Written by Yasmin Aboelsaud
Originally posted March 18, 2022
Just over two years ago, a near death experience changed Raven’s life.
“I had a very traumatic pregnancy and an even more traumatic delivery with my daughter. I almost lost my life in childbirth. Coming that close with death changed a lot for me.”
Raven (aka RekItRaven) was born 32 years ago, and has been immersed in gaming since its early years. The Richmond, Virginia, resident began playing back when the original Nintendo came out, and the first Super Mario game was introduced.
“I lived my life undiagnosed with ADHD up until recently, so I didn’t even know that it had such an effect on me because I was able to channel my energy into something,” she said, adding her love for gaming grew from there. “I was part of the rise of the internet, so being able to experience gaming as it was growing up with me definitely left an impact on me.”
In 2014, Raven tuned into Twitch for the first time as a viewer. She enjoyed the interaction on it, but avoided putting herself “out there in the gaming space” until 2016.
“I started streaming because my ex-boyfriend at the time, he did it,” she said, explaining that he said she couldn’t do it after she expressed interest in streaming. “He told me that I couldn’t, but I did it anyway.”
Her first stream included a few friends she had met online.
“There were only 6 people, but I felt like I was on top of the world because I actually did something that I had wanted to do and I found the courage to do it,” she said.
While it started out as a hobby, and a social space for Raven, it soon became her space for content creation too.
And that almost changed following her near death experience in 2019.
“It took a while for me to get back into content creation because I wasn’t confident in myself,” she said, as she became visibly emotional. “There was a stretch of time when bad things just kept happening, then I was dealing with postpartum depression. But after I allowed myself to heal from it and got the help I needed, I realized that I didn’t really care what people thought about me because I knew that who I was was enough.”
Raven started to do more of what she wanted to, and became outspoken about what she cared about.
“That is being vocal on issues surrounding marginalized communities, how BIPOC people are treated in this space, how women are treated in this space, how LGBTQIA+ were treated, because the perspective I got was one of ‘how am I going to leave this world’… because I am going to at some point.”
Having two young children, Raven says she wants to make the world better for them and for future generations. And she’s not the only mother on gaming platforms these days.
According to research conducted by interactive entertainment company Activision Blizzard Media and Forbes, “gamer moms” make up a significant proportion of gamers.
“In the four markets surveyed, over two-thirds of moms reported engagement with video games,” stated the research, which looked at the US, the UK, France, and Germany. But while 71% of moms play video games, only 48% of mom gamers actually describe themselves as gamers. They believe this is due to lack of “self-identification” and has led to the perception of gaming as an activity enjoyed solely by men, which is both outdated and inaccurate, the research said.
“Gamer moms account for almost half of parents who game. While dad gamers outpace their female counterparts, gamer moms are quickly closing the gap.”
And Raven sees other mothers in her online community often.
“There are a lot of people who are parents on the platform, there are a lot of moms on the platform,” said Raven. “They are in my community. They understand what it’s like to be part of this intersectional, marginalized group of people.” Raven added that during the pandemic and as the job market looked bleak, more and more people, and parents, turned to content creation and streaming for revenue.
“To do content creation full-time is such a huge risk,” she said. “Financially speaking, it’s hard to make ends meet sometimes, it’s hard to actually pay bills some months.”
Besides streaming for 16 hour a week, Raven’s full-time content creation also involves making TikTok videos, putting out YouTube content, networking on Twitter, and creating content on Instagram.
Her online presence is strong, and last year, Raven was a target of “hate raids” and online harassment.
“People were looking to me for answers so I just had to do what I could with what I had,” she said. “Be honest and be as transparent as possible.”
Raven started the hashtag called #TwitchDoBetter, which caught the attention of the platform. “We’ve seen a lot of conversation about botting, hate raids, and other forms of harassment targeting marginalized creators,” Twitch responded in a Tweet. “You’re asking us to do better, and we know we need to do more to address these issues. That includes an open and ongoing dialogue about creator safety.”
Twitch said it rolled out updates to better detect hate speech in chat, and is also launching channel-level ban evasion detection and account verification improvements.
But it also acknowledges that its work is “never done.”
As for Raven, she’s proud of what she was able to do with her community to start a wave of change.
“Looking back at everything, I really am just proud of myself for being tenacious and proud of the work I did in this space, and proud of the work everybody did in this space,” she said. “We were small creators who made a movement happen, that speaks volumes.”
She added that this will create more accountability, which she is excited about.
“We are no longer quiet about things that are happening in the shadows,” she said. “What is done in the dark will come to light and I am so proud to see these movements happening.”
And looking at gaming today and the direction it’s going, Raven feels positive about the changes happening behind the scenes, and within the industry.
“I think that we’re in a very crucial time when it comes to how gaming is marketed, in the way gaming is telling stories. It’s not just the edgy, white guy private investigator, we’re seeing more Black people being able to tell Black stories, we are seeing things change and I am so excited to be in this space now,” she said.
While she admits her children don’t think she’s cool, she also said that gaming isn’t just for nerds these days. “It is mainstream and it means that people of all ethnicities, genders, backgrounds, are playing,” she said. “And to see that change happen, it warms my soul.”
After all is said and done, Raven wouldn’t change a thing about her gaming life or her career as a content creator.
“I would do it all over again,” she said."
“I just want to be inspirational. You can be somebody who looks like me, and you can make a difference.”