boat trip, powered by Aperol and a French skipper, (who had casually mentioned jellyfish before our group jumped in). Ben had noticed my fear and paddled towards me, guiding me back to the boat. He was not someone who left his friends behind.

I didn’t realise that the last time I would see Ben would be on that train.

And yet – here’s the thing – Ben was never going to not be around. He lives on at gatherings, in the WhatsApp group his devoted friends created in his memory. In stories, impersonations of his unique mannerisms and phrasings, and in the bizarre newspaper articles we send each other that he would undoubtedly have discovered first for our amusement.

How my boyfriend Matt managed to deliver the eulogy at Ben’s funeral, I’ll never know. It’s available to read online at an initial fundraising page set up last year, and reading it still makes me sway dramatically between laughter and tears.

I’ll never be able to understand the decision of taking away one’s own life, but I know that it is an internal debate that effects so many people. Therefore, I’m planning to hold a fundraiser for Mind (a UK-based mental health charity) in October, and I want to call on members of the PUBG community to get involved.

If you’re a competitive PUBG fan, you may have seen me pop up at various PUBG tournament desks, or brandishing a mic onstage. I love talking about the game at its highest level, and the teams involved.

However, if you’re familiar with my Twitch stream, you’ll also be aware that I’m a horrible PUBG player.

I panic, I wail and scream, I shoot bushes. Oh, and never, ever let me drive. Seriously.

So I thought I’d call on the pro players I get to discuss at events such as DreamHack and WSOE, and see if they’ll give up a bit of their time to try and make me a better player, along with the talent I share the stage with – my chicken dinner count is currently two and during the first of those my computer died mid game, so I wasn’t even there to see it. It’ll be an arduous task for them, so in a way, you’re kind of sponsoring them more than me…

Although the details are still flexible, the action will most likely play out over an eight hour stream on my Twitch channel, while my fellow squad members will be encouraged to stream and do some fundraising of their own (I’ll likely invite Twitch streamers to join also). I’ll be rotating squads every hour. I currently think Saturday 29th September Sunday 30th September may be a good date, but there may be clashes with online leagues, so will be happy to take feedback on whether this date is suitable.

I’m looking for pro players and Twitch Partners who are interested in joining me to get in touch asap – a DM on Twitter or emailing me is the best option. The same for sponsors, or anyone who would like to be involved in some way.

Thank you.

Dealing with downtime

The Summer so far has been hectic so far…

…Or at least it was, until August. Suddenly I’ve found myself with a few weeks of respite (bar the odd shoot for the Nintendo Labo UK YouTube Channel or episode two of the Omen Esports Report)

After I got back from PGI (PLAYERUNKNOWN’S Battleground’s Global Invitational in Berlin) I was ready to keep running, until one day I wasn’t; I decided to record some voice lines as a favour to someone and then just stop. (And by stop, I mean playing video games offline, rather than on my Twitch channel.) In some ways, I was scared of a pause, in case I decided to extend it. However, I had a Google Keep list to keep up with, and so there were tasks awaiting my attention (“blog” has been written on it for ages).

At the start of this week, fresh from a wedding between two beautiful friends in Ludlow, where for once I managed to avoid checking my social media into the double figures, I felt myself coming down with something… But I also had eaten everything and anything I fancied for the past week; I needed to go to the world’s most strenuous gym class, prep a video pitch and stream. Then an early start on Tuesday for a Nintendo shoot in Britstol. Wednesday was for buying new hosting clothes (my word, the amount of clothes you need for events is astounding), prepping for gamescom and yoga. Sure, I felt a bit wobbly, but I’d just work through it, right?

It turned out Thursday would be for learning my lesson and croakily not being able to get out of bed… so apologising to my Twitch community for my absence, I propped myself up with a couple of pillows and finally got round to editing a vlog from PGI.

I wasn’t enjoying being ill, and yet… something about it gave me an added sense of urgency. Instead of doing the most urgent things on my to-do list, I was mopping up the bits I’d relegated into the unessential zone.

Case in point; it had taken me over two weeks to finally get down to editing and publishing my latest showreel. I had everything I needed – including relatively good health – but something always “cropped up”, until I silently pledged not to stream until it was done. In a way, it reminded me of those development tasks I had in previous jobs where I knew I could get it done, but pushed it back time and time again.

But feeling poorly… well now I was obliged to not do anything, and it sucked. I’m writing this on Friday, after another day of cold-angst and it still sucks. This isn’t like the old days of being ill, putting on an out of office and shutting out the world. (Freelancers everywhere – I get it now.)

