Entertainment

Sweet Anita: How I accidentally became Twitch famous

Published: 3/Dec/2020 18:18 Updated: 3/Dec/2020 18:20

by Sweet Anita

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Sweet Anita rehabilitates animals and cares for her mother in the real world, but boasts a hugely original presence on Twitch. Known for her witty sense of humor, incredibly supportive community, and coprolalia, a severe symptom of Tourette’s Syndrome, Anita’s rise as a Twitch star was purely accidental. Now, her unpredictable streams have led to 1.2 million followers on Twitch and over 31,000 in her Discord server.

Here, Anita describes the path that’s led her to this point and how she hopes to continue educating, inspiring, and using philanthropy to help others.

Starting out streaming

In the beginning, I just used to get drunk and play Overwatch. I loved it, because with push-to-talk, people met me before my condition, so I basically ended up in a position where people didn’t see me as a party trick or a quirk. All of those very strong reactions to my condition were just gone. I gained a lot of confidence from being valued beyond that particular aspect of me, because people tend to really focus on it a lot.

Sweet Anita talks to the camera
Twitch: Sweet_Anita
Sweet Anita has found impressive fame on Twitch after using Overwatch as a way to relax at the end of the day – and interact with others without her tics interfering.

I ended up filling my entire Blizzard account. I had over 200 friends, and they didn’t all fit in a game of Overwatch. In order to hang out with them too, I started streaming. I found out about streaming because I bumped into a streamer online. I just started chatting to him during one of our Overwatch games, and he said, ‘Just so you know, I am streaming.’ I found his chat, and they were like, ‘She is either a streamer, a voice actor or a soundboard, and we are gonna find out.’ And they were Googling me. They were going full-on Twitch detective on me!

I thought, well, if I can pass for any of these three things effortlessly, why not? Let’s go. And now, I’m all three.

On becoming Twitch famous

I started to stream, and I thought, “Well, I’m scuffed. I don’t understand anything about what makes a cool Twitch stream. I don’t understand why people watch the biggest streamers on this platform. What’s cool about them?” I knew nothing.

I sent out a link to all of my friends, but I didn’t expect it to last long. I can’t follow TOS perfectly because of my tics. That’s when a lot of my friends discovered that I had Tourette’s, because I was not tech-savvy enough to put PTT on stream then. I just had no idea. So, I thought, “Well, this is fun, until I get found out.” But I did get found out — and I got a lot of attention.

It just exploded out of nowhere. Kotaku did an article about me, PewDiePie put me in a video, the tech review guy did a video about me. A load of articles happened, and in four months, I went from 20 average viewers to 15,000 average viewers at one point. It got pretty crazy, and it got out of hand. From there, I’ve just adapted and settled into it.

Honestly, I figured everyone would just get bored of me. I thought, “Ah, people are just curious about my condition. You know, shouting the word ‘f**k’ every now and again is only going to be entertaining for so long. So, they’re here for now and things will go back to just me and my twenty friends soon enough.” But they’re still here.

Rejecting the role-model stereotype

I have a large platform now, but I’m not trying to be an example of how you should be or what you should aspire to, because that’s limiting. I don’t even let kids watch my stream (which is 18 plus), because the minute you become a role model, people can find you and go, “You can’t do this, you’re a role model!” So, I’ve just been like, “Come, and hang out if you want to, but don’t expect a thing.” I find it terrifying when people put me up on a pedestal.

However, I still do care about using my platform to educate about Tourettes and helping with others’ mental wellbeing after I got the therapy I needed to have a real life.

I couldn’t afford therapy at the time. There was a charity that contributed and helped top up my payments. I walked away thinking that if I ever have money, I’m gonna pay it forward, and I’m gonna contribute to that charity.

Unfortunately, this charity no longer exists, but we set up an account that I deposit a set amount of money into every month, which allows [my therapist] to help people in the community that normally wouldn’t be able to get the assistance they need.

Streamin’ ain’t easy

Not everything about streaming is hunky-dory, though. With streaming, a big disadvantage as a woman is that you have a mostly male viewerbase, since nearly 80% of Twitch is made up of male users. Nobody raises their little boys to dress up as Princess Leia or idolize women and put themselves in our shoes. So, when they admire us, they tend to convert it into lust, and they tend to want to desire us and possess us. They can either fancy you or ignore you.

At the extreme, that fancying turns into lust and into an unhealthy obsession. That’s why numerous female streamers and influencers, including myself, have had disturbing experiences with stalkers. I’ve already discussed this issue at length and no longer want to allow it to hijack my content. So I’m moving on, but have fortunately been able to begin working with a Member of Parliament to potentially change UK stalking laws.

I can’t, however, avoid the horniness of chat when I broadcast. It’s an inevitability. There are a lot of people that are very socially isolated, and Twitch is a symptom of loneliness. It’s an industry that helps people feel less lonely. You develop a connection with streamers. That’s what it’s about.

The way I deal with it is as with any inevitability in my life: I am given a lot of energy and attention, and that is a tool. I choose what I build with it. So, every situation — when people laugh at you, when people hate you, when people love you — it’s all a tool you get to use to build. If people waste their time and energy on hate, it doesn’t mean you have to waste that energy. You can use it.

When people are a bit clueless and fumbly, and they come onto me in inappropriate ways, I use it to make jokes and to educate people about sex education, to break down stereotypes. I slip punchlines and little surreptitious comments that help people grow and connect better, to empathize with my position whilst laughing.

