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Valkyrae gets a big chair in the gaming world

In the relentless world of demand for livestream games, few are in demand like YouTube creator Valkyrae.

Last month, more than 650,000 fans watched her play the space-colored multiplayer game Among Us. A few days earlier, she played the role of the blood-spitting heroine in Machine Gun Kelly’s new horror-filled music video, “Day Walker.” Valkyrae, who walks past Rae, also announced an online talk show, “Q and Rae”, and was declared “Queen of YouTube” by the online e-sports news site Dexerto.

Stream Hatchet, a game analysis 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 largest female game streamer in the world,”

; Ryan Wyatt, head of YouTube’s games division, declared on Twitter in October.

The 29-year-old player can now add a team leader to his achievements. Valkyrae, whose real name is Rachel Hofstetter, was today named one of six owners of 100 Thieves, the e-sports team juggernaut and lifestyle brand in Los Angeles. Jack Dunlop, 26, better known as Fortnite megastar CouRage, was also named owner.

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

As co-owners, Valkyrae and CouRage will receive equity in the company, which Forbes magazine recently valued at $ 190 million. Part of their role is sweet talking and signing new talent in the unstable, youth-driven world of high-profile players, either as e-sportsmen or livestreaming personalities.

They will also seek initiatives to make money beyond actual gaming, including expanding the company’s popular street wear line (think Supreme for streamers) and collaborating with the Creative Artists Agency, which signed 100 thieves in October, on entertainment, film, TV and podcast entertainment. .

“Rae and Jack have such great instincts in the gaming environment, which means something more than ever because so many young children want to be entertainers in the digital space,” said Haag.

The appointment of Valkyrae, the company’s first female owner, is also a recognition of the growing influence of female players, who now make up almost 41 percent of video game users in the United States, according to Statista.

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

In a Zoom interview last month, Valkyrae was still concerned about the title change. “Yes, apparently somehow I’m a co – owner of 100 thieves, which is insane,” she said, blinking a thin grin familiar to her fans.

She sat in her usual place: a white ergonomic gaming chair by Mavix, before a 27-inch HP Omen gaming monitor in the bedroom of the new, modern home just outside Beverly Hills. Her blue-eyed glasses and large wireless headphones made her look like an air traffic controller, tasked with managing an endless livestream.

“I started streaming when I was 23, and I just did not stop,” she said. “I’ve been doing this every day for many years.”

Women like Valkyrae and Pokimane, a 24-year-old Canadian-Moroccan streamer with over seven million followers on Twitch, are part of a new generation of high-profile female players who have a cultural footprint competing with Hollywood actors and pro-athletes. among Gen Z.

Businesses have noticed that. Valkyrae recently teamed up with Sweetgreen, a salad chain, which has been the face of the Crispy Collections menu, and Totino’s, the frozen pizza brand, has sponsored her streams. On Tuesday, she joined Jimmy Fallon, Questlove and the cast of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” on “The Tonight Show’s” Twitch channel.

Increased visibility has come with increased misogyny and harassment, including an incident in January when Valkyrae was doxxed on Twitter by a stalker who tweeted his home address. “There is a difference in the words that some trolls will say to women in particular, that men will never hear,” she said.

Being outspoken about threats online makes her related to her streaming audience, which is almost half of girls and young women.

“When you look at the amount of barriers to participation women face, including outright harassment, you began to see that women are some of the most dedicated actors out there,” said TL Taylor, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “See Me play: Twitch and the Rise of Game Live Streaming. ” “These are players who work much harder to stay in a culture that often actively pushes them out.”

For Valkyrae, betting has long been a way to overcome odds. She grew up in Moses Lake, a rural town in downtown Washington. Playing Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo 64 was a way to drown out the screaming battles between her parents.

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

Encouraged by her online followers, she joined Twitch in 2015, where she found her tribe in the player-to-player arena of Fortnite and the action role-playing game Dark Souls. Within 23, she earned enough sponsorship money to become a full-time gamer.

Fans were not only attracted to her superhuman reflexes and her mastery of various titles, including Fortnite, League of Legends, Teamfight Tactics and Valorant. Her bubbly, unfiltered personality and silly nature have earned her millions of followers, many of whom embrace her as a big sister.

She talks openly about her diet for autoimmune protocols, which require her to eat foods that reduce inflammation, and about being a workaholic. She shares stories about her family, and has no qualms about telling viewers that she needs to take a streaming break.

“There is not much yellow ribbon or privacy around her life,” Haag said. “In my mind, her ability to open up and be authentic is the origin of her success.”

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

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

A year ago, YouTube Valkyrae signed a significant multi-year livestream deal. As part of the contract, she agreed to leave Twitch and effectively rebuild the subscriber base from scratch.

During the first months, people slowly migrated to her new channel. Twitch, which is owned by Amazon and is home to about two-thirds of online game viewing, is like “a pond,” she said, while YouTube, the second most popular site in the world (after parent company Google), is “more like the ocean.”

For three months starting in August, she spent six to nine hours a day playing Among Us with half a billion players worldwide. Celebrities as diverse as Lil Nas X and representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined her streams. In December, the Game Awards (Oscar for games, in principle) crowned her as content creator of the year.

As she approaches 30, she takes stock of her future in a business that, like other organized sports, is a youngster’s game. “I recognize more and more how unhealthy the industry is,” she said. “You never leave your room, there is no socializing or colleagues except online. I mean, you’m sitting in a chair all day. There will always be a new stream or game to play. ”

The agreement with 100 thieves can allow her to balance being a player and a businesswoman. “As I get older, I try to plan how to get out of this, what should I do next?” she said and sat up on the Mavix chair. “It makes me so happy to be a pioneer and a role model for many women in this industry.”

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