So I made a deal with myself; rest today, and you may very well leave the flat by tomorrow evening. Amazon Prime has kept me firmly on the sofa for all ten episodes of UnReal series one. Running up and down the stairs has been kept to a minimum. By this evening I had decided some gameplay capture for a future video would be fine; but no voice chat. No audience. (And yes, I allowed myself to write this blog – because the only thing I love more than a to-do list, is crossing things off it.)

Hopefully the respite has worked its magic, and I’ll be right as rain tomorrow, or at least by next Tuesday – that’s when I head to gamescom, where I’ll be hosting the Omen Challenge PUBG tournament alongside ace casters wtfmoses and Matrym.

In fact, it’s especially important for this reason; when I decided to give full-time hosting a shot, gamescom was my first “milestone” to mark that I could do this for the long-haul. Being asked to go is a confirmation that I’m on the right path – but I’m also aware it’s one event, and the hard work will never be over… except for this week’s attempted pause – which may have turned out to be the hardest task of all!

Getting started in hosting

One of the questions that keeps reccuring in my DMs on social media is; “how did you get into hosting”.

I don’t tend to reply to message requests from people I don’t know (I have email for that), so I wanted to try and give this topic a bit more space on the blog instead.

I’ve been hosting full-time since I left Twitch at the end of March, so I’m by no means the absolute authority on this – there are a variety of ways people have got into this sort of work, so I reckon the best thing is to explain my personal experience.

At university, I was desperate to work in radio, but ended up not being able to get work experience, so moved into online. However, in my third year a blog I had written about new music and BBC Introducing led me to be picked up to produce and present a show for Amazing Radio, a then-digital radio station. I moved to Newcastle before my official graduation and worked as a producer and presenter. I was let go nine months into the role very suddenly, and ended up heading to London to work at Channel 4 as an online producer. I podcasted and dabbled with YouTube and an interactive platform called Touchcast, but had no idea how to work as a presenter again.

Towards the end of my four years at the BBC, I started trying again. I enjoyed working as a producer on various different bits and pieces, but now I was tempted by presenting again. I’d worked on the BBC coverage of the 2015 League of Legends World Championships and realised how much I loved the idea of working in gaming. I started attempting to talk to my co-workers at BBC Three about the possibility of pitching something about esports, but there was no interest (or perhaps my hints were not strong enough). The BBC Academy were kind enough to take on my interactive video idea Strangecast (a behind-the-scenes interactive look at drama series Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell), and let me host a podcast, but I still didn’t have the experience outside of my own external projects (some of which you can see in an old showreel, embedded below).

I needed to leave; and so I did. Moving to Twitch as a producer was such a fantastic experience. I wasn’t thinking of hosting at this point, but more about how to immerse myself within the Twitch community. I started streaming and learning as much as I could about the eco-system of Twitch. I worked with a lot of Twitch Partners to bring them onto our stages, but often didn’t have the budget to hire enough to cover a typical 8-10 hours of hosted content, and so ocasionally I’d pop up onstage to help fill in. Bit by bit, the hosting bug came back. And yet – I loved my job; it paid well, I felt confident and my colleagues were fantastic. Why leave a safety net you enjoy falling into?

I decided to do bits and pieces in my spare time, asking agency Code Red to take me on as a client and writing to contacts to suggest they consider me for gigs. I cobbled together a showreel from my various Twitch stage cameos and waited. Nothing much came my way until I did an interview with GINX TV at gamescom about the Twitch Stage, joking about the pink stain on my bum from the cake I’d recently had to scrape off the stage, post Steve Aoki appearance. A few weeks later I was in their London studio being trialled for live weekly show The Bridge as a co-host; I got the role.

The Bridge gave me the experience (and examples of work) I needed to get my face out there. I’d already built up a network within the industry as a producer, but my work on the show now meant I had video evidence to show I could hold my own on live TV, interview and be part of a general esports conversation. I didn’t get to lead host until earlier this year, covering for usual anchor Frank, but again, that was a huge opportunity to prove my worth in the lead host’s seat. I also spoke to ESL UK about trying to host and they asked me to come and host the ESL UK Hearthstone Premiership Finals in January. It would later transpire that my stage hosting at this show would spotlight me for my co-host role at the PC Gaming Show at this year’s E3.

I’d just completed my most recent showreel when I found out my job post was to be closed at Twitch. After a bit of steady breathing and a quick chat with my Dad, I headed to a generic coffee shop chain to start emailing contacts to make it clear I was ready to work. Then I headed to GINX to co-host my final episode of The Bridge.

