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New Horizons was my first Animal Crossing experience, and boy, it was a great one—and perfect timing too. I know I’m in good company when it comes to the people who bought their first Switch and their first Animal Crossing game during the pandemic, though of course there are the veterans for whom this was just another addition to their Animal Crossing library too. I am so thankful for the game, and I've spent… far too many hours on it, for sure.

But eventually, it started to get to me. I wanted to move things around on my island, but it took so long. (I resolved to not use time travel.) It was also expensive. And overwhelming. So I put it down for a few days. And when I came back, I felt guilty. My villagers were disappointed and hurt that I’d left them. (Digitized, personified animals shouldn’t have such a hold over me, but darn it, they do.) So I put it down again for even longer. And when I came back again, it was worse. Not to mention the weeds, the cockroaches, and the feeling of missing out. There were new bugs! New fish! DIYs I needed to find! How the heck do you build a snowman? So I put it down again, and I didn’t pick it back up. Every time I thought I might, I imagined the tedium of getting everything back in order, of hearing how my villagers had feared I didn’t like them anymore, navigating the new events that had already mostly passed, and trying to catch up on the things I had missed out on.

I’m not the only one who was experiencing ACNH fatigue by the time winter rolled around. Most of my friends who got the game around the same time I did had slowly started drifting away from their islands as well. Some of us got busy again, while others had new games taking up their time. I had at least one friend who felt the same as I did, though—overwhelmed with redoing the things she wanted to change now that she understood how the game worked—and to deal with it, she did the unbelievable (at least to me at the time): She started over. Lost were all her hard-won DIYs! Erased were the furniture collections she’d worked so hard to curate! Forgotten were the villagers she’d grown to know and love! It seemed unthinkable, and yet… so very wonderful.

A clean slate. A fresh start. A redo where I actually know what the heck I’m doing this time around. Was it worth it? I figured I wasn’t interested in playing as things stood, so if I wasn’t going to play anyway, then what’s the real loss if I start over and, well, maybe still didn’t play? Does it matter whether my Switch has a bunch of houses and decorations stored on it that I never go visit or if it has a bare island I never go visit? Not really, so I figured I didn’t really have much to lose.

So I did it. And, stupid as it may sound, it was a little scary and a little sad.

But also, it was great.

Animal Crossing veterans will probably roll their eyes at this, but wow, the game goes so much faster when you know what the heck you’re doing! Yes, there are things you have to wait for, as they’re dependent on the real-life passing of time (I still don’t want to time travel—no shade to those who do, though), but wow, understanding what is going on from the outset really sets things into motion. I know I am going to be adding more buildings later and so I know to place things appropriately. I know what things in the Nook Stop should buy as soon as I see them because I’ll want it later (even if I don’t have a use for them now). I know I don’t have to invite every animal I meet on a mystery island to come back and join my neighborhood. I know how to lay out my houses so I have room to decorate around them, and I know I don’t have to stress too much about the placement of rivers and cliffs because terraforming will come soon.

Let me tell you something. It’s a totally different experience.

Animal Crossing turned 20 this year, and for any of you reading for whom New Horizons wasn’t your first rodeo, I get it—you are probably laughing right now. But think back to that very first game, whichever yours was, and what you didn’t know at the time and the snags and frustrations those things caused you. No matter what you’re playing, it’s really a whole new game when you, well, actually understand the game.

So if you’re new to the franchise like me and haven’t opened Animal Crossing in a while, a reset might be exactly what you need if you’d like to revisit that feeling you had last year when Tom Nook was a new acquaintance and you hadn’t even heard of sea diving yet. It seems counterintuitive that letting go of all your hard work and careful planning might make for a better gaming experience, but let me tell you something: it makes all the difference.

Have you started over, or are you still going strong? What has your Animal Crossing pandemic experience been like?


By the way, if I've convinced you to take the plunge and you want to know how to start over, here are the steps:

  1. Select System Settings from the Switch home menu.

  2. Open Data Management.

  3. Scroll down to the Delete Save Data option at the bottom.

  4. Select Animal Crossing: New Horizons Save Data and confirm.

Best wishes!


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When many people hear the word “gamer,” they usually picture a person—often either very scrawny or overweight, depending—parked in front of their TV or computer with a case of Mountain Dew and a family sized bag of Doritos. And who could blame them? The way media portrays gamers does us no favors.

