Valkyrae gets a great chair in the video game world

In the relentless on-demand world of live streaming games, few are as in demand as YouTube creator Valkyrae.

Last month, more than 650,000 fans saw her playing the space cartoon multiplayer game Among Us. A few days earlier, she played the blood-spitting heroine in Machine Gun Kelly’s new horror-tinged music video “Day Walker.” Valkyrae, who calls herself Rae, also announced a web talk show, “Q and Rae,” and was declared the “Queen of YouTube” by online esports news site Dexerto.

Stream Hatchet, a game analytics company, estimates that fans spent 24 million hours watching her during the pandemic. “Rae is the fastest growing live streamer in the world, and now the Greatest female game streamer in the world, ”Ryan Wyatt, director of YouTube’s gaming division, stated on Twitter in October.

The 29-year-old can now add a company executive to her accomplishments. Valkyrae, whose real name is Rachel Hofstetter, was named today as one of six owners of 100 Thieves, the esports equipment giant and lifestyle brand in Los Angeles. 26-year-old Jack Dunlop, better known as the Fortnite CouRage megastar, was also named owner.

They join Scooter Braun, the musical director; Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and co-founder of Quicken Loans; rapper Drake; and Matthew Haag, known as “Nadeshot” and who is the former Call of Duty champion who founded 100 Thieves. “One of our core beliefs is to build a brand that is for players, for players,” Haag said.

As co-owners, Valkyrae and CouRage will receive shares in the company, which Forbes magazine recently valued at $ 190 million. Part of their role is to speak sweetly and recruit new talent in the fickle, youthful world of high-profile gamers, be it as esports athletes or live streaming personalities.

They’ll also look at money-making initiatives beyond actual games, including expanding the company’s popular streetwear line (think Supreme for streamers) and working with the Creative Artists Agency, which signed 100 Thieves in October. , in entertainment deals in film, television and podcasts.

“Rae and Jack have such great instincts in the gaming community, which matters now more than ever because so many young children want to be animators in the digital space,” Haag said.

The appointment of Valkyrae, the company’s first owner, is also an acknowledgment of the growing influence of female gamers, who now account for nearly 41 percent of video game users in the United States, according to Statista.

“My friends and I have been playing video games since we were 6 years old,” Valkyrae said. “It’s not that the players are new. What’s new is that we are now more visible. “

In a Zoom interview last month, Valkyrae was still reeling from her title change. “Yeah, apparently somehow I’m a co-owner of 100 Thieves, which is crazy,” she said, flashing a big smile that is well known to her fans.

She was sitting in her usual spot: a white ergonomic Mavix gaming chair, in front of a 27-inch HP Omen gaming monitor in the bedroom of her new modern home on the outskirts of Beverly Hills. Her blue light glasses and large wireless headphones made her look like an air traffic controller, tasked with managing an endless live broadcast.

“I started broadcasting when I was 23 and I haven’t stopped,” he said. “I’ve been doing this every day for years and years.”

Women like Valkyrae and Pokimane, a 24-year-old Canadian-Moroccan streamer with more than seven million followers on Twitch, are part of a new generation of high-profile female gamers who have a cultural footprint that rivals that of professional actors and athletes. from Hollywood. among Generation Z.

Corporations have taken notice. Valkyrae recently partnered with Sweetgreen, a salad chain, as the face of its Crispy Collections menu, and Totino’s, the frozen pizza brand, has sponsored its broadcasts. On Tuesday, he joined Jimmy Fallon, Questlove and the cast of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” on the Twitch channel of “The Tonight Show.”

The increased visibility has come with increased misogyny and harassment, including an incident in January when Valkyrae was misled on Twitter by a stalker who tweeted her home address. “There is a difference in the verbiage that some trolls will say towards women specifically, that men are never going to hear,” he said.

Being outspoken about online threats makes her relatable to her streaming audience, which is nearly half girls and young women.

“When you look at the number of barriers to participation that women face, including outright harassment, you start to see that women are some of the most dedicated gamers out there,” said TL Taylor, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author. from “Watch Me Play: Twitch and the Rise of Live Streaming Gaming.” “These are players who work much harder to stay in a culture that is often actively driving them out.”

For Valkyrae, games have long been a way to beat the odds. He grew up in Moses Lake, a rural town in central Washington. Playing Super Mario Brothers on his Nintendo 64 was a way to drown out the screaming fights between his parents.

She supported herself through community college by working at GameStop. Access to the latest PlayStation or Xbox titles was good food for Instagram. “I was depressed and lonely,” she said. “All he had was work and video games.”

Encouraged by her online followers, she joined Twitch in 2015, where she found her tribe in the player-versus-player arena of Fortnite and the action RPG Dark Souls. At 23, she was making enough endorsement money to become a full-time gamer.

Fans weren’t just drawn to his superhuman reflexes and dominance of various titles, including Fortnite, League of Legends, Teamfight Tactics, and Valorant. Her bubbly, unfiltered personality and goofy nature have earned her millions of followers, many of whom embrace her like an older sister.

She talks openly about her autoimmune diet protocol, which forces her to eat foods that reduce inflammation and to be addicted to work. He shares stories about his family and has no qualms about telling viewers that he needs to take a break from broadcasting.

“There is not much yellow tape or privacy in his life,” Haag said. “In my opinion, her ability to open up and be authentic is probably the genesis of her success.”

She is also the breadwinner of the family. After her mother lost her job at a food plant, Valkyrae bought her a house in the Philippines, where she is from. Before her father died of cancer in 2017, she paid for his end-of-life care.

“Everyone thinks that the people they watch online every day live perfect lives,” he said. “I hope I can help people see that things are difficult for everyone.”

A year ago, YouTube signed Valkyrae with a major multi-year live streaming offering. As part of the contract, he agreed to leave Twitch and effectively rebuild his subscriber base from scratch.

For the first few months, people were slow to migrate to their new channel. Twitch, which is owned by Amazon and hosts about two-thirds of the online gaming audience, is like “a pond,” he said, while YouTube, the world’s second-most popular website (after its parent company, Google) , is “more like the ocean”.

For three months starting in August, he spent six to nine hours a day playing Among Us with 500 million players around the world. Celebrities as diverse as Lil Nas X and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined her broadcasts. In December, the Game Awards (the Oscars of video games, basically) crowned her as the content creator of the year.

As he approaches 30, he takes stock of his future in a business that, like other organized sports, is a youth game. “I am increasingly recognizing how unhealthy the industry is,” he said. “You never leave your room, there is no socializing or coworkers except online. I mean, you are sitting in a chair all day. There will always be another broadcast or game to play. “

The 100 Thieves deal may allow you to balance being a gamer and a businesswoman. “As I get older I try to plan how I am going to get out of this, what am I going to do next?” he said, sitting down in his Mavix chair. “It makes me very happy to be a pioneer and a role model for many women in this industry.”

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