Māori Livestream Gamers
You might know me as the Editor of The Pantograph Punch, but I’m also a gamer under the name IceKuini. Always have been, always will be. The most nostalgic memory in my life is my computer-consultant dad scraping together all the computers in the vicinity and connecting them with jumbled cords on our dinner table (this was before bluetooth and wifi) so the whole famz could play the real-time strategy game Age of Empires. All day long, for an entire school holiday. If your parents didn’t do this for you as a kid, were they even parents?
If your parents didn’t do this for you as a kid, were they even parents?
My partner Te Piha Niha, also known as Kai_nine or KIX is the Managing Director of NGEN Room, a programme for rangatahi to learn digital technology in Whangārei and one of the co-founders of Mahi Dogs, a group of Māori men who create and share digital content, livestream games and sell merchandise. Mahi Dogs recently went viral on TikTok with a lockdown garage-workout boo-boo (Te Piha broke one of my chairs lifting weights). At latest, the video had 112.7k views, 489 comments, 841 shares. And that’s only on TikTok – add another 37.1k on Insta Reels. It even made it onto The Project NZ.
In the Whangārei gaming community, there’s the Mahi Dogs and then there’s the OGs, Oldman Gaming. True to their name, Oldman Gaming are older than the Mahi Dogs (though not really that old at all). They’re a collective of family men who also love gaming. One of the main people of Oldman Gaming is Jeremy Tauri, also known as Oldman_shesus. He’s an accountant by day and game streamer by night (like some kind of superhero).
Jeremy’s been livestream gaming for two years now, and the Oldmen have a solid online gaming community, Discord community channel and their own range of merchandise.
You can’t talk about gaming in Aotearoa without mentioning Digital Natives Academy in Rotorua. Co-founded by Potaua and Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule in 2014, Digital Natives has always been at the forefront of digital tech innovation, particularly for rangatahi Māori. The remit of Digital Natives is to encourage young people and those wanting to enter the tech industry. Marcus Powell is the Education Creative Director at Digital Natives, also a Pokemon Go livestreamer and DJ under the name of DJ Blaze.
I sat down with Te Piha from Mahi Dogs (Kai_nine), Jeremy from Oldman Gaming (Oldman_shesus) and Marcus (Akadjblaze) on Zoom to talk about livestream gaming.
IceKuini (Ataria Sharman): To get us started, where did it all begin?
Oldman_shesus (Jeremy Tauri): I’ve always had an interest in computer games. I have all the consoles and everything. I have a shrine of games in my office, from Playstation, Nintendo and Xbox to an arcade machine, so many memories attached to all of it. Reminds me of the days with the mattresses on the floor playing games until 6am, having an hour's nap, and then playing until you have to return the game.
My dad was into gaming. I went to the arcade once as a kid, when I was meant to be at school, it was truancy. But then I turned up at the video parlour and my dad was there and he was supposed to be at work! It’s in our blood.
Kai_nine (Te Piha Niha): I’d go to my cousins’ and we’d play on a Sega 2. I told Mum, but we didn’t get a console until the Nintendo 64. The one we had didn’t have a save cartridge, so I would play the same levels over and over. I couldn’t save the game and always had to start from the beginning. Then in the Playstation era, my cousins and I would chill out on mattresses, playing games. Our dogs were always eating the cords, and we’d wait for weeks for a new controller, no one was going to take us to The Warehouse just to get one. I remember our Playstation broke and my brother Poai and I opened it up trying to figure it out. We used the old trick of tinfoil to see if anything goes through (don’t try this at home). It was lucky we didn’t get electrocuted.
I have a shrine of games in my office, from Playstation, Nintendo and Xbox to an arcade machine
Akadjblaze (Marcus Powell): I started gaming when Atari was still a baby. That made me realise I was very much into technology. I spent a few coins in the arcades on Wizard and Spacies, until they got too expensive – it went from 20–50c to $2 a game. The arcade was a social thing, you’d go down to beat other people’s high scores. We weren’t going down there to be the hermits that people think gamers are, it was a place to hang out. Over the years, gaming and DJing have kept my ongoing love. I spent ten years in South Korea, and gamed and DJd over there. South Korea is the home of esports. While I was there, I was heavily involved in expat gaming.