You know what I’m talking about...

Not a representative sample!

But, of course, anyone involved with a real community of gamers knows that there is no one type of person who loves to play. As a semi-recent convert to the world of weight lifting and working out and a lifelong gamer myself, I was interested in exploring one particular segment of the diverse and numerous “types” of gamer there are: the fit gamer. We exist! And to discuss the relationship gamers in particular can have with fitness, I spoke with Felix Schmieder, a personal trainer and fitness manager by trade and gamer since childhood. We talked about the specific strengths as well as challenges that gamers face when it comes to getting (or staying) in shape, as well as how working out and gaming can coexist to lead to a more balanced life.

Games make us feel like we can do anything while we play. From defeating monsters to rescuing princesses to saving the world, games give us that wonderful sensation of being capable, of seeing marked progress, and of growing and succeeding. I've written before about the mental health benefits of gaming, but no matter how hard we agree with each other that gaming has value and positive contributions to make to our lives, I think we can also agree that gaming shouldn't be the only source of those pick-me-ups. People are multi-faceted beings, and so too should our interests and activities be. That's why fitness, perhaps surprisingly to some, is an excellent complement to our time spent in the gaming world. In the same way that downing that raid boss makes you feel like you're on cloud nine, that you've done something amazing and now can take on the world, so too can hitting your next PR at the gym make you feel like you can achieve anything you set your mind to. “People don’t realize just how strong and powerful they are,” Felix says. "A lot of people have this mental image of themselves that they’re just a loser, a nobody, but when you start lifting weights, it’s just incredible [how that changes].” And the benefits extend beyond losing weight or bulking up. "It’s literally impossible to get physically stronger without getting mentally stronger too,” according to Felix, and in this article, we'll explore exactly how that's so.

It's no so far fetched. You know that way that you feel revisiting early zones in a video game after leveling up? Like a total badass, right? Amazed at how you ever thought this zone was challenging? Similarly, lifting weights starts out feeling difficult— like your stats are low and you don't know all the controls and combos yet—but soon becomes so natural to you that you look back at those “early zones,” i.e. the weights you struggled to pick up that first day, and realize you warm up with things bigger than those now. It's the same larger-than-life feeling. And, similar to how benefits from gaming can complement the non-gaming areas of your life, so too can that increased physical strength and new knowledge of your body's capabilities from the gym extend beyond simply building bigger muscles; it can do things like increase your mental fortitude and bolster your confidence too! Gaming has been said to have benefits for our emotional and social health, and the physical health aspect of working out is obvious to all. So together, could they make a fit gamer unstoppable?

Well, wait, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Don't we have a professional here to tell us all about it?

Felix's "Confessions of a Reformed Accountant and Gaming Addict"

I think of me and Felix as being very different people, but I was surprised about how much we had in common. We both started our gaming journies with the NES, playing Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt obsessively, and we both spent huge swath of our childhoods in the karate dojo and on the baseball diamond (well, softball for me). But, as I’ve written about before, my gaming habits moved from the NES straight to the Playstation and the computer. Felix, however, has a much broader gaming experience, having traversed his way through many of the consoles, from Sega, to Playstation, to Xbox, and of course the computer, starting with that old combat flight simulator, Red Barron. Felix said the height of his nerdiness had to be when he saved up his money for a dedicated video card so he could play Rainbow Six back in high school. Meanwhile, I wasn’t investing in specific computer parts for gaming until college (World of Warcraft is a hell of a drug).

Our paths diverge again when we look at our social preferences. I’ve written before about my extroverted childhood. Even gaming was a group affair for me as much as I could make it. Felix, on the other hand, says he has always been introverted and even a bit of a loner. “I hate working in groups. I had lots of friends in school, but I never really hung out with them outside of school.” His parents encouraged him to play sports and be active, and, though it might be surprising given his fitness-focused career today, sports weren’t really his passion. “I played sports but I wasn’t that good at [them] […] so gaming was just my down time and was just where I spent most of my free time.”

So how did this gamer who wasn’t into sports end up as a super fit guy, to the point that he made a career out of it? It didn’t come easy. In fact, Felix would describe himself as “pudgy” throughout most of his life. I mention this because I wonder if many of you, like me, have that same thought when they see a really fit person: I bet it’s always been easy for them. Maybe you’re not like that, but I will admit, I’m guilty. When I see buff folks and hear they’ve been interested in sports throughout their childhood, I think “yeah, and I’ve bet you’ve looked this good the whole time too!” This is ignoring the fact that I was into sports throughout my childhood. Dance, karate, softball, cheer… and getting fit was still a struggle for me. So, just in case you’re also a jerk (haha), I’m here to dispel the idea that Felix was hand delivered perfect fitness on a silver platter way back in primary school or something. He says that I’m not the only one who thinks this way. “A lot of people think, you know, that that I’m a coach, that I’ve always been fit my entire life In fact, and that’s not true at all.” Though he kept in relative shape through sports and at-home workout programs starting around late high school (Power 90 and P90X FTW), on-your-feet jobs (waiting tables is a killer), and the military, he says he was never in “crazy good shape.” Fitness has always been intertwined in Felix’s life, but he says it hasn’t always been something he took super seriously. “I was about average, really,” he says, until he got a job as an accountant, and his “not in crazy-good shape” became not in shape at all. At that point, he looked at himself and realized something had to change. “I think I was 200 pounds,” he says.

That’s when the fitness goals got serious. Felix started working out at the gym, doing a variation of HIIT, Crossfit, etc., and while he lost weight, he says he was still “pudgy,” but what progress he was making was threatened when he got injured. He hurt his shoulder so badly that he couldn’t lift his arm over his head “and that actually started my journey into becoming a coach,” Felix explained. He said he wanted to learn how to make his shoulder better, and that opened the door to better understanding fitness. Paired with the fact that he hated his job at the time, the beginning of a new career was born.

Felix during his accountant days and recently while working at a fitness manager

And throughout it all, Felix remained a gamer. A lot of times, I expect fitness-focused people to frown on gaming as a pastime, because it’s almost always a sedentary endeavor. However, Felix has a more rounded view of things. Fitness, he says in a post on his page, “is not about upending your entire life, throwing away everything bad in the house, trading your Playstation for an exercise bike and only eating boiled chicken and broccoli for the rest of eternity.” Gaming and fitness can still co-exist. “I don’t think they’re at odds with each other," he says. “Gaming’s just another pastime, another hobby.” Felix continues, “Some people watch Netflix, some people go work on their car” and, of course, some people go play video games.

“I do feel like there is, in some people’s minds, like an odds,” though, Felix adds. A person who is part of neither the gaming nor the gym scene might see the two worlds as being incongruent. It goes back to those stereotypes discussed before. There’s this idea, Felix says, of the “typical bro at the gym versus the typical nerdy gamer at home” for some people. And to many, that dichotomy feels very fixed, but if we look around (and even if I look at myself), I can see that that’s not the case. It's becoming more and more clear that gamers, whether they call themselves by that moniker or not, are getting more and more diverse in every way. Perhaps for this reason, or maybe simply because he's lived it, Felix doesn’t see the two—the time you spend in your favorite gaming universe and the time you spend being active at the gym—as getting into each other’s way at all. The only thing he has to keep an eye on, Felix says, is what he eats. We were both told to clean our plates as children “because there are starving kids in the world,” and it’s easy to overindulge or feel good about eating anything, even if it’s not necessarily good for you, if you were continuously praised for the simple act of eating as a kid. “I could very easily over eat, and over eat bad food,” Felix says, “so maintaining my fitness is very important. I personally struggle with eating badly too, so I'm with him there, but I honestly feel less bad about it now that I work out. In fact, there's this meme I often see going around that says “working out is not a punishment for what you ate but rather a celebration of what you can do,” and I really love that. I love bringing my body to new limits in the same way I like perfecting those combos in tricky boss encounters to (literally) get to the next level, and I think of fitness as the thing that allows me to game guilt free. I know I’m putting physical work in outside of my gaming sessions (and let’s be honest, I’ll be gaming either way), so I let myself enjoy the time I sit still now, rather than feeling guilty about it, and through that, I have found a new, happy balance that works well for me. So in my case, working out has become a boon to my gaming life, rather than something that takes away from it, and the fact that I can squat more than I weigh now certainly hasn't made me any less of a gamer, it's just made me a gamer who is hella strong.

