Twitch's Kate Stark on Fall Guys, 'Animal Talking' and Building an Inclusive Twitch Community
The streamer (whose handle is simply "Kate" on Twitch) is known for her stellar gameplay and the amazing community that backs her up. From her OG first-person shooter followers, to the streamers and viewers who've become obsessed with Fall Guys in recent months, to all the incredible folks she's met working on in-game talk shows like "Animal Talking" and "Talk Guys."
And her success doesn't appear to be letting up anytime soon. Over the weekend, for example, she participated in the massive Twitch Rivals tournament during Twitch's virtual convention, GlitchCon, alongside some of Twitch's biggest streamers including shroud, Tfue and pokimane. How does Kate do it all? We had to know—so we asked her.
Sweety High: How did you first get introduced to streaming?
Kate Stark: I watched Twitch for a long time before I ever thought about doing it myself. Then, in January of 2016, I made a New Year's Resolution. It was the only resolution I made that year, and it was only two words: create more.
I went to a fine arts university for stage management and theater, and that's what I thought I was going to do with my life, but there's not a ton of money in that, especially straight out of university. I'd actually been working at a medical office and as a bartender, and this was my opportunity to bring back my creative side. I could do a bunch of different things—I could write, or try art—but streaming had the best time-investment-to-audience-return ratio I could think of while still working a full-time job. I did that based on my love of video games, which I've had since I was a kid.
Nine months after I started, I went full-time, and I've been full-time now for five years. I never went into it expecting that to happen. I would do one or two hours after work and wind down by playing some video games. Over those nine months, I was starting to make more streaming than I was bartending. I started a transition period of just taking one shift off work and dedicating it to streaming to see what happened, and kept doing that as money from streaming increased. Nine months later, I quit my job completely.
SH: How did you build your audience by putting in just a couple of hours here and there, and what do you feel allowed you to connect to your community?
KS: Part of it is consistency with your broadcasting. Even if they were quite small, I could tell my audience, "I will be on at this time, on these days for this amount of time." I find that, especially when you're doing something like trying to achieve Twitch Partner, consistency is key. Make a schedule and stick to it. Think of it like a TV show. If you know your favorite show is going to be on Thursday at 6pm, you're going to tune in at that time. It's appointment viewing. But, if you find out it's on in five minutes, and you weren't given any warning, you're going to miss it because you've got other things planned.
Also, people going into streaming should never do it with the purpose of it becoming a job. The market is so saturated that the chances of that happening are quite low. I've been doing this for five years, and I know that even I was at the tail end of it being a feasible option for me. I'm not saying it's not an option for people, but there are people who've been on the platform for 10 years doing this, and they are at the top of Twitch just because there weren't as many streamers then. Now, every friend of mine streams even occasionally because it's so accessible. That's always a good dream to have and something to work toward, but don't go into it thinking it's going to be your career.
SH: What did your stream look like before some of the major recent Fall Guys competitions, and how has it changed since then?
KS: I've been doing large-scale events and tournaments off and on for a few years, but with other games. I've competed in tournaments for PUGB and Apex Legends, even for Stardew Valley, which was a weird one, but Twitch Rivals, FallMania and Fall Guys in general have really changed my stream in positive ways.
I was always pretty consistent with my viewership, but since FallMania and Fall Guys released, it's definitely increased. A bit of that is just exposure to a completely new audience. Obviously, Fall Guys didn't have a fan base before August because it didn't exist, and so since the beginning of September when I got pretty good at the game, the viewership has increased. I made second place in FallMania III, hosted by GrandPooBear, which was a huge event broadcast to a lot of people.
Fall Guys has also been incredible for friendships. I have met so many incredible people through that tournament. For example, I'm talking to GrandPooBear right now in DMs, and we're setting out to stream the new Fall Guys update in a few hours. We have a whole friend Discord with people competing in FallMania, and we all talk and game together every day.
Everyone is so supportive in the Fall Guys community. It's unlike anything I've ever seen in a gaming community before. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed and we all support each other. I'm not saying that doesn't exist elsewhere, but it's one of the most wholesome game communities I've experienced. Especially coming from a first-person shooter background, going to something completely different has been really nice.
(Fall Guys via Devolver Digital)
SH: As a Twitch streamer, you've made a lot of connections with high-profile people. How do relationships like that develop, and what has it been like to see your community grow in that way?
KS: It's been really interesting because a lot of the more high-profile—even mainstream—celebrities I've become friends with, have (especially during the pandemic and lockdown) turned to streaming as an outlet for their creativity. They're completely new in this field, and they look up to streamers, myself included, as established people. We look up to them because they're famous. We have a mutual admiration of each other, and I'm more than willing to help out with their tech issues. It's really sweet seeing them coming into what I call my creative space and trying something new and having fun with it, especially when productions are shut down and they're not able to be on set or filming or touring and doing whatever they're doing.
SH: How did you become close to Gary Whitta and get involved with "Animal Talking"?
KS: Gary and I actually met a few years ago through a friend of mine through PUBG (PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds). Gary and I played together one night, and he ran me over with a jeep, and killed me. I was furious—jokingly, of course—but then we became friends because he was streaming PUBG late night, when I streamed it, and we both wanted friends to play with.
