Carving out her own career path while creating a safe space for women within the online gaming community
The cultural phenomenon of online gaming is by no means a new concept but over the past decade, the idea of people broadcasting themselves playing games live to an online audience, otherwise known as streaming, has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry across the globe. Something 25-year-old law-graduate, Jade Macintyre, has not only built a career from but also nurtured a community of like-minded people, cultivated in the form of her 39,000 strong followers.
This unforeseen career move was brought about through the pandemic-induced wave of lockdowns when Jade found herself with spare time on her hands, an idleness that clearly didn’t sit well with her whip-smart mind. “Over that summer, I picked up gaming again, casually,” she explained.
Her original plan was to take a year out and travel in between completing her law degree at the University of Strathclyde and starting her postgraduate diploma. However, with uncertainties looming over when lockdowns would be lifted, she made the decision to continue with her post-grad while turning her attention to a much-loved hobby of the past.
Jade grew up in a boisterous household with three brothers which played a huge part in fostering her love for gaming. “I can probably say I have gamed for as long as I can remember… all the boys were taking turns and I wanted to join in,” she reminisces.
Moving home to be with her family through 2020’s strict lockdowns gave her the opportunity to get lost in the nostalgia of her younger years playing predominately Call of Duty: Warzone, a free-to-play battle royale that involves around 100-150 players and combines last-man-standing gameplay with exploration, survival and scavenging elements.
This game has become her bread and butter within her streaming channel where her subscribers can watch Jade play live whilst communicating with each other on the live chat. She also commentates her games through a microphone and can chip in on subscribers’ comments, making her the ultimate multitasker.
People that have never heard of the concept can sometimes raise eyebrows at the idea of a career being based on people watching you play games, but Jade explains, “It’s not about what you’re doing. It’s your reactions, it’s your personality they’re watching for.” She goes on to say, “Because I am independent, it’s working and I’m happy, I don’t see how anybody could take that away from me. They can’t question it.”
Lockdown saw a boom in the online gaming community, particularly within multiplayer genres, with people using it as a convenient way to stay in touch with friends or even build new friendships, ultimately helping to reduce feelings of isolation. It was reported that as of June 2020, time spent video gaming online jumped by double digits across all regions.
“I think people use gaming socially quite a lot anyway, but it grew massively when we went into lockdown… everybody had their way of connecting with people,” Jade clarifies. While she initially played to stay in touch with friends online, she explains, “I ended up coming across people who were following streamers and were involved in that side of the industry. They introduced me to it. I was just involved in watching it and being part of it and then a lot of people asked if I’d thought about trying it.”
Her immediate reaction was ‘no’ as she didn’t think it would be for her, but as lockdown didn’t look like it was going anywhere anytime soon, she gave more thought to the idea and decided to go for it.
“I thought well, what have I got to lose, I might as well try it… but I’ve just kept going.” She continues with, “It was quite organic, and it was a case of whatever happens, happens. I didn’t plan on doing it as a full-time job.”
While she hadn’t originally considered it as a career, streamer monetisation is big business. Gamers can earn lucrative incomes from subscribers, who in Jade’s case pay £3.49 per month to watch and interact on the in-server chat. In-game donations, advertising revenue and various other avenues including social media opportunities have created profitable professions for streamers with the estimated annual earnings of the world’s leading video gamer, Ninja, being over 17 million dollars in 2019.
She started officially streaming in January 2021 with her online moniker being ‘The Real Slim Jadey’ and has hit some incredible milestones in this short time frame with her two-year anniversary passing in January. Speaking of her success she says, “It did happen a lot quicker than I could ever have imagined.”
One of her proudest achievements to date was becoming the first Scottish female to officially partner with Facebook which is a partnership that provides creators with added resources and more weighted credibility in their careers. While Jade’s platform of choice is Facebook, which is one of the most popular, the other mainstays include Twitch and YouTube.
“To even say it aloud that I’m partnered with Facebook was crazy to me because the December before I was thinking I don’t think I should stream, and it happened less than a year later which is madness. I just remember how excited I was. You could not get the smile off my face,” she beams.
“I remember, two months before that point, we were looking at our numbers. There were stats you can reach to be able to apply for a partner and we were getting close to them. I remember getting to a point and properly grafting for it and the hype for it was crazy. We were so excited… and it finally happened in December .”
While Jade refers to herself as ‘a one-man-band’ outwith her management who focus on the branding side of things, when I asked who she is referring to when she mentions ‘we’ she said, “I’m consistent and I work hard… but without the people supporting me, I could not have gotten anywhere near where I’m at and I do appreciate that.
“I think also, a lot of the people that do get involved… like to see how far I’ve gone while they’ve been around, and they like to see it keep going. They almost feel a part of it. I do feel like it’s more of a team effort than just me. I’m just the frontman.”
She has grown a devoted group of subscribers, something she has worked hard to establish. “One of my favourite parts is the community aspect… people make friends from it. I’ve actually had people who are in a full-on committed relationship from meeting in the stream. Obviously, you find people that you have things in common with.”
She goes on to say, “It’s definitely something that builds up over time. I think your chat is a reflection of the streamer.
“You could go into a chat and if it’s incredibly toxic that’s because it’s nurtured. What we’ve created is what I want to create. It’s difficult because if you’re numbers orientated, while you have to be, but if you focus on that completely, then you will have all the people you don’t want in there, as well as the people you do.”
When I asked how she has ensured her community remains a healthy space for everyone, she credits herself and her moderators, otherwise known as ‘mods’. These are people Jade has carefully hand selected from her subscribers to help her uphold her guidelines through mediating the in-game chats.
She has also introduced an initiative where if a subscriber types ‘I feel real’, one of her moderators will lend an ear and allow them the space to discuss any issues they might be having.
“We focus quite a lot on mental health and trying to reduce stigma around it… we want to give people that space to be able to talk to someone,” Jade explains. She has also set up a section called ‘A Safe Space’ within Discord, a chat server, where people can talk through their feelings in a non-judgemental space.
She goes on to clarify her moderator’s guidelines, saying “I don’t want any of the isms like anybody sexist, anybody racist, they’re not allowed in. Anybody who makes anybody feel uncomfortable, they get a warning. Anybody who only targets women in the chat, we keep an eye on them, and then give them a warning.”
Sexism seems to be part and parcel of being a woman in the online gaming space with casual sexist comments being put towards Jade and sometimes her subscribers on a daily basis. To combat this, she has strict rules on what’s allowed.
“I wanted to create space where women feel safe because I know what it’s like to be a woman in the gaming community and how horrible it can be at times. I have made sure that not only am I treated well, but everyone in my chat is treated well and for that to happen, you need the right people there.”
Gaming is a male-dominated field and Jade sees her future being dedicated to showing the younger generations of girls that you can succeed, in whatever form that might take within the gaming sphere, as she herself didn’t have that female representation growing up.
“I want to be able to be a role model in the gaming industry for young women… as much as I want to make a difference for myself, I have this belief that there’s nothing worth doing unless you’re giving back and I will constantly try to make a difference to the space.”