“How was it for you?” Why childbirth stories need to be heard

Trigger warning: detailed description of labour and childbirth

Being a mother is a lonely venture. Sometimes you are lucky enough to gauge another new mum on a similar wavelength and a conversation strikes up. And when it does you are never far from the question; “how was the birth?”

The first sign of my daughter taking after her mother was her reluctance to leave, despite it being the best thing for her. Perhaps not wanting to insult her host of 40 plus weeks, she stayed in uterine confinement until the hint of hormonal assistance jump-started her into the world.

(The second sign is her self-frustration at missing her first attempt to latch at feeds – leading to mother and daughter both taking the blame onto their shoulders, red-faced but determined to stick the landing on the fourth attempt.)

Even going into my third trimester, I had been determined not to have a birth plan, but some research and my fantastic fifth midwife (who made sure I’d get to see her again rather than be passed on to whoever was available) convinced me to seek a referral to the King’s College Hospital home birth unit. A birth pool was ordered and remained parcelled up in a corner of the bedroom, home birth being a possibility, not a certainty.

Christmas, then my baby’s due date – 26th December – came and went. I saw in 2022 with “nosecco” and a friend’s dinner party, Jools Holland on the telly. I knew she wasn’t coming anytime soon; I would have to be induced.

On the morning of January 5th I couldn’t reach the hospital for two hours. I rage bashed through unsatisfactory missions in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla wondering when I could start what could be a three-day process. A try on my husband Lacey’s phone saw us put through straight away, although a promise of a callback was never met – the hospital was clearly understaffed and exceptionally busy. Eventually I was admitted at lunchtime, monitored for two hours and told my high blood pressure readings meant I would be an inpatient. A positive covid test result the day before meant this would be on an isolated ward for pre and post natal parents.

We arrived on the dark ward at 6pm and that’s when the realisation set in; this was it now. I might not have felt the need for a tightly planned birth but I certainly hadn’t planned for this. Two pregnant women were already resident, one due to have an early C section the following day at 35 weeks pregnant, the other in for observation. My bedside call button did not work and I was instead instructed to ring a number if I needed help.

When the prostaglandin hormone (for encouraging my cervix to ripen and open) was administered earlier that afternoon we were given a speech indicating a it would be process that took place over a few days and stages of treatment, so I sent Lacey home to sleep not realising the backache I’d developed were contractions; within an hour I would be experiencing four every ten minutes, some overlapping and lasting over three minutes; I was experiencing uterine hyperstimulation.

Other women I have spoken to who experienced a rush of contractions during their induction were given an injection to calm the process down. I was not. The pessary was removed and I was told the contractions would simmer down and we’d “revisit it in the morning” as I was only two centimetres dilated. I was given a bowl the texture of an egg box, which I later urgently vomited into and over. My water jug failed to provide respite post sickness, as it wasn’t refilled on request.

My partner had returned to me but my labour still felt like a lonely one. In the throes of consistent and constant pain I retreated into delirium. My bladder had declined to work in the bathroom, but when my waters broke I questioned this key moment of labour as perhaps my bladder finally kicking into gear. The midwife seemed to agree that I had simply wet myself, albeit in a spectacular fashion that required me to sniff my own amnoitic fluid and have a change of bedsheets. A bleed in the bathroom I led her to shortly after was a definite sign that my baby was on the move, but it too was seemingly ignored.

A moment of clemency seemed to arrive when I was asked if I’d like a pethidine injection (morphine). My sense of time had become hazy but I believe an hour later I was told a doctor who had never met me had declined to prescribe it, but I was now eligible for a second dose of paracetamol and codeine if I would like it.

Due to being “only two centimetres” during my examination earlier in the evening I was denied an epidural. I was not allowed gas and air.

I was also not examined again even though my contractions did not subside.

Despite my TENS machine getting disrupted by the CTG (trace) monitoring bands leading to frequent electrocutions, I had to keep putting the bands back on. In NCT classes you are encouraged to practice positions to help ease the pain of contractions. None of them involve lying on your back, but with the placement of the trace monitors on my baby and my uterus, I had no other option.

Earlier in the night I had tried to remain quiet for fear of upsetting the other women on the ward, but by the start of the new day I was pathetically crying out for help, openly questioning the lack of help. Exhausted from the six hours of unstoppable contractions, I started to drift off in the seconds between them.

Then my baby’s heart rate started to drop.

“I’m going to shit myself and I don’t even care anymore” I drowsily declared to my partner as I was told I would finally be moving upstairs to a delivery room, feeling the pushes of my baby trying to make an exit. The midwives were still none the wiser. No porter was called and I was made to walk, contacting in the corridor twice en route to the lift, leaving a discussion of me potentially needing a C section in my wake.

In the dark delivery room I met a midwife who made me lie back on a gurney for examination; I was fully ready to push and had a hairy headed baby. I also had gas and air stationed above my head and would I like some?

It’s an incredible source of motivation, finally being believed. I knew my baby girl needed to be born quickly due to her heart rate dropping on the trace. I breathed in the gas and air and forced it back out with my pushes, holding her in place with my pelvic floor between each burst of effort to avoid my relaxing muscles taking her backwards. I roared with the effort, but found a sense of focus as the trauma of the past six hours faded into the background.

Six minutes later a wailing baby, long and bloody, was placed on my body. We already knew her name: Aoife.

The benefit of being on a covid ward for mums is that you may have the only baby requiring attention. Due to Aoife being born jaundice the attention was needed and the care was better than we had imagined possible. To get it I had to return to the same ward in which I’d writhed helplessly in pain, but this time to the empty bay beside my previous bed. This one had a call button that worked (until it was accidentally ripped from the wall by a midwife during my stay.)

After four nights my husband, my baby and I left the hospital. My legs threatened to giveaway but somehow stayed firm enough to reach the car. I’d been up all night feeding Aoife to clear her jaundice and somehow had succeeded. As a midwife did a 2am check she brought a sense of vindication; “I was on shift that night, heard about your bleed and knew you were good to go.”

When I have the “how was it for you” conversation with other mums, I am struck by how desperate we are to be heard. How the words tumble out and fresh memories are remembered. An empty water jug. The lack of call button. Dinner and breakfast requests never taken and food not forthcoming. A lack of examinations. Vomit everywhere. Crouching in tears behind the locked door of a bathroom.

I have heard so many tales of unnecessary pain. Of the trauma of not being believed. Sudden rushes to the operating theatre. Speedy discharges with successful breastfeeding boxes signed off despite evidence to the contrary. Cesarean scars opening. Cesarean stitches becoming infected. A private obstetrician making no attempt to hide their irritation at their patient’s inconvenient desire to not go voluntarily under the knife. Babies losing weight because their parents weren’t given comprehensible feeding information and didn’t know how much formula to bottle feed.

We are hasty in sharing our stories for the relief of finally being listened to. And we believe each other without reservation.

I don’t know where my mind would be otherwise.

I still get YouTube videos advertising “raw, totally natural, drug-free birth vlogs”, but denying oneself pain relief shouldn’t be applauded. It is a personal choice, not a trend. Yet, with personal beliefs making their way into labour wards and being imposed onto pregnant people, there will never cease to be labouring women on their own, screaming into the night.

A work-in-progress reflects on TI10

In one of my favourite Twitch clips of all time, legendary Starcraft II commentator Artosis reacts to a Reddit thread about a recent cast with onscreen partner Tasteless. Horrified at what he’s reading he exclaims “this is my fucking job, this is my living and people are just making shit up and typing it… Everything in there’s not true!”

I think the reason this clip is one I return to is not just because of the fact that even a casting duo as beloved as Artosis and Tasteless can fall victim to a little Reddit writing of history, but also because it feels like so many of us who work on camera in this industry have screamed into that void.

When I worked the CS:GO Katowice Major in 2019, I fell into a bit of a Reddit hole. I was in Katowice for three weeks, extremely tired – was ill for one of the weeks – and I was relatively new to the CS scene, so I guess wanted to see the conversations, and engage with the community. Unfortunately I quickly learned it wasn’t a healthy place for a new face – I’d see things written about me being a “bitch” due to my questions, accusations that I only “asked yes/no questions” and just general hate. The more events I did in the space, the more welcoming it became, but also the less I needed its approval. Of course, I got better at my job too – but that came from production feedback, VOD reviews, experience and building up working relationships with the players. Unlike some broadcast talent, I just didn’t feel like I got much out of the space in terms of self-improvement.

I still have crippling imposter syndrome when I host a desk in CS:GO.

The joy of doing The International 10 – aside from it being the event I dreamed of being part of since I joined the esports and gaming space – was that I went into the event deciding I would not let imposter syndrome get the better of me. I would be honest about my coming from a new-ish player’s perspective and I would represent the audience members who watch TI annually, but no other events during the rest of the year.

I think I first played DOTA in 2016 (although it could have been early 2017) – I streamed it from the Twitch office with my friend Marhan. It turned out streaming it on Twitch was NOT the play. I returned to it a couple of years later, did the usual tutorials on my own and then tried DOTA Turbo… It was a DISASTER. The people I was matched with were not the beginners I was promised and I was ready to give up all over again. But then I tweeted about my desire to learn and some of the broadcast talent said they’d love to help. It took some time to find the space to do it, but eventually my streams with DOTA analyst Purge began in early 2021.

One of the things we tend to lack in the esports industry is the luxury of time. There’s a long-running joke in gaming circles about having no time to actually play games and it is very much rooted in truth. I would try and fit in both DOTA and CS:GO streams around events and other broadcast commitments, including long production days and prep work. With a wedding and mortgage to pay for and the reality of losing most of my income in 2022 due to a baby on the way, I couldn’t take a break.

I was hired for TI in mid July while I was working on IEM Cologne and got married in August (the wedding took place actually after the original TI10 date, but was scheduled to work around ESL Pro League, which moved in the CS calendar post booking.) I worked for ten days straight in the lead-up to the date of my legal wedding ceremony, including a full day of casting (chemistry testing rather than commentating) for my first major TV series GamesMaster and a group stage of ESL Pro League. Post wedding, I returned for the playoffs of ESL Pro League – my final event in CS:GO for the foreseeable future. Then I got to work on research for TI and GamesMaster, all the while trying to fit DOTA streams in and another unexpected filming obligation that heavily demanded my time.

Basically, to give you an idea of the workload, I didn’t have a day off from September 19 until October 18th. I promise I didn’t plan things this way – the aim was always to spend three weeks totally immersed in DOTA and that’s still where I spent every spare moment. I was extremely fortunate to have members of the community spend some time on Discord calls with me to answer questions about teams and to help me fill in the gaps of my own research – and, of course, to get some unranked games in too.

When I opened the main event on the desk for TI10, I didn’t feel haunted by imposter syndrome. Subconciously I had made a decision not to develop those demons and just get on with it and have fun. Despite a serious lack of sleep – my first shifts meant getting up at the UK equivalent of 4am, and therefore shifting my body clock by four hours was something that didn’t come naturally (insomnia is also a symptom many pregnant women develop in their third trimester, which I recently entered), but once the show went live, it was possible to power through thanks to the amazing onscreen and offscreen talent, and the excitement of the event.

For the first couple of days I was on desk and draft panel (thankfully only one draft panel – that was definitely where I felt least comfortable), and then moved onto interviews after my desk shift ended. My role always involved the preshow, which involved the most visual assets and videos and I believe I was placed there for the energy I could bring – and, of course, it usually meant only covering one series. At the end of my shift I would then prep for the next day’s matches. There was no time to look backwards, watch content or even visit Reddit, even if I wanted to. Every day was a 6am – 10pm day (or longer if I didn’t have my notes ready for the next day).

By day five, the lack of sleep absolutely caught up with me, and unfortunately some of the rising anger from people who didn’t want me there also made it through via Tweets, either directly or indirectly. On day four of the event I published a Twitter thread explaining some of the reasons I wouldn’t be taking unsolicited feedback.

I didn’t expand about my experiences in CS:GO, or share that I’d undergone counselling in early 2021 to help me deal with the anxiety that stemmed from some of my worse experiences in 2019, but I explained about the need to set some boundaries. Unfortunately, I think that’s what led to me having a bit of a “block party” in the middle of another sleepless night to try and stem some of the rage that was subsequently sent my way.

In terms of things to improve on with my hosting, I can think of a ton of things – from the practical, like requesting clips from production to help us on the desk for analytical segments (there was one postgame moment on my final day where I especially regretted this and did an unecessary and unconcise description of a moment) to making less jokes (especially with myself or my pregnancy as the punchline), saying “I” less, placing less emphasis on me being a DOTA noob because it simply wasn’t necessary. There was a throw from a winner’s interview that definitely wasn’t my best. However, I stand by the main content of most of those interviews, especially as these were my first encounters with those players. My day five opening presentation was my least favourite for sure. But the great thing was, if I did get something wrong, I was with experts who could correct me and then we’d simply move on. No harm done. It would not be productive for me to dwell on one mistake that didn’t significantly derail production or my colleagues. Instead it’s important to learn and quickly move on with the show.

