The past year has not been kind to, uh, basically anybody, but Rachel “Valkyrae” Hofstetter is one of the (generally wealthy) exceptions that proves the rule. She started 2020 with so-so numbers on her YouTube stream, only to ride the Among Us phenomenon to absurd 100,000-viewer heights from which she has yet to come down. As of today, she is now part-owner of 100 Thieves, one of the biggest organizations in all of esports.
Hofstetter, who was previously just a content creator under the 100 Thieves umbrella, made the announcement on Twitter.
“Happy to announce that I am officially a co-owner of 100 Thieves!” she wrote. “It’s been almost 3 years since I joined the team, and I would have never expected this path to lead to this. I’m proud to be one of the first women co-owners in esports and beyond excited for our future together!”
In a 100 Thieves announcement video, Hofstetter, by most measures the most popular female streamer in the world, talked about how prior to beginning her streaming career she was working three jobs just to get by. “I’m also very grateful because I feel like I could be a very good role model to, you know, not just my community, but our community, 100 Thieves’ community—and to females as well,” Hofstetter, who also recently appeared in a Machine Gun Kelly video, said in the video.
She joins fellow 100 Thieves content creator Jack “CouRage” Dunlop as a new owner—both of whom now sit alongside founder and fellow YouTuber Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag.
The reaction to Hofstetter’s new role, in particular, has been so overwhelming that “Congrats Rae” trended on Twitter for a while. It’s indicative of how powerful parasocial bonds can be; as often happens with streamers who achieve improbable fame and success, fans feel like they’ve come on this journey with Hofstetter, and this is the culmination of everybody’s hard work.
Certainly, in an industry as male-dominated as esports, it is good to see a woman in a position of power. Women’s experiences in esports and streaming are characterized by tales of abuse and harassment. People like Hofstetter can use their influence to help cut down on that.
But the line between perceived friend you watch from afar and wealthy, powerful businessperson who should be regarded with skepticism grows blurrier by the day. Esports is a precarious, exploitative industry—one in which those in charge often make far more money than players and smaller content creators, who in turn are sometimes encouraged to overwork. The business side of the industry is no stranger to controversies and scandals, something 100 Thieves has firsthand experience with.
With power comes ability to effect change for the better, but also opportunities for misuse and abuse. Fans often have trouble holding their faves accountable, and when those faves become bosses, things get even thornier.