Felix's "Three Steps to Speeding up Your Metabolism"

When I asked Felix if he thought there were any challenges specific to gamers that might get in the way of us getting fit, it all really fell back on those prevailing stereotypes we all have a hard time shaking. Something Felix has heard more than once is that "more introverted, geeky kind of dudes” are often afraid of going to the gym and of being judged there. “I feel like it’s almost the perception that the gym is where the jocks are” and people have bad mental connotations of those sorts of people. Maybe they got teased or even beat up by people like that in the past, so they don’t want to go to the gym, he explains. “But there are plenty of people who watch hours upon hours of Netflix or go read books and ignore everything else,” so there aren’t specific challenges that would stop gamers from finding success at the gym any more than there’d be for those people. In short, it's just a matter of getting yourself to walk through the doors and do it. People who self-describe as gamers are, typically, says Felix, “a little bit inactive, generally, not very athletic, generally,” but that’s lots of people, and there’s nothing about loving games that holds a person back from getting fit, if that's what they want to do.

Be we also discussed the advantages a gamer might have over someone else when it comes to getting fit, and in some ways, we do have an upper hand. “Like, I’ll spend hours researching the perfect rotations for my dragoon in Final Fantasy XIV," Felix says, "or, you know, hours finding the perfect artefact for my characters in Genshin Impact, so researching just the most crazy details and making spreadsheets and stuff like that” is something many gamers are familiar with. He's not wrong. I remember in my WoW days doing all that math to min/max my character with each new big loot drop, and it was tedious and also weirdly addictive. “Eve Online” Felix jokes, “is like spreadsheets online,” so gamers and that personality type tend to “do lots of investigation to find what they need to do.” And, while that sounds like it’s getting us no closer to a life of fitness, Felix says that he thinks it's a good thing. In fact, that spreadsheet-loving, research-oriented mindset is actually how Felix really got into fitness himself, by “just researching and researching and trying to find out the best ways to do things.” Even CNN sees the correlation. In their article "Why Gamers Are a Great Fit at the Gym," they outline exactly the way gamers can excel at fitness:

They’ve been trained to focus for weeks at a time on a single goal. They know how to clearly identify obstacles and form step-by-step plans to overcome them. They’re obsessed with improving specific skills but judge success only by overall progress made in the world they’ve decided to conquer – as realistic or fantastical as it may be. It’s precisely these traits that make video-gamers great bodybuilders.

Felix says that those research types like him have to be careful, though. He cautions that it’s easy to get paralyzed by too much information and so many different options, leading to “paralysis analysis,” where you’re trying to figure out the best next step or end result but don't take any steps to move forward. If there are twelve ‘best things,’ Felix asks, “which one do you do?” So that expectation that gaming often creates—that there's generally one right way to do something—can “make it harder for us to implement imperfectly.” Gamers are very often into getting things just right and making the best choices, backed up by stats and figures, in order to perfect their gameplay, but Felix cautions that you can easily spend your time searching and searching and never getting to the implementation when it come to "leveling up" in the real world, because perfection doesn’t exist in fitness. There’s no one right way; there’s no one perfect workout. Our bodies aren’t computers, so they’re not going to respond the exact same way every time like our avatars within a game world, and that’s something we need to keep in mind so we don’t fall into the trap of never getting started.

Felix's "What Leveling up in Video Games Has Taught Me About Fitness"

But when you do get started, rewards abound. In a previous article, Lennon, a front-end web developer and former weightlifting coach, discussed how he felt gaming and fitness reward systems can overlap:

Lennon likens this process to getting a good workout in. He explains that since he’s not a competitive athlete, when he’s at the gym, the progress he makes doesn’t have some huge, over-arching significance. What he does each day is self-contained, and in the end, it only affects him. It “isn't part of some larger expectation," as he puts it, “so there's no pressure. But it's progress, so it feels good.” He surmises that this is comparable to the feeling of advancement and growth that video games can elicit in players. Whether it’s a great workout, an achievement in your favorite hobby, or downing the next raid boss, they all provide a feeling of accomplishment, a boost to morale, and a feeling of being capable of success, and that can mean all the difference in a person’s life.

