While working from home, I discovered Haughty Chicken on Twitch. She streams with a lovely calm demeanour and has carved out an inclusive community on the platform. We chatted to her about gaming and streaming live:
Tell us about your name Haughty Chicken?
In the process of creating my Twitter account, I was looking at artwork online to find a profile image. I came across the work of Tami Boyce which included a rooster in a suit, complete with bow tie and monocle. I remember thinking he was a haughty looking chicken and had the lightbulb moment of using that as my name. I thought it would be so silly that it would be memorable. So far, it seems to have worked!
How did you get started in gaming?
My earliest memories of gaming were playing Pong on my parents’ black and white TV as a young teenager. My father bought a computer and that introduced me to MUD games, then I moved onto Atari and simulation games. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play video or console games.
When I had my children, I used to spend a lot of time playing video games with them, which helped us bond as they also loved games. When I can, I still play video games with my adult children. I play with my husband and even my 79-year-old mum plays.
What are your favourite video games?
MMORPGs, simulation and survival genres are my favourite types of games. World of Warcraft was my first MMORPGs and remains one of my favourite games (I started playing WoW in 2006). Regardless of all the games I play and new ones I try, I will always return and play WoW. I think it is because of the memories and emotions I have attached to the game over the years.
I recently discovered Final Fantasy XIV. I also love to play survival or building games, such as Rust, Minecraft, The Sims and Ark. I think an aspect I love about gaming is you can choose them based on your mood, so often I will also play solitary, chill games to have a little quiet relaxation as well.
Can you tell us why World of Warcraft holds a special meaning for you?
World of Warcraft was the first MMORPG that I played, and the sheer expanse of the game was overwhelming and exciting. It was the first time I interacted with others in a game, working collaboratively in a space that previously was just me against the virtual monsters and challenges. Even now, thinking back to my early in-game achievements over a decade ago I have such incredibly fond memories. I think playing a game like WoW that spans many years of your life, it is highly probable that you will associate the game with important moments in your life, and that includes emotions. WoW was often where I spent time to decompress from a hectic day, would find solace when the world “outside” was proving emotionally taxing or was the place to connect with global friends with a common objective of having fun in our adventures. It is also where I met my husband. When I mention to viewers that I met my husband in WoW, so many respond that they too met their partners or best friends in WoW. It happens more than people realise. I think WoW holds special meaning because I have visited the world of Azeroth for so many years now and I know what to expect. Even with new expansions, I know my place there, and I know I have choices in how I play the game (socially or solitary, casual or harder core).
Can you tell us how your university study has assisted in creating a chilled and inclusive community?
Whilst I don’t bring a professional presence to my stream, my academic studies helped my understanding of interpersonal communication, connectedness and social impact on people (especially the marginalised and vulnerable). This helps me engage with empathy, and I also know there is often a lot more going on for people than is necessarily obvious.
Being a social worker with postgraduate studies in gender and sexuality, I have perhaps a different lens when creating a space that is inclusive too. I think if you say you are creating a safe and inclusive space, it is important to understand the challenges faces by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ people you meet there. My academic and professional skills have certainly helped me in this area.
What is a parasocial relationship?
A parasocial relationship, historically, is a one-sided relationship wherein one person devotes a lot of time, energy, emotions and thoughts to a celebrity or public personality, with the latter having no knowledge of that person or the relationship being imagined. An example would be a fan of a movie star who imagines they know them well because of what is presented publicly and considering there could be a potential friendship and attachment because of that.
It’s important to mention that parasocial relationships today (because of social media and technology), particularly during the current pandemic, has changed the definition a little. Parasocial relationships between streamers and their community, for example, is less one-sided. Because streamers interact live with their community, they learn a little about them in return, so as Dr Rachel Kowert explains, it is more of a one and a half-sided relationship.
Although parasocial relationships can have negative aspects (for example imagined relationships, unhealthy attachments and adoration), there are also positive aspects such as social connectivity, especially within communities that surround streamers for example. Such connectedness has been especially positive during the current pandemic. Despite this, how a streamer or public person presents themselves online is still crafted or minimal, so the risk remains that viewers can imagine there to be a friendship that is manufactured solely from that information.
Who are some of the academics you follow?
I follow several academics in my professional space relative to social work practice, but in the gaming/streaming space, I follow Dr Rachel Kowert, Dr Kelli Dunlap, and Dr Linda K. Kaye. The more interested I become in the social and psychological aspects of gaming and its spaces, the more I am expanding the professionals I follow in the field.
Tell us about your sponsors and supporters?
My largest sponsor is AMD. They saw my stream about 3 months after I began last year and contacted me to discuss sponsorship. In my first meeting, they told me that it was the inclusivity of the community I was building that piqued their interest, plus the uniqueness of the demographic I present on Twitch. I am incredibly grateful to be a member of AMDRedTeam, having been gifted a wonderful gaming computer from them.
