Recently the game streaming service Twitch was rumored to be in deals with Google for a one billion dollar acquisition. The internet lit up, with responses ranging from outrage that Twitch could sell out and skepticism that a billion wasn’t enough. There is no denying that Twitch has become a giant over a very short period of time. It attracts the fourth highest peak traffic on the internet, after giants Netflix, Google, and Apple, above Hulu, Amazon, and Facebook. With integration into Playstation and Xbox consoles, it’s easier than ever to stream. There is no doubt that Twitch is a major contender, a force to be reckoned with, an entity to be watched – a big, big deal.
There have been articles written about some of Twitch’s top TV personalities, ranging from variety games Twitch host to a father-son duo who streams together. Attention is also focused on top League of Legends and Dota streamers, where a good chunk of Twitch’s viewership comes from. E-sports, with the rise of EVO and LoL and DOTA tournaments across the world have catapulted these streamers into micro celebrities.
Where, though, are the women? There certainly are women, streaming all kinds of games at all hours of the day. I want to read the stories of women streamers, to know why they stream, how they got started, and the technical aspects of streaming too. In addition, women face unique harassment challenges, in forms of threatening emails, hateful words, and toxic chat environments. Women facing harassment in public spaces is sadly not a new phenomenon and I want to know how women deal with this in such a brand new form of media.
I contacted Jasmine Hruschak, 28, known online as irlJasmine. Jasmine was a longtime streamer for Massively.com and now streams weekly on her Twitch channel, mostly MMO’s such as Archeage and Final Fantasy 14. I interviewed Jasmine about both streaming in general and what it’s like to be a woman who streams.
KC: First of all, a little background. How did you get into video games? Do you have a
favorite type or a favorite genre?
JH: When I was a little girl I used to play these Tiger handheld devices themed after Disney movies. I carried them absolutely everywhere, and eventually progressed to a Game Boy, and then finally my very own PlayStation.
I always heavily preferred games with social aspects which, back then, meant mostly fighting and racing games. Sometimes friends would come over and we would play through Crash Bandicoot together, trading the controller back and forth when one of us died, but when I was alone I was usually practicing Tekken so I could take on people at the local arcade.
With the advent of online games, and my favorite genre, MMORPGs, I get all of my social gaming desires met without having to leave the house.
KC: What are your hobbies other than gaming?
JH: I don’t understand the question.
KC: How do you get your mohawk to look so awesome and pink?
JH: I use Goldwell Elumen – if it locks properly it can stay vibrant for months.
KC: Do you have any pets?
JH: My house is the stomping ground of Lucky the cat and Deeps the dog. Here we see Deeps in his natural habitat, trying to demand pets while I’m running dungeons.
KC: How did you get into live streaming? I know you produced content on your Youtube
page – was that before or after you started live streaming?
JH: I made a few YouTube videos, then got into video podcasting for a while, and finally live streaming. Before the Great AOL Budget Cuts of 2014 I streamed (and wrote) regularly for Massively, but now I’ve refocused that time on my own channel and I stream a few hours a day Monday – Friday.
KC: Do you have a favorite type of game you like to stream? Why?
JH: I stream what I’m playing anyway, so usually various MMOs. I try to stay away from games that take over my screen entirely, like Heroes of the Storm and Elder Scrolls Online, so I’m available to moderate if necessary. I try to stick with games I would already be playing for fun, so streaming doesn’t begin to feel like a chore. The last thing I want is to have to pick between live streaming, or playing a different game I enjoy more.
KC: What’s your stream setup like, technically speaking?
JH: I stream on a custom built PC, you can check out the specs here, and I use a Blue Yeti mic for my audio. I jump back and forth between Xsplit and OBS for my streaming software, depending on which is working better that month, and my upload speed is 25mbps.
My camera is an aging Logitech webcam, and my lighting is from Ikea. My branding, graphics, and overlays are created entirely by my talented fiance, Chris Hanel.
KC: You’re a woman streamer and content creator. Were you worried about that before
you started putting yourself out there in such open forums?
JH: Yes and no. I was worried about it, but I knew that by creating content I was opening myself up to vicious online abuse. I decided the abuse was worth doing something I loved: creating content. Some days I’m more right about this than others.
KC: What are some of the worst things that have been said to you in chat, regarding your gender or otherwise?
JH: Repeated, detailed threats of sexual assault are the worst. Usually the rape threats are “just” once per harasser, but sometimes you get that one gem of a human being who creates ten different accounts to get around their ban and spam you with descriptions of exactly how they’re going to hold you down and violate you.
KC: You recently implemented an invite-only chat room on your Twitch channel. Can you describe why you felt it was necessary to create this invite-only chat room?
JH: While I don’t think it’s necessary, many channels operate incredibly well using a open public chat room, or subscriber only mode if the streamer has partner, it was definitely the right choices for me.
The decision was based around what my goals are for my channel. I’ve always worked hard to make sure my channel is a place where people can feel comfortable and safe. This is my focus more so than the games I stream. Although I don’t shy away from talking about tougher subjects, I make sure I keep my streams as “safe” as possible. Parents know they can watch my channel around their kids, and kids know they can watch my channel around their parents. They also know my chat is strictly moderated, and offensive or hateful people are banned immediately.
But we still needed to see that one awful message in order to ban them.
For me it’s like when you’re watching an uplifting, funny video on YouTube. Feeling great and wanting to share in other people’s joy, you scroll down to the comments. More often than not you’ll see something aggressively bigoted, or at least dripping with hatred, pretty quickly. Sure you can scroll past, but you’ve already read it, and now you know a stranger wants to violently assault someone over the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual identity, or any other number of factors that have nothing to do with the
happy video you just watched.
Nothing positive is gained by this. Being reminded of the truly repulsive things people can say on YouTube doesn’t make your day better, and the same goes for my Twitch chat rooms. I’m streaming to entertain myself, and entertain my viewers, and I want to do the best I possibly can to give people a happy, friendly, and safe environment in what can be an overall harsh community.
KC: How has it worked out for you so far?
JH: So far it’s worked out pretty well, and my little community is growing steadily. With “sub only” enabled in my default chat room, and free chat behind an invite gate, concurrent viewer numbers are dramatically lower, to the point where it feels like starting over entirely. I’m treating my channel like I did in the beginning, and it’s been really enjoyable so far. Numbers are slowly increasing, and the viewers I have now are people who are looking for this tiny bubble of safety.
Manually handing out chat invites has been manageable. I usually take a break to check my messages a couple time an hour while I’m live and toss out invites. Twitch also allows offline invites so all I need to know is a person’s handle in order to invite them, and the invite will be sitting there when they log in. This allows folks to send me requests via email, Twitter, etc and they’ll be all set up for my next live stream.
KC: How do you feel about the state of streaming in general? Do you foresee it being a sustaining form of entertainment or a passing fad?
JH: I think live streaming itself will stay around for sure, but it’ll change and grow, like YouTube has. More corporate sponsors are already participating in private live stream channels, and major companies are using Twitch as a platform to show off their own games.
As for how I feel about it, I think things could be a lot better, but I’m not giving up yet. There are some absolutely amazing people live streaming, and there are some truly repulsive people doing the same. There’s good and bad in the streaming world. I try hard to avoid the bad and, instead, focus on bringing more good into the community.
KC: What’s your favorite thing to do to relax?
JH: Watch Netflix, eat cake, and play video games – at the same time.
This is the first part in a series that will focus on women in the streaming community.