We three aren't the only ones to see the connection, of course, and I think it's no surprise that the gamification of fitness has been on the rise for a while now. While he’s not into that concept as much personally, Felix understands why it works so well, likening the milestones of increasing weight to leveling up, and he thinks that gamification can help a lot of gamers. “You get that kind of dopamine level when you level up. We all get it,” he says. “Whether it’s an aura that jumps up or big numbers that flash across the screen,” Felix continues, there’s a lot of dopamine there, and it can be useful to use that to your advantage. When it comes to trying to emulate that gamified dopamine rush in the real world, “I can definitely see the appeal," he says. And it does appeal to a lot of people. Games like Pokemon Go, Wii Fitness, Ring Fit Adventure, and the new Alter Titan, currently in beta, are dong their best to make the gamification of movement and fitness a real thing. Shoot, somebody even made it so they can play Overwatch by jogging and doing squats! I think gamers will always be tuned into keeping an eye out for progress markers, both in their games and outside of them, and Felix says “there are always milestones when it comes to lifting weights, so I think there are similar [...] leveling up experiences when it comes to that.”

Felix's "The Number One Thing I Learned about Fitness from Dungeons and Dragons"

Felix says of gaming and fitness, “at this point they’re just a part of who I am.” Since probably four or five years old, he says, “they’ve always been my identity,” but as far as gaming in general, “it just goes back to the escapism, right? Fantasy worlds, you’re a hero, you’re doing great things versus the normal world,” he says, laughing, where "you know, I’m on Reddit all day.” It’s also just fun, he admits. Felix's face lights up as he talks about pulling off perfect combos is Ghost of Tsushima, which he's recently started playing through again. “Hitting a perfect block and parrying and stuff like that, just pulling off some fun perfect combo, perfect block,” he says, “you know, it’s very rewarding when you reach different skill levels in the game and are doing things subconsciously and you get into that level, that state of flow, that a lot of people talk about, that athletes get into,” for example sinking basket after basket, because they’re just so zoned in, he says. Felix thinks that state of flow, just like in athletics, “is very easy to get with games,” and “you feel very rewarded.”

But even though that flow state can exist for gamers and athletes alike, it still feels like people generally think of themselves as one or the other, and there isn't much crossover in people's minds. “I think there is an ownership that people take upon their identity,” Felix says, like “well I’m a nerd, and only jocks lift weights and I’m definitely not a jock so I definitely don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to be that person.” But as we discussed before, there are always myriad types of people comprising any hobby or interest. Not every gamer is that guy from South Park, and not every weight lifter is the person you see giving swirlies in every movie about high school bullies. (I know I'm certainly not that person. I'm the person who wears my Aperture Science shirt to lift weights. And believe it or not, I've made friends because of it! Gamers, we're lurking everywhere.) But the fact is, you don't have to give up that gamer identity to get results at the gym. There are tons of streamers who also focus on fitness (one of my favorites is @streetgrind_ on Twitter), and it's becoming more and more common to be a person who enjoys the benefits of both.

And those benefits are extremely high. I’ve written before about how I think in-game achievements can give you a sense of accomplishment that extends beyond your computer screen, and I’ve found my progress at the gym to be an even stronger connection to that radiating sense of accomplishment that spreads throughout the rest of your day. And if you’re interested in getting into better shape, Felix says people “absolutely need to be lifting weights, because the benefits are crazy.” But in the end, “just being active,” whether it’s hiking or biking around, “is literally better than nothing.” I can attest to the sense of pride that comes with “leveling up” at the gym and how it extends into the rest of my life. Felix says I'm not alone and discussed many clients' out-of-gym success stories, from promotions to social successes, which he (and his clients) believe stemmed from the added confidence that comes from those gym-based accomplishments. “It’s crazy the correlation between people hitting PRs at the gym, lifting heavy weights at the gym, and then going and getting a promotion, meeting their significant others, or just feeling better about themselves and about life in general,” Felix explains. “I think strength training is literally life changing if you let it be."

I know that if you're reading this, you're likely already aware of how much value gaming can bring to your life beyond being just a way to pass the time, and the mental and emotional benefits are getting harder to overlook. Pair that with something like lifting weights or working out in general, and it's amazing the way your confidence can soar when your mind and body feel challenged, supported, and rewarded. It's not "jock or nerd" anymore: it's be who you want to be and own it, no matter what mix of hobbies and pastimes you love, because what's important is that you're in a place where you feel good and are getting what you want to out of life. And when it comes to working out, Felix believes that it absolutely leads to being “happier, healthier, demanding more for yourself, and holding yourself and people around you accountable.” And the best part? You don’t have to leave gaming behind to do it.


For fitness advice as well as intermittent gaming, nerd, and Star Wars talk, follow Felix on Facebook.