IceKuini: What is it about livestream gaming?
Akadjblaze: Online gaming gives kids a chance to belong. Those ten kids scattered around the world who could never find each other, now they can find each other online. They can find a community. Here’s someone else who gets me. Streamers help create communities so these kids can find each other.
Oldman_shesus: For me it’s about creative expression. People are watching me play Warzone, but what else can I add to the experience? Tonight we’re doing a stream while playing 70s music, because Facebook is allowing us to play music now. So I’m going to play 70s music and people can put in requests.
It’s about people, not just the game. The game is what we have in common. We play games on our streams to up the stakes, like if you get zero kills you have to sing a waiata. Then we clip those memories to embarrass them and to remind us of those funny moments.
Kai_nine: Gaming is a de-stresser for me. It just changes it up. I’m not saying I go there to escape, it’s just a good way to get out of there and you don’t have to leave the house.
I like the smack talk, the competitive smack talk that comes out
Oldman_shesus: I like the smack talk, the competitive smack talk that comes out. That cheekiness, like Māui the troublemaker, the mischief-maker. And it's my space, if you don’t like it you won’t come. I can do what I like as long as I’m not disrespecting people. I can be cheeky, harass Kai_nine in a fun way, in a light way. People come in and crack jokes. Humour is important, I’m not a sweaty, serious gamer because I’m not that good.
Kai_nine: One thing I’ve noticed, Jeremy, is the community vibes I feel in the Oldman Gaming streams. You guys excel in that area. There’s cheekiness to your streams. Everyone wants to be a part of it. It’s a safe space. I think that's how you attract all the guys who can’t get the dubs [a win] and they follow this dub-less leader [in Warzone].
Oldman_shesus: It’s crack-up, yeah sometimes people are like, these guys are hopeless. But we do win every now and then, one stream we got 5–6 dubs. I can’t figure out why this happens.
Akadjblaze: Community is important for those wanting to start out. Cool, so you’ve got zero viewers, one viewer, two viewers. How do you entice people to come over and view you? People are looking for entertainment, places to hang. Community really comes into this.
Oldman_shesus: One of the things we do is use rolling gags. Like whenever one guy comes into the stream I always sing out his name on the stream. Just because it sounds nice when you sing it and now it’s a gag that continues. We’ve also got our own Oldman jargon, like teeny-tiny, which means no kills in a game. And our recurring event, Tuesday Club – at 9pm every Tuesday our community knows we’ll be online streaming.
We’ve got our own Oldman jargon, like teeny-tiny, which means no kills in a game
Kai_nine: You’re creating culture. We’ve got our own sayings, too, like ‘suck it to the mimi’. Language that your people understand and resonate with.
Oldman_shesus: That’ll be a t-shirt. Have you ever had any followers visit you in person?
Kai_nine: No. I want to create a good connection, but not too good of a connection.
Oldman_shesus: One of our followers came up from Auckland, we had dinner and he came out. They’re big supporters of Oldman Gaming and our streams and, yeah, it’s funny, eh, you’ve never met them except online but you’ve obviously got this connection. If I did meet them in person it’d be just like catching up with you.
Kai_nine: I’ve seen one of your guys around, wearing your hoodies.
Oldman_shesus: You stealing my followers?
Kai_nine: I keep randomly seeing him at the same spot in town.
Oldman_shesus: It’s not limited to your immediate geographic area, eh. We’ve got people in the UK, Australia, the Philippines and America. They’re all around the world.
IceKuini: What social media platforms are you using to stream?
Oldman_shesus: Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Some get worked more than others, our biggest is Facebook.
Akadjblaze: I update my website every now and then but otherwise Facebook, Twitch, Twitter. Running social media while livestreaming is a lot of work, you have to put in hours to be successful. I try to stream once or twice a week, but it comes and goes, depending on how busy I am.
Kai_nine: We’re on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.
The comments were the funniest. I don’t want to be known as the guy who fell on his arse
IceKuini: I heard, Kai_nine, that you went viral on TikTok.
