The gamer girl with ‘GAME OVER’ tattooed across the backs of her legs – alongside kickass Lamb of God ink – is calling time on sexist Twitch users.
Hylia Fawkes is – by her own admission – a bit of a nerd; a naturally private person more comfortable conversing from behind a keyboard or controller than within the complex boundaries of day-to-day reality.
However, the Utopian dream of escaping into a virtual reality where everyone is treated equally Hylia believed she’d found in the gaming community has since turned toxic enough to, frankly, ruin it for many women who like playing video games.
Historically, women have been devalued in this world, from the gameplay itself right the way up to the lofty boardrooms where the industry’s money is made. But you already knew that.
As other aspects of society catch up to the fourth wave of feminism and strive for better gender equality, the gaming community has, to some degree, followed suit.
But this worthy mission has left some players behind in the gender equality gameplay.
What remains in some dark corners of Twitch, Hylia says, is a toxic narrative whereby female gamers are admonished for just about everything and anything.
For the Australian COD expert, who grew up in a small town called Shepparton, Victoria, it all began at the age of eight with a GameBoy.
Speaking exclusively to UNILAD, Hylia recalled:
I was about eight years old when I first started gaming. I played on my GameBoy quite a lot as I was growing up, and mainly played Pokemon, Croc, Killer Instinct and Conker’s Pocket tales, over and over.
I loved that gaming helped me keep occupied from troubles I was having at school, I was bullied a lot throughout my whole entire schooling years and gaming felt like a great escape.
Growing up was very hard for me. I never seemed to fit in with anyone. A lot of people made fun of me, called me names like ‘nerd’. I had good grades but they thought I was ugly and not a popular girl.
In an unjust irony, Hylia used gaming as a stress release from bullies at school – who criticised the studious youngster for her interest in these scripted virtual realities – and so ended up retreating further into the online gaming community where she was faced with a different, darker kind of sexualised abuse.
The multi platform gamer – Xbox, PS4, and Nintendo Switch, in case you were wondering – continued:
I was bullied a lot for actually being a gamer especially in secondary school so I was basically an outcast and developed my friendships online on Call of Duty and Resistance on Playstation 3.
But she learned to love her gamer status and display her love of this world proudly when she started cosplaying and sharing pictures of her gaming collectables on Instagram. Here, Hylia made friends, she said.
She’s not unique in the experience.
UNILAD spoke to Harriet Sugarcookie, a gamer who owns her own porn business, about how gaming helped her develop confidence in a complex world:
Hylia, much like Harriet, never thought she could make a career out of her passion plays. Neither did many of the people she told about her aspirations to become a Twitch streamer and model.
Eventually she ‘realised it doesn’t matter what [others] think’ so she ‘pushed and worked hard’. Now, her modelling page on Instagram has 1.5 million followers and 25,000 people subscribe to watch her Twitch streams.
This attitude prepared her well for the ‘random hateful people on the internet’ she’s since encountered.
Hylia told UNILAD:
A lot of people are not a fan of me being a model and trying to make a career from being a gamer as well. People tend to judge me a lot on what I do and think that because I do modelling I can’t possibly be a real gamer, or become a successful streamer.
Hylia has been ‘brutally ridiculed’, called a ‘slut’, and is regularly accused of ‘using her body to make money through gaming’, as well as being dubbed a ‘fake’ gamer who is ‘carried by other players’.
The base level assumption, she said, is that she can’t game because she is a woman – even though she admits when she’s not gaming she is ‘usually sleeping or watching anime’ and dedicates her time to gaming, so much so, she doesn’t really ‘do much else’.
The idea ‘females in the community are weak’ is a tired stereotype. It doesn’t just hurt victims’ feelings, however, it stops career progression and has created a glass ceiling not even Kratos could bust through.
She’s a fan of guy gamers like FaZe Censor, but adds there’s a double standard in the industry which sees them granted a much easier ride to the top.
For example, she says, if a female gamer took photos with a controller which wasn’t turned on – as guys like FaZe Censor do all the time – there’s a no-holds-barred pass for detractors to criticise women for being ‘fake’.
I noticed FaZe Censor has very similar photos to what we post, photos exposing body parts, photos without a controller on or not looking at the screen, yet no one calls him fake.
A female does the same and we get called fake.
