From a homemaker in her 20s to a gamer in her 40s: A Jammu woman breaking stereotypes in gaming
Officially known as ‘Blackbird’, Reetu Slathia, a 44-year-old woman from Jammu is an avid gamer. She has over 3.5 lakh followers on the streaming and gaming platform Rooter.
Gaurav Slathia fondly remembers his mother would rise early for her puja, and his father would join her in the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
However, what made these mornings unique was when his mother, after wrapping up her chores, would sit in front of her gaming setup to start her livestream of BGMI every day.
Gaurav, who now works in Delhi and is mostly away from his home in Jammu, continues to join his mother in online gaming before going to bed.
"My parents have supported me my whole life, so I want to do the same for them. My mother’s gaming journey is important to her, and I am right there beside her, backing her up all the way."
Also known as ‘Blackbird’, 44-year-old Reetu Slathia is a woman gamer with over 3.5 lakh followers on the streaming and gaming platform Rooter, and 3.87 lakh subscribers on her YouTube channel.
The gamer earns more than Rs 1.2 lakh in a year.
“I am a homemaker who earns money through gaming and this is a very big thing for me. It gives me so much confidence and I too have the freedom to play whenever I feel like it,” she tells HerStory.
From housewife to gamer
Slathia who hails from Jammu has studied until class 12th. Although she wanted to continue her education, her parents did not want to send her to college.
“At that time I was too young and so whatever my parents said, I agreed,” she says.
Slathia was married at age 20. Looking back, she says she has no complaints as her family has always been supportive of whatever she does.
“Not only do they support me in my gaming but also make sure that no one disturbs me while playing,” she says.
Amid managing household responsibilities and taking care of her child, Slathia never actively thought about gaming or being financially independent. However, when her son grew older and started playing mobile games, Slathia’s life took a new turn.
"Gaurav is my only son, and from a young age, we've been more than just mother and son; we've been game partners too. We started with games like carrom and badminton, and as time went on, we indulged into digital games like Candy Crush and online Ludo," she recalls.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she saw her son engrossed in playing BGMI for the first time, and her curiosity in the game piqued. Later her son introduced her to the game, and before she knew it, she was hooked. Her interest quickly became a full-blown passion, prompting her to purchase a separate mobile handset to play the game.
By the end of 2020, Slathia discovered the world of gaming live streaming.
“I saw my son talking and interacting with people while live-streaming his gameplay. I became curious to try it out. Bahut maza aaya (It was so fun)’,” she says.
She vividly remembers feeling skeptical before her first live gaming session.
"I had watched others' live streams before I started my own, and I noticed there was no one of my age group doing such things. This made me skeptical about who would be interested in watching me," she recalls.
However, her son's encouragement and support motivated her to take the leap and go live. During her first live session, she remembers feeling disheartened as people joined briefly and then left. However, over time, she began to receive a lot of appreciation from her fellow gamers and viewers.
“Now even if she gets late in starting her livestream, people start messaging her—this is the kind of love she is getting,” Gaurav says.
The journey as a 44-year-old woman gamer, however, has not been easy. She often gets harsh comments from people during her live sessions.
She recalls some of the comments: “Aapne ghar ka kaam kar liya (Have you done your household chores?) and ye apki age thodi hai khelne ki (this is not your age to play games).”
"I feel like if people are doing what makes them happy, why should others be so bothered by it?” she asks.
Slathia says that despite these challenges, her family’s support has made her successful.
"My husband and son have been my support system throughout this journey. I believe that with the same level of encouragement, many other women can also achieve their dreams,” she adds.
Slathia plays games like BGMI, Clash of Clans, Free Fire and more. She also runs a YouTube channel where she posts videos of her playing different games. Through the gaming platform, she earns nearly Rs 15,000- Rs 20,000 a month.
"I remember when I earned my first income, I was overjoyed. I took my family out for a nice dinner, and it was a wonderful feeling,” she says.
The potential for women gamers is huge. According to the annual report ‘State of India Gaming’ released by Lumikai in collaboration with Google, 41% of gamers in India are women.
Slathia hopes to encourage other women through her journey. "Many women feel too shy to give gaming or live streaming a try. I hope more women, especially those in my age group, will step forward and enjoy gaming."
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti