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Kelowna streamer KittyPlays amasses more than 1 million followers

Kristen Valnicek, also known as KittyPlays, has cultivated an online audience of more than one million followers on Twitch.
Image Credit: Kristen Valnicek
February 01, 2020 - 11:40 AM

“Good morning, good morning, good morning,” Kelowna native Kristen Valnicek says to her 500,000 Instagram followers.

Valnicek, also known as KittyPlays has more than one million followers on the video live streaming service Twitch and 630,000 followers on YouTube. She's been active since 2013, cultivating a love for video games into a career as an online streamer.

Known for playing Fortnite, a shooter-style game that allows the user to create their own buildings to defend themselves, Valnicek wasn’t always so confident with broadcasting her passion about the gaming world.

Growing up, she thrived on games like World of Warcraft, Halo, Call of Duty and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but didn’t tell anyone because she worried people would make fun of her.

“But once you start finding a community, you realize there are so many amazing women who play video games,” she said. “I grew up playing video games with my dad and brother so it has always been a family thing for me and we still all enjoy playing a variety of games together."

Now living in Los Angeles, her journey started when she realized she could make money from streaming full-time. In her final year of her a finance degree at the University of Saskatchewan, she told her parents, "I'm dropping out of school and I'm going to play video games in your basement." They were supportive of her endeavours.

“The reason I was in university for finance was because I always wanted to start my own business and through streaming and gaming I have been able to do that,” she said.

The 27-year-old said the streaming community has only become more positive with supporting one another since she started.

“Since beginning streaming, I have seen my own team, Team Kitty, (a group of Twitch streamers who broadcast video and creative content) grow to a network of more than 70 women who are all dedicated to supporting each other and having a positive impact. I have also seen gaming and streaming platforms raise millions of dollars for charities across the world. I can't wait to see and help influence where the future of gaming continues to go,” she said.

In the gaming industry, the amount of representation women get poses a challenge, she said.

“I don't focus my energy on discussing the issues, but rather push towards action on how I can improve things and make a positive impact. That is a major reason I started Team Kitty, my discord server ‘Goddesses of Gaming,’ and joined Gen. G Esports, (a professional esports organization), as their Head of New Gaming Initiatives because I wanted to create places where any woman could come and have a support network and feel included. I know we will see more women in gaming represented as time progresses, especially since it is something I am actively working on in various areas of the industry,” she said.

According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 50 per cent of gamers are women and 61 per cent of Canadians consider themselves to be gamers. 

But being a streamer can have high demands, especially with the expectation that they must be on all the time. Former Twitch star Ninja reported that he spent an average of 10 hours a day streaming and taking extended breaks could mean massive subscription losses, according to a New York Times article

“I think the biggest challenge that I have learned to deal with is the feelings of guilt and obligation. I know I am not the only content creator who has experienced this and it isn't exclusive to gaming. It is important for us to talk about and be transparent with our audiences because you need to take care of yourself in order to thrive. Those times off also are some of my biggest inspirations for new business ideas, content, and ways to engage my audience so I bake them into my schedule,” Valnicek said.

“I do take breaks, and sometimes you lose audience members, but I cannot stress how OK that is. A lot of people get hung up on numbers but what is more important is the dedicated community of advocates and supporters you are co-creating. You will attract the community you are looking for and trying to build and that will be more rewarding in every way.”

Valnicek will be at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles giving a keynote talk on April 4 about ways to be a part of the gaming community, discussing monetization opportunities as well as a speaking about a new product she’s working on to help streamers connect with brands.

Find her online through YouTube, Twitch and Instagram.

When she’s not streaming, you can find her playing Settlers of Catan online.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 


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