And as for coach interviews, there was little to no time to expand on anything discussed – and yes, Richard Lewis’s intuition about me having to do a sudden throw to casters during the first Silent (Team Spirit) coach interview was spot on. I wasn’t trying to be insulting and while it absolutely wasn’t ideal, I was going to clarify his comment and then didn’t have time to because I was told we were going into game. However, the start of the interview, with a question about the opposition’s focus on their offlaner Collapse initially in the game one draft and then in-game during the second was a relevant question. The fact that it stemmed a long, outraged Reddit thread questioning my conduct and calling for my firing is an example of why I do not visit Reddit when first introduced to a gaming community. It also led to conversations about prize money being constantly discussed, when it was brought up as part of the phrase “million dollar draft”, which hey, probably didn’t translate easily out of English and would have served better on the desk to set the stakes, but also was mentioned as part of a setup when interviewing Collapse – but as part of a list of achievements, that also included making top four of the event and beating Virtus.Pro for the first time that season. I cannot recall mentioning prize money at any other time during the event – apologies if my memory has failed me on this one, but it simply didn’t factor as part of my prep notes unlike the team information.

I wrote a twitter thread in response to this commenter below, that explains a bit about my role on the show and how the segments worked. There are no set “right questions” for a panel, it’s absolutely a personal thing, but I would ask the analysts if there was anything in particularly they did want to discuss. Without ad breaks and not knowing when teams would be ready to get into the draft, it wasn’t possible to scope out how long to spend on each topic in advance.

I’ve since seen quite a few comments saying things that simply didn’t happen on broadcast, or have taken them out of context to make me seem like I’ve never even heard of DOTA 2 before, let alone played it. It seems that to justify some of the outrage, the outrageous has to occur. It’s ok not to like me or my performance, but these miniscule works of fiction concern me because they get jumped on by other people and spread as gospel. In some cases they become excuses for abuse.

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Sometimes when I have replied to a tweet, there’s an element of the Regina George – ie me correcting someone on a mistake they say I made with the actual less serious mistake that occured and being told “surely you don’t think you only made one or two mistakes?”… Er no. Just because I clarified one mistake, does not mean I don’t think there were no other mistteps, I’m just not going to spend all day listing them on Twitter. I’ve also had to explain to people the difference between my role as host and how it differs to that of an analyst. There appears to be the expectation that I should self-flagellate on social media, apologise for my shortcomings and beg for forgiveness and the fact that I have not means I’m an “arrogant piece of shit” (to quote one Redditor who decided to post his charming message on the CSGO Reddit before inviting me for a private chat on the same platform).

I’m making the assumption here that most people reading this are not on camera for a living. I am also assuming that a portion of those people feel that critique comes with the territory of being so visible in a public forum. This is absolutely correct. However, those people also need to understand that they are not entitled to become a direct source of feedback for someone they have watched onscreen and do not have a personal relationship with – just as I am not entitled to praise or to wipe the internet of comments that don’t approve of me or my performance. I already mentioned this in the first Twitter thread I posted above, but it’s just not normal to be reading so many comments about oneself, either negative or positive. Unfortunately that means the constructive comments – and I know they exist – can get lost among the less constructive ones and so I don’t always get to see them. It doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong to post them. There will be a time in future when they rise to the top because the toxic comments have subsided as people get familiar with my presence. That’s just the natural cycle of esports communities.

Imagine sitting at your desk at work trying to complete a task and people start walking by your desk, starting to look over your shoulder at your screen. At first you accomodate them and their notes, but then suddenly they start pointing out what you’re already doing, what you haven’t done, and what you weren’t even doing in the first place. You slam your laptop shut and retreat to a meeting room to try and refocus and complete your task. But then the pings begin. Notifications fly at you. Work becomes futile. It happens increasingly regularly. Every effort you have made to try and do a good job has become intrinsically linked to the voices that pull you down or praise you. Every stroke of the keyboard comes with an echo of their words. And then the words come home with you. This is the only way I can think of to try and explain how the social media pressure can feel in this line of work.

I am a 32-year-old woman, who will always be a work-in-progress, but I don’t need criticism to “grow as a person”, I need constructive feedback from production and peers to help me improve at my job and I need the space to make mistakes and to “experiment to decide”. We all need that, no matter our workplace or role. I have eight years of experience as a producer prior to my career on-camera, which has been invaluable in the way I research, but also in giving myself feedback via VOD review. I am a tougher self-critic than you know.

I’d like to thank people who have got in touch in recent days to spread positivity and community members who have seen that the fallout of this debate is also a valuable opportunity to have a discussion around toxicity. I’ve had a number of broadcast talent, from in and outside of the scene get in touch and it’s been very much appreciated. One of the biggest draws for me about DOTA 2 was the talent within the scene and they surpassed my expectations. What a bunch of fantastic, lovely, downright brilliant people – and in the case of Moxxi, insanely brave, too.

I still would really like to keep playing DOTA and to perhaps revisit the scene in future once my baby is old enough for me to get back to work. It’s an incredible game with a bright esports scene and a fantastic community too. But right now, I need to take a break and reset before I count how many times I wrote “I” in this post and descend into a cycle of self-loathing and pain…

On being a woman in esports

I spent much of last year alone. Staring up at the ceiling of foreign bedrooms, willing myself to sleep. Sat in green rooms unable to share how I was really feeling. In friendship circles at home, a world far removed from the aiport-hotel-arena esports cycle I spent much of the year embroiled in.

Moving into very visible role in esports as a woman, I was aware it would be tough, but I worked hard and earned the jobs. One thing I didn’t account for, however, was the loneliness.

If someone I vaguely knew slid into the messages on my phone and said something that was unnervingly flirty I would laugh them off (“Ha!”) for fear of alienating a connection I might require later, and to prevent finding myself on the wrong end of a subtweet or industry rumour. I sought to cease any conflicts by settling anything bordering on a dispute off social media. When a producer called me a “pain in the ass” at an afterparty after a stressful week of lacking production details I needed to do the best job possible, I walked back to my hotel with a friend, wondering if I would ever be invited to work with them again, as opposed to thinking whether I should. When the CEO of an esports org insisted I fly out to meet them for a face-to-face meeting, and rejected my requests for an initial remote call instead, I should have declined to work with them there and then, especially when they were determined to talk via DMs than business email. When they sent some Instagram DMs about my appearance in a couple of stories, I should have set them straight. But I didn’t. Instead I gave them an idea I had been wanting to develop for years and spent two uncomfortable days filming it. Unsuprisingly, the project was doomed from the start.

While I have spoken up online about problematic language, the audience perception of women in esports broadcasting roles and my own experiences of growing up, I worry if I could have done more behind the scenes. When you are the only woman on a talent line-up, as is often the case at the events I host, you have to pick your battles for fear of losing a war you didn’t ask for. Simply by being who you are, you represent “the future”, a new, distinctively different face sitting next to the established ones on a talent announcement post. You are the reason a man did not get the job.

