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.)

“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.

How to build a PC: a guide by Frankie Ward

Recently I did something I never thought possible; I built a PC.

Despite what one misogynist visitor to my Twitch stream, women can build PCs – we have hands and brains just like men do (whaddya know)!

However, I would be honest and say that for this individual, PC building wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, so I’ve compiled this handy help guide in case you get a hankering to put your own rig together.

1. After saving for months on end, peruse Amazon and get mind blown by how many varieties of Intel i7 Core Processors are, what a PSU is (power unit, it turns out) and how much wattage you actually need to get the final thing to turn on.

2. Settle for a *slight* shortcut by buying a bundle from a third party Amazon vender called Components for All, featuring the CPU (Intel chip), CPU cooler (a fan), motherboard (brain) and RAM (not a sheep). Realise after buying that this lot is going to be put together by the company, meaning you’re less likely to blow the bloody metaphorical doors off and can just ‘stick it in’ to the case.

3. Order PSU, case, graphics card and settle on hard drive (HDD) because you don’t realise SSDs (solid state drives) can actually work without one. Then buy Windows on a USB stick because Linux would be a step too far.

4. Speak to dad. Audibly sense the disappointment in his voice when he discovers you’re owning something not created by Apple (that could one day end up in his graveyard collection of Macs).

5. Find initial enthusiasm of components arriving wears off very quickly when the various instructions in each box is ridiculously vague.

6. Find internet also ridiculously vague. What’s BIOS when it’s at home?

7.  Put motherboard into case. Get confused by instructions about PCIe. Cry out “What’s a  PCIe? WHY DIDN’T I BUY A PCIe?” Routinely hug the case, partly because of worries about static and the need to ground oneself, partly because everyone needs a bosom for a pillow, and if you haven’t got one a cold metal case will have to do.

8. Discover you own a PCIe in the shape of a graphics card. Spend 20 minutes wondering how to take off PCIe cover from case. Finally have guts to peel metal off while crying about how much this business has all cost, in money and tears.

9. Broadcast a Twitch IRL stream to get advice from lovely community about order of I/O front panel connectors. Then give up for the night.

10. Discover that it would have been an extremely good idea to connect those little front panel cables in the case up to the motherboard before the graphics card went in… Give a moderate scream as the cables keep popping out.

11. Breath a sigh of relief as build ends. Connect up to fancy BenQ screen.

12. Let out a scream of insanity as nothing happens.

13. Realise that part of the motherboard was lacking power. Discover from colleague and all-round life coach Iain that this was due to the 8 point cable from PSU was plugged into graphics card instead and actually this 8 point cable splits into two parts, one of which now goes into the motherboard, with a modular cable used to power the graphics card. Rage that none of this information was included in the PSU instructions box.

14. Try again; lights on front and the graphics card now turn on, as does the CPU cooler, but nothing happens on the screen. Scream. Repeat stage 6 and the latter part of stage 8.

15. In airport on way to Dreamhack Leipzig, speak to lovely man on phone from Components 4 All. He mentions that actually, the problem is probably using the wrong side of the 8 pin split and that’s why the thing isn’t turning on.

16. Get home from work trip, now a massive fan of German Twitch broadcasters and a self-confessed pretzel addict (I’ve gone cold turkey). Switch side of 8 pin in motherboard. Try to boot again. Light turns on, fan turns on… but nothing happens on screen. For once do not panic as nice man from step 15 also mentioned trying to turn on again without the graphics card.

17. Take out graphics card. Plug power and screen in again and switch on.

18. Scream, because this time it works and YOU’RE IN BLOODY BIOS!

19. Get Windows installed, put graphics card back in again, install Overwatch as a matter of urgency.

20. Stream on Twitch from your shiny new PC the first time.

21. Suck a Strepsil and enjoy.

Thanks to everyone who helped me in the painful process of building my PC – you can see it in action on my Twitch channel!