Kai_nine: You should know because I broke your chair. I was doing a lockdown workout, trying to do an incline bench push up against the mattress. Just as I went to go for it the chair collapsed under me. It couldn’t handle me. Too much power.
Oldman_shesus: You know what they say, too much weight, not enough speed.
Kai_nine: The comments were the funniest. I don’t want to be known as the guy who fell on his arse.
Oldman_shesus: Were you expecting that?
Kai_nine: I was actually filming a skit. And I thought I’ll do a couple more just for the camera. So the chair actually made it to the end of the workout. I went back one last time and crashed and burned. So now we have some good firewood.
Oldman_shesus: Unpredictable content is the best.
Kai_nine: I spent hours putting the original skit together, and the one that went viral was just an afterthought.
It’s cool when some of those bigger guys jump in my chat. Nova jumped in once for a casual chat, and he’s a big-time streamer
IceKuini: What games are you streaming at the moment?
Akadjblaze: I stream a lot of Pokemon Go, and take it outside so I’m not just stuck on a seat in a room. There are a lot of limitations when you’re outside, because our cell phone coverage basically sucks, especially compared to South Korea. There’s barely 4G coverage on the main road, and take it a block either way and it's not enough for streaming.
Oldman_shesus: Warzone, Call of Duty, Modern Warfare. I used to play a bit of Command and Conquer but no one wants to play me anymore because I’m too good. It’s also kind of hard to talk while playing strategy games, and there’s a lot of jumping around the screen, which isn’t great for the viewer's experience. I’ve got a whole lot of old Playstation 3 games I want to play, console stuff. But I’ve gotta set it up, there’s a lot of work setting it up. You need four screens, a camera, two machines, a stream deck, mixer, mic and then you gotta make it all work.
IceKuini: Who do you watch online?
Akadjblaze: There’s this Twitch channel Mogra Club, in Akihabara in Japan. They stream anime DJ music from the club. It was really annoying, too, because I didn’t find out about it until after I decided to leave Korea. The place is so cool, on Oldies Night they play anime music soundtracks from the 80s.
Kai_nine: Oldman Gaming is one of our top ones. Neva Safe Gaming. We try to keep it local.
Oldman_shesus: The Breathas, East Coast Gamers and Mahi Dogs are our immediate whānau. Then there’s Seezy and Disloyal Gaming. Probably the bigger ones for me are Z Laner and Stone Mountain. Strongest Māori Gamer, Pa Boy Gaming, Supermantis, Nova. It’s cool when some of those bigger guys jump in my chat. Nova jumped in once for a casual chat and gave us some stars, and he’s a big-time streamer. Pa Boy too. People like that come in all the time.
IceKuini: What makes a quality livestream experience for the audience?
Akadjblaze: I like to have a proper production level when streaming, a couple of different camera angles at least. Not just stuck with one. Lots of streamers have mods to look after the chat – if you have a lot of people talking it's impossible to keep up with it. Luckily there are virtual AI systems out there. Top streamers have a crew that works with them. But starting out you do everything yourself.
Oldman_shesus: Someone who can elevate their pitch. I’m quite monotone, people say I’m a chill streamer. I think also using the stream to talk about personal experiences as well, what you’re dealing with, it makes you more relatable. Sometimes streamers will talk about the troubles they’re having with Covid, mental-health issues, family issues. A big one for streamers is that you lose a lot of followers when you’re not online. If you take time off for family, as soon as you come off streaming, your numbers drop.
Kai_nine: I like entertainment. I don’t follow sweat lobbies as much. I don’t mind a bit of trashing on other people if it’s for fun and banter, but a lot of it I’m just like, “Grow up”. I like uniqueness. A resurgence at the moment is hot-tub streaming, girls in bikinis in a hot tub, gaming. I don’t follow that.
IceKuini: Hot-tub streaming?
Kai_nine: It’s safe-for-work content, but near the line it could almost be considered not safe for work. Usually, it’s gaming and talking with a beautiful lady.
Akadjblaze: Hot-tub streaming, I get it. I totally get why you’d do it. Sex sells, there’s no getting around that fact. If you show a bit of skin, fanboys will give you money. It’s a blatant way of doing it, really weird.
Oldman_shesus: They’re prevalent because they get so many views. But I’m not sure it’s gaming, it’s a different concept.
