Giana Kaplan, better known as Bloody, started streaming on November 14th 2018. She remembers the exact day as it was the culmination of months of planning, strategizing, and life changes. In the two short years since, she has made Partner, built a thriving community, and is now a Twitch ambassador.
“The reason I started streaming was because I had come out to the world in August of 2018 as trans,” Bloody said. “I saw just how many people just felt really happy and inspired by it.” The reception was overwhelmingly positive, with many people sharing their feelings and their own personal stories.
“If I can help this many people or make this many people happy or inspired with just one tweet, imagine what I could do with more.” Bloody remembered thinking. Her initial plan was to do Youtube videos, but after consideration felt that streaming would be a more viable method of bringing positivity and inspiration to people.
Before streaming Bloody was a tournament organizer for Smash.gg. She also did freelance organizing for several companies, including Microsoft, Red Bull, Blizzard, Twitch, and Wizards of the coast. “Fun fact. I was the one who ran the first Twitch Rivals and helped pitched the idea. Me and two other people.”
Her experience as tournament organizer is a crucial part of understanding how she was able to get off to a good start. “I had a very big network of streamers or people who knew about streaming, considering I was a full time organizer for so long.”
For Bloody, it was also important to be a part of a stream team like F2K. While the industry standard of stream teams is to pay their members based on a percentage of viewership, the money was not her primary concern when she mad her pitch. “They knew me to be a competent worker who would deliver on things I promised. I wanted them to sign me to the team before I even streamed.”
Her pitch was successful. They took her on.
As part of a team, she knew that their autohosts would be obligated to direct to other team members, and she wanted to take full advantage of that. “I had very carefully researched the time slots of when people streamed so I would be on at a max uptime of when people were signing off so inevitably so I would get funneled just a teensy bit of residual viewership.”
Being on a team also increased her chance of being seen. “People will hear of you through other streamers because you are on the same team and there will be cross promotion.” Collaborating with her fellow Fade2Karma teammates, like Alliestrasza, got more people into her stream. People now had someone to go that they liked, who they could watch after Alliestrasza logged off.
“Your growth as a streamer is largely dictated by how much a habit you can make yourself in other people’s lives.” says Bloody. “The longer you stream the better it is. You have to be there when someone gets on and be there when someone logs off. Being online as long as possible maximizes the time for other streamers to host and raid you, plus when they log off their viewers go astray and pick other people to go and watch.”
It was important that not only was she streaming at the right time but also for as long as possible. On average, she was streaming 50 to 60 hours a week when she first began. That amount of time decreased to about 30 to 40 when she was playing Magic, but for the most part she has put in more hours than she would have in a traditional job.
Of course, this came at a sacrifice to nearly everything else. She admits to having to deprioritize friends and all things that didn’t have to do with streaming. While she has enjoyed having fun and being with her community, she acknowledges the downsides.
“I love streaming but it’s a high stress job. You’re constantly engaged.”
When she is not streaming, she spends hours a day planning her content. “For every full day that I stream there’s like one to two hours of work that goes into meetings and adjustments and commissions. Not to mention prep work that goes into playing in tournaments.”
In order to commit the hours necessary to building her stream, Bloody decided to go part-time working as a tournament organizer. The goal was to have a stable income while growing her stream and then once her income from streaming was enough, she would transition to full time streaming. “I lined up a lot of things and hit the ground running.” For her first stream, she averaged 30 viewers, and steadily grew month to month.
She attributes part of that to her success with Artifact, the flash in the pan occurred long enough to put her on the map. “I think I am the one and only person to ever make Partner while specifically streaming Artifact.”
After Artifacts downfall, Bloody had to decide what to play next. A number of factors, including her experience with other trading card games and inspiration from fellow teammates, led her to choose Magic: The Gathering. “Magic had all the pieces that I really liked about other card games.”
“I played my first game of Magic February 19th, 2019. That was when I officially made the switch. I think it was a monday? I did it on stream and I loved it.” The timing could not have been better to make the switch, as the rise of the MTG Arena platform gave a more viewer-friendly version of the game.
