The world of gaming has historically been a boys club. Despite the fact that women make up a growing number of gamers, they — along with anyone who isn’t cis, white, and male — still face barriers, harassment, and toxicity when logging online. But despite these hardships, changes are being made, with women creating spaces for themselves and non-binary gamers to exist, play, and ultimately thrive. And brands are catching on, too. Benefit Cosmetics, which launched its Game Face program in 2020 to spotlight women in gaming whose interests intersect with beauty, now has a Twitch channel and secured its foothold in the streaming space with activations at the Streamy Awards earlier this month.
Shayne and Kaycee (both asked we use their first names only for privacy) were invited by Benefit to attend the Streamys, and as part of the next gen of gamers getting their start and steadily building their followings, they’re making the jump into full-time, professional gaming and entering the industry on their own terms. Which means you should probably get to know them.
“I didn’t start walking until I was a year and a half,” Shayne, who streams under the name BadGalShay, tells Refinery29. So instead, her mom — who was chasing after Shayne’s twin sister at the same time — plopped her down in front of a screen and gave her a “really old school” video game controller. “She gave it to me to introduce having something to play with, but one day she noticed I was just slamming buttons and enjoying what was going on on screen.”
If this sounds like the makings of an origin story, that’s because it is. For the 28-year-old Austin, Texas-based variety streamer, that was really the start of her obsession for video games. Despite coming from a family of gamers and starting herself when she was so young, like many young women who grew up gaming, Shayne didn’t always think it was a viable career path or could see her own place in it, because it was still thought of as something only for guys, even among her friends. “A lot of times when I would talk about games, with some of my female peers, it would be like, ‘Oh no, my brother does that, but I don't do that,’” Shayne says. “And when I learned that video games could be a career, I was always told it was the boy thing to do.”
Playing predominantly with her brother’s friends and her male cousins, Shayne’s — who’s currently playing GTA RP and Apex Legends — foray into streaming was kind of happenstance. Playing Destiny against a team of guys (who she’d later befriend), they were in disbelief that it was a girl owning them. “They were like: ‘Are you a girl or are you a kid? Like a little boy?’” after hearing her talk in game. Even after she said she was a girl, they didn’t believe it was her playing. Once they realized her skill, they invited Shayne to become part of their clan in the game. Later, they encouraged her to start streaming (after she’d owned them on pretty much every game, of course).
Making the jump to full-time content creation in 2019, leaving her part-time job working in a deli, happened in a similarly organic way. It wasn’t because she hit a certain monetary number necessarily (although that helped), but rather because of the engagement and support she felt within the community. As a single mom who’s supporting both herself and her son, Shayne values the ability to hop on and off stream when needed, and the way her online community — like her friends and family IRL — have been there for her. “[A few years ago], I was in not the best place mental health-wise because I was going through a really bad breakup,” Shayne shares, “and my community was very supportive and kind, and even in that sad mental space they kept me centered.”
Three years into her professional streaming career, she’s amassed over 160,000 followers on Twitch. “This is the career for me [because] not only do I get to do what I love, but I get to connect with people in ways that I never could before because the reach of Twitch, the reach of the Internet is so much more vast than just the people you met in high school.”
Like Shayne, San Diego-based streamer Kaycee — who streams under the name Kayceeedilla — also didn’t initially see a place for herself within the gaming space. Coming from a family in the service (Kaycee is active Navy full-time, her dad was in the Navy, as was her brother), and as a first generation Asian American gamer, she started gaming when she was four, only briefly taking a break when she joined the Navy seven years ago.
A competitive gamer, Kaycee’s content is a mix of gaming and beauty, with the 26-year-old increasingly able to meld her two passions into one (her cosplay — and wig selections — are next level). It’s an intersection and visibility that Kaycee wouldn’t have expected a few years ago,but is changing as more beauty brands start to shift their focus to spotlight and support women in the gaming space.
With plans to take her content creation full time, “the main goal that I always get for myself is to be the representation I've always wanted to see,” she says. “I continue to do that as I stream to this day, but being able to be that representation again that I never saw growing up.”
And thankfully, that’s changing. Both Kaycee and Shayne have dealt with feelings of inadequacy and faced comments from men online, but agree that the industry isn’t as male-dominated as previously. “Before it was a lot more like a Boys Club,” Shayne says. “It's nice to see more females in the industry, to show that there are girls out there that can literally wipe out an entire squad, be super hyper-focused, and still be able to compete on the same level with the boys.”