I came into the gaming industry in a position of power. As a producer at Twitch, the most trouble I encountered was having a (now former) staff member look at a presentation for a show I was planning featuring four male and four female Twitch partners and tell me there were “too many women” on the line-up. As someone who worked very closely with Twitch Partners in the UK, the most difficult thing for me was narrowing the names of those four women down, not finding them in the first place. Later that year, my first annual review explained; “Frankie works hard for equality and, while this trait is admirable, she needs to understand that we should always hire the best person for the job”.

Putting it bluntly; in that role you could not fuck with me. If you did, you would not appear on a Twitch stage again. Internally however, that aforementioned member of staff did everything he could to block me from meetings about the event stages I was producing. He needed to minimise my power. He very nearly succeeded.

As a freelance host, I have more visibility, but I am also competing for jobs. No matter how good a job I do, a tournament organiser does not have to hire me again. Multiple event contracts are rare, but hugely desirable, given the work-life balance they provide – booking holidays is a minefield I do not tresspass in for fear of missing an important job. If I am seen to be difficult, a diva or disliked by my peers, I’m out. And so I lie awake in my hotel room at night, not thinking about how well I did on camera that day, but how I was behind the scenes; did I make a joke no one understood? Was I too firm in saying I needed something? Should I have said anything at all?

An industry peer once said in an interview that I “make interviews about myself”, for me reflecting that the very nature of my on camera personality is always under scrutiny. I wonder if you took a transcript of my interviews and looked at the content, rather than my presence on camera, whether the opinion would still hold weight. I love and have fun with my job, but in the last year I have developed a fear of going on camera underprepared, scared of providing ammo to the faceless voices who do not want me there.

A few weeks ago, after feeling unnerved about my roles being discussed by men without my input or visibility, I finally decided to leave my agency and look after my own affairs. I had made, found and earned my work. It was time for me to take more control of it. While I may sign with an agency again in future, I’ve decided to represent myself for the time being and see how it goes.

In Counter-Strike, my primary esports scene, I have never experienced sexual harrassment. This week I lay awake in the comfort of my own bed thinking of others in the industry and the trauma they have experienced. Wondering how we stop this. Thinking I am lucky, when luck should not come into this.

At times I am aware I have disrupted the balance – when you’re a woman and you choose to write about why you believe you were hired for your ability over your feminimity – you raise eyebrows and rock some boats. But the water is calm now. Under lockdown, despite the distance from my work, I have become closer to my crew. They are not just colleagues, they are friends.

So now I have to be at peace with the fact that my views may make some feel uncomfortable at times, but that does not mean I am wrong to express them. By the very nature of being a woman onscreen in esports, my presence is political. Every time I get a message from a girl or a woman who says they like the work I do, I’m determined to stick around.

How you doin’?

It’s a scary thing to “admit you’re not good”.

There’s a game a friend of a friend used to play where they would jokingly torture (in the lighest sense of the word) each other while shouting
“ADMIT YOU’RE NOT GOOD!”

And while I’m not comparing social media to someone trying to make me hilariously uncomfortable, in the present situation there’s certainly a parallel.

I’ve never understood how anyone can stream full-time. After three hours I can often be found yawning mid-game, as the afternoon takes it out of me. I wouldn’t say it’s out of laziness – bear in mind a 12-14 hour broadcast day isn’t unusual in my typical line of esports hosting work. Maybe it’s something to do with the constant splitting of focus between chat, your technical setup and the game itself. I have to shut everything out except my team to play to a fraction of the ability of most of my peers, and usually I’m solo queuing with people who don’t communicate in game. But I’m not skilled enough to play with people I know, and I’m also not brave enough to ask – because what if no one wants to?

Even before the COVID-19 crisis swept the world we were all in uncertain times. And yet, for once I had the stability of an events calendar with work in place – process from my first couple of years when it was far more ad hoc and when I may be booked for an event a couple of days before it kicked off. Sometimes it was a struggle – with my OCD, the uncertainty around work over the previous two Christmas pushed my mental health towards the boundary where I have had to reach for the timeout button (literally during a public holiday; OCD is not a pragmatic condition). But as the plane landed from IEM Katowice into Stanstead, I felt a freeing optimism I hadn’t for a while.

I’m totally aware that people are being made redundant, being furloughed, having events and freelance jobs cancelled the world over. People are dying. It makes me feel guilty to even think about not enjoying some of my streams. I’m not unique. I’m not the only one. I’m not alone. I have that perspective. And yet, my brain – so used to hits of adrenaline from live CSGO and broadcasting – is confused. Isolated. One second it was going to Malta to cover CS:GO for a month, and then it wasn’t.

Outside of the streams I am producing shows, content, seeing what works, taking meetings and renovating the house. I try and exercise in the confines of my kitchen, somehow avoiding kickboxing plates to the end of their lives. I attempt to calculate how much I am worth if I’m hosting from home to prevent potential work from falling through if I propose the wrong figure. I face the universal experience of the freelancer. I dream ideas. I wait. My to-do list mounts up while I procrastinate on what to start first. Outside my study while I stream, my boyfriend works on progressing the state of of our house. He often cooks, helps out at a food bank some days. He brings me food and tea during my stream. He fixes things while I fizzle out.

Often streams are really fun. I’m getting better at Counter-Strike, although the past week or so has seen me miss opportunities in game I know I could have captialised on. I have started doing training maps and relax a little on my no backseating rule when testing flashes. But I’m firm in stopping it once the matches start.

You’re pretty much always going to get odd comments in Twitch chat. Sometimes there’s little things and hey, who cares! You’re fragging out. You’ve got this. And sometimes the steam roll begins, the brainwaves flatten out, your instinct to keep smiling fails you. And then you’re self loathing, dealing with losing on the server and trying not to lose it at the faceless username telling you to relax, while another types “WTH. WAS. THAT!?”.

I enjoy letting my emotions loose in-game. I rage, I let it out and I get on with it. Or I try to. But when you’re streaming you’ve got a whole host of people trying to either influence your emotions (tilting you, insulting you), or policing your behaviour – ie “relax”, “don’t sing”, “you should do X, Y and Z”, “if you took my advice you’d be better”. When you’re hosting, you can avoid Twitch chat and Reddit – and you learn very quickly that it’s healthier for you and everyone around you (although slip-ups are inevitable). When you’re streaming, you can be faced with a wall of people telling you that you suck, in real time where you’re on camera. You can’t hide from that.

But then you also have the supporters. The novel names that become familiar and that you look forward to seeing. The incredible mods who voluntarily keep things going. The subs and viewers who often join me for games. The chatters who keep newcomers in check and don’t make me feel bad when I put someone in their place. Who metaphorically nod and confirm that yes, they did understand I was joking when I explained to the troll that of course my hair is better than my in-game skills, because my hair is awesome.