I have nothing against FaZe Censor by the way I am a fan of his content he creates but it’s just funny how he doesn’t get hate for something a female does and gets absolutely brutally ridiculed for.
And that’s just in the Instagram comments. On Twitch, there’s a much darker assumption at play.
The verified Twitch partner claims some men are not using the platform is a respectful manner, adding:
It is very hard for female gamers to become successful on twitch because men are expecting more out of us than our gameplay. It’s just really sad to be honest.
It seems a lot of men on Twitch watch women to try and seduce them or get to know them personally because it’s a live streaming platform.
I get asked a lot of personal questions and get a lot of disgusting comments while streaming. People tend to join my stream and call me a whore, tell me they love me and many other strange things that are really unnecessary.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my fans a lot but there is a different way to approach someone without being creepy and weird in a live gaming stream.
Hylia is quick to add some male gamers get similar comments about their ‘trash’ gameplay but they take a much less personal tone, generally, and tend not to include character assassinations.
It’s quite rare to come across a male gamer, for example, who has hired independent moderators who can timeout abusive users for 600 seconds or simply ban people completely from channel, like Hylia has been forced to do.
Why does this culture exist, then?
Twitch, in case you didn’t know, runs on a subscription model, half the profits of which go to the gamer. Popular gamers can also make money by increasing their profile and gaining sponsorship.
Hylia, for example, is with the Professional eSports Organisation, Out Cold Gaming.
There is also an option for watchers to donate bits – where Twitch and the gamer split the revenue down the middle – as well as revenue to their favourite gamers in support of their streams and to earn a top spot in their donors list.
For Hylia, it’s a minefield:
People think I am just ‘given everything I want’ but my top donators are actually from a charity stream I did a few years ago for an animal shelter.
But I always go into a stream never expecting anything from anyone, I just chill, relax, and interact as much as I can to make the stream fun.
And yet, it’s not always fun for Hylia, especially when donators ‘expect more than just a thank you’, a misunderstanding which has resulted in several ‘creepy and strange’ people starting ‘very unpleasant conversations’ with the gamer.
Hylia, who also donates to players regularly, says:
It seems as though people are more demanding towards females rather than males on twitch because they think because we have a smaller community watching us that we can be pressured to be forced into everything that people want from us.
I guess people assume you owe them something in return for being a supporter and assume they deserve more out of you. I have had people pay for a service and expect to get to know me personally, which is not offered in any of my services.
I keep my modelling and gaming public but everything else in my life is private and I like to keep it that way. I shouldn’t feel I need to expose my personal life to someone because they chose to pay for a service.
I have donated several times to people on Twitch and just having them thank me is enough to make me smile, knowing my support is appreciated. That’s how it should be with any form of donation or subscription.
After receiving so much abuse, the gamer now makes sure she ‘always wears fully covered clothing’ – not that it should matter what she wears – and never disobeys Twitch rules.
She said she has to behave a certain way until everyone ‘realises limits and respects women’:
I am literally there to stream video games in no sexual manner whatsoever. It just saddens me that I do not sexualise gaming in any way possible yet people are using my career as a way to sexualise everything I do.
For me, I stream on twitch because I enjoy gaming and want to keep it completely separate to any form of modelling or NSFW content I create.
While the Suicide Girl doesn’t enjoy fashion shoots as much as she loves gaming, financially, modelling has been paying her bills since she was 21.
The modelling ‘creates a good bond’ between her and fans but she’d rather be filmed on her own camera set up at home to follow her every move through Black Ops than directed through the lens of a professional fashion photographer.
Most importantly, though, Hylia says is her ability to reach people through social media:
I really enjoy making other people happy, making other people laugh and helping others grow and believe in themselves. I have had a lot of people asking for advice, or people I have inspired message me with how I have impacted them and that is the most pleasure I get out of my job.
As with many social issues facing us in the digital age, a few bad eggs are spoiling this glorious connectivity which so often provides respite to outcasts like Hylia, who someday hopes to be a full-time Twitcher.
But before she embarks on that mission, something needs to change.
No one should feel harassed or afraid to stream on Twitch and express our love for gaming. I hope to break down the different [treatment of the] sexes in the gaming industry.
After all, to settle any differences between gamers – man, woman, Wyvern, whatever – there’s always a good old fashioned 1v1 on Rust. Hylia is ready and her energy bar is on full.
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