Despite Vanguard being released a few weeks back, Raven Software has just released the new Caldera Map for Warzone and the reviews are good. “I really like it,” starts Elz. “The old map was proper industrial but this one is set in the Pacific, so is the complete opposite.”
She’s pretty sure her parents won’t be joining her for a game over Christmas but she is planning on taking her PS5 with her, when she goes to visit her sister just incase things get too intense over the Xmas period and they want to blow off some steam or escape somewhere sunny for a few hours. “The only time I am able to sit and relax is when I’m playing a video game. There’s something really therapeutic about that for me, just being able to completely forget about the outside world and lose myself in a game.”
Elz only started playing Call Of Duty properly a few years ago “so I’m relatively new, but I love all the storylines, the maps are always incredible and they just keep on improving.”
In 2020, she uploaded the video ‘Playing COD Warzone…Badly’ to her fledgling YouTube channel. Twenty months later, her channel has blown up but she hasn’t gotten any better at Warzone. “I’m so bad, “ she laughs. “My dream is to actually be good at it but no matter how hard I try, I just get shot. I’m a gamer, but there are games that I’m just not very good at, such as Warzone.” She figures as long as she’s having fun though, that’s all that matters.
See, Elz The Witch isn’t your standard gamer. Sure, she grew up loving Final Fantasy 7 (the music can still bring her to tears) and she recently spent an entire 17-hour flight to Bangkok playing the remastered Grand Theft Auto: Vice City but she also presents a radio station on Kiss FM and is becoming an increasingly regular fixture in professional football commentating, having worked on Match Of The Day in addition to recently joining Manchester City as one of their matchday live presenters. “I want to prove that you can be into gaming, but also like makeup, fashion and sport,” she starts. “I love proving people wrong. I just want to beat down the misconceptions and preconceptions that people have.”
In the future, she wants to create a series of documentaries that “prove to my parents’ generation that gaming is a positive thing. I think they still view it as something that’s addictive, that’s damaging to mental health and inspires violence. But really, gaming opens a whole new world for people to escape their reality, and be whoever they want to be. There are so many opportunities that can come from gaming as well. Traditional media always has a negative view of gaming but I’d like to do something to educate people on the benefits of gaming, and change the narrative around it.”
So far, she’s spent her career changing the narrative around herself. When Elz was 8, she was the best in her IT class at a school-approved racing game, much to the annoyance of her fellow classmates. “But sir, she’s a girl” they protested. It was the first of many experiences Elz has faced where she’s been looked down on or dismissed entirely because of her gender. It got to the point where she didn’t tell people that she played video games, fed up with having to explain herself.
And she’s not the only one. A recent survey found that a majority of women conceal their identity when playing games online, with over half suffering verbal abuse and 40% having experienced unwanted sexual or romantic advances.
After uni (studying business and IT), she started work at tech giant IBM but after a few years, she quit knowing she didn’t want to spend her life behind a desk. “I felt like because I was young, and a woman, I wasn’t given as many opportunities because they underestimated me. I just got frustrated that I wasn’t being pushed far enough and I felt like I had more to give, so I quit,” much to the dismay of her parents.
Today, with her 200k+ followers on Youtube and Instagram as well as her various dream-come-true jobs, that decision to quit her 9-5 seems like a no-brainer. At the time though, Elz says she felt “lost”, sitting in her flat with no furniture beyond a bed and a television. “Social media never shows the downsides of those decisions, only the ones that worked out. I’d never tell anyone to just quit their job. What I did was a massive risk, even though I’d been saving up for years,” says Elz. “If you have a dream, pursue it, but in a realistic way.”
After realising there weren’t many female gamers who covered a broad range of titles, Elz pulled together a business proposal to raise the funds to buy the parts to build her own computer. Then spent the next four months learning every skill she’d need to become a Youtuber, from how to record herself playing games, to editing the thumbnails. “I don’t want to put anything out into the world if it’s not up to scratch,” she explains.
