Tuning In to OfflineTV

It’s widely known that a content creator’s schedule doesn’t strictly adhere to a 9 to 5 workday. So, it’s no surprise that when nine of them roll up in a rented shuttle bus, they’re ready for a full 12 hours of back-to-back shoots. What helps keep the crew in line and hyped for the long day ahead of them is that they all make up OfflineTV, a collective of digital creatives consisting of livestreamers Scarra, Pokimane, LilyPichu, Disguised Toast, Yvonnie, Masayoshi, Sydeon, QuarterJade and YouTuber Michael Reeves. Creative director Brodin Plett leads the content on the OfflineTV YouTube channel. 

With millions of social media followers totaled between them, the members of OfflineTV primarily cover gaming content (with the exception of Reeves’ engineering videos). But as a group, their content ranges from playing fear pong to doing blind taste tests to vlogging a group trip to Japan.

The collective was first conceived of in 2017 by former “League of Legends” professional esports player Scarra, who joined up with his former manager Chris Chan and Twitch streamer Pokimane with no real goal in mind. “The idea was that we wanted to make cool stuff with cool people, essentially,” Scarra explains. As a former pro, Scarra says he wanted to replicate the high of winning an esports tournament with his teammates. “I didn’t really have any friends, so I thought, ‘I’d like to find friends who are really cool and potentially make something with them,’” he says. “I like the social and challenging aspect of inviting a bunch of people together and making something that elevates everyone.” 

He succeeds on that front, as OfflineTV feels like any other young adult friend group. Beyond their content, the crew’s genuine chemistry and banter with one another have resonated among fans all over the world. Many of the collective’s members have been friends for years, with some of them even living together at some point in the group’s history. 

“I like the social and challenging aspect of inviting a bunch of people together and making something that elevates everyone,” says Scarra. 

Moreover, OfflineTV’s popularity doesn’t come from nowhere, as many of the senior members like Pokimane, LilyPichu and Disguised Toast have been established creators since well before livestreaming’s recent rise in prevalence. Livestreaming is far from a new phenomenon, as platforms like Ustream and Livestream.com existed prior to Twitch’s 2011 launch. While video gaming has become closely associated with streaming, it can also include other activities like cooking, art and music. Online streaming provides viewers with content for hours on end and has a once-niche audience that has grown exponentially in the last few years—one doesn’t have to wonder why.

“COVID. COVID boosted Twitch numbers or streaming numbers overall by a hundred percent,” Scarra says. “It increased around 30% within the first three months [of lockdown], and probably more than that after. So, COVID really made Twitch a mainstream name.” He laughs as he recounts how he used to be mistaken for an adult entertainer when trying to explain his occupation. “I always [said] I’m an online entertainer—which sounds weird,” he says. “But now, you can say you do YouTube or Twitch and [people] understand.” After all, when everyone was at home and had exhausted all the shows and movies on Netflix, what else could provide entertainment other than someone speedrunning “Minecraft” for the 10th time in a row? 

But what really kicked streaming and, subsequently, OfflineTV into the mainstream was the breakthrough of the video game “Among Us,” a 2018 multiplayer inspired by the party game Mafia. OfflineTV’s Disguised Toast describes the phenomenon as “a perfect storm.” People were isolated and starving for social interaction, and then came a simple online game, best played with friends who are comfortable stabbing each other in the back in the name of good fun.

Probably best known for dominating the YouTube trending page with his big-brained “Among Us” plays during the peak of lockdown, Disguised Toast helped popularize the game alongside his network of content creator friends, including the likes of Sykkuno and Valkyrae. “It was supposed to be just filler content,” Disguised Toast says. But after amassing millions of views almost every day and hosting lobbies with some of the internet’s biggest streamers and, later, public figures like rapper Lil Nas X and politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Disguised Toast and his brand became more or less synonymous with “Among Us.” 

Becoming known as the “Among Us Guy” was somewhat unexpected, but Disguised Toast has taken the title with gratitude, especially as his fanbase has grown to include younger viewers. “It made me realize there are people that look up to me, even though I don’t consider myself anything special,” he says. “I do try to lead by example and be worthy of people’s view of me, because I feel like they have a very positive view. I want to make sure their faith in me is not misplaced.” 

