Deborah Sim, known as ‘wolfsbanee’ on Twitch, tells us what it's like to stream games for a living.
She starts working at 8pm, goes to bed between 3 to 4am and wakes up in the early afternoon. No, she’s not a security guard or essential worker on night shift – she’s a full-time esports streamer.
Meet Deborah Sim, the 28-year-old better known by her online pseudonym ‘wolfsbanee’ on live-streaming service Twitch. But recording herself playing a variety of games for her 12,600 followers is not the only thing that she does; she is also the host for Yahoo! Game Changer.
Her gaming journey began way back in 2005, when her brother taught her to play DOTA on their shared computer. Fast forward to 2018, she wanted a way to watch her own DOTA 2 gameplays and learn how to improve.
“Back then, it was very hobby-based. Once in a while, I would take some time off to just stream as I was playing my game. Why not start to stream?” Deborah said.
As she was still working full-time as a marketer, she started streaming as a hobby. Yet, she realised there were strangers who would watch her streams – they were intrigued to see a female gamer on the front page of Twitch as it was rare back then and wanted to watch.
The same year, Deborah started playing Hearthstone, a digital collectible card game. With encouragement from her friends, she registered to compete as a Hearthstone player in the 2018 World Electronic Sports Game (WESG), an esports championship tournament.
With only a few months to practise, she played the game while on the train to-and-fro work daily. She also told her family that she would quit her job and become a full-time streamer if she made the podium finish during WESG.
She got 2nd place and the rest is history.
When asked about her risky decision, she said: “All the paths [in life] are somewhat set for us. I wanted to try something very different, so I decided to go out of my comfort zone.”
Although the earnings Deborah received as a streamer were initially not sustainable, she has since received enough opportunities to make ends meet. She attends meetings with different companies, and streams for four to eight hours daily.
Although she tries to maintain a work-life balance, she sometimes has to reject her friends, who do not understand why she spends so much time on her job.
“I’m not here to play games, literally. I’m here to make it a career, do serious things and have people take me seriously,” she said when asked why she sacrifices her social life.
Although Deborah does not interact with her friends as much, she gets to talk to a new group of people: her female viewers. She considers herself close to them, and will chit-chat with them via private messages occasionally.
“I think they feel a connection with female streamers. Being a girl gamer is such a niche thing and sometimes they want to find another girl gamer to connect with,” she explained, “It’s a sense of camaraderie because we’re in a place with so many guys.”
But for all its perks, being a female streamer in a male-dominated industry is not always fun.
Often, female streamers are hired only as poster girls for brands or events. According to Deborah, they feel as if they are there to support a brand’s image and aren’t taken seriously as gamers.
“Some of us feel very alienated because guys think we’re not actual gamers. Some people don’t want to take us seriously because we’re girls,” she said.
She also feels pressured to look presentable when streaming, because first impressions count.
“On the front page, when people see you, they’ll click in. But whether they’ll stay is up to you.
“I’m trying to portray myself in a way where girls can be safe and not get stereotyped [as girls who aren’t actual gamers] by all these guys. Girls, we need to stick together to stop this problem from happening.”
Because she’s been in the esports industry for so long, people see her as an esports “da jie” (older sister).
For youths who also want to pursue a career in content creation, she refers them to Twitch and *SCAPE’s new talent development programme called Pathway.
She said: “I think it’s amazing there are new upcoming talents who have a platform to learn how to become a streamer. It’s really good to focus our time on youths who want to pursue a career in content creation.
“There’s also going to be masterclasses and mentorship programmes in the months to come. They’ll understand what it’s like to be a streamer like myself.
“Hopefully I’ll be there to help them out and help them grow. I think it’ll be a fantastic platform for them to start.”
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