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Ruby Rails (not her real name) got fed up a couple of years ago when the boss at her virtual reality company told her to change her purple hair. She was tired of the “corporate” life and decided to quit to become a streamer and social media maven. Now, she’s making a living at it.
I ran into her in the summer at the Electronic Entertainment Expo and interviewed her at TwitchCon, the massive streamer event that finishes up today at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California. Rails doesn’t have a ton of followers like Ninja, the esports star who is stellar at Fortnite with 11.9 million followers. She has 1,625 followers on Twitch, 13,800 followers on Twitter, and 154,000 followers on Instagram (where she’s got some racy pictures). She also makes decent money through her Patreon account, where she goes by Stark Suicide. She likes to scream during her matches, and that is what makes it fun. While she knows how to program in languages like Ruby on Rails, the Los Angeles resident has left that world — and game development — behind.
I’m enamored with the idea of the Leisure Economy, or getting paid to play games, and Rails is one of the people in the long tail — not a celebrity by any means — who is making a living as a streamer. Rails leans toward the racy side of things as an entertainer, but as a streamer, she’s passionate about games and has been streaming eight or nine hours a day, Monday through Friday, for a while. She likes Overwatch and Zelda, and she’s looking forward to playing Red Dead Redemption 2 next.
I talked to her about the streaming life at TwitchCon. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
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GamesBeat: How long have you been active in this community? What got you into it?
Ruby Rails: It’s been the past two years. I’m 27 now. I’ve always loved playing video games, and I actually came from the video game industry. I switched to the streaming side. I was working in VR, in marketing. This is the much more fun side. It sounded like a lot of fun, and I thought I could be good at it. So, I jumped.
GamesBeat: How big was the jump? Is this full time?
Rails: I straight-up quit, yeah. My hair was purple at the time, and I was reprimanded. On a whim, I thought, “I want purple hair,” and they said, “You can’t have that.” So, I quit to become a streamer and jumped in.
GamesBeat: Nobody on Twitch would have a problem with purple hair.
Rails: Corporate America [laughs]. Sure, Twitch loves purple hair. That was fine.
GamesBeat: What region are you in? What has this turned into for you?
Rails: I’m in Los Angeles. It’s the most fun that I think my generation of people can have as far as work is concerned. A lot of us don’t like the corporate life. It’s just not for us. But we love making content. It’s great to take something that you’re passionate about, that you love, and get to share that with everyone. Then, you get to come somewhere like TwitchCon and meet them. It’s the best time ever.
GamesBeat: What variety of things are you doing? What works best for you?
Rails: I stream a lot of Overwatch, which is maybe not my strongest suit because I scream a lot when I’m playing [laughs]. I’m a very aggressive player. I also stream my cosplay work because I love to do costuming. I think that does a lot better because it’s more interactive and less, “GO OVER THERE AND TAKE ‘EM OUT!” People get to be more involved with things like that.
GamesBeat: Has this taken you a lot of places? Do you travel around doing this?
Rails: It’s interesting. I definitely traveled more when I was doing marketing for VR because we had to go to conventions everywhere in a million different industries. I still do get to travel, and it’s certainly more than someone who has an office job. But after coming from an almost travel-based position, it’s been a lot less. The same conventions, though.
GamesBeat: What kind of following do you have?
Rails: That’s been the most interesting part. Instagram has by far been the most saturated market for me. I definitely get the most followers on Instagram. I’d say Twitter is in second, and then, I have people coming from both of those into my Twitch, which has been really cool. It’s fun to see how people from these different avenues come in and say, “Hey, I love video games, too. I want to come watch.”
GamesBeat: What’s your favorite kind of interaction?
Rails: There’s nothing like having people love the exact same things that you do. They’re like, “Oh my God, I love this part in the Witcher III!” And I think, “That’s my favorite part too. I thought I was a weirdo and a loser, and here you are.” If we’re both weirdos and losers, then this is the best club ever. I live for those moments.
GamesBeat: As far as making money, what helps there?
Rails: Consistency. I will say, 100 percent, if you can do something consistently and set yourself on a schedule, similar to an office job, you’ll almost have a 100 percent success rate. People want to know when they can see you. If you just show up sometimes, that’s bad. That’s not going to help. But if you stream Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., that’s easy for anyone to remember. They know exactly when and where they can find you.
GamesBeat: Does it feel like work sometimes? That sounds like a long day of talking to people.
Rails: Sometimes, it can feel like work. It’s definitely more taxing than other jobs. You have to consistently be on. Your personality has to be online. That changes a lot when you go offline, when you take a breather and have some calm-down time. So, in that sense, it does feel like work. But if you’ve worked any other kind of job, it feels nothing like work [laughs]. So, that’s a yes and a no.
GamesBeat: What kind of technology do you use?
Rails: I love tech. I actually built my own PC on Twitch. It was the most fun ever. I was shocked by the computer, putting pins in the wrong places. It was the most fun disaster. I have a specialization in game programming, actually, and I love it.