In May, Jair Renan, son of President Jair Bolsonaro, was banned from the platform after spreading Covid-19 misinformation and encouraging gamers to break social isolation. His father is also having a hard time communicating with the gaming crowd—once a solid foundation among his voters.
“Anyone who watches gaymers knows immediately on what side we stand,” says Lola, talking about politics. She stresses that her audience should be critical and well-informed and debates the topic with a lot of charisma. It’s hard to imagine that she is new to streaming—having started her channels when the pandemic hit Brazil—as she comes across like a seasoned pro.
The Godmother of Brazilian Gaymers
Samira Close is one of those seasoned pros. She is the drag persona of Wenesson Pereira da Silva, a 27-year-old man from northeastern Brazil who worked as a seamstress and telemarketing operator before becoming a streamer.
Son of a single and evangelical mother, Wenesson never considered streaming as a career while growing up. He lacked the financial means to invest in equipment for gaming, which, back then, was only a hobby. At first, he participated in friends’ streams. Over time, followers started commenting on how funny and spontaneous he was and asked if he would consider making his own channels. “Why not?” he thought, as he searched for solutions to pay the electricity and internet bills.
Samira Close was born in 2014, and the longest she has been offline since then is 10 days. Samira now streams from her shiny working station to almost 900,000 followers who are eager to interact with The Godmother—a nickname coined by her fans.
Samira’s livestreams range from five to 10 hours a day and, at their peak, gather over 15,000 concurrent viewers. She plays a variety of games: from Free Fire to Resident Evil, depending on what mood she is in.
Samira generally has a very upbeat aura. She talks enthusiastically—as if she is always on the verge of a joke. Her mouth has a permanent, almost sarcastic, smile, and she uses her beard as a statement. “When I decided not to shave, I wanted people to understand that I wasn’t there to be a woman, that wasn’t the point. It was simply how I wanted to appear and it was aligned with my message of ‘you can be whoever and do whatever, you don’t need to fit any expectations, even the drag ones,” she says.
Thinking back, Samira says that she could not recognize herself in the gaming streamers that she saw before starting her channels—not only in terms of appearance but also in their gestures, their humor, in the subjects they chose to discuss. The only thing they had in common was their love for games.
But sometimes a shared interest is not enough for a community to come together. “When I started, other gamers didn’t take me seriously. They cursed me, they mocked me, I felt a lot of hate,” she recalls.
Segregation Within the Gaming Community
Seventy-four percent of adults who play online games have experienced some kind of harassment or embarrassment, according to an Anti-Defamation League report from July 2019. When talking about LGBTQ+ players specifically, 35 percent reported being harassed because of their identity. “We are living something that I like to call post-Gamergate,” explains Goulart, the social psychology doctor.
Gamergate (GG) was a year-long online harassment campaign that started in 2014, with members coordinating a series of misogynistic and violent attacks against female gamers and developers. According to Goulart, GG members declared what can be seen as a culture war over, mainly, two things: the diversification of the gamer identity and the growing social criticism, such as discussions about race, gender, and diversity within video games.