From The Straits Times    |
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Spicyuuu once played Valorant for 30 hours in an attempt to end her losing streak. “I felt so ill the next day. I’ll never do that ever again,” she laughs. The 20 something-year-old professes that she could never play at a competitive level. “You have to play on stage – that’s not something I can do. I might not the best at Valorant but I still enjoy playing it [non-competitively],” she says.

While most of her peers are experiencing first-job woes, Spicyuuu has enviably turned her passion into an occupation. Valorant is the game that supported her rise to fame. She considers herself very fortunate for someone who essentially “just wanted to stay home and play video games”.

The Singapore-based Internet sensation has been streaming since 2021, amassing 379,000 followers and counting on Twitch, with over 1.6 million followers on Instagram liking reels of her self-described “grandpa” antics, and her “stay at home” selfies, which documents her homebody tendencies.

She typically broadcasts several times a week, averaging between four and five hours each session, and more frequently during tournament weeks to support the community with watch parties. Her longer streams can last up to 10 hours.

When Spicyuuu started streaming, she was self-conscious about how she spoke, avoided profanities, and tried to be “nicer, more subtle, and sound happier”. However, she quickly realised that being herself was the best option. Once she did, she saw a spike in growth, especially on Instagram in December 2022.

“After streaming for a while, I realised that my real self came out. When I lose, there’s no reason to put up a front – I just let loose. That made me grow as a person, and a gamer,” she says. “I started [seeing more] growth [in followers] when I started posting more videos focused on who I am and what my personality is like.”

On stream, she’s deadpan, goofy and unafraid to make fun of herself. Her Golden British Shorthair cat Gyoza also makes occasional cameos. She allows herself to let loose and swear when she’s mad or on a losing streak, and she’s irresistibly watchable to fellow gamers who chime in with jokes and supportive comments, and give subscription tips.

“I like to be sarcastic, [but] the weird thing is that I don’t understand what people are laughing at. I’ll say, ‘I think your sense of humour is broken’,” she says.

But in many ways, Spicyuuu is like many Gen Zs her age. After a stressful day, she lies in bed with her cat, and watches reality dating TV shows like Single’s Inferno. When she needs help with makeup, she turns to Youtube tutorials for tips, often with mixed results. She has a weakness for spicy fast food – it’s what inspired her online moniker, and her first-ever sponsorship from Burger King.

“After streaming for a while, I realised that my real self came out. When I lose, there’s no reason to put up a front – I just let loose. That made me grow as a person, and a gamer.”

Game on

Spicyuuu first got into gaming when she was 12: her older brother and her were given a Xbox gaming console. Although they shared the console, her brother had more time with the gaming set, and she wished she had more time on it. She didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so she took turns with her sibling to play Lionhead Studios’ Fable, an open-world role-playing game, which allows players to approach objectives freely.

During her teenage years, Capcom’s Ace Attorney series deepened her gaming obsession. It follows the dramatic courtroom adventures of a group of defence attorneys, with the player often being the underdog in the theatrical legal battles.

“It made me want to be a lawyer, but when I started Googling [the occupation], it was so different [from the game],” she laughs.

After ending her short-lived legal ambitions, she studied 3-D art and animation in polytechnic, but found herself disenchanted and wanted a “normal” office job when she graduated, which was about three years ago. Around this time, she became acquainted with Valorant. She started watching esport tournaments for Riot Games’ multiplayer first-person shooter, which takes cues from the iconic tactical title Counter-Strike.

Players team up in two groups of five, playing through 25 rounds as attackers planting bombs on designated sites, or as defenders defusing the bombs and guarding their turf. Team players can also eliminate opponents with well-timed headshots, and use the characters’ unique supernatural abilities as part of their game strategies.

The more Valorant matches that Spicyuuu watched, the more interested she became in streaming the game. Every match felt like a thrill ride; the tide of battle could easily change, even if there was only one player left trying their best to sneak up on the opposing team.

However, her debut stream on Twitch, uploaded on Feb 9, 2021, was uneventful. She was playing the indie role-playing title Undertale, but she got surprised by a stranger’s “hello” message. It was an ordinary greeting, but she didn’t know how to respond, and ended the session abruptly. It was her second attempt on the same day that marked the start of her streaming career. There were only five viewers, but the night owl enjoyed that hour-long session so much that she started streaming Valorant almost daily for three to four hours, often staying up till 5am.

spicyuuu cos hoodie twitch streamer
Crochet maxi dress with hoodie, COS
spicyuu prada dress
Technical voile dress, Prada.

During her first month, Spicyuuu used her existing headset and action camera, and gradually acquired a battery-powered ring light and other gadgets later, as her following grew. “I think a lot of people would say that streaming is expensive, that you have to spend a lot of money to get the best mic and webcam, but you don’t need to get the expensive ones – you can [always] upgrade in the future if you’d like,” she says.