So here I am. Aware that I’m in a much better position than many, but admitting I’m not good all the same. It was something I needed to do last year when my OCD was as it’s deadliest and I couldn’t do it then; I had a job to do, and then another and another, and even though I was busy and working, I was far more alone then than I am now.

I want you to know that, no matter your situation or its ups and downs, you’re going to be OK too. You will be good. And if you’re not good now, try to think of the one person you trust most and tell them.

And then watch the following clip from The Chase. (It’s a classic.)

“She Wins These” – the collection

Last year I was contacted by a couple of different parties who wanted me to partner with them on merch stores. I didn’t really see the point – why would anyone want anything with my name on?

However, in January I was approached by artist Paul Tysall and I had a rethink. He had a few ideas he presented to me, but I’d begun to think about a phrase I’d seen in my Twitch chat and wanted to see what he could do with it. In what seemed like a ridiculously quick turnaround, we had two designs agreed on.

“Defuse”

The phrase that inspired Paul’s designs, “she wins these”, started popping up during my streams when I found myself facing clutch situations. I’m not a high ranked CS:GO player – in fact, I have everything to work on, but I’m improving steadily. However, what formerly held me back in game (and still can) is the belief that I can’t win (as discussed in a previously published blogpost). But once I started to take fights and believe I could actually come out on top, I actually did.

“Last Woman Standing”

I hope that whoever wears them – male or female – will be reminded that a bit of self-belief goes a long way – whether on a virtual battlefield, or outside of it.

There’s a unisex tshirt style and a ladies style – I’m wearing the unisex style in these photos as I’m all about the highwaisted jeans and the 80s hair! I also asked Paul to create “pocket” styles for wearers who prefer their logos a little smaller. There’s a variety of colour options to choose from, except for the pocket version of Last Woman Standing, which is currently only available in white, but we’ll launch a different colourway if there’s demand for it.

“Defuse” – pocket print

The “She Wins These” collection is available from Teespring and ships worldwide.

“When am I not competitive? When I don’t think I can win”

I am ten, eleven years old in my final year of primary school. Michelle (year five) and I have been bestowed the honour of being a “whole player”. The other girls on the playground only count as “half a boy”. I know I will never be passed the ball and so, determined to get a touch, am constantly prepared to run full-stream at a “whole player” and take it from him.

On Tuesdays, myself and a dozen or so girls pay two quid to a man who runs a venture called Club Brazil Girls’ Football. I pay for football because Thursday football club, free and run by the local vicar, clashes with netball practice. I was admitted into the netball A team, alongside a girl called Natalie, a year before our peers. I know I won’t make the football B team (Michelle is more than good enough but never gets to play for them either). Even though I love football, and own a full England ’97 kit I am fast growing too big for, plus Umbro boots from Woolworths, I stick to the sport I know I’ll get picked for.

My first pair of blades are given to me for my 15th, and I adapt them to make them fit for street skating. Visiting an indoor park without them, I borrow my friend’s cavernous size 9 soft boots and try dropping in multiple times, landing in quick succession on my right elbow. The result is a haematoma (“swellbo”) that I call my “third boob”. The doctor mentions that this could have been more serious had it been elsewhere – people die from haematomas. Fear stops me from trying things out, but I keep skating with my friend Maz and a group of boys from the town. It’s something to do and I know I’ll never be good at it – I’m “just a girl” – so I don’t try.

Going into my final year of GCSE I enter a relationship with someone I meet at the skate park. He slaps me on my arms when I say sorry, tells me he should swap me for Maz, who is dating another friend, and tells me he will never love me. We go to an extreme sports festival, and I go out skating on my own and make friends with some Welsh skaters. I escape for the evening, become my own person again, and return to accusations that I’m a whore on my return. I go from being happy and confident, to someone who cries and who can’t stop saying sorry. When I’m dumped for another girl after a few months, I buy a DVD of Clueless with my Sports Direct earnings and celebrate. Skating eventually stops too. Isolated in the countryside, I spend two weeks in bed after my exams playing Final Fantasy X on my Playstation 2.

When I enter Sixth Form – where boys are admitted to our otherwise girls’ grammar school in Maidstone – I finally get to play football again. Age 17, I am called “GIRL” by the boys in the year above. I haven’t played football for years, but when I’m not working on Music Tech coursework, choir, or other clubs I’ve committed to my entire time in secondary education, I’m out there, beetroot red, curly hair flying, knowing the ball won’t come to me unless I take it for myself. Over a year I fall in love with the boy who plays in goal, who shares Broken Social Scene and Bright Eyes with me. (He is different to our friend, my year 12 boyfriend, who would shout “ELEPHANT” across a dinner table at me if my top was deemed too low, and decided Counter-Strike wasn’t for me.) We play music together. It’s magic. I am the only girl studying A2 Music Tech. On recordings, I sing in a way I think the other boys will want, rather than how I truly sound. When I leave for university my boyfriend will end up with the girl whose stairs I once threw up on at a party. I call it karma.

I discover my love of radio at University. Aged 19, I am given the choice between managing a community radio station and then our student version. I pick the latter, after I doubt my ability to make decisions for the much older male faces around the community station table.

Less than two years later, I record my first national radio show in my Selly Oak bedroom and send it off to be played on the other side of my 21st birthday. I will move far from home to work there and be told frequently that I am only there for the way I look, and that I am annoying and arrogant because I cite case studies from past work experience at the BBC and Channel 4 in the ideas I suggest. My show will be taken away from me, only for them to give it back to me thanks to one of the producers questioning why I need replacing. I will be pitched against the other female producer, and I will be removed from conversations concerning the show I produce.

My contract is terminated, but the presenter doesn’t last much longer than the four weeks of shows (20 episodes) I have pre-produced. I return to London and slowly rebuild my life. In a BBC management training course I am asked why I’m looking at an exercise pinned the wall when I know what I’m talking about. I about turn and present to the room. In that moment I realise I’ve been burying that voice for a long time.

But not everyone is a fan of a woman with confidence. When I speak up and tell a room of colleagues “I know it’s not the decision of anyone here but only one woman in a line-up on 14 comedians isn’t enough” when we’re evaluating a project, I am taken to one side and told I am too aggressive and that I shouldn’t question something that would have already been considered. In a different job I am advised by a man that I “speak too much” in meetings, even though they are meetings about the elements of a project I am leading. At one point I will have a boss who tells me he is not comfortable calling his direct reports “women” and will therefore call us “girls” instead.

In the Twitch office when I arrive in 2016, there are five high-spec gaming PCs. My friend Iain suggests trying out Overwatch, which he is ridiculously good at; I decide to take the plunge and spend thirty quid on the game. My initial games are catastrophic; I have to learn the ability keys and get used to directional controls with my left hand (AWSD, rather than the arrow keys). At one point, I get so desperate I resort to picking up a controller and plugging it in. Iain announces – with good reason – that he will abandon me if I use it.

