It took the early days of a COVID-19 pandemic lockdown for Adam Gaudette to really get into video games.
Along the way he realized here was a way to relieve some of the #StayHome boredom while also finding people to play against and also connect with fans: Twitch, the online streaming platform that’s dedicated to gaming.
“I’ve never really been a big video gamer, up until March in the first quarantine,” he said Wednesday over a media Zoom session. “That’s when I found out about Twitch.”
His younger brothers, Brady and Cam, are avid gamers. So is his brother-in-law. They showed him Twitch and the rest is … well, you know. He now has more than 4,000 people following his Twitch channel.
“I gave it a shot. I was like hey, this could be a cool way to get interact with fans and kind of build the brand a little bit,” he said. “As I got the hang of it more, it just started to take off and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a lot of fun interacting with the fans and showing my personality off the ice.”
He got so into his new hobby that his wife Micaela — an engineer — built him a gaming rig for his 24th birthday last October.
He mostly plays Call of Duty: Warzone but has also streamed himself playing Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout with his wife.
Along the way he’s found someone to edit his videos and create graphics — through Twitch.
Abroop Dhami is a Vancouver photographer/videographer and played against Gaudette last summer. He then got in touch, offering his services.
“It was the first experience I ever had with a hockey player,” Dhami said. “The closest thing I had before that was meeting Fin (the Canucks’ mascot) at a Future Shop many, many years ago. Crazy to think that the first time I’d talk to a player he’d be on Twitch and I’d end up working for him!”
Dhami said that Gaudette’s personality shines on Twitch.
“He’s super interactive with the chat, answering questions when he isn’t focused, so people are always getting their questions answered and learning more and more as time goes on.”
Terry Chou is another who has encountered Gaudette online. He first played with the Canucks centre in his early days playing Warzone.
“He was waiting for his friends to log on and was killing time, so he invited a couple of his Twitch community members to join him to play,” he said.
Gaudette’s playing style online reminding Chou of how he plays on the ice: offensive aggression.
“Adam was all about running in and trying to get as many kills as possible. He would take off without telling the team. We just had to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t end up fighting by himself,” he recalled. “You can probably blame a lot of it to team chemistry. After all, we were playing with random community members. At the end of the day it was really fun. To be able to play with him was definitely a 2020 highlight for me. I’m just hoping I’ll get chance to play with him and Petey someday.”
Jon Festinger, a faculty member at the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver, was complimentary of Gaudette’s decision to use Twitch.
“Especially to athletes, but I would say to most of us, games are a very natural thing,” Festinger said. “Games are generally are part of life. We probably play them more than we think we do. … So what Gaudette is doing has a natural element, he’s allowing himself actually to be human. It may seem like an outside the box thought, but it’s not. It does show a certain character, as a positive thing. It shows he’s a kid who will go with his instincts.”
As modern gaming is almost entirely played online, against other players, there’s an obvious community to be found. But even in the pre-internet days of gaming, gamers built communities, Festinger pointed out.
“Gaming and communities have always gone together,” he said. “The ability to play with real people in real time in really sophisticated, creative ways, reinforcing community is easier than ever. If you’re an athlete or public figure, that’s where this becomes interesting.”
Gaudette is using Twitch to do basic things, like connecting with fans in a new way, but he’s also realized its potential to raise awareness. He’s begun to cultivate his own brand, dubbing himself “the Hockey Gaud.”
“It’s just a fun play on words and the fans seem to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not just about hockey, it’s about interacting with different people and helping out with charities and stuff like that,” he said.
So far he’s been forwarding the donations people have made to his Twitch account, as well as the subscriptions to his channel — paid subscribers get access to a private chat that Gaudette occasionally participates in as well as the opportunity to set up private games against him — to the Canucks for Kids Fund, but he’s got other ideas, too.
“We’re really looking at — my wife and I — we’re really looking into starting our own charity eventually and give back that way,” he said. “We’ve done a little bit so far with the Canucks for Kids funds through donations on Twitch. It’s not just for us to build our followers and our brand; it’s for us to give back and just make somebody’s day here and there.”
Festinger said that Gaudette’s presence on Twitch is a way for him also to “act normal.”
He pointed to the decision by American legislators Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar to play a game of Among Us last fall in a voter-outreach effort that was claimed to reach millions of eyeballs, far outclassing the more conventional online streaming efforts made by the likes of Joe Biden and yes, Donald Trump.
“When Gaudette does this, you’re getting something that’s real and normal, or feels real and normal,” he said. “It’s hard to play a game and pretend to be somebody else. You’re going to be yourself. The mask comes off. It’s very hard to manage your public image in that kind of environment. So credit to Gaudette for putting himself out there.”
He also thought of the reaction two seasons ago when a number of Canucks came out opposed to the idea of their teammates spending their down time playing games on the road.
“I was very, very critical of their position,” he said. “This is a social thing that people do.”
“What Gaudette is doing now, it’s different to that. This is how far gaming has come in a sports environment. It’s important to note the change, which is a societal change as well.”
Festinger may be 63, but he’s long been an avid gamer.
Years ago, he was playing on his iRacing simulator and found himself in a simulated race alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr., one of the greatest car racers in recent times.
“It was thrilling. You can guess who became my favourite car racer after that,” he said. “Gaudette’s experience with his own fans could go just like that.”
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