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Tanner Tomassi is a Fortnite streamer who has really perfected his craft. His setup is crisp, with a cutout of him on the edge of the screen and a second shot of his fingerwork below so you can watch as he WASDs his way around the map. His energy stays high throughout every broadcast—each kill is exciting; each win is an explosion. Every follow, tip, and comment hypes him up further, and promises of dance parties and other celebratory antics abound. Frequently self-deprecating humor and raps of new followers’ names complete the experience so viewers are treated to a constant but entertaining barrage of goofiness, right up until it’s time to get down to business and win the game. You really feel like he loves what he’s doing every second the camera’s rolling, and, darn it, he’s really good at Fortnite.

Tanner streams Monday through Saturday for a couple hours both in the morning and evening. His streaming page on Facebook, BalencisBattles, has over 2.5k likes and 21 thousand followers. He notes on the page that “when you tune into one of [his] streams, you will witness the MOST ENERGETIC stream to date.” He guarantees “you will instantly fall in love and mistake [him] for your morning coffee” and that “you will smile within the first 10 seconds of joining and never look back.And I’ve got to tell you—he’s right. I was an instant fan.

But even a streamer who loves what he does can’t be there every single day, and while Tanner immediately won me over with his off-the-wall antics, boisterous personality, and genuine connections to his viewers, what led me to him in the first place was a rumor I’d heard and something I had to see for myself: when Tanner can’t be there, his mom streams in his place.

Now, most people reading this likely have parents who still don’t understand you can’t pause a multiplayer game, so you can understand why I found this so exciting. To play something as complicated as Fortnite while keeping up with a live chat is pretty impressive no matter who you are, of course, but I had to know how Tanner and his mom came to this unconventional and delightful arrangement, so I reached out.

First of all, and perhaps unsurprisingly, streaming isn’t the only thing that takes up Tanner’s time. Not only is he finishing up at college for business management, but he also loves playing pickleball and has been taking part in paintball tournaments competitively for many years. With paintball, he says, comes an amazing feeling of brotherhood and the opportunity for travel. And with travel comes, of course, being away from your stream.

But for Tanner, streaming is a priority, as are his fans. Not to mention he knew being away for days at a time during the five times a year he leaves to compete in paintball tournaments would be a detriment to his brand. “The way the Facebook algorithm works for gaming,” he explains, “is the more you are online/active, the more it rewards you with sending you more viewers.” Tanner explains that the days he might take off for paintball would result in the possibility that his viewers would no longer be notified that he’s live, and he’d have to work hard every time he got back to build his viewer count back up and get the algorithm working for him again. So rather than lose those viewers, he and his mom came to an agreement: she would stream in his stead. And it works really well, Tanner says. “Having my mom stream helps with [the algorithm] aspect, as well as gives the viewer a new perspective and change from what they are normally used to.” Basically a win-win. But what of Tanner’s mom, lovingly titled MamaBattles when she streams under the BalencisBattles umbrella?

A MamaBattles stream

MamaBattles, who goes by Pam offline, is a craps dealer and certified tax collector. She spends her free time biking, hitting the beach, and playing pickleball, which Tanner taught her, as well as reading and baking. She says she is almost never found without her Kindle and reads even as she fills up at the gas station. As for her cooking, “I’m not that great of a cook,” she says, and adds “just ask Tanner,” but she enjoys making fresh muffins for her family every week as well as “all kinds of biscotti.” Pam also takes time to knit and crochet for Heaven’s Baby Angels, a South Jersey group that donates bereavement outfits, blankets, and hats to local hospitals.

When I asked her about streaming, she admits she “definitely had reservations.” In the beginning, she didn’t even know how to play the game, though Tanner assured me they spent some time playing off stream so she could get the hang of things. “I couldn’t figure out the keyboard,” Pam says, but one of Tanner’s moderators sent her a controller, and that made things a lot easier. “Being a streamer is so much harder than you can imagine,” Pam continues. “I had no idea the amount of work it takes.”

And work it is. Tanner says right now streaming is his job. He's also got a twice-a-week gig working for his dad’s vending business, which he says he enjoys as a way to break up the gaming sessions, but streaming is number one for him right now. “Although it seems like an easy gig,” he says, “it can be extremely taxing on your body gaming right when you wake up and right before you go to bed every day.” With the amount of engagement and energy Tanner puts into each stream, not to mention the tense, heart-pumping excitement of the game itself, I can believe it.