“It made me realize there are people that look up to me, even though I don’t consider myself anything special,” Disguised Toast says. “I do try to lead by example and be worthy of people’s view of me, because I feel like they have a very positive view. I want to make sure their faith in me is not misplaced.” 

Becoming a role model is part and parcel of life in the public eye, especially for a person of color. Asian American and Pacific Islander entertainers have long carved out their own spaces in the online world, because traditionally, the mainstream industry seldom provided a place for AAPI audiences and performers. Early creators like Ryan Higa and WongFu Productions filled the void for AAPI representation on digital platforms because the gatekeepers preventing entry to forms of entertainment like films and television were nonexistent on the web. And as audiences grew, the number of creators grew as well, to the point where more people became comfortable with pursuing careers in entertainment. 

But even though the digital world has become increasingly inclusive, there still exists plenty of racism and misogyny. The women of OfflineTV know this all too well, as they must navigate the gaming industry as a double minority. “It’s interesting, actually—I felt welcome as an Asian; I did not feel welcome as a woman,” says QuarterJade. One of the newest members of OfflineTV and a popular “Valorant” streamer, she looked up to other Asian streamers like fuslie, plushys and xChocoBars when she started out. “I would be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about quitting, especially with the hate from the ‘Valorant’ community in the early days,” she continues. “But I’m really inspired to be what [fuslie, plushys and xChocoBars] were to me in the beginning. It keeps me going to know that what I’m doing is important.” 

Back in those early days of livestreaming, the online landscape was far different. LilyPichu, who started streaming over 10 years ago, was one of the only female “League of Legends” content creators who gained traction at the time. “When I first started, there weren’t many females, let alone Asian females, let alone Asian females who sounded like me,” she says, referencing her naturally high-pitched voice, which she’s been accused of faking to get more views. “You can imagine all the negative attention I got. People have told me they used to watch me a lot or that I inspired them, and that makes me happy, but at the same time, there’s still a lot of misogyny in gaming.” 

A decade in an industry so new is no small feat, as streamers especially must keep audiences consistently engaged to obtain the follower and subscriber counts required to succeed. Plus, creators always need to churn out new content or secure brand deals to pay the bills. As a result, a streamer’s career longevity is up in the air, as Scarra can attest. “A lot of people ask what a retirement age looks like or when I’ll retire, but I know a lot of my peers are thinking about retiring quickly,” he says. “We’ll see when I stop enjoying it. It’s nice to see that I’m not only the kind of person who started at the beginning, but also a person who is still in the scene.” 

“When I first started, there weren’t many females, let alone Asian females, let alone Asian females who sounded like me,” LilyPichu says.

Since she started streaming in 2017, QuarterJade is working toward building a foundation for herself. She has been publicly candid about struggling with work-life balance as OfflineTV’s and her own popularity grows, confessing to putting off visiting family because of work opportunities, such as traveling to Turkey for the Valorant Champions Tour. “I love my parents and I wish I could be home more often, but it’s this push and pull of making do with what you have and trying to build this foundation for the rest of your life,” she says. “Streaming is like an hourglass, and you just don’t know how much sand is left.”

Just having that foundation is a privilege in itself. Disguised Toast says he feels as if he’s reached the point of stability where he can scale back on how often he streams and pursue other content outside of video games. He explains he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed, citing how Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson branched out of pro-wrestling, and has signed up with other content creators to participate in a chessboxing tournament (a physical sport that combines chess and boxing) in order to start making content outside of his computer setup. 

LilyPichu has also made forays beyond livestreaming, using her online fame to facilitate her passions for voice acting and music. She’s lent her voice to several anime series and video games and in August of this year even held her first concert, where she sang original songs like “dreamy night” and “last cup of coffee” to a live audience of her friends and fans. 

She and the rest of OfflineTV remain grateful to those fans, acknowledging that they’ve received all these opportunities only through years of support. “OTV was my baby, and now it feels like it’s a lot of other people’s as well,” Scarra says. He sounds like a proud Asian dad as he adds, “I’m really happy with what we’ve achieved, and I think we could do better. This year’s no different.” In recent months, the group has announced an apparel collaboration with Champion, a long-term partnership with McDonald’s, booths at Anime Expo and TwitchCon and much more soon to come.