So I practice; I play in lunch breaks, and after work. I team up with our office manager Nell and HR manager Roisin – themselves seasoned players – and a competitive team, later called “Overlunch” forms. I move from DPS (Tracer) to support (Ana and Mercy). I build a PC so I can start playing and streaming Overwatch at home. I get Twitch Partnered and become part of the community. I am outed as a gamer to friends and my boyfriend. Sometimes I experience aggression over voice chat or someone tells me to mute my voice, but I don’t care; I’m good at this now and I know people I can play with.

When I first appear on a stage, Twitch chat turns into a stream of “GRILLS” and deleted messages. I can make worse jokes about myself than they ever could. I am stage hosting a UK Hearthstone tournament when I am noticed by PC Gamer. When my job is cut by Twitch, I write to tournament organisers and end up in Stockholm, Katowice, Austin and Los Angeles in quick succession. I script edit and collaborate with the team on my pieces to camera for the PC Gaming Show at E3 2018. One joke leads to a bump in my Instagram following. But there are still faceless voices who will object to my presence at the events I move between for the rest of the year.

In Katowice for the CS:GO Major, I see daily forum posts pulled through to the front page of HLTV that discuss my looks and what they would do to me. They compare me to my female peers and call for me to be replaced. As I attend more Counter-Strike events, the dissatisfaction wanes, but the sexual comments continue. My boyfriend Googles me to show a friend’s father what I do for a living and finds a forum post describing me as a “MILF”. We laugh about it.

I have tried playing CSGO but have been previously kicked off a public match and the experienced has stuck with me, so I have resorted to playing solo and Wingman modes.

Someone sends me a link to Pop Flash – suddenly I can get round my inability to set up a lobby and I am able to play with my community. The first 5v5 stream is fun, but in the second it appears we’re playing with at least one stream sniper, who decides to repeatedly attempt to zap me with a Zeus. I sometimes look at my keyboard because I have not played enough hours of CS for all the actions and key binds to be instinctive yet. Most of chat is supportive, but today comments declaring that “I don’t play many video games” and jokes at my glances downward strike a nerve. Usually I respond to comments with a joke, or ignore them. Today I more or less tell them to fuck off. I am impatient and I am angry; the night before I witnessed the negative reactions to a women’s tournament being organised by DreamHack and my head is ablaze.

I stay frustrated for the evening. My friend messages to see if I am ok, having heard what happened on my stream. I watch catch-up TV, but the rage stays with me and I regress into my past.

I am angry I didn’t try this sooner – that I was a solo player almost my entire life, even when supposedly in a team. That I wasn’t invited to the LAN parties. That I wasn’t encouraged to try. I am upset that I am only starting this now, but feel like I will be forever judged by it. I am outraged by seeing women dehumanised on the internet with constant debates about “females” being scientifically proven to be lesser at video games, even though there have been no specific studies detailing the differences between men and women playing the same game.

Daily, I see “males” tell women they are terrible, but then refuse to play with them, kicking them off servers or abusing them over voice comms until they can prove themselves – or calling the women that do, cheaters. I see women set up their own spaces so they can find people they can trust to play with, only for men to question why this is necessary. I see segregation as the longterm result of when the dominant part of the community has abandoned the other. I want women to be taken seriously.

But I can’t go back to solo queuing because I need people to play with who won’t kick me and I want to stream, so I resolve to keep streaming. I’ve only just started, and I’ve discovered I’m extremely good at head-shotting my own team with a Scout, and at least hitting something is promising. I remember that I stumbled upon the esports world in 2015, and now I get to be part of it. That I only started FPS a few years ago, and I ended up reporting on coach strategy at the 2018 Overwatch World Cup – a dream come true as a devoted player. I get paid to play and talk about video games. The voices that post graphic opinions of my body, or that tell women they aren’t entitled to play for a $100,000 prize pool – what do they get paid for? It’s not that, and they certainly don’t get paid to do what I do.

Together, we can level the playing field – all of us. We need to remember that the women who are playing CSGO and other shooters haven’t necessarily been playing it as long as men. That, particularly in the past, girls weren’t always invited to play with boys. That women need to be scrimming against male rosters in order to have opportunities in the same tournaments, and when scrims occur, both sides take it seriously and don’t pick up the Zeus. We need to bear in mind that for women to learn CS in the first place, they need to not be kicked from servers upon hitting the push-to-talk button. We need to let women know that if they want to play, they are welcome, and that they can succeed.

As star female players break through, we should see them considered by more orgs with the money to support their growth. When female-only tournaments happen, we need to remember that sponsors actually want to support the growth of talent and it is their money, and then can spend their budgets where they decide – it is not taking money away from established male players. In fact, it’s putting money into an area of the scene that’s been under-resourced and needs to grow.

We are often told that women don’t have a competitive streak, that we don’t want to put ourselves out there and go for titles; “it’s not in our nature”. But when am I not competitive? When I don’t think I can win; women like me are told their entire lives that they cannot win. We are led to believe that any competitive quality is undesirable and our confidence is chipped away from being told we are not good enough.

To the ladies reading this – you are good enough, despite all of those personal experiences throughout your life that told you otherwise. You deserve to be confident and do what is best for you without judgement. So if you think that an all-female scrim server is for you, ignore the dissent and join one. If you want to work in esports but worry you’ll be rejected for being a woman, join the Women of Esports Discord group, and trust me when I tell you that there is more than enough room for you here. And if you’re looking for people to start playing CS with, come play with me. I promise that if I shoot you in the head, it’ll be totally accidental.

Happy International Women’s Day to my fellow women in esports!

On Friday 8th March I kick off my guest appearance on LEC in Berlin.

It also happens to be International Women’s Day while I’m here – a public holiday in Germany – so I wanted to take the opportunity and say thank you to my fellow women in esports and gaming. Some I’m lucky to call friends – and all of them are inspiring.

I first discovered how utterly brilliant women in this industry are working on the League of Legends World’s coverage back in 2015 (sorry, yes I know I mention this quite a lot). Julia Hardy was presenting online videos, including interviews with the players, and as we roamed around Wembley Arena, she introduced me to Becca Henry and Kirsty Endfield who were working with Riot at the time – Henry is now VP of Communications for Misfits, while Endfield runs her own gaming PR agency, Swipe Right PR. We also walked past Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere, who was hosting the show, and Julia explained just how much Depoortere was (and still is) loved and respected by the LoL community.