Since April, I’ve filmed in London, Bristol, Stockholm, Katowice, LA, Austin, Las Vegas, Berlin and Bath. I’ve covered titles such as NHL 18, CSGO, Overwatch, Fortnite, PUBG and a game where you get to play as a shark. Oh, and co-hosted with a duck. But if I hadn’t had to leave my day job, I might not have experienced any of it. I’d be happy, but quite possibly not as happy as I am now. There’s no safety net anymore – but maybe in the end it was less of a net, and more of a wall.

Tips for breaking into on screen esports roles

  • Decide what you want to do; stage or desk host? cast or analyse? What’s your expertise? You could do a bit of each, but then how will you make people see you as the go-to for a particular role? I’ve mostly desk hosted in the past few months, with a bit of stage hosting on the side. Currently TOs (tournament organisers) are considering me where they think I’ll fit in based on my “brand” (see below).
  • Be vocal about who you are and what your “brand” is. Before breaking into gaming, I was asked this by someone during a BBC careers session, and I honestly didn’t know. Now, I think you get a good idea from my showreel – I marry energy and humour with knowledge, am able to control what’s happening during a broadcast (no matter what goes wrong), without it feeling dry, and I can “charm and disarm” my guests.
  • Build a showreel that showcases your values and your versatility. My showreel is due an update, I admit, but what it does do is distill what you can expect from me in less than three minutes – and the latter part is key. Keep your reel to less than three minutes. When I was a producer, I would make up my mind about hiring someone in less than 90 seconds. You don’t need to include all your work in there – feature the work that sums you up best, and shows you in the roles you want to be considered for in the future (ie. stage, desk, casting etc). As a host, I can work across multiple games on stage, and on the desk, and my reel shows that – although my next reel will feature more esports desk hosting, and less consumer roles, as that’s the route I’d like to go down in future.
  • No footage? Make your own work. Some events, such as the recent PGI 2018, will let you co-stream their feed so you can add your own commentary. You can also start a podcast, create and stream a chat show on Twitch, or make YouTube videos on your phone. This will be vital for developing your skills, too.
  • Get involved in the community you want to be part of. PUBG is one of my “first loves”, esports-wise. I’m regularly engaging with discussions on social media about the game, and I stream myself playing it with others, too. Maybe you could stream some scrims or charity events to get some valuable practice and showreel footage.
  • Approach grassroots events to gain experience. I’m not necessarily saying work for free, although money might not be amazing at first (which is another reason why I was lucky my previous job let me freelance on the side, taking annual leave to work). In the UK, epic.LAN and Insommnia are great events to try and approach.
  • Be professional and be nice! Whether working as a producer or presenter, I always try and give back the support I receive. Although esports is growing, the UK community is still small; you can get to know people quickly and make lasting connections. When I work with production teams I’ve worked with before, it’s like family. Always contribute to the team effort; rehearsals aren’t just about your performance, they are also for the benefit of everyone in production too. If you have feedback, think about whether it’s time urgent or would be of more value at the end of a broadcast day, or even the event itself. In terms of presenting yourself externally, I’m really lucky to have people approach me at events for photos and such – I always try and have a conversation, rather than just a seflie when I don’t have to rush off to film; someone has spared time to come and speak to me, so I like to try and find out a little bit about them, even if it’s as simple as “who is your favourite team?”.
  • Be good at what you do, but work towards being better. Now I’m full-time as a host, I’ll stream at home to get to know my audience, write posts like this, produce my podcast, and review footage from events to pick up on any weaknesses – I’ve been working to erase words like “basically”, for example. When I first started out I’d practically dance on the spot, or shift erratically in my chair. Even watching back PGI I can see a few phrases I repeated when reporting and interviewing and I know to be more concious of this – because I was in an unfamiliar role, my lack of experience showed through via habits I might not fall into on the desk, for example. If you’re worried about Twitch chat comments, just minimise chat, and focus fully on the VOD. Twitch chat are not the people that hire you – their support can mean a lot, but just because they think your hair is gross, doesn’t mean it actually is (ahem).

I hope this helps in some way – although my DMs are closed, you can leave a comment below, contact me on Twitter or via email if you have further questions. Good luck!

A fresh start (and a new podcast)!

When I was 22, I was asked to have a meeting before my usual work start time of 11am.

My job was to produce an afternoon radio show, which had been the first show to go from pre-recorded to live on the station, and had been extended to broadcast from 3 to 4 hours each day. I also hosted a weekly hour-long specialist music show.

In the months prior to that meeting, the executive producer had kept information from me and not invited me to meetings with the presenter. I was living in the North and, although I had made friends since my move nine months earlier, in the office I would feel isolated and alone.

