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SYFY WIRE Gamegrrls

Women of esports: Lauren 'GlitterXplosion' Laracuente

By Jenna Busch
Lauren Laracuente.JPG

In our continuing series on the women of esports, today we're spotlighting Lauren “GlitterXplosion” Laracuente, an assistant general manager for esports organization Rogue, a streamer on Twitch, and an esports event host. She got her start in esports when she designed a 25,000-square-foot esports venue for her master's thesis in interior design. Around the same time, she started her streaming career, which led to jobs both in esports organizations and consulting for hotels on the Las Vegas strip to help design esports venues. She is the highest-paid woman in H1Z1 in terms of esports winnings, and she hopes to set a good example for young women looking to get into esports and gaming.

Laracuente spoke with SYFY WIRE FANGRRLS about what her career entails, how she first got into esports, and the advice she'd give other women who want to work in this industry.

You do so many things in your career, from esports to your Twitch stream. Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

Sure. I have a few jobs, to say the least. My main focus is being one of the assistant general managers for Rogue. With them, my biggest umbrella is probably the entire genre of Battle Royale games. That's my biggest gaming background, and so it's where a lot of my experience lies. I mainly deal with our Fortnite team and our Apex team, who actually just took down first place at TwitchCon EU in Berlin, so we were really stoked about that.

I'm a little bit of a jack of all trades. I help out with a bunch of forward-facing interactions with our bigger investors, and things like that. I helped put together the DrLupo and Steve Aoki stream. We just met up with Imagine Dragons, and I try to help a lot with any networking things that we do. I worked with the NHL through Rogue, and we shot some content with them for a week.

I try to just be as useful as possible. I help with any sort of merch design stuff that we're going to do, [and] making sure that people, all of our players, are on top of socials and players are doing what they need to do.

Do you have a typical day-to-day schedule?

I love this question, because there is definitely nothing typical about esports from the beginning, right? It's probably one of the newest industries, so it's still finding its footing, but it's so interesting and it's so much fun. There are obviously some basic things that have to get done every single day. I think within 30 seconds of waking up, I'm already staring at my phone and I'm checking my email, or my Slack alerts, or my Skype, or my Twitter DMs and just making sure that nothing exploded overnight, that everything's fine.

Once we have all that checked, then we'll kind of move on from there. Say it's a Friday, [so] there might be an event over the weekend. Right now, Fortnite has the World Cup qualifiers running for 10 weeks straight, and they're every single weekend. So it's about making sure that our players are good to go on their end, but then also making sure social's coordinated, that our graphics team is coordinated, if we needed anything ready to post on social, having everything timed up, and then live-watching those events if they're online. If there's a LAN event, I'll usually be at the physical location so that I can keep the team updated back home as to how the guys are playing and what we're doing, because you have to constantly be feeding information.

That’s just how esports functions. Everything's so in the moment, and everybody wants to be up to date on every single game that we have, and we have so many games on the org. That's all just the Rogue side things. That's not counting the fact that I'm also balancing an esports hosting career and my own stream and my own brand on top of trying to have a personal life, right?

You have a really interesting story about how you got into esports. Can you tell us about your origins?

Honestly, I kind of am shocked that I ended up here myself, but I'm so happy with how it all played out. I actually first went to law school, believe it or not, after I got out of college. I completed two-thirds of law school with the intention of going into sports law. I always wanted to work in sports in some capacity, and so that was where I initially thought that I might go.

I had this come-to-Jesus moment where I realized that being in a law office for potentially 90 hours a week for the rest of my life was not something that I really wanted to do. At the time, I had been doing interior design as my stress reliever. I was helping my mom out around the house, and she was giving me a little bit of creative freedom and just letting me have free rein over some of the rooms. It was something I was really enjoying.

At the time, I was like, "Why don't just turn my hobby into a career?" I think the whole idea of a hobby being a career was just completely foreign to me at the time. When I got into the interior design program, which was a master's program, it really started shifting the way that I viewed success. It was more about being happy with what I was doing and really enjoying the entire process.

By the time I got to my final year, which is our thesis year, we were allowed to pick any innovative topic that we want to try and create a commercial space around. At the time, I'd grown up playing video games, and I'd always loved video games, but there weren't any real spaces for anybody who wanted to hang out with other gamers to congregate. They just didn't exist here. They were a thing in Europe. They had a franchise in Europe that was blowing up.

It was incredibly successful, so I reached out to the founder and kind of picked his brain a little bit about why it was so successful. I got my own ideas on how it would work better for us here in the States and what I would change just as far as the design aspect goes.