When I moved from the BBC to Twitch, Brit Weisman was always there to show me how to slay at work, leading by example on the Twitch Studios team – I miss putting the world to rights with her over frequent Google Hangout meetings. She gave me courage in my convictions and still has my back. One of the other highlights of being at gaming expos is being able to catch up with Twitch Marketing Managers Kelsey Christou and Caroline Westberg – I have no idea how they run massive projects, whilst also managing incessant requests for Twitch party wristbands… I also had the opportunity to work alongside producer and zombie slayer Mary Kish and Nadja Otikor – the latter of whom taught me about “keeping my poops in a group”. I also met one of my favourite people in the entire world, publicist Rochelle Snyder, while working on a PUBG-focused documentary (which Mary also helped to produce on location at the Game Awards in LA).

From initially working with the ESL UK team as a Twitch producer, to working for them as a host, I’ve witnessed Caroline Oakes go from taking care of the business side of things, to front of camera as an esports host for events like the ESL UK Premiership – she’s recently joined PCGamesN as a full-time presenter.

While at Twitch I also worked with Anna Robinson – one of the best public speakers I’ve ever witnessed – and started to meet esports hosts like Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico (who can turn her hand to any esport) and Kelly Link, whose positive energy radiates onstage. Kelly was one of the first people to tell me she thought I could be a good host – I’ve never forgotten it.

Producing one of my first event stages for Twitch gave me the opportunity to work with Soe Gschwind-Penski – who I’d go on to team up with at the Overwatch World Cup at Blizzcon 2018 (along with Emily Tang, Mica Burton and Fiona Nova) and is, quite frankly, and icon for young esports fans around the world, and Marcelle “Nysira” de Bie, who is finding deserved success with her own motoring show in her native Netherlands. The following year I’d end up loving Paola “Pancakepow” Alejandra‘s energy on the Twitch x gamescom 2018 stage, as I booked her alongside the multi-talented ShannaNina.

After I was booked for the DreamHack Austin PUBG Showdown last year and the standard talent WhatsApp group was setup, Lauren “Pansy” Scott was the first to welcome me on board. At the afterparty, I got to properly meet Sue “Smix” Lee for the first time, as producer Dagny Veinberg bought us a round of the largest shots I have ever seen. (No regrets, Dagny.)

It was a month later that I finally met Sjokz in person – grabbing the lift to the dressing room at the Mercedes-Benz arena at PGI Berlin, she ran up to the lift just to tell me she thought I was doing a great job. We’ve kept in touch ever since (and I shall lobby for her to host every Esports Awards henceforth so we can have more nights out in London). Having her seal of approval means everything as she’s an inspiration for pretty much every host in the biz – and I really hope we get to appear at the same event in future.(Tournament organisers, that is definitely a hint.)

Awards shows are great places to actually meet other women in the industry – at the Esports Awards I first met regular LEC interviewer Laure Valée, while the Stockholm International Esport Awards was where I initially encountered League analyst Froskurinn – who I’ll be working with this weekend.

Something I observed at IEM was the constant comments on Reddit and HLTV that were desperate to complain and compare me to other women in my field. The thing that no one seemed to observed is that we were all there! Smix hosted the Starcraft II finals – including a beautiful winner’s interview, and Freya Spiers brought her trademark class and knowledge to the Intel Challenge stage. Other women rocking it in Katowice were Sheever (when does she ever give less than 110%?) reporting for Dota 2, and Lottie Van-Praag curating Miss Harvey and Potter on the Intel Challenge desk. To my delight, I was lucky enough to bump into Ukrainian StarLadder host Tonya Predko backstage as she filmed with Na’Vi, and I got to catch-up behind-the-scenes with ESL UK member Kat, ESL Junior Product Manager Sabrina, ESL Poland Product Manager Marlena and ESL UK’s Head of Communications Heather “Naysayerz” Dower. (There are a HUGE number of women working behind-the-scenes in esports.)

This year I’m going to try and work harder on featuring women on my interview series My Life in Pixels – so far we’ve had Ray Gaskin – who has since left Red Bull to head up esports at Right Formula, Rochelle Snyder, my infamously hardworking host and cosplaying friend Tabitha “Artyfakes” Lyons, Women of Esports founder and journalist Saira Mueller, and Lottie Van Praag. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or find episodes for Android devices at acast.com/getfrank. I also need to get Sam “Tech Girl” Wright involved in a future episode – she’s a prominent host and caster from South Africa you may know from Overwatch Contenders Europe and CS:GO. Oh and Marissa Roberto – who is one of Canada’s most prominent voices in esports.

Despite the fact that there appears to be an infinite number of talented women in this industry, there is still a very vocal portion of the esports community who appear resistant to our existence. They overlook our resilience and focus on rating our looks, rejecting us not for our work ethic, but on their personal ideals. And I won’t deny that I want to look presentable on camera – that’s an element of the job – but I’m never intending to distract from the work I am actually doing; none of us are. Instead a mob mentality can ensue – kids behind keyboards bond by uniting in their angst at our involvement.

Laure Valée recently gave a very interesting, heartfelt interview to the Shotcaller YouTube channel at the LEC studios on this topic, revealing how the horrendous comments she had aimed at her during her time so far on the show had kept her awake at night and shattered her confidence. A few weeks earlier, in an eye-opening episode of the LEC podcast EUphoria, Sjokz and Froskurinn also discussed the treatment of women by esports viewers.

Both of these interviews struck a chord with me – hearing a community question my abilities (often before they’ve even seen me on a broadcast) has led me to various confidence problems in the past. Visiting HLTV during the IEM Katowice Major became a nightmare as I’d see negative forum posts about me pulled onto the front page as I checked out the latest headlines, while Reddit featured commenters calling me unprofessional (even before I made a joke of nicking a bit of pizza in the final week, which led to intense vitriol). As someone who puts the necessary hours of prep in, never misses their call time and treats production with the respect they deserve, it was comments like these that particularly struck a chord.

Something I’ve found at previous events is that I’ll go out of my way to prove my knowledge, when often my job is usually to ask questions – I don’t need to provide the information, I need to know how to find it. That’s not to say I don’t have insight, but it does mean I shouldn’t fret about what people think of me; my feedback should come from production and my peers, not people who aren’t on my team or paying my invoices. As that’s how jobs usually work, I’m going to apply it to my own occupation going forward; I think it’ll help with my performance in the long run.

It’s a hard thing to improve and grow in a role that is so public, and I am very grateful for the positivity that has been sent my way – from the women I’ve mentioned above, to the people who send me tweets to say they enjoyed my involvement in events such as IEM. This year, I hope I can support these women back – we’re stronger together, and this industry is stronger for having us in it.

LEC Week 8 kicks off on Friday March 8th at 5:30pm CET, and concludes at 4:30pm on Saturday 9th March Riot Games’ Twitch channel.

The art of the interview

Don’t be fooled by the title of this blog; I don’t have the answers or the ultimate advice for the perfect interview. In fact, the “perfect” interview surely doesn’t exist.