Spicyuuu credits her prudence to her parents. During her childhood years, her father’s business went through a rough patch, and her mum had to work two jobs for a while to make ends meet, before she managed to get a full-time job. “I grew up living in my father’s office, watching a lot of WWE wrestling matches. As a kid, I had fun and didn’t understand what was happening; [I now realise] we were in a bad situation then, but my parents would give everything they could for us.”

Her mum continues to be a big source of inspiration. “I hope to be as independent as her; I look up to her a lot,” she shares.

Her family has some inkling of what she does for a living, and are supportive of her without prying for details. Spicyuuu prefers to keep mum about the specifics of her career to her family, as she doesn’t want her loved ones to worry about the more stressful aspects of streaming.

“My brother hinted that he has seen me [online], but didn’t ask [too much about it]. My mum thought I was a coach. I did mention that ‘I play games as a job’, but I don’t go into the details. As long as I’m not doing something criminal and I’m happy, they will be supportive.”

“As a kid, I had fun and didn’t understand what was happening; [I now realise] we were in a bad situation then, but my parents would give everything they could for us.”

Blood, sweat and pixels

It’s no secret that women streamers receive a disproportionately high amount of sexual harassment online. New viewers tend to comment on her appearance, and make sexual requests, such as “show more skin”, among other malicious messages. Spicyuuu ignores them and continues to wear her favourite oversized clothing.

She gets the worst of it on Instagram, where she tries to limit her usage to twice a week. “It came out of nowhere and was hard to handle. But really, it’s [from] random trolls on the Internet who are not part of the community,” she says. “I keep a lot of things to myself because I don’t want my problems to burden [my family]. I’ve ranted about it in my ‘Just Chatting’ [the initial conversational segment before the game begins]. Because there’s not a lot of women in stream chat [on Twitch],” she says.

spicyuu black and white prada faux fur sudiro LASALLE
Organza top with fringe, Prada. Faux fur leg warmers, Farah Sudiro.
Denim cropped vest with denim wide-legged jeans, Im Yebin.

She adds: “Even if there are people who don’t enjoy what you do, you will find an audience who does like it and appreciates you for you.”

Her confidence belies her past struggles. “I’ve been working on my self-confidence. I used to be a chubby kid and was made fun of [for it], and so that mindset stuck with me. If you’re a public persona, you’re bound to get hate. Whether [the comments are] true or not, it’s not their face or body. If they don’t like it, that’s their problem.”

Even for someone who self-deprecatingly describes herself as “having no social skills”, Spicyuuu hopes to meet more viewers and streamers in person at future events and conventions. “Streaming helped build my confidence. Before that, I couldn’t talk to people,” she says.

Last year, she was blown away by the fan support she received in the Philippines when she visited gaming conventions in Manila. “The fan culture there was a crazy experience, and the highlight of my whole streaming career. It makes me appreciate [streaming] so much more, and I am so grateful.

“Even if there are people who don’t enjoy what you do, you will find an audience who does like it and appreciates you for you.”

Electric dreams

Spicyuuu has since diversified into playing other titles, with continued support from her fans. These include horror adventure games such as Village and Little Nightmares II, and dating simulator Love Is All Around.

In a dream come true, Spicyuuu joined Singapore-based esports team Paper Rex as a creator a year ago. She doesn’t play competitively, but supports the team by broadcasting watch parties (streams where fellow fans can watch the tournament matches together) whenever a major competition is happening, such as the recent American season of the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) in February. She also produces videos and photoshoots whenever new merchandise from the team is available.

She adds: “I love Paper Rex; they have a family vibe, and are an absolute joy to work with. When they reached out to me on X, I was playing and streaming a lot of Valorant, and I was already supporting them.”

Spicyuuu urges aspiring streamers to give Twitch a try, while cautioning that it won’t be a bed of roses. “If you want to go into streaming, money should never be the thing. You have to have the love to want to stream,” she says. “I think it also happens to every streamer that they always compare their journey to someone else’s journey. Someone else’s success will not determine if you succeed or fail. If [others] succeed, it has nothing to do with you; you should not beat yourself up about the situation.”

To Spicyuuu, streaming has given her everything: a job, a sense of purpose, a social life (online), while bolstering her self-confidence. “Streaming saved my life in a way; at this point, it’s the main thing I like to do,” she says.

“I had no interest in anything [before streaming]. I didn’t know what to do, or what job I should be looking for. I wanted to find a job just to earn money, even though I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Then, I found streaming, and that just changed my whole life. I’m very lucky to be in this position where I can do something that I love,” she reveals.

“As long as I can pay for housing and my part of the bills, plus still have additional income to save, I’ll keep on streaming as long as it’s still fun for me!”

PHOTOGRAPHY Reuben Foong
CREATIVE DIRECTION & STYLING Lena Kamarudin
ART DIRECTION Ray Ticsay
STYLING ASSISTANT Saw Yone Yone
COORDINATION Cheryl Lai-Lim
HAIR Marc Teng, using Goldwell Professional
MAKEUP Lasalle Lee, using Chanel Beauty
MANICURE Rebecca Chuang/Fluttery Tips