“My first deck was mono blue. I can’t think of a better deck to learn the game. It allowed me to learn the game from the perspective of my opponent rather than myself…you don’t play the game from your own seat. You play from their seat and adjust accordingly. And I think that really defines my play style to this style..or at least defined my play style for a long time.”
Although she found the game to be challenging and interesting enough to keep her engaged, her viewership took a considerable hit with her average viewers going from about 110 to below 30. However, with PAX East coming up in March, Bloody saw an opportunity for growth. “All the streamers were away in Boston. I remember it was myself, Voxy, and Deathsie. We were all tiny streamers at the time. And because everyone else was gone for a week all we did was stream…me and Deathsie by design. We all blew up that weekend and all went from 30-40 viewers to 80-100. As soon as PAX East viewership let out they had nowhere else to go but us.”
The uptick in viewership also got her into the next tournament hosted by Fandom Legends, which she had been pursuing for some time. “I had cold DMd Fandom Legends many many times to see if I could get in because they were running these tournaments with big streamers and I wanted in.” This event proved to be a turning point in Bloody’s competitive career, as she placed third, beating out players such as Reid Duke and Huey Jensen. In the next Fandom Legends tournament she played, she placed second after timing out in the finals against Jim Davis.
Her success and burgeoning community landed her a discretionary invite to Mythic Championship III. Though she was unable to make day two, the event was a major turning point for her personal growth and where she met Javier Dominguez. “He explained to me that everything that I did seemed right was only ‘right’ because my opponents made it seem like it was the right thing to do. He opened up the next level of magic for me.”
“Step one is your play, step two, their plays and how to play around them and step three is what they make you think is the right thing to do according to the things they can do in response to what you can do. You have to identify how they’re mind-gaming you and react accordingly. It was a big paradigm shift for me,” she explained.
“But it was good and encouraging because there was this whole other layer of magic that I had so little clue of.” From then on, Dominguez was a close friend and confidant to Bloody. “He helped me through a lot of tournaments mentally. he would whip me into shape and always get me good advice in a lighthearted, helpful way.”
One could say Bloody is just one of the lucky ones. She is one of the rare individuals who are in the right place at the right time when the right opportunity came along and so are able to make a full time income off of streaming. However, when you talk to her, you quickly see a shrewd and analytical business woman navigating the difficult landscape that is streaming.
Bloody recognizes the luck involved with some of her success, but it doesn’t discount what she’s had to do to maximize the opportunities that have come her way. “Me getting invited to the MCi, and stumbling onto Javier. But when you look at it from a different perspective I definitely put the work in to get where I was invited in the first place. I acknowledge all the aspects.”
“Things can happen to line up as a result of your hard work. I can work really hard to walk in the door but whether the door opens or not is not always up to me.”
Along with the competitive environment, Bloody also found a safer space to be herself. “The magic community on average is dramatically nicer and more accommodating for LGBTQ people.” Before she even decided to stream Magic, a friend spoke to her about a group of trans people who were already thriving in the space and supporting each other.
“Autumn won the Mythic Championship the week I started playing Magic. That pushed me to feel like I could exist in this space.” Indeed, she found the community to be more welcoming as opposed to other games and found more accommodation for respecting her pronouns, appearance, and her identity.
“Part of the reason why I think I was able to grow and thrive in the Magic community is because of how it had already become a safer, more accommodating space for trans women and trans people.”
While 2019 was a triumphant year for Bloody, it was a tumultuous year for Magic and the competitive structure. The announcement of the Magic Pro League and then Rivals later that year set off shockwaves. While it was certainly exciting to see players able to make a viable income from professional play, many competitive grinders were left wondering what was left for them.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the competitive tournament structure was radically altered. Online series quickly popped up to try and fill the void, including CFB Events Magic Fest online series. While Bloody was an avid participant in that series, once it was over, she was left without a satisfying competitive outlet.
“I think unless you are already deep within the competitive circuit, it’s not viable to be a competitor.”