Tanner’s been a playing games since the days of Halo 2, but his mom says gaming wasn’t quite the family affair in those days that it is today—back then, she only watched. Tanner stopped gaming in high school, but then, similar to what happened for so many of us, the pandemic hit and changed everything. Tanner’s sophomore year of college, he and his classmates were sent home to do school online, and Tanner found himself with a lot of time on his hands. “I started playing Fortnite,” he said, "and reconnecting with people from college/high school virtually.” After a while, Tanner says, “I figured I might as well stream it,” because he was playing what he calls “a fair amount” (and what I personally assume is actually “a whole heck of a lot,” but no judgement here!), and the rest is history.

Kind of.

A clip of Tanner's first ever stream. Get ready for lots of frustrated cuss words.

Watch more BalencisBattles streams here.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing from the start. “For my first experience streaming,” Tanner says, “you may think as it being super cool and nostalgic; however, it is quite the opposite.” Tanner explained how his computer couldn’t handle gaming and streaming at the same time, and it took some work to get the settings optimized. He adds that, “since you have to build your viewers up,” he had nobody watching his first stream. “It felt as I was just playing the game normal,” he says, but it didn’t stay that way. “As my community began to build,” Tanner explains, “I started averaging 5-10 viewers and I absolutely loved it!” So he kept at it, and now he truly does run one of the most fun and high-energy streams I’ve seen, and his view count on his videos has ballooned into the thousands. “I saw a future in it for myself, so I stuck with it” Tanner says, and that now, “people look forward to me being online as well as look forward to getting to know me better and see what I had in store for the day.”

MamaBattles’ first stream wasn’t exactly smooth either, but she says “Tanner's community is full of great people and they seem to have liked me from the beginning.” His setup has advanced a lot from those days where his computer couldn’t handle two things at once. “Tanner has three screens set up, and that is a challenge for me to have my eyes everywhere, play, read the chat, make sure the green screen is properly situated make sure my face is in the camera, make sure the microphone is positioned properly,” etc., Pam says. She adds that despite having done it several times now, she’s still a nervous wreck at the start of every stream. However, she appreciates the community her son has built and adds that “luckily, Tanner has great moderators and they calm the crowd and get me going.”

In spite of her nerves and the fact that MamaBattles isn’t the expert at the game that her son is, she is a crowd favorite nonetheless. She also often ends up surviving pretty late into the game. “I am very basic in Fortnight,” she explains. “I rarely have any kills and I do a lot of hiding, but it works out ok because I think I placed second one time and usually am in the last 15 people alive.” Despite that unconventional success, she says “I get so nervous when I have to shoot someone that I can't aim and I miss them.” I honestly don't blame her for that one, though. I’m the exact same way any time I play a battle royale too! That stuff is stressful.

But even though it seems all fun and games, this is still a job for her son, and Pam explains that “Tanner takes pride in having everything just perfect.” In fact, she says, “the last stream I did while he was at a paintball tournament in Florida did not go as well as he planned and he canceled me!!! Lol.”

MamaBattles streaming while Tanner was away.

Despite that, Tanner says “I knew it would be a good idea for her to stream, because everybody on my stream knows who she is because of skits I’ll have her do. Whether it’s her cracking an egg on her head, dancing, or telling a joke, people love to see it, so having her stream gets the viewers to know her better as well as build a connection with her.” He explains that this also leads to them appreciating Tanner more “because it makes them feel like they know me better [too].”

From what Tanner tells me, though, Pam is perhaps being humble when it comes to her streaming skills. Tanner says “she picked it up immediately.” He adds that he wasn’t worried about it, though, because that it didn’t really matter if she ended up not being great at the game. “I had no stress because I knew people would find it entertaining either way.” It was less about her skills and more about providing “just a different experience,” and he was right not to worry. Tanner told me that his viewers’ reaction to the maiden MamaBattles stream was that "everybody loved it!" He says "they showed her huge appreciation with giving her tips for questions she had in the game, as well as boosting up her confidence with positivity and making her laugh. People also sent her plenty of stars (a form of tipping) so she enjoyed it and felt loved.”

A quick sampling of the stream chat while MamaBattles is signing off. Catch BalencisBattles streams live here.