We have to do an entire business plan for it, so I spent a year really deep-diving into everything esports, and at the end of it came out with a 25,000-square-foot commercially designed esports bar venue as my master's thesis, which everyone fell in love with, believe it or not, even though they didn't really understand it, because at the time they're like, "Why would people watch video games together?" I was like, "Trust me, they do.”

You’re still designing esports venues, right? Is there something that you think venues like that could improve on?

Honestly, I think the biggest hindrance right now is that people aren't really 100% sure how to market them. It's almost like the concept is brilliant, and it clearly works, because you have things like Twitch or you have massive events, like any of the PAXs or E3 or anything like that. Clearly, the community craves that. That's something they're looking for. They want to hang out with people that also have the same interests and the same passions.

So I think it's just about really nailing down how to one, let people know that they even exist, because I think that's hard, and two, make it acceptably mainstream. I mean, something like a Buffalo Wild Wings, people are in every single day to watch whatever random sporting event is up on their TVs, and the same thing can be done for an esports venue by just having multiple Twitch streams running at any time. People will watch it at home. They'll definitely watch it while having a beer and some bar food.

You’re the highest-paid woman for the game H1Z1. What advice would you give other women who want to get into this?

I think the best advice you can give any woman that wants to get into something like this is to just be fearless, because there are going to be a ton of people that are either going to doubt you or they're just going to straight-up tell you it's too lofty a goal for you to achieve. It's just about really believing in yourself and understanding that it's going to be really hard along the way, but you just have to be okay with that. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, right?

How do you deal with online harassment? Just looking at your Twitter feed today, it was clear that you deal with this. Do you have advice for people who are getting harassed online?

I think there's definitely an aspect of needing to have thick skin … learning to grow some, because there's always going to be people that only want to be negative. I'm not sure why, but there are people out there that specifically just want to tear you down, and you have to realize that they almost don't even mean it. They don't even realize how hurtful they can be. It's almost the only way that they have learned to make themselves feel better, and you have to let a lot of it just completely just pass you by. You can't really focus on any of it.

I think something that at least I'm very proud of, and that I think that I've done well, [is that] I’ve managed to cultivate an online community where I have put a very heavy emphasis on mutual respect for everybody across the board, whether it's due to gender or sexual orientation or just anything that people can use to marginalize a group, we don't have that in my community. We just don't let it fly. Everybody comes in and gets to feel safe.

When you just keep asserting that that is the only level of acceptable behavior, people will either rise to that and they will become part of that community because it's so fun, it's something they want to be a part of and they learn, which I actually love having happen, because then you can help people kind of change their perspective or open up their mind a little bit when it comes to specific things, or they don't, and then they miss out on something awesome. But I'd rather have people that are willing to be there and just be good people as opposed to the ones that aren’t.

As a Twitch streamer, what would you say is the best thing you can do to keep a stream interesting?

Ooh. That is tough. So I've actually kind of been doing my own little experiment with that. I've been testing out different types of content across the board on different platforms and trying to see which ones hit better and which ones don't. I've actually found, at least for my own brand and my own personal experience, what works is a little bit of everything.

People are really interested to see not only what you do for your direct Twitch video game-related content, but they also want to see personal successes, whether that's achieving any milestone in your fitness or starting to get more opportunities — for me specifically — around maybe hosting esports events, because that's something that I've been trying to really get better at, and become more successful at, or just working on diets. People just like knowing what's going on.

For the Twitch side of things, to keep it interesting on that same token, there are times when sometimes we'll just hang out and talk about the recent episode of Game of Thrones on streams, just because everybody loves being able to have a discussion with [someone about] something they're passionate about.

I think if you can manage to appeal to as many of those people, or kind of create that bond and that relationship with your community, at that point it almost doesn't even matter. You can play any game you want. You can sit down and have a conversation with them. You can do a cooking stream. You can do art streams, and I've done all of these things, but people just like the quality time.

When you have a career as a hobby, it can be hard to relax. Is there a game you play when you’re not working?

I actually don't play games to relax. I actually read a lot. Believe it or not, reading is like one of my outlets. I read a ton. I actually love gaming, but the competitor in me doesn't ever let me do it too casually.

So I will choose a game that I know is most story-driven, like a lot of the Telltale games, where it's more about kind of getting immersed into the character development and the story progression. That's a nice brain break, I guess in a way when it comes to games, but then other than that, I read a lot.

You can follow Lauren Laracunte on Twitter @GlitterXplosion and on Instagram @glittrxplosion. You can check out her Twitch stream here.

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