Game Queens: The influence of drag queens on the gaming industry | Games

It’s just after eleven in the morning and Wenner Pereira has just woken up. In the previous night, he made a live of more than four hours on Facebook, the social network he is a partner of and where he accumulates more than 760,000 followers. The best moments of this transmission and others that it makes almost daily go to its YouTube channel, where it also has a loyal audience of more than 830 thousand subscribers.

Wenner is one of the main names in the Brazilian gaming scene, but you probably know him as Samira Close, the drag queen who made her name on the internet streaming games in a very good mood. Today, consolidated as a name that the video game industry cannot ignore, Samira is here to stay.

She, however, is not the only one. Many drags, of different personalities and audiences, have been standing out on the scene with professional, well-done and representative work. Names that have shown how the unusual mix between the world of makeup and wigs with that of consoles and characters could not be more fruitful.

A new generation of drag queens

Drag art is nothing new in Brazil. Years ago, performers from the four corners of the country they do a work covered in glitter, glitter and a lot of courage to show their art even in a society that is still so prejudiced. Names like Miss Biá, Silvetty Montilla and Marcia Pantera paved the way for the generation of drag queens we see now, and which exploded in Brazil along with the growing popularization of the RuPaul’s Drag Race program – commanded by the also legendary drag RuPaul.

Beyond wigs and high heels, however, this new generation of drag queens has also grown alongside the popularization of video games and the advent of the internet, cultivating passions, hobbies and talents like other young people.

Many of them have had contact with games since they were little, growing up surrounded by technological influences and pop culture products. So, nothing more natural that they took these references to their adult lives, and that, like thousands of other gamers, they also extended this passion to their work.

Given this, it’s no wonder we see drags working with electronic games. But it is surprising, however, that we still talk so little about it, considering the contribution and representativeness of their work in an industry that moves such high numbers, but that still lives cases of machismo and prejudice regularly. “We’ve come a long way and everything seems to be too big, but it’s big in our bubble”, reflects Lola Dvil, drag partner of Twitch, in an interview with Techblog.

Contributions to the scenario

But after all, what kind of work do these drag queens do?

Today, inside and outside Brazil, we have countless drags gaining prominence in the gamer community, whether as streamers, game designers or cosplayers. Samira Close was even one of the pioneers here, when she started broadcasting her games eight years ago.

The professional, who created her alter ego some time after she embarked on the streams, says that in the beginning the LGBTQIA+ community on the scene was very small. “Not that these people purposely did it, but it was a mood for straights to watch. And when I walked in, it bothered me. […] The thing is, I wanted to create a community; whether wanting to wear a wig, with a beard, without a beard, putting on makeup… But let it be a community among equals. That’s when I really took on the role of streamer”, he says.

Samira, who has become a big name in the world of Free Fire, also plays games like LoL, dead by daylight and Resident Evil Village on your channel. His videos, by the way, are always very humorous, attracting a varied audience, which also includes many children.

Samira Close (Image: Playback / JR Sander)

Meet Samira Close

Wenner Pereira had a very poor childhood in Ceará, where he lived with his family who survived from sewing. At 16, with the money he saved by helping his mother in the trade, he managed to buy his first computer.

He discovered streaming some time later, and after participating so much in a friend’s lives, he ended up listening to those who said he should have his own channel. At the time, already working in a bank, he entered this universe with the little free time he had, hoping that he would at least be able to pay his internet bill.

Thanks to the audience that began to follow him, he started to have some financial return, riding for the first time in broadcasts. Seeing the impact and repercussion of her action, she decided to take on the role of drag Samira Close, becoming a pioneer in the community.

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Already a few years on the scene, Amanda Sparks is another household name in the industry. Famous for her work as a cosplayer, now on break because of the pandemic, drag is also a game designer with numerous mobile games released.

With a work focused on pixel art, a style that she initially adopted thinking about a good performance for the devices, but which over time also proved to be easier for changes, she brings a differential in the narrative of her games: she is the heroine of their stories.

In Shade Forest, one of her main games, she is a drag queen who lives great adventures and bumps into dangerous villains along the way. In Spikes on High Heels, Amanda seeks to become the greatest volleyball player in the world (without getting off the jump), facing opponents in very exciting matches. Already in double drag queens, she is captured, needing some friends to come to her rescue to save her.

The representation that it brings in its games is something very rare to see in the industry. And exactly for that reason, it faces visibility problems to reach other audiences. “While I want to make these games, I also want to make money from them. And sometimes I wonder if I took any of them and totally changed their outfit, taking out all the LGBTQIA+ theme, if it would be more successful and have a better reach”, vents the designer.