Even past these hardships, the job contains additional stressors. It’s lonely. You can’t make friends. People will try to get close to you for clout, to try to exploit you. People will become dangerous and become stalkers. There’s very little time to meet people outside of streaming. It’s really difficult to connect to people in a real sense; it’s dangerous to. There’s so much to it, and it’s emotionally taxing. There’s very little time to do anything else. A lot of streamers don’t see this until it’s too late.

What’s next for Anita?

There’s a lot on my plate and I do sometimes feel stretched thin — but it’s worth being exhausted from time to time to do the things that make you happy to be alive. I do have quite a lot lined up for the future, some of which includes having a much bigger impact when I get back out into the world.

I want to show people they can do anything and teach them how to be confident even if it’s scary. On the outlook, you might think I’m quite inhibited by my condition, and I want to show people how to navigate tricky situations. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time in public, you know I have to deal with that a lot. I want to show people how to make a difference even when you’ve got an obstacle, and that’s probably what the next step in my content will be.

Making a difference

With Tourette’s, everything is on hard mode, and you don’t really see what it means to have this condition until it’s humanized. I think people see it as an oddity. Some people fetishize it. It’s kind of impossible to understand until you see what it is to live with it rather than how you get diagnosed with it or a description of it. I think it helps people to understand, and that’s cool. The more people who can identify it and understand it, the safer people like me are in public.

Things are getting better. Every chance I get to help people understand my condition, I get to be a part of making the world a safer place for people like me. It’s a privilege, it’s an exhausting privilege, but it’s privilege all the same.

Opinion

Adam Fitch: Esports fans don’t exist

Published: 8/Jan/2021 17:30 Updated: 9/Jan/2021 1:32

by Adam Fitch

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The agreed-upon definition of esports is a form of competition using video games and in 2021 it’s almost unanimously adopted across the industry, but there may be something counter-productive with the premise of being an ‘esports fan.’

The early years of competitive video games saw plenty of tentative, widespread naming conventions for the industry that was being built from the ground-up. In the past five or so years, ‘esports’ became the de facto umbrella term for the dozens of games that are played competitively.

It’s handy to have a colloquial term for the industry for several obvious reasons, I’d not debate that. I do believe it doesn’t matter too much what the term we collectively agree upon is, as long as it’s not offensive or overly-complex, though.

What I believe may matter in the future is the use of ‘esports fans’ — effectively generalizing and collating a wide range of sub-communities. There are circumstances where this isn’t harmful at all but it’s not helpful when trying to understand the demographics that support those that comprise the industry.

London Royal Ravens hosting their home series event
Call of Duty League
Call of Duty fans are generally unrecognizable when compared to League of Legends fans.

Mischaracterization helps nobody

Esports is segmented by nature, much like the music industry or traditional sports. There are different genres that are unique in nature, thus appealing to people in different ways. There are strategic titles that fall under the banners of real-time strategy, shooters, fighting games, MOBAs, battle royale, and so on.

Each genre stands on its own for a reason; games under a particular banner all share characteristics. Let’s delve into a scenario. 22-year-old Tim is a fan of Call of Duty, he enjoys the shooter gameplay and simple objectives of the game modes within the franchise. He’s not been able to find any interest in strategy games and he thinks Dota 2 is impossible to understand.

He has more chance of understanding and enjoying a game like Halo which, while standing alone in its gameplay, shares characteristics with CoD. Considering his established interest in shooter titles, he may well find something of intrigue in Halo or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive but it’s almost-guaranteed that League of Legends won’t be something he’d enjoy — or perhaps even understand — when spectating.

It wouldn’t be a big stretch by any means to call him a fan of shooters but not a fan of MOBAs. Now, let’s say he’s just become interested in watching the world’s best players battle it out against each other in Call of Duty because he wants to improve. He’s now a fan of Call of Duty esports.

League of Legends Louis Vuitton
David Lee/Riot Games
Louis Vuitton identified League of Legends Esports as good means of advertisement.

Companies of all nature should want to understand audiences. Knowing the interests, tendencies, characteristics, and demands of an audience allows a company to better serve them and subsequently, in theory, have a better chance of becoming successful. This is especially important for sponsors, who comprise a crucial percentage of the overall esports revenue.

Considering his preferences and competencies as a spectator, banding Tim together with 13-year-old MOBA fan Jenny as the same demographic would not be a good idea for many companies. There’s no overlap between Tim and Jenny besides their general interest in gaming — the chances of a company having a product that appeals to them both, even if it’s a new video game, is unlikely.

Segmentation helps everybody

We often generalize when we discuss esports, which is an industry that’s heavily-segmented by nature. If we want to better understand the numerous demographics we serve, we’re better off keeping them segmented. A generalization of all competitive League of Legends fans is more likely to be accurate than a generalization of those across several genres and the dozens of games under those departments.

This is true for regions, too. The living experience in the United Kingdom is vastly different in many ways than it is for somebody who’s based in China. There are cultural and societal differences that must be accounted for.

Now, there are anomalies. There are certainly consumers who enjoy shooters, MOBAs, and battle royales, for example, but there’s an exception to the rule. It’s hard to identify these people without extensive surveying, though this is something I’d hope to see in the future for a couple of reasons.

I don’t believe there’s too much harm to be made on a general basis when discussing esports, but it’s within the business of the industry when this occurrence is stupid. Executives who think they can tap into the ‘esports audience’ don’t really understand the industry, because there is not an esports audience.

Hopefully, as esports continues to progress and develop over the coming months and years, we can further acknowledge the nature of the industry for what it is and then have more informed and precise discussions — whether that’s when making an important decision or simply trying to advance each other’s thinking when it comes to the industry.