In the meeting, the CEO, executive producer by his side, (as well as another member of staff who was genuinely once of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with), terminated my contract. I had moments to get my things and leave; my colleagues were concealed inside editing booths – barely larger than store cupboards – upstairs. I wasn’t permitted a goodbye. As I left, the executive producer followed me; “you forgot your coat”, he said bluntly, proffering a blazer I’d left draped a desk chair that had, until 15 minutes earlier, been mine.

On the surface, I was devastated. But perhaps my subconscious knew I would be ok, leading me over the Tyne Bridge into the Newcastle branch of New Look to vacantly stare at shoes. It was the day before Record Store Day 2011 and my musician boyfriend of the time was due to record a show for the station that afternoon. En-route over the bridge, I called the London-based producer of the show and told him I’d convince the guy to still take part.

I signed on at Byker Job Centre, and ended up becoming a finalist in another radio station’s Primula Cheese recipe competition. (There’s a video evidence out there that has to be seen to be believed.) I enrolled on a last-minute place on a week-long songwriting course, and emailed CVs to people I had interned with. I kept busy, despite often being unable to stop tears forming as I walked down the street.

And then, two weeks after staring at my feet on a doorstep in Gateshead, I walked into Channel 4 as an Online Producer. I would not forget my coat again.

When my role was closed at Twitch three weeks ago, despite knowing exactly where the nearest branch of New Look could be found, I headed to a coffee shop and made a list (god, I love a list), before hosting The Bridge for Ginx TV. The sudden end of something had brought opportunity I hadn’t had back in 2011 – perhaps influenced by my previous experience I’d saved what I could over the years and realised I was fortunate enough to have the luxury of time to think about the future.

My coffee-fuelled to do list was dominated by a couple of things; firstly, I wanted to see where I could go with hosting, and secondly I wanted to start a podcast – and there was no time like the present; my showreel was good to go.

Hosting-wise, I’ve got some projects in the pipeline, I can’t wait to share with you all, including hosting PUBG at Dreamhack Austin, and another project with Ginx TV. And the podcast? My Life in Pixels is now available in iTunes. (It’s also available at Podbean for anyone who prefers not to get their podcasts from Apple.) Episode one features the great Jake Roberts, who spoke to me about his history with games in the same week he picked up a BAFTA Games Award for Best Debut in recognition of his fantastic puzzle game Gorogoa. In future, I’m hoping to speak to more developers, as well as friends from different aspects of the gaming industry. We’ll be chatting about the games that made them want to make gaming their careers.

I’ve been very fortunate in the past few weeks to have had some tremendous support from the online community – from Twitch streamers, audiences and peers. This is something I didn’t have all those years ago, and it’s definitely a key reason why I’m able to see positivity in this experience. So if you’re one of those people who’ve called, emailed, Tweeted or commented, then you forever have my gratitude. Thank you.

Gaming and the gender “BIOS”

I originally wrote this as a speech to deliver at public speaking training at work – but it’s a subject I feel strongly about, so I decided to publish it here.

When I told people I was leaving BBC job to join Twitch, it felt like everyone I told was puzzled; non-gaming natives, they had either briefly heard of the platform, or had no idea what it was.

I say everyone – my mother was horrified. Her highlight of my career so far was meeting Robert Powell and his ridiculously blue eyes (famous of being those of Jesus in the Zefferelli film Jesus of Nazareth) – and artists formerly known as Jesus were unlikely to turn up at gaming expos…

Even those familiar with Twitch seemed confused; “but you do even like video games!?” they questioned skeptically, as people still do today when I tell them what I do.

And I could concede that they’ve got a point – because I don’t like video games. I love them.

From playing Bat and Ball on my nan’s BBC Micro Computer and Alex Kidd on the SEGA Master System, to buying my own PS One from savings (which I’d later dip into to buy a gaming PC and a Wii), video games have always been a constant and consistent part of my life. A former editor of mine back in my Channel 4 interning days even gifted me a Dreamcast he had going spare, given my fanatic enthusiasm for escapist gameplay.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t an occasional bump in the road in this relationship; when I moved to Newcastle for a radio job, with nothing but my Xbox 360  for company, I excitedly began the long arduous journey that is Final Fantasy XIII. 30 hours in, I decided to take a five year break, resumed when the eve of Final Fantasy VX kicked my paradigms into gear.

After I joined Twitch I decided build a PC for the first time and possibly became the first person to upload a video of themselves jubilantly screaming “fucking BIOS” on the internet. It was an emotional moment – firstly because I’d had some Power Supply Unit (PSU) issues, but also because I saw that certain people online reacted to by progress by asking me to – as one charmer put it – “leave PC building to the men”. (To this charmer I simply enquired why his masculinity felt threatened by a woman building a PC.)