I have also been supported by Blue Microphones with a Blue Yeti X World of Warcraft edition microphone. Most recently Razer (ANZ) gifted me a Razer Iskur gaming chair.
In terms of supporters, I attribute much of my early growth to Blizzard, both here in Australia and in California. Cross-platform promotion is often overlooked by streamers, yet it was through my connections with Blizzard on Twitter that led to retweets, personal contacts with the organisation, sponsored streams and even an appearance in the Blizzconline opening ceremony. Because of that exposure, my community has grown in a very short period of time and led to other opportunities and connections with other people in the gaming, streaming and media spaces.
I can’t discuss support without highlighting my community. As I say often in response to any type of praise, there is no Haughty Chicken channel without the community that uplifts me and each other. I recently hit over 20K followers across my platforms, and without them, none of what I am trying to create would exist. I am incredibly grateful for their support.
How do your husband and moderators support you?
My husband supports me in a number of ways. I suspect there are not too many partners who would rise at 4 am to help their significant other stream, and then go to their regular day job. He does that for every stream. He is incredibly encouraging for what was rather an unplanned journey into streaming. Honestly, we are both rather quiet people, so being in this space is quite unusual.
My moderators (including my husband) are affectionately called The Coop Squad. They are remarkable people who volunteer their time to banish trolls as quickly as possible. Given that I stream across multiple time zones, my moderators come from different countries and many of them are up in the early hours keeping watch over the stream. They have very similar values to my own and that of the channel, so they know what will and won’t be tolerated in the chat. I have an active moderation channel where we often touch base on the needs of the channel relative to safety and inclusion. As we have a zero-tolerance policy, they act swiftly if anyone unkind or disruptive enters my space.
What are some challenges you have experienced working in the gaming industry?
The challenges I have faced working in the content creation industry, particularly as an older female streamer, were mostly what I expected: ageism, misogyny, sexism and harassment. Other challenges largely centre around connection within industry circles and discoverability. As I mentioned previously, I have been incredibly fortunate to be boosted by Blizzard, so my visibility (and subsequently growth) has been amazing in such a short amount of time. I do recognise barriers to older gamers and streamers regarding visibility as we are not well presented by brands. Given the statistics of how many gamers are now over 35, I would like to see greater representation from the gaming industry and particularly brands. This would certainly contribute to the dismantling of gamer/streamer stereotypes.
Do you have any advice on steamer etiquette?
My first advice on streamer etiquette is to please be aware it exists. Being oblivious to it, or actively ignoring it can impact your growth on streaming platforms. I explain it this way. Imagine having a BBQ at the same time as your neighbours, and seeing they have guests at their house and you don’t, you go over and tell everyone that you have a BBQ too. We simply wouldn’t do that.
Society has rules, sometimes unspoken, wherever people gather, and that is no different in virtual spaces. Before we enter another streamer’s channel there are likely rules or values, on the ‘About Me’ page or before you enter the chat. That is your first introduction to streamer etiquette, and it is based on mutual respect for a streaming peer. I often remind new streamers that other streamers are not your billboard; it takes work to build your channel and community, and poor etiquette can hamper that especially when you get started.
How do you discourage toxic and mansplaining behaviours?
It is very clear from my social values and channel rules before you enter my streaming space that I won’t tolerate toxic behaviour. When I am live, my moderators ban toxic viewers immediately and the offenders are also reported. I have had the experience of toxic viewers returning with new accounts, but our process remains the same. I have recently disabled the ‘unban request’ feature on Twitch as I found it was used as another avenue of harassment. I will rarely use a time-out in my community, toxic behaviour is strictly banned from the first instance.
Concerning mansplaining, I tend to respectfully let the person know that I am quite fine with whatever it is that I am doing/attempting and that no assistance is necessary. This is actually a space where I witness ageism the most. There is an assumption that because I am an older gamer/streamer, I am less capable. If they persist in an unkind manner, they are banned.
Tell us how you deal with trolls and how does your nightbot work?
My trolls are dealt with largely by my moderators, who are very quick to pick up on anyone who is being toxic or rude. Should they miss something, I use a keyword and phrase that they all know and alerts them to look closely at something that has been said. I think it is important to remember that toxic behaviour comes in all forms and often in ways you least expect. I try to stay as informed as I can regarding events outside of the virtual space because often trolls will bring discrimination into the stream via their names or positive comments on the trauma of others. Being aware helps me be alert for ‘creative’ toxicity.
I use Nightbot’s Spam Protection feature to help keep toxic words, phrases and spamming out of my channel. I have a very extensive list of blacklisted words and phrases which I update regularly, and this has been very effective at keeping offensive and harmful language out of my chat. Excessive caps and the ability to post links is also curtailed using Nightbot.
