If you were to imagine a gamer, chances are you’re picturing an overweight, antisocial adolescent sitting in the dark, eating Cool Ranch Doritos with one hand and compulsively moving a mouse with the other. Fade2Karma is looking to change that image and the gaming culture that comes with it. They’re a gamer management team that wants something better for their players and their young audience, advocating for healthier lifestyle choices and positive role models in concrete ways.
The world of E-sports, or online video game competition, is quickly gaining ground as a profitable industry, with revenue opportunities centered around both the players and the audience that loves to watch them play. And there’s no sign of E-sports’ exponential growth stopping anytime soon. Twitch - the largest game streaming site - is listed as the 42nd largest website in the world and 15th largest in the U.S. according to Alexa, an analytic tool company. As people are cutting the cord on cable and moving toward online entertainment outlets like Netflix or Amazon, Twitch is claiming significant space as yet another recreational option.
Within the Twitch space, Fade2Karma recruits and cultivates a team of players, boosting their platform with collaboration ideas and sponsorships to increase their viewership. Twitch streamers entertain viewers with their technical gaming skills as well as their personality and hosting style in order to increase viewership. According to the general consensus of the gaming community and depending on the game, the motivation to draw viewers results in a culture characterized by trash talk, toxicity, and explosive emotions to create a dramatic viewing experience. Fade2Karma’s Business Director, Dan Casale, shares, “It’s what gets the most views, like reality television - you tune in when it’s 2 in the morning and people are yelling and screaming.”
In the midst of the “raging” that runs rampant with players, Allie Grace (gaming alias: Alliestrasza) is one of Fade2Karma’s players whose room is known for its interactive and friendly atmosphere. Seeking to influence the culture of an industry quickly coming into its own, she and Fade2Karma are redefining what forging strategic partnerships looks like with players, sponsors and even competitions for the sake of mental and physical well-being rather than the bottom line. Below lists a few ways on how they’re doing it.
Invest in your people rather than the profit
Fade2Karma chooses to invest in their players and followers rather than the most profitable sponsorships. Casale says, “We’re taking responsibility for the fact that a lot of young minds are watching and spending a lot of hours with us. It’s very easy for an organization to fall into the toxic trap of gambling websites and sugar energy drinks, because they’re paying an enormous amount of money. We don’t feel like it’s good karma to be recruiting that, so we’re turning that stuff down. Otherwise, our community will feel betrayed when we’ve encouraged them to do these unhealthy things. There are children in this industry and trust is involved.” Fade2Karma’s members currently boasts 600,000+ viewer hours a month and climbing.
This is where Alliestrasza comes in, one of several streamers who was recruited and cultivated by Fade2Karma to be a positive role model for their viewership. Allie started streaming in February 2016 and gained a wider audience when she joined Fade2Karma in May 2016.
She’s 23 years old and playing Hearthstone is her full-time job for the foreseeable future. Hearthstone is a turn-based fantasy card game that allows Allie to interact with her viewers while waiting for her turn and they’ve become personally invested in her for it.
Per Casale, “Allie’s stream is the chill zone. Something you can watch while you work, has unique decks and decent music.. A cool place for people to hang out.” Her viewers become friends with each other, which is unique to the Twitch platform in that multiple viewers can partake in an exciting shared experience, celebrating and protesting Allie’s victories and defeats together.
This culture of people looking out for each other had been set since the start of Allie’s relationship with Fade2Karma, starting with Tim Bergmann, the General Manager. Allie shares, “Tim in particular guided me through this whole E-sports transition when I didn’t know anything. A lot of the times, since E-sports is unregulated and new, you can get screwed to put it plainly. And he was always extremely adamant about being honorable in this space and doing my due diligence in the right way. I had that model to look at going forward in my streaming style.”
Fade2Karma is about cultivating good sportsmanship, working together rather than exploitation naive players. Their streamers each have moderators within each stream that regulate the chat and make sure any toxic or unwarranted behavior is banned. The streamers themselves also promote a positive atmosphere, and repeat offenders are banned from the channel or “squelched” (unable to chat).
Other people are taking notice as well; Blizzard, a major video game developer, has been grooming Allie to be the new female face of Hearthstone, which speaks to how much they believe in her potential as a professional gamer and as a public figure who can stand out.
E-sports teams do function as a regular sports team, despite the seeming absence of athleticism. A player’s health is a major factor as the nature of the game requires sitting for long periods of time while players are expected to be engaged and alert. As Allie’s setting a positive tone in her room, Fade2Karma in partnership with StandDesk outfitted Allie’s actual room with a bamboo top standing desk to sweeten up her gamestation and boost her energy and health.
Allie says, “It’s actually surprising how much I enjoy standing. I’m able to go longer than I think. How I present myself feels more animated and more active.” Her viewers have definitely noticed the difference when Allie is standing, even asking where her chair is, lovingly named ‘Ychaira’, after a Hearthstone character. True to form, her standing desk is also named ‘Sindradeska’ after a dragon in the recent expansion of Hearthstone, Sindragosa.
Instead of a bag of chips, Allie’s drinking a health juice and standing at her desk, offering an alternative narrative to what a gamer can be in front of an impressionable audience. And it’s a win-win situation, for as she takes better care of her posture and energy levels, she’s better able to share more of who she is with her community.
With the E-sports community just starting to test out its legs as a credible business venture, at the same time, its members are figuring out on how to define the culture together, setting precedents for years to come. Without intentional promotion of values such as long-term sustainability and healthy living, the culture is likely to default to damaging standards of society at large that have normalized and are simply easier to do. One hopes to see how the pioneering influence of Fade2Karma and its members will change the lives of gamers and perhaps, even the game itself.