It’s no surprise Tanner’s fans were kind to his mom, because Tanner seems to be kind to his fans. They’re important to him, and it’s clear he values and appreciates each and every one. “For me, I love streaming for being able to meet new people literally every time I log on and potentially add them to our community for future streams.” The admiration truly goes both ways. “People treat me with great respect and look up to me,” Tanner says. “Having fans message me really motivates me to keep playing and trying my best to be the best I can be.”

Tanner’s love for his fans is made clear in the way he tries to include a little something for everyone during his streams. “Everybody enjoys my banter and competitive gameplay,” he says, but he also likes providing tips and tricks that his viewers might not know unless they’re extremely experienced players like himself. “There are humorous as well as instructional aspects of my stream depending on the mood I am in,” Tanner says. In the end, Tanner also enjoys being the conduit through which people can enjoy the game in a new way. “The majority of viewers of my stream,” he says, “are somewhat newer to the game or simply don’t have the time to be the competitive player that they aspire to be because of work/kids/ responsibilities, so they live that out through me!”

And the fact that he has the privilege of having none of those responsibilities right now is not lost on Tanner. “I’m a super firm believer,” Tanner says, of "traveling as much as a I can and doing as many things as I can before I have any real responsibilities, such as a job, kids, and bills.” Tanner believes in celebrating all stages of life, and this one, it seems, is about taking advantage of the things that might become difficult to enjoy as fully later on. This is something I think a lot of us wish we'd had the same wisdom to do at certain points in our past. “Life is so short,” says Tanner. “I’m a huge advocate for taking risks, because who really knows what the outcome can be?"

Watch Tanner play more here.

And for Tanner, despite his youthful, seemingly carefree take on life, streaming isn’t just a fun thing to do on the weekends. Since he’s made it his job, at least for now, he also sees the hazards that come with that decision. “A challenge I face,” Tanner says, “is definitely the mental aspect of it. Streaming is a huge risk, especially at my age.” Tanner’s 21 and will be graduating college next year. When he imagines a life where perhaps he is a successful streamer for five years—an impressive run—he understands the possibility that it could eventually all come to an end. “Then I am 26 years old with no job experience in my field of study from college, looking for a job,” Tanner says of this imagined scenario. Even when focusing only on the present, he says “days and weeks with poor performing streams, it really makes you think and question what you are doing wrong.” He explains that a lot of times, low points like that aren’t necessarily your fault. “The algorithm just favors another streamer for that time period,” he surmises. Nevertheless, this mental hurdle can be a hard one to clear. “The mental game is HUGE for every streamer and no viewer understands it until they personally experience it as a streamer themselves.” But despite worries for the future and questions about the present, Tanner says it’s all worth it. “I am a big advocate for risk like I said earlier, though.” He says that nobody knows the future, so going with the flow is best, and if nothing else, COVID showed many of us that sometimes, that’s the only choice we have. For Tanner, though, that choice worked out, at least for now. “If you are at a 9-5 job, you know what to expect. Every day until you quit that job, you are in that office living only for the weekends. With my stream," he says, "I can live every day to the max, because with no set hours and boss, I’m free to do whatever I please whether the day is Tuesday or Saturday.”

And, of course, Tanner couldn’t do it without his mom. “I believe I have the most supportive mom in the world!” Tanner says. “My dad as well. They both believe in me and do believe I can stream as a career. No matter what I chose, they both always are supportive of me and want me to succeed whether it’s school, sports, a hobby, or streaming!”

MamaBattles has her own final thoughts to share. “I think it's really important to support your children in whatever they are doing,” says Pam. “Sometimes I am like ‘what is this crazy kid doing now?’ but once I figure it out, I am IN.” And, sounding a little bit like just about every mom I've ever known, she adds that “sometimes I might get a little too involved, but I am working on that.”

From where I’m sitting, though, it looks like they’re both doing everything just right.


You can see Tanner stream at BalencisBattles on Facebook Monday through Saturday at both 9:00am and 8:00pm. There's also a chance you might catch a glimpse of Pam joining in for a celebratory dance, singing happy birthday to a fan, doing an egg challenge, or even strapping in for a whole MamaBattles stream when life calls Tanner away from the computer.

You can read more about Heaven's Baby Angels, the group Pam knits and crochets for, here. If you'd like to volunteer with the group yourself, you can find their contact information here.


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