IceKuini: Can you make money from livestream gaming?
Oldman_shesus: A big streamer in Aotearoa told me that he made around $2000 a month, sometimes $4000. Some people are open about it, and others don’t want to talk about it. The most I’ve made was about $1200 a month. The least is probably around $100. Sometimes we give the proceeds from our streams back to charity. We did one for Creative Northland, streams where we gave all the money we made away. Paying it forward, but it does help with popularity as well. Pay it forward, get it back.
Kai_nine: We peaked at $200 one month and didn’t even know. We try to focus on our business, get people to support us by purchasing our merchandise. We’re giving as much as we can to the community and we want to do more, so if they enjoy it maybe they can get a hoodie. There’s no cheat way or one way to get paid to stream. Our way is different to Oldman Gaming, and other people I follow.
Oldman_shesus: You can also get money for promotion. I applied with Razer to become an affiliate in streaming. They give you a content creator code for when people go to the website and purchase something. The general rule of thumb is to get bigger and wait for brands to come to you. There’s merchandise as well, Facebook stars, direct donation links, supporters’ badges or getting to a level where people pay to subscribe to your stream each month. But once you do that, there’s probably an expectation of making sure that you're always putting out new content.
Kai_nine: Almost like a job, once people sub onto you they’re there to watch you.
Oldman_shesus: Sky TV, they’re going to turn it on and it’s there.
Kai_nine: I’ve purchased and I expect my content.
Oldman_shesus: Can create a bit of anxiety, obligation. I’ve got subscribers, gotta grind all the way to get there and gotta know what comes after. I have seen people get so wrapped up in it it's not healthy.
Putting in work with my boy Charizard! I like running him, he is a little squishy and you need to be careful early game but mid/late game he can be a total monster, combos well with Defenders but have to really monitor his HP #PokemonUNITE pic.twitter.com/8lOZpiLVxc— DJ Blaze (Marcus) (@akadjblaze) July 23, 2021
IceKuini: If you were to choose a character from pop culture, who would be your livestream gaming personality?
Kai_nine: My grandfather. I’d start a group called Older Man Gaming. Act all dithery and make dumb remarks about what’s going on. “Help! Get someone else to fix this machine!”
Oldman_shesus: I reckon Kai looks like Jason Mamoa. Maybe you should do a topless hot-tub stream. I’ll come watch. You’ll be a star.
Akadjblaze: Mine would be Charizard. From the original television series. Doesn’t give a shit about anybody but if you piss him off he goes all out. That sleeping dragon persona. Don’t mess with the dragon – you’ll get burned.
Oldman_shesus: I like the idea of Māui. Fun, mischievous character with the Māori vibe going on. Māui-pōtiki, Māui-taranga.
IceKuini: What would you say to someone who wants to get into livestream gaming but isn’t sure how to start?
Akadjblaze: Just start. Literally just start. Otherwise you’re going to be messing around wasting time. But be prepared because at the start you’re going to have no one watching. But that’s fine, everyone starts off with zero viewers. You will start at zero. But always pretend like there’s someone there.
Kai_nine: Don’t worry too much about people watching. Keep being you. Focus on yourself. Try not to worry too much about the numbers.
Oldman_shesus: I remember talking to Kai_nine about livestream gaming when I was just starting to think about it. I don’t think you thought I was actually going to do it.
Kai_nine: I had six other people telling me they were going to start streaming, but no one was doing it.
Oldman_shesus: Kai did the right thing, told me you just gotta do it. There’s six billion people in the world, at least some of them will enjoy what you have to offer. And you learn, you’ll learn heaps of stuff on that journey, the evolution of yourself online might be very different to what you thought it’d be.
Akadjblaze: Livestreaming is like radio production. You’re there talking to a camera, and you have no idea who’s on the camera. It could be one person, or it could be 1000.
Oldman_shesus: Everyone starts with zero. And we all start at the same place. Be respectful.
Feature image: Te Piha Niha. Console icon by HAMEL KHALED, Pokémon ball by Lagot Design, Gameboy by Ilham Fitrotul Hayat and Ghost by Edwin PM from the Noun Project.