With the worth of the creator economy estimated at over $100 billion according to a Forbes report published this past July, it’s no wonder that becoming a content creator is a viable career path. “It’s changing so much,” Disguised Toast says. “Now, we see streamers in the mainstream—they’re commercial. Kids consume social media like Twitch and TikTok, and the stars of yesterday aren’t going to use the same platforms as the stars of tomorrow. I hope one day it’s treated with the same respect that traditional media is.”

Meet the OfflineTV Crew

@BrodinPlett

  • Favorite video game: Kingdom Hearts II
  • Last movie/TV show watched: Lords of Dogtown 
  • Go-to boba order: Milk tea. No pearls. 25% ice. 100% sugar. 
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? Creating something else
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? I’m pretty white-passing, so it’s fun to break people’s assumptions and remind them that they can’t assume someone’s race or upbringing by the way they look.

@DisguisedToast

  • Favorite video game: Warcraft III
  • Last movie/TV show watched: House of the Dragon 
  • Go-to boba order: Black tea with grass jelly
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? Computer programming  
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? An honor and a privilege. 

@LilyPichu

  • Favorite video game: So hard. I’ll pick Pokémon Puzzle League.
  • Last movie/TV show watched: Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
  • Go-to boba order: Jasmine green tea with sea salt foam topping
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? Voice acting or music
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? I’m honored to have inspired lots of younger girls.

@Masayoshi

  • Favorite video game: Valorant
  • Last movie/TV show watched: Iron Giant 
  • Go-to boba order: I usually order anything on the menu with green tea.
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? I would probably seek out a start-up company to work with.
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? I see the scene for male streamers to be pretty competitive, maybe due to the lower rates [caused by] the ratio of male to female streamers. Thankfully, since my goal was just to make a little bit more than minimum wage to do this full-time, I’ve been able to hone in on making the best possible streams I can rather than stressing about the numbers.

@MichaelReeves

  • Favorite video game: Skyrim
  • Last movie/TV show watched: Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
  • Go-to boba order: Thai tea
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? Software developer 
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? I make fun of other Filipino people and they enjoy that.

@Pokimane

  • Favorite video game: My favorite game of all time has got to be the Legend of Zelda series! An absolute classic.  
  • Last movie/TV show watched: I recently watched a K-drama called Little Women and I was absolutely hooked [by] the captivating storyline, interesting characters and amazing cinematography.
  • Go-to boba order: My go-to boba order is brown sugar milk tea with Oreo crumbles! 
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? I would’ve wound up being a chemical engineer, since that’s what I was studying in university.
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? It’s been immensely important and fulfilling to me personally to represent every aspect of my identity, as I’m keenly aware of the impact that representation has in any industry.

@QuarterJade

  • Favorite video game: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Last movie/TV show watched: House of the Dragon 
  • Go-to boba order: Taro milk tea without boba
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? I wanted to be a dermatologist.
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? It definitely has been hard, don’t get me wrong, but knowing that my representation matters and that others look at me and find the inspiration they need to go, “Oh, that could be me!” is truly where I continue to find my passion. 

@Scarra

  • Favorite video game: League of Legends
  • Last movie/TV show watched: Everything Everywhere All at Once
  • Go-to boba order: House milk tea, 50% sweet
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? Probably just perish 
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? I don’t think I’ve ever felt like a representative in the space, more so a person that creates a safe space to just relax and vibe out.

@Sydeon

  • Favorite video game: Halo 2
  • Last movie/TV show watched: House of the Dragon 
  • Go-to boba order: Mango tea with boba
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? I would be a nurse.
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? I feel super proud to be in the position I’m in as a BIPOC woman. I felt like I saw little to no representation when I started to get into gaming and streaming, and I love the idea that I can help show other people that they belong in the space.

@Yvonnie

  • Favorite video game: League of Legends
  • Last movie/TV show watched: How I Met Your Mother 
  • Go-to boba order: Grapefruit green tea
  • What would you be doing if you weren’t a content creator? Something else in gaming
  • What has it been like for you to represent your identity, especially in the gaming/streaming community? Being female, having to speak up on how it’s not okay to be misogynistic and spread more awareness on that.

This article will appear in Character Media’s Annual 2022 Issue. Read our 2021 issue here.