Things started slowly at first “but the people who were watching my videos seemed to really like them.” It was a world away from the platform she had on Instagram, where she’d share music recommendations under the name Witch’s Picks. “People used to just judge me on what I looked like. When I started Youtube though, I felt seen. People could see my personality, and that meant the world to me.” Since then, Elz has felt comfortable showing more and more of herself across her channels, and says she’s “so much more confident now.”
“I have imposter syndrome where I ask myself why am I being hired for this job? Why do I deserve this opportunity? But I’ve become confident in the fact that I put the work in, and that I’m a nice person. That’s all that matters.”
Still, that first video ‘Welcome To My Gaming Channel’ sees a 28-year-old Elz running through a list of her gaming credentials, expecting people to question her authenticity in the comments below. “I felt like I had something to prove,” she says. “But to my surprise, people were really supportive,” as were her fellow content creators.
She’ll still get the occasional gatekeeper asking her the release date of some niche game (“but I know you can be into games and not have to know everything about every single game in the world”) and she knows a few people think her success is down to her looks, or the fact she’s a girl, “but I’ve just stopped reading the hate. Those negative comments come from people who are bored and unhappy in their own lives, so they try to take it out on others. I don’t think that’ll ever stop though. The bigger you get, the more vulnerable you are to hearing the opinions of others.”
According to Elz, it was a struggle at first, “working in industries that are so predominately male. Naturally I felt like maybe I should be more of a tomboy but now, it’s so important for me to be able to wear a tracksuit or heels and a tight dress. I want to just stay who I am and not compromise that for an audience.”
Everything she’s achieved since is because of her channel, which she believes acts as a CV. It is also authentically her though. “I couldn’t act for that long, even if I wanted to.” Sure, most conversations about content creators include numbers, brand partnerships and reach but Elz, like most successful YouTubers, connects to her audience on a personal, emotional level. “I want people to feel like we could be friends, if we hung out in real life.”
Elz believes the reason she connects with her audience is because “I don’t take myself too seriously. You can’t, especially with a camera in your face all the time, because it will just get boring. Half the time, I’m actually terrible at whatever game I’m playing but I can laugh at myself.” Looking around at the pretend travel agents, offering getaways to Warzone’s Pacific map, she says. “you have to have a bit of fun with it.”
Every opportunity Elz gets, she sees it as a chance to change people’s opinions about her but also women in games generally. Even on shoots where she knows she’s there to tick a box, she’ll bring talented female friends along “because we all have a message and it’s so important that we get given those opportunities to share those.”
Elz is so open about the struggles that come with being a woman in the male-dominated industries of IT, gaming and professional sport “because it’s a real thing. I just want other women to know that you don’t have to feel weak because you’re outnumbered. I want to try to make other people feel confident. I hope people see what I’ve done and feel motivated by it.”
She doesn’t like the term influencer and pushes back against the idea of being a role model. “It puts too much pressure on me. It’s like, you can’t ever mess up and everybody’s going to make mistakes. You can’t be perfect for everyone. Instead, I want to be someone that people can look up to and relate with, because when I was younger, there weren’t Youtubers and there certainly weren’t female gamers with a platform.”
Despite her various presenting jobs across TV and Radio, Elz is never going to stop doing things online. “That’s the future,” she explains, believing that the next few years are going to be really interesting with a whole generation of kids wanting to become gamers, Youtubers or Esports pros. “When I was younger, all you did was go to uni and get an office job.”
“I am sceptical though. I know with a platform like Youtube, because it’s still relatively new, everything I’ve built could go tomorrow. But thinking like that keeps you on your toes. I reckon some people feel like once they’ve reached a certain point, they can start relaxing,“ but Elz wants to keep moving forward, never resting on her laurels.
“I’ve always been one of the only females in whatever environment or industry I’ve found myself in. But I’ve never felt weak because of it,” she says. “It’s actually made me stronger. If you’re going to judge me or not give me equal opportunities, I will work 10 times as hard just to prove you wrong. It actually motivates me.”
Call of Duty: Warzone’s pacific update is out now, you can follow Elz on Twitter.