It all started with her first PlayStation in 1996. She no longer had to watch her father play video games such as Doom, Duck Hunt, and Super Mario because once she got the controller in her hands, she was in a world of her own. With her eyes glued to the screen, she would spend hours in the virtual rhapsody of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro before upgrading to a Game Boy console with Pokémon Blue ’99. Now, nearly 20 years later, she’s a professional gamer and an advocate for Black women and girls in the gaming industry.
Briana “Storymodebae” Williams is a professional Twitch streamer, content creator, Black girl gamer — and did we mention that she’s currently a Twitch ambassador at the Tokyo Olympics? As a multi-hyphenated gaming creative and member of the Black Girl Gamers’ group, Storymodebae prides herself on representing young Black women in the gaming industry who want to have a career filled with success and longevity.
“I’ve been playing video games since I was 4-5 years old. From Playstation, Gameboy, even educational computer games, I don’t remember too much of my life without me being glued to some sort of screen or controller,” Storymodebae told Girls United. “My streaming journey started in 2017, first on YouTube. I didn’t necessarily have any goals in mind at the time, I was just watching a lot of other people upload their gameplay videos, and thought it would be cool to give it a try. I later moved over to Twitch in early 2018, and the more I streamed, the more I fell in love with it, and the rest is really history.”
Currently signed with Loaded – one of the world’s leading management firms in the gaming industry – Storymodebae has grown her Twitch channel to more than 28K followers since she pursued gaming full-time at the top of 2020. She has gone on to receive hosting and moderating opportunities for brands including, but not limited to, Twitch, GameStop, and Live Nation.
Girls United spoke with the Black girl gaming royalty while she was in Tokyo about her career, the challenges of being a woman in the gaming world, and diversity and inclusion advice for the gaming community.
Girls United: When did your career as a Black girl gamer begin to take off?
Storymodebae: Honestly, I’m not sure! I’m still surprised that people enjoying watching my content. I feel like for so long, I’ve had to code-switch at different jobs. I was myself but unable to be my full authentic self to some extent. Streaming was my outlet to really let my full personality shine through and not worry about pleasing anyone else. This was something I was doing for myself and it belonged to me.
Being my weird, goofy, and bubbly self began to build a community of like-minded people that could talk, hang out, and vibe with each other. Now the Bae Brigade is entirely my extended family, with more and more people joining that family every day. It’s hard to exactly pinpoint when the rise started but for me, my self-confidence rose when I didn’t have to hide who I was, and maybe that was my personal key to success.
Girls United: What are some of the biggest challenges that women in gaming face, and why is there such a negative connotation against women in gaming?
Storymodebae: I remember being younger and going to pre-teen socials. They always had some sort of game system hooked up and naturally, I would always line up to play. Boys were really surprised that I played games, and would either be impressed or tease me. I never really understood at the time why I couldn’t just enjoy video games in peace just because I was a girl. This “boys only club” mentality still, unfortunately, carries over into adulthood. For whatever reason, boys (including grown men) can’t seem to grasp that women not only enjoy playing video games, [but] we’re really talented, too.
It’s frustrating trying to simply exist and be ourselves without being laughed at, taunted, or sexualized. Being a woman in the gaming industry is not easy, and you have to build extremely tough skin, but I try not to let those negative thoughts affect me and my love for games. The more people tell us we don’t belong, it makes me want to work even harder to prove them wrong.
Girls United: How did the opportunity to become a Twitch ambassador for the Tokyo Olympics come about?
Storymodebae: I became a Twitch Ambassador in 2019. I was taken aback because I was shocked, and still am, that such a huge platform like Twitch even knew I existed, let alone wanted me to be an Ambassador. Since 2019, I’ve gained experience hosting a number of shows and events on Twitch, including my own show. When I received the email asking if I was interested in hosting for the Olympics earlier this year, my jaw was on the floor.
Honestly, I still can’t believe I’m really doing it! Twitch and NBC has built shows with incredible hosts covering the Olympics this year, and to be part of the team and making history in such a major way is beyond surreal, to say the least. My first time in Tokyo and my first time at the Olympics – all due to my love of gaming. It’s really wild.
Girls United: What are some best practices you’d suggest to the gaming community to create a more positive and inclusive environment for Black women?
Storymodebae: I always say to hire more Black Women and people of color in the workplace, but a lot of companies feel like the work stops there. You have to listen to them, respect them, pay them what they deserve, and value them. Create diverse workrooms, which in turn should create opportunities for diverse groups of creators. Companies not doing the work and not working with people from diverse backgrounds, especially Black women, are lazy. There are so many people that are beyond qualified.
Black women enjoy seeing themselves represented in video games too, just like anyone else. Create more Black women characters, put love into their hairstyles instead of only giving us a choice between an Afro or struggle cornrows. Understand how skin tones should properly look instead of giving us ashy undertones. Trust me, we notice when the extra time is spent getting it right, and we definitely notice when it isn’t.
Girls United: If you could give young Briana any advice about being a Black girl in the gaming space, what would you tell her?
Storymodebae: I would tell young Briana to never stop playing and being herself. Despite being told “girls don’t play video games,” keep going. You are special, and one day you’re going to inspire so many lives doing what you love to do. Your dad would be so proud of the strides that you made in this industry, and I know he’s smiling down on you for turning your passion into such an impactful movement.
Also, tell mom that you can’t get off the PlayStation just yet to go do your homework. You’re going to be in Essence one day, and have to continue making her proud.
Photo Credit: Briana Williams/Loaded.gg