Meet Nihachu, the Twitch streamer helping young women feel less alone online

The “wholesome” content creator wants more streaming platforms to offer users more protection

Nihachu never planned for her streaming career to be as big as it is. Three years after Niki started, her Twitch channel now has 2.6million subscribers, she’s got 1.9million followers on Instagram and after this interview, she’s taking part in a meet & greet at London’s Selfridges alongside other Guild Esports content creators.

Content warning: discussion of eating disorders and body images follows

Niki had always played video games but after moving from Germany to Switzerland, she needed an operation on her legs that left her bedbound. Obviously living in a new country, she had no IRL friends to come keep her company, so the 16-year-old started streaming to keep herself busy.

“The first time I realised I could make something out of it, was when I was able to buy my own groceries,” Niki says. She built a small following with playthroughs of The Sims and videos of her reading creepypastas (scary Internet stories) in German but things really kicked off after an appearance on Twitch dating game Love or Host, hosted by AustinShow in early 2020. “I went from 300 followers to 15000 overnight. I had no idea what was happening.”

Her channels continued to grow off the strength of her content, and her personality. She believes people connect to her streams, a majority of which are about Minecraft and regularly see audiences of tens of thousands of viewers, because she offers something different. “There’s a lot of energy in the Minecraft scene, it’s very in your face and by comparison, my streams are very calm. Even though I have big ideas, I do them in my own way.”

Now, as part of Guild’s content creator roster, Nihachu helps to produce original content, attend live events and work alongside Guild’s partners, pros and creators to remove barriers within the gaming industry and makes change.

“You have to put yourself, your creativity and your ideas out there,” she continues. “A lot of luck is involved but everyone can find success.” She believes “people are acknowledging streaming as a valid career now. My family is very proud of me and I know that they wouldn’t have been a few years ago,” she adds.

Still, Niki wasn’t ready for all the attention that came her way. “Even after doing this for three years, I’m still not prepared,” she says. “I’m grateful but I don’t know how to deal with it.”

For years, she didn’t use her surname to stop people from digging into her past (that’s changed now – “I couldn’t find anything so if anyone can, good job.”) and The Internet is littered with personal information and speculation about who she’s dating.

“There’s a lot of wrong info out there.” she adds. There’s also a lot of abuse.

“I had to delete Twitter because I would get death threats every day. I would have people telling me they hated me, which gave me insecurities I didn’t know I had. There’s this stigma around female Twitch streamers, that we’re selling our bodies or that we’re only successful because of how we look. We’re always told female Twitch streamers have it so much easier than the guys, but the statistics say differently.”

According to a report, Only two of the top 100 most-watched streamers on Twitch weren’t men – Pokimane and Hafu – while blokes make up 65% of the Twitch viewership, though Nihachu’s channel has a strong female audience.

Niki says the hate comes in waves. “It’s just about which content creator is cool to hate. And you can’t really do anything about it, except wait it out and hope people grow up.”

“It’s something I’ve been struggling with recently, do I really want to do this? But if I quit, I give them what they want. I’m not going to give them the satisfaction. They’re horrible people.”

At the start of 2021, Niki decided to speak out about some of the abuse she’d been subjected to. Writing in a Twitlonger about the body dysmorphia and eating disorders that “consumed most of my childhood and all of my teenage-years,” she explained how “lately I have seen more and more people commenting negatively on my body and even though I am fully aware that that sadly is the norm as I am showing my appearance on the internet, it has gotten to a point where I wanted to say something about it.”

“I want people to put themselves not into my shoes, but the shoes of people in my audience who may or may have struggled with similar issues or are still very young and impressionable. All you will do is trigger people into unhealthy and potentially life threatening habits. These are real people and real bodies you are commenting on and it is real potential harm you are putting people in.”

Approximately 1.25 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, according to Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity. 75% of sufferers are female. According to a 2019 report by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, global eating disorder prevalence increased from 3.4% to 7.8% between 2000 and 2018.

“I want to show people that they’re not alone,” Niki says today, wanting to protect herself and her audience. “As much as the conversation around body image and mental health are heading in the right direction, it still isn’t taken seriously enough. A lot of people are struggling. I just wanted to spread awareness about the fact that what you say online, no matter how insignificant you think it is, will make an impact. Maybe not on me but someone else with my body type will see that and feel insecure.”

Following the letter, “I’ve gotten a lot less body shaming comments. Of course, I’m a female on the Internet, I will get body shamed every day but it’s not as bad as it was. I’ve also had a lot of creators reach out to me in support.”

In the replies, her fans shared their own experiences with online abuse, eating disorders and body dysmorphia while creators like Pokimane offered their support online and through her DMs. “I commend you for being so open & honest, it takes a lot of courage, and I’m glad you’re choosing to do what’s best for you and your community,” said Pokimane on Twitter. “We love to see it.”

That network of content creators has proved vital for Niki as she navigates the ups and downs that come with being a streamer. “Numbers are a huge part of our career and if they drop, so does our mood.” She admits there’s not really any support from the platforms they use but “creators support each other. We have a lot of calls, talking about the different struggles we’re facing and how we’re not alone, because we’re all experiencing the same things. Platforms don’t provide any safety nets so it’s nice to have other creators to help you through”.

“Everyone struggles with something but content creation will elevate that,” she continues. As well as chasing numbers and the fickle nature of success, “people can work until they burn themselves out. No one is going to stop you, in fact it’s only going to benefit you.” Likewise, platforms don’t provide financial education. Niki had to pay taxes before she finished school and “no one prepares you for that.”

“I think we need a lot more protection. People on the Internet are getting way too hateful. I’m all for freedom of speech, but you don’t have to drive people to suicide, and I’ve seen that happen multiple times now. Platforms have a responsibility to not let that happen.” Guild has a dedicated mental health officer that regularly checks in.

Niki has found streaming empowering though. “I’ve always struggled with self-confidence, my image and everything around it. Streaming definitely helped me but it’s still not where I wish it was.”

“I wouldn’t consider myself a role model, but I know I have a lot of eyes on me. I have a responsibility, and I take that seriously,” she says.

She plans one day to study medicine, and then become a psychiatrist. At first, she wanted to offer support to children and adolescents “because I had a lot to do with psychiatric hospitals when I was young but the more I stream, the more I’m involved in the world of content creation, the more I realised creators need support as well. People aren’t specified in this area yet, so I want to do that.”

Nihachu is known as a wholesome creator (“I don’t like to put a label on it, I’m just being myself”) and has built a friendly, welcoming community that impresses every guest on her stream. “I want to show people that you can get to where you want to get with kindness, and with being nice. People don’t think you can, and that’s so sad. I want to change that.”

“As much as I have hard, heavy days, I will forever be grateful that I get to do this,” she continues. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had. And if it stopped being fun, I would stop doing it.

With more and more Twitch streamers and Youtubers breaking out to star in film or TV, Niki believes the scene is going from strength to strength. She’s aware more kids want to become esports pros or content creators and “my main goal is to inspire as many people as I can. I will do everything that I can to help young women feel less awkward growing up and being in this world.”

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