At the time, I didn't know who he was, besides a cool person to play video games and stream with. And, as it turns out, he's a very well-known, accomplished screenwriter who wrote Star Wars: Rogue One and The Book of Eli. Over the last few years, we've become really good friends.
When he was starting up "Animal Talking," he texted me the night before the first "episode" and said, "You gotta see this silly thing I did on my Animal Crossing island." So I tuned in, and I thought it was so cool. He had turned his basement in Animal Crossing into a late-night talk show set. Then I was the fourth-ever guest on the show, in Episode 3.
After that, the show started booking celebrities. They were all in the same boat as us—stuck in lockdown during the pandemic—and they just wanted to do something. Gary, being quite famous in his own right, was able to book these cool people. I texted him and told him I was a professional stage manager, and asked if he needed help backstage because I was happy to do it.
The first episode I worked on was with T-Pain. And T-Pain is a delight, but he was a handful, and I ended up on a call with him for three hours after the show trying to get him hooked up with this musician and Twitch streamer he met on the show. Now, they've actually collaborated on a song, which is super cool—but that was also my first-ever episode, and it was the most hectic, chaotic situation I've ever experienced! But the next night, we had Elijah Wood, and by contrast, he was the chillest guest we've ever had.
I've made friends with people who, without the pandemic, I would have never met. What a wild world. The lockdown has humanized a lot of people and brought a lot of us together where I see a lot more people collaborating, in video games especially. The other day, I played Among Us with Taran Killam, who was on SNL and Hamilton on Broadway, and I was like, "What is this life?" I played Fall Guys with the lead singer of blink-182, Mark Hoppus. It's wild, but it's very cool.
SH: What was it like to recently be a co-guest with Gorillaz on "Animal Talking"?
KS: Gorillaz has been one of my favorite bands for a long time. We were doing a pre-recorded episode because of timing with guests, and because I had done all these shows backstage, Gary thought it would be nice for me—and I appreciated it so much—to be a guest on the show again after it gained popularity. I thought that sounded super fun, and then he told me who the guests were: Shroud, who is a huge streamer, and also Gorillaz. And I was like, "What did you just say?"
They were my first-ever stadium concert, and being able to sit down with Damon and Jamie was really incredible. They're very interesting, intellectual people, and it was great to be able to just peek into their brains a little bit and see how they work. That was certainly not what I was anticipating when I was invited back. But because it was pre-recorded, there was no stage-managing for me to do backstage, and it was kind of the only opportunity we had for me to be a guest again.
SH: What do you think is the biggest misconception about what you do as a streamer?
KS: The biggest misconception for all streamers is that we just sit down and play video games and that's it. But if my job looks easy from a viewer perspective and they think that's my whole job, then I'm doing everything correct behind the scenes. It's the iceberg effect. They see the tip of the iceberg as being me on camera, but they're not seeing the bulk of the work that I do behind the scenes.
For example, today's meant to be my day off. I have an interview with you, a meeting with my management company, contracts to read over, and then I'm doing a bonus stream because a video game decided to drop an update on my day off. Then I have to record a trailer for a podcast tonight. Every day before my steam, I wake up, exercise, eat and then I do about two hours of administrative work like answering emails, getting tweets ready, reading over contracts, speaking with managers, talking to game companies, etc.
Then I do my stream—which is the fun bit, where I get to relax, because even though it's the most prominent part of my job, it's the least stressful. When I'm done, I do another two hours of administration work making sure my overlays are okay, that my alerts are good, the thing coming up for tomorrow with that company is ready to go. And then I have a Discord community of a thousand people to interact with and help moderate.
It's a really big job, and if people are only seeing the streaming aspect, I can totally see how they'd think it's super easy and that I just play video games all day, whereas I'm working 15 or 16 hours a day, and I haven't had a day off in probably a month. I realize I'm self-employed and I could make my own schedule and just say, "No, I'm not doing anything today," but when certain opportunities come up, you don't have that option.
I very luckily love my job. If this was a job that I hated, obviously I would not be doing this. I'm so lucky and fortunate to have the job I do, so I wake up excited even when I'm meant to have a day off and I'm fortunate enough to have this interview, and a manager who I get to have meetings with. I'm fortunate enough to have friends who, even on my days off, I want to play video games with. That's thrilling.
SH: Is there anything that you want your fans and viewers to know about you?
KS: My tip for streamers and community building is to do it as a hobby and because you love it. As soon as you don't love it, your viewers are going to notice. Do your very best to build a community of people that you want to spend time with, because as soon as your community becomes a toxic place and you let toxic people into your chat—and this goes for life as well—that's going to impact you in a pretty negative way.
I'm lucky enough to have a team of moderators who, at the first sign of toxicity, will tell someone that's not appropriate and we're nice to each other here, and to treat each other with kindness. That's all we can ask. So we have a super positive, inclusive community, which means that going to work every day for me is great. It's a bunch of like-minded, kind people who want to hang out with other kind people who don't have to really worry too much.
Want to learn more about our very favorite streamers? Click HERE to read our interview with Twitch's thedragonfeeney.