Meet Amanda Sparks

Game Queens: the influence of drag queens on the video game industry / Amanda Sparks Instagram / Playback

Amanda Sparks (Image: Reproduction / Instagram Amanda Sparks)

José Henrique is from Rio de Janeiro, but due to constant city changes, he approached video games when he was still small. Self-taught as a game designer (the post-graduation at Senac came only years later), in 2005 he created a fighting fangame that earned him a three-year job in the area.

Some time later, he went to live in São Paulo with his friend Penelopy Jean, whom he met on a cartoon forum and with whom he began to assemble. As a performer for Amanda Sparks, he assembled with her and Tiffany Bradshaw the trio Milano, with whom he performed in several Brazilian states.

The group came to an end, but their history with games was just beginning. Since 2014, with the repercussion of its game Flappy DragQueen (a version of the game Flappy Bird), delved deep into the creation of games, starting to position herself as the protagonist of her creations.

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When it comes to target audiences, we must also mention Lola Dvil, drag who does lives and mixes a very curious audience in her Twitch account. The streamer, even in love with games since she was little, inserted this universe into her broadcasts little by little, taking the world of video games to a group that followed her through her beauty videos and comments on RuPaul’s Drag Race.

In order to vary its content, she began by presenting this universe through Fall Guys streams. “This made a lot of people who had no more contact and who played only when they were little, to see that there were games that were simple, which you don’t even need much coordination with”, he explains.

Today, with 7,700 followers on the account and being one of the ambassadors of the Pride Cup, an eSports championship aimed at the LGBTQIA+ community organized by Gamers Club, she mixes makes and drag world with matches of LoL and survival games (like Stranded Deep and The Forest) in your broadcasts.

Meet Lola Dvil

Game Queens: the influence of drag queens on the video game industry / Lola Dvil / Instagram / Playback

Lola Dvil (Image: Play / Instagram Lola Dvil)

A resident of Porto Alegre, in Rio Grande do Sul, Alcides Furlin is the one who gives life to drag Lola Dvil. The name, inspired by the character Cruella De Vil, was also his nickname for playing online in his youth, a time when, after Nintendo games, it was the MMORPG that made his mind.

As an adult, studying Civil Engineering, he found himself, however, amazed by another world: that of the drag scene in Porto Alegre. Fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, he was engulfed by that universe, and found himself giving life to Lola Dvil, an alter ego that united his two great passions.

He continued on stage for some time, but in 2019 he entered the live world. The beginning wasn’t easy, but after migrating to Twitch in 2020 – the platform he became a partner of – he saw his work gradually being recognized.

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the other side of the coin

Talking about the electronic games industry, without talking about the difficulty and prejudice that certain professionals find to enter it is, unfortunately, still impossible. Although many advances have been made, and that brands, teams and sponsors are increasingly aware, showing effective actions of inclusion and respect, it is clear how we continue to face a structural problem within the community itself.

For Samira Close, who when she arrived in the gamer world, realized how sexist and elitist this universe was, things became more complicated after she appeared as a drag queen in front of the camera. In addition to the insults he received, there was no lack of death threats. “You being a gay man, with a beard and a wig, in a place like this it’s like you’re an animal, a monster,” laments the streamer to Techblog.

“I remember that when I arrived at BGS for the first time it was a shock, because you can even be gay, but it’s like you can’t talk to anyone, having to keep quiet in your corner. I arrived very fussy, wearing a wig, a beard… And people literally got up from where I sat”, she says.

Lola, at the beginning of their lives, also suffered a series of homophobic attacks that brought down her account. She only had peace when she migrated to Twitch, and she got, in addition to an audience that followed her work, help from the platform to protect herself from situations like this.

Their cases, unfortunately, are not isolated, and it is necessary to re-educate the community, deconstructing such deep-rooted prejudices. The fight for space and respect is daily, and it is worth remembering that the mere existence of these drags in the industry, occupying prestigious positions, influencing people and serving as inspiration for new professionals, is in itself a declaration that certain behaviors will no longer be tolerated.

“When someone catches up, it’s kind of like everybody catches up a little bit and has more [de chegar lá]”, reflects Lola, hopefully, about the future.

the future is here

For those who think the presence of drag queens in the game industry is a passing contribution, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at what’s been happening on the scene. Outside Brazil, in addition to names like Kitty Powers, a professional who founded his own game developer, there are numerous drags entering the world of streaming, such as Deere (42,900 followers), BiqtchPuddin (26,700 followers) and Hashtag Trashly (15.2 thousand followers).

There are even groups within Twitch that seek to unify the work of these performers, as is the case of the Stream Queens list, which until the closing of this report had 85 registered gamer artists.

In addition, as game characters, drag queens also have what it takes to keep making their way around here, especially with the arrival of RuPaul’s Drag Race mobile game. Still no release date, it already has an official page, where you can subscribe to receive news.

That the future has everything to be colorful, fun and very professional for these artists in the gaming world, there is no doubt about it. However, we expect you to be more tolerant and respectful too.

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