“The output I got from the input I gave was becoming a better player, but now becoming a better player is kinda useless when there is nothing to apply it to. There’s no satisfying circuit. No GPs. No Magic Fest Online. There’s a once a month tournament that’s not even a tournament. You just don’t get the same output you used to be able to get.”
The lack of a satisfying competitive scene greatly disrupted her mental health and content.
“When I was a Magic streamer I was able to balance it by being a competitor. While I took hits to my stream as a result of travelling and competing I was able to find a healthy emotional balance between streaming and competing as having one being a break with the other. Unfortunately, once I lost the competitor part I was caught pouring all my time into the one thing and Magic wasn’t a satisfying enough environment to pour all my energy into. I broke down after the Magicfests Online ended.”
The stress from trying to grow her stream and not having a competitive outlet led her to take two months off streaming this past summer. “I had to restart myself and figure things out.”
For Bloody, her main goal of being inspiring people and making people happy was still in the forefront of her mind. “My dream as a twitch streamer is to be able to continue growing and thriving and excelling wherever I want to be, whether that is Magic or Among Us or whatever game I choose.”
With the competitive Magic scene being what it is, Bloody decided to pivot to a different game full time. Among Us, the popular social deduction game, is now Bloody’s primary streaming game of choice. This was a difficult transition for Bloody, but it was what was best for herself and her content. That being said, the door isn’t necessarily shut forever.
“I stream Among Us full time because it’s a game where I feel like I get out as much as I give. If I could get the same output that I could get from the levels of input that I give to Magic again, I will certainly be streaming it full time again.”
Since adopting Among Us, not only has Bloody’s stream grown, it also gave her the boost she needed to become a Twitch Ambassador. The title is given to those who serve as a “great example of a good community. Someone they can point to and say…this is what a twitch stream looks like.” She explained. “It’s really an honor.”
The announcement tweet of her Twitch ambassadorship garnered her about 600 new followers and brought even more traffic to her stream. She now meets with Twitch to give feedback on her and other streamers’ experiences. “As an ambassador it’s important that I serve as a voice line from Partners to Twitch. I think they can get a lot of value from my experiences, especially as a trans woman.”
While this was an achievement she had been working towards since the inception of stream, being featured also brought an onslaught of harassment to her channel when she was featured on the front page for a week.
“The bad will break you down and it’s really hard to ignore. I ended my stream crying because of how much hate I was getting from Twitter. It was rough. And it hurt. It takes a lot of mental and emotional fortitude and resilience to be able to push through those waves of people whose only objective is to ruin your day.” she said.
Bloody used the opportunity to advocate fiercely for LGBTQ people’s rights to be accepted and welcomed. To her, what she had accomplished outshone the hate. “How many times have they had a trans person on the front page with 17,000 viewers on the front page? I think literally never.”
Her experience being on the front page was closely monitored by Twitch. Afterwards, she met with them and discussed what can be done to make the space safer and more positive. Although harassment was a part of her experience, it was more important she could inspire other marginalized people.
“It’s satisfying to know that me even existing out there is inspirational and there are people able to turn on twitch and see someone like them.” However, she notes the distinct lack of trans and marginalized groups on Twitch and hopes to see that landscape change. “There are just an unheard of amount of trans people, LGBTQ people and other marginalized people who are severely uncomfortable with putting themselves on twitch due to the scrutiny they feel they would receive. So much so that they just never even try.”
“It always starts with one person. There’s always got to be someone to walk in front and help carve a path for other people. So many people have contributed so much to get me to where I am.” Bloody said, referring to people like FerociouslySteph, who was the first trans woman to get partnered on Twitch. “I’m doing my thing to help the next person and I’m going to keep on doing my thing…to build a whole population of people who know its normal and awesome for trans women to be streamers.”
Whether it is Magic, Among Us or some other game, Bloody has been able to overcome many of the challenges that have come her way and grow her stream. Some of that has been luck, but it is also undeniably the product of hard work and grit. Through it all, Bloody’s goal hasn’t changed and still keeps her going. “At the core, I want to do exactly two things in my life. I want to challenge myself, and I want to make other people happy.”