In the relentless on-demand world of livestream gaming, few are as in demand as YouTube creator Valkyrae.
Last month, over 650,000 fans watched her play the space cartoon multiplayer game Among Us. A few days earlier, she starred as the blood-spitting heroine in Machine Gun Kelly’s new horror-toned music video, “Day Walker.” Valkyrae, who walks past Rae, also announced a web talk show, “Q and Rae,” and was named “Queen of YouTube” by 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 entire world, and now the largest female gaming streamer in the world,”
The 29-year-old player can now add business manager to her performance. Valkyrae, whose real name is Rachel Hofstetter, was today named one of six owners of 100 Thieves, the e-sports team’s 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,” who is the former Call of Duty champion who founded 100 Thieves. “One of our basic beliefs is to build a brand that is of players to players,” Haag said.
As co-owners, Valkyrae and CouRage receive equity in the company, which Forbes magazine recently estimated at $ 190 million. Part of their role is sweetly speaking and signing new talent in the changing, youth-driven world of high-profile players, either as e-sports athletes or livestreaming personalities.
They will also seek revenue initiatives beyond the actual game, 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 offerings in movies, TV and podcasts.
“Rae and Jack have such great instincts in the gaming community, which means something more than ever because so many young kids want to be entertainers in the digital space,” Haag said.
The appointment of Valkyrae, the company’s first female owner, is also a recognition of the growing influence of female gamers, who now make up nearly 41 percent of video game users in the United States, according to Statista.
“My girlfriends and I have been playing video games since we were 6 years old,” Valkyrae said. “It’s not that female players are new. The new thing is that we are more visible now. ”
Live from Beverly Hills
In a Zoom interview last month, Valkyrae was still in need of her title change. “Yeah, apparently somehow I’m a co-owner of 100 Thieves, which is insane,” she said, winking with a toothy grin that her fans know well.
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 her 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 controlling an endless livestream.
“I started streaming when I was 23 and I just haven’t stopped,” she 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 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.
Companies have noticed this. Valkyrae recently partnered with Sweetgreen, a salad chain whose face on the Crispy Collections menu, and Totino’s, the frozen pizza brand, have 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 in which Valkyrae was doxxed on Twitter by a stalker who tweeted his home address. “There is a difference in wording that some trolls will say to women specifically that men will never hear,” she said.
Being overt about online threats makes her related to her streaming audience, which is almost half of girls and young women.
“When you look at the number of barriers to participation that women face, including outright harassment, you began to see that women are some of the most dedicated players out there,” said TL Taylor, a sociologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of “Watch 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.”
GameStop for YouTube Star
For Valkyrae, betting has long been a way of overcoming odds. She grew up in Moses Lake, a rural town in central Washington. Playing Super Mario Brothers on her 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 gave Instagram a good feed. “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 Fortnite player-versus-player arena and action role-playing game Dark Souls. At 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 exuberant, unfiltered personality and foolish nature have earned her millions of followers, many of whom embrace her as a big sister.
She talks openly about her autoimmune protocol diet, which requires her to eat foods that reduce inflammation, and to be a workaholic. She shares stories about her family and has no qualms about telling viewers she needs 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 probably 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 his care.
“Everyone believes that 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 signed Valkyrae to a significant multi-year livestream deal. As part of the contract, she agreed to leave Twitch and effectively rebuild her subscriber base from scratch.
For the first few months, people were slow to migrate to her new channel. Twitch, which is owned by Amazon and home to about two-thirds of online gaming viewers, 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 (basically Oscars for gaming) crowned her as Content Creator of the Year.
As she approaches 30, she takes stock of her future in a company 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 socialization or colleagues except online. I mean, you’m sitting in a chair all day. There will always be another stream or game to play. ”
The deal with 100 Thieves could possibly give her balance between being a player and a businesswoman. “As I get older, I’m trying to plan how to get out of this, what should I do now?” she said, sitting up on her Mavix chair. “It makes me so happy to be a pioneer and a role model for many women in this industry.”