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Girl gamers push their way into male dominated space

BENGALURU: Puja Kalita and her husband used to run a travel agency in Guwahati before the Covid-19 virus outbreak spread to India.Now, the 23-year-old is a full-time game streamer on YouTube and RheoTV and supports her family financially through gaming.Kalita, known as ‘Insane Lady’ on various online channels, is one among the growing number of professional 'girl gamers' breaking into the 'guy gamer' community in India.According to industry estimates, girl gamers make up for 5-10% of the about 5,000 live streamers in the country, from next to none just a few years ago.“Women creators are breaking barriers, driving social impact, taking to unconventional verticals, and creating diverse content. Traditionally male-dominated verticals such as gaming are now seeing more and more women creators gaining popularity,” said Satya Raghavan, director - content partnerships, YouTube India.Gamers earn through advertisements on their online feed, donations from fans, fixed salary from platforms and sponsorship through brands in various e-gaming tournaments. According to Rheo TV's estimates, top guy gamers in India earn up to Rs. 40 lakhs a month, while girl gamers earn up to Rs. 5 lakhs a month. “When we started, for the first two months there was no girl streamer. We seeded the content by paying girl YouTubers to stream on Rheo. Then, a few girls came and we assigned each one of them a dedicated manager to help them succeed,” said Prakash Kumar, co-founder and CTO of Rheo TV.The female-to-male gamer ratio has increased but it will be skewed for some time because of the interest bias of men in e-sports, he added.Girl gamers are also witnessing an increase in female viewership of their content.Manasvi Dalvi, a 22-year-old gamer from Mumbai, said female viewership of her content has gone up from 5% to 15%.Sanika Narvekar, also known as ‘Lady Don’ on YouTube, said female viewership has jumped from 8% to 15%.Pushing their way into the male bastion, however, comes with many challenges.Bias, online harassment, and trolling on the internet and a struggle to establish themselves within the community even offline are some of the main impediments.Backed by an army of moderators, girl gamers have garnered a loyal following of thousands on various streaming platforms, but there is still a long way to go compared with guy gamers.“I have moderators, hiding and deleting abusive comments but new people keep getting added. Sometimes, even five moderators can't help. Guy gamers also get hateful comments but those are about the game, not sexual in nature,” said Saloni Kandalgaonkar, a 20-year-old gamer from Mumbai.YouTube and Rheo TV have said that they take numerous steps to allow gamers to control toxic commentary, block abusers, and reduce visibility.Last month, YouTube said it would gradually turn on by default an option to hold potentially offensive comments for review. Dalvi believes most of the trolls are by teenaged boys who abuse to get attention, and often disappear when called out.“They are young kids who think it is cool. These trolls don’t reply when called out, they disappear. They want attention and it is very toxic. Pop culture has normalised and romanticised this,” she said.