I say this, because not everyone will enjoy an interviewer’s style. Luckily, that’s something I am aware of – especially when my work is predominantly on Twitch, where feedback is instantaneous with the live broadcast.

Interviewing is a role that leaves you vulnerable due to its unpredictable nature; will your interviewee take kindly to your questions? Will they be able to articulate their thoughts under the pressure of performance and environment? Do they even want to speak at all?

The CS:GO Major at IEM Katowice is my only my second time delivering CS:GO interviews (the first occasion was at StarSeries 6 in Ukraine in October of last year). Usually I try and pre-interview teams – even if I’m in a desk hosting role – and there are a multitude of reasons for this, including finding out the story a team wants to be told, their English language skills, and to also find out how best to interact with different players on camera. There are multiple players at the Major (particularly in the Challenger stage) who have never been interviewed before – therefore my responsibility is to guide them more carefully on camera into representing themselves as they would want to. And in terms of even the more experienced players, if we’ve not spoken on camera before, I need to establish a sense of trust.

My aim is to ask fair questions – and yes, if a team is having terrible T-sides, despite being seen as a top five team, then it is fair to ask them why. If I ask a player an open question (ie. a question without a binary yes/no answer), and they give me a one-word response, I will more than likely enquire further. And if I do ask a closed question, it’s usually to cut quickly to a point that I want to expand on, or (more often than likely) a sharp way to end an interview before throwing to the desk.

Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 22.46.35Talking to players in the moment before the camera tally light blinks red is also essential; when Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund spoke to me after their first victory at the Challengers stage, he seemed subdued so I began the interview by asking about the reasoning behind his mixed emotions. Given that I’m often trying to capture the feelings of a player (the plays themselves can be broken down by the analyst desk, so my focus is usually exploring the emotive state of the teams and how this impacts how they played), being able to open an interview by asking them to share what’s on their mind is a way to then lead into what actually happened on the server; did a misbuy in what would otherwise have been an eco-round happen because the team had a disagreement or lost confidence? Is group resilience something the team need to work on before their next match?

The fantastic opportunity of the Major extends beyond the fact that it’s the freakin’ Major; three weeks of intensive CS:GO (eight Bo1 matches in a day can mean twice as many interviews where time allows for pre-match interrogations) offers the opportunity for development. I’m very fortunate that CARMAC – aka ESL’s king of the Intel Extreme Masters events – gave me invaluable feedback over the first couple of days about how to make my interviews more dynamic; when I watched baScreen Shot 2019-02-26 at 22.45.17ck footage I saw my energy was lower than normal when trying to speak slowly for non-native English speakers, and my questions sometimes had too much preamble. (Oh, and I was stood so far away from players that my left arm got a microphone-based workout!) Now I try to keep things to the point where I can, and actively listen for points that I can explore further – something I was fortunate to learn about in BBC interviewing training way back in my BBC Blast Arts Reporter days.

Something that’s new to me for this event is working more closely with the desk to generate talking points in my player interviews. We discuss topics that they want to  explore in their analysis during matches, and I can then hunt for that info when talking with my subject. I always listen to commentary too – casters will know the game inside out and will call out successes and problems I can then question teams about after the game concludes – or cross-reference with notes from previous games to detect patterns in teams’ play styles and recurring issues.

I’m also getting to grips with doing interviews between maps – stage manager Oli will do his best to grab a player or coach from one of the teams after the conclusion of a game so we can discuss what has happened so far in the series, and look ahead to the next map. These questions are almost entirely gameplay focused, which leaves the end interview to allow players to reflect more on the bigger picture (ie their “journey” in the tournament and their ambitions). It’s one of my development areas for the remainder of the event – especially as I need to learn to guide the thoughts of players who are overwhelmed by their achievements (imagine making the playoffs of a Major for the first time – you’d be speechless too!) – but it’s also exciting to be very much involved in telling teams’ stories as they unfold.

Next week, I’ll be diving into the crowd and getting fans to share their stories – it’s another challenge, and one I can’t wait to get stuck into.

I’ll be adding behind-the-scenes snaps to my Instagram stories, so be sure to follow for updates!

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.

Bring on 2017

Let’s face it, 2016 isn’t going to go down in the Great British Scrapbook (or its worldwide equivalent) as the best days of our collective lives.

For me personally, in the latter half of 2016 a big job change pulled all focus into its orbit. I made the difficult decision to leave the BBC after over four years (and four different roles, including Radio Comedy and BBC Live) for a far different proposition; the social video gaming platform Twitch. I’ve swapped hot desking and getting annoyed about reading about my employer in the Daily Mail, for having a desk to fill with assorted gaming memorabilia and tea leaves, as well as getting annoyed about coverage of my former employer in the Daily Mail.

But it’s not just tea leaves and complimentary snacks (we have LOTS of them in my office, sorry waistline), I’ve also travelled more in five months than ever before; Germany, Amsterdam, Poland, Sweden and er… Birmingham (twice), met some brilliant fellow gaming fans who work darned hard streaming to their audience, worn silly headgear onstage, made friends with a chocobo, and formed my own little gaming community on my personal Twitch channel. As a programming manager, I’m producing stage shows and meeting game developers and streamers and trying to absorb as much new knowledge as possible – which leads me to my ‘to do’ list for 2017. Because resolutions are so 2016.

2017 to do list

  1. Make transition from gaming fan, to gaming expert; I work with the latter and count myself currently as the former. So every opportunity has me ‘sponging’ for more information.
  2. Build a gaming PC – most lunchtimes see me streaming and/or practicing Overwatch in the office games’ room. I stream from Playstation 4 at home, but I’m longing to spend more time on my Tracer time-hopping, Hanzo-dodging skills.
  3. Host some eSports, preferably Rocket League. And get better at playing Rocket League. Just because.
  4. Do some creative stuff; my sister bought me a book about knitting stuff using your own forearm. It’s worth a go, right? Keep your eyes peeled for ‘wool rage’ on my Twitch channel sometime soon…
  5. GIG AGAIN! This makes the list each year. I played set list yesterday at home and realised I genuinely miss it – life gets in the way, and all that.
  6. Move in with Lacey (boyfriend) and get a small dog called Guthlac. (This may be carried over to next year.)
  7. Pioneer “cheese, wine and VR nights”, because I’m determined to “make VR happen”, although it’s looking like it will with or without my help, thankfully.
  8. Do the Youtube yoga thing more regularly again – it’s good for the mind.
  9. Keep up the gym thing – it’s good for the behind.
  10. Go to the cinema more often. My favourite podcast is Wittertainment and I now have BFI membership, thanks to Lacey.
  11. BAKE! Jeez, I used to do this every weekend and now, once a year…
  12. Be kind. To others, and to myself.

This is now on record. So I guess I’ve got no excuses now…