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Aside from being desperate to play Overwatch in my own bedroom, after founding team Overlunch with office manager and kickass Mcree Nell, I also wanted the PC to up my streaming game. As you would expect from someone who would shout “fucking BIOS” on the internet, I’m pretty emotional on my channel – it’s a place where I can rage freely and people are more likely to join in than judge. I am accepted as what I am – a fan of video games.

In the wider world however, I am viewed as an anomaly; despite the fact I don’t think I’m at all unusual or unique. I am a “Girl Gamer” or, as some of the gaming community types when they see me on an industry event stage, a “GRILL”. To put it bluntly, I am “other” – just as the singer in a “female-fronted band”, a “female comedian’’, a “girl boss” or even a “male nurse” is. It is this culture of gendered language, where a “gamer” is alleged as solely male, and a female gamer is a “girl gamer”, that makes me appear unusual.

In 2014, the Internet Advertising Bureau surveyed 4,000 UK residents and found that those who identified as ‘gamers’ skewed 52% female. And yes, many of those are playing on their phones, but it’s still relevant. Many women may even play but simply don’t “out” themselves – I’ve spent the best part of a decade showing off my self-proclaimed genius at defeating Final Fantasy X’s last boss Yu Yevon in two moves – and a lot of people, male or female, don’t even know who that is. Until the female audience for gaming is amplified, “hardcore gamer” titles will remain targeted solely to men, and this budding market won’t fulfil it’s growth potential.

Language is one of civilisation’s most powerful tools. When we use it to single out a group, we change their status from the norm, therefore creating a set expectation for them. We expect the England Football team to be a team of men: we expect the England Ladies’ Team to feature a mixture of full and part-time pro players, many of whom earn less in a year than I do playing video games. When I skimmed through Netflix the other day, I noticed it has created a category called “films featuring a strong female lead”; the idea is so beyond acceptable mainstream cinema, it’s had its own genre invented.

When we call someone a “girl gamer”, therefore, we expect them to be less proficient than a “gamer”. When we place that “GRILL” on the stage, we expect them to be there because of the way they look, not because of what they think.

So no, I’m not a “girl gamer”. I’m not a “GRILL”. I identify as a woman who plays video games – a “gamer” – because I believe in creating a world where gendered language no longer exists in order to hold me back.

Now who’s up for a game of Overwatch? 

Are you tube body ready?

Take a look at this advert.

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Does it offend you? Don’t worry – there isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question, I’m just being curious.

Because – unlike what you may have initially thought – I’m not offended by this advert; I’m merely bored by it.

I’m bored by the slim blonde woman. Sent to sleep by the block colour background and statement lettering. Yawning at the implication that not only is the packaging small, but the model is draping herself over the phrase, physically linking herself to it; “think small! Drink our small drink and be small!” Don’t make yourself big, don’t be big and don’t think bigger than this.

After last year’s Protein World “Are you beach body ready?” debate, you would have thought portion ads marketed at women would have learnt a thing or two. Here the ad team must have seen the ban on outright body shaming ads and thought; let’s move the woman left of centre! And we’ll make it seem all about the product, even though there’s a yoga toned model in the corner, by only describing its ingredients and lack of gluten (perfect for the ‘clean’ eating brigade), rather than demonstrating its efficacy.

I don’t want to body shame the beautiful model in this ad, but where are her flexed muscles? Where’s the sweat? The look of intent one gets when someone else has the machine in the gym you keep missing due to poor timing? Where’s the glint of pride earned from surpassing one’s own expectations in the hand weights section?

The answer is not in this advert. It’s in gyms across the country. In parks, in living rooms and community centres. It’s in Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign. It’s even in the recent Adidas Woman campaign where they invited loads of uniformly slim followers to don their three stripes and give thanks for Karli Kloss.

I had a response on Twitter calling out my original tweet about this ad, picking up on protein not being a weight loss tool (I’d argue the visuals of this ad position it as one) and the common ‘would you say this if it was a man in the picture?’.

But here’s the thing – of course it wouldn’t be a man in the picture. It’s a product aimed at women and their tiny lady hands and bags! A print campaign ignoring the fact that – going by my gym anyway – women’s gym essentials often include a hairdryers and a bag big enough to carry that and much more. If it was a male marketed product, the ad minds wouldn’t think small, they’d think huge! They’d focus on strength, power, size, stamina, sweat and inspiration.

The successful women’s campaigns make us feel empowered and part of a unit; we all sweat, we all experience an intense adrenaline rush from reaching our goals. But the goal of this ad is to look like a yoga-toned blonde white woman. And I ain’t buying it.

After all, what’s empowering about thinking small?