Do you have any advice for people interested in streaming?
Do some research first! It is true that you don’t need a lot of gear to start with, but you will need some basics, so make sure you have adequate lighting, a clear webcam (if you choose to use one), reliable audio and an understanding of your streaming platform. I watched a lot of YouTube on all of the above, and also watched Twitch streamers for about a month to get inspired and start to consider what type of channel I wanted.
My other advice would be to think about your channel, your community and your brand from the beginning. I set goals from day one and it keeps me focused and driven. Try to be your genuine self when you stream. It’s terrific to be inspired by others but imitating and copying their work doesn’t let who you are shine through.
What streaming platform do you use?
I use OBS to stream on Twitch. I also use StreamElements for my overlays, alerts and some commands.
How does a stream deck work?
A stream deck (from Elgato) is a control pad that automates commands (one-touch buttons that you easily program through software linked to your platform) that would normally be done manually. It can be used to automate such things as turning off and on your stream lights, microphones, stream scenes (e.g., starting soon, large cam, be right back), special sound effects and links to websites you use regularly.
It is a great moderation tool, and particularly handy if you don’t have mods yet or have only a few with you and things get busy. Examples of using a stream deck for moderation are followers only, subscribers only emotes only and clear chat. All of these actions, once programmed, can be done very quickly to help keep your community safe while you stream.
How to recommend streamers grow their channel?
I recommend that streamers make connections with other streamers and other communities. Always join communities and channels to get to know your peers, not to self-promote or join simply to drop your own streaming information (either in their channel or discord). I spent a long time just watching other streamers, getting to know them and learning from them.
Also, don’t underestimate the importance of other platforms. I used Twitter extensively to build connections with like-minded people, industry folks and other streamers. Bring your Twitch to other platforms so that people are curious to come and check out your content.
Try to be consistent with your schedule and your brand. People will learn when to expect you going live and what to expect when they get there. Another tip is to be confident in your own work. It can be difficult not to compare and also feel discouraged at times but keep at it and remind yourself why you are streaming.
What are some of your current streaming goals?
I would like to grow my community further, speak at industry events and on panels, and demonstrate that kindness and inclusivity can have a place on Twitch. Because I am an older gamer, I think it’s important to keep demonstrating to the industry, and brands especially, that gamer demographics are more diverse than stereotypes dictate. I would love to see older gamers as Twitch Ambassadors for example, and as brand representatives as well.
Alongside this, I plan to increase my advocacy of mental wellness and gamers. The more I stream and connect with others in this space, the more I see the importance of challenging the stigma associated with mental health particularly as it relates to gamers.
What are some of your tips for applying for Twitch Partner?
When applying for Twitch Partner, remember that it is a business contract, so consider what you can tell Twitch about you that will portray you in a way that will appeal to them. Let them know your achievements, your plans and your goals as a Twitch Partner. Also, consider bringing in your achievements aside from streaming that can demonstrate your suitability for the role of Partner. For example, I mentioned my university studies and achievements to reflect my goal setting and drive to achieve. If you plan to contribute to charities, mention that. Consider how you will stand out against other applicants that will make them realise you are worth taking on board.
What do you think is the best way is to encourage more females to stream?
I think women should enter the streaming space with realistic expectations; you will encounter toxicity and harassment. It is important to educate yourself about what this looks like for women who stream so you can recognise when it happens because sometimes it is subtle. Prepare beforehand by having moderators to help, software like Nightbot and hardware like a stream deck. It is also important to put your boundaries in early.
I would encourage inspiring streamers who are women to watch established streamers to see how they interact with their communities and how they handle barriers and trolls in their own stream. I am inspired often by watching strong women in the streaming and gaming space, and it encourages me to keep going on the low days (and there are low days). Connect with other women who stream and who are in the gaming industry, it is fabulous to network with other women who can inspire you as you grow.
What new game releases are you looking forward to?
There are quite a few games I am looking forward to from a variety of different genres, but if I were to name just a few they would include: Diablo IV, Starfield, The Elder Scrolls 6, Palia, Coral Island, Battlefield 2042 and Elden Ring.
About Haughty Chicken
Melbourne-based HaughtyChicken is a long-time World of Warcraft player who found herself looking on Twitch for someone like herself within the rich and diverse WoW community. Not finding any other older gamers, the self-confessed “geeky nanna” decided to create her own “safe, chilled and inclusive space” and the reaction has been huge.
In just a few months of streaming, she now boasts more than 10,000 followers on Twitch. HaughtyChicken attributes this to her focus on inclusivity, respect and kindness. In addition to her burgeoning community (affectionately known as The Coop), HaughtyChicken also regularly games with her real-world family, including her husband, who she met playing WoW.