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AshSaidHi sits in a chair in front of her streaming setup, holding a retro controller Image: AshSaidHi

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Retro game streamer AshSaidHi built a lively community out of nostalgia

‘It’s so important to inspire people who feel like they don’t belong’

Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Surrounded by a sizable, colorful cascade of plushies — largely Nintendo-themed — and an impressive retro game collection, Ash goes live on Twitch five days a week. She’s played everything from Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion to Sierra Entertainment’s Quest for Glory, focusing on games that evoke a sense of nostalgia. The one thing that stays the same each stream is the way Ash ends them, with a message to her viewers: “Don’t forget to tell your friends Ash said hi!”

When Ash, who goes by AshSaidHi online, first envisioned her Twitch channel, she started with the name. “I knew I had to have a tagline or a call to action,” she told Polygon. “That’s where the name AshSaidHi comes from, because I wanted it to be like, Oh, that friend, they told me to tell you hi. It sticks in your brain a little bit.”

Over the years since Ash started her Twitch channel in 2019, she’s worked to build a community and a business that matches her values — a place where she could have a work-life balance that her previous career didn’t allow for, and a community of support Twitch can provide.

“People go to Twitch to connect about the things they love and find other people that are into the things they love,” Ash said. “That’s how I built an engaging community.”

Ahead of TwitchCon 2023 in Las Vegas, Polygon spoke to Ash about how she’s carved out her own space on Twitch.

[Ed. note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Polygon: First, I just want to let you know I love the collection in the background.

AshSaidHi: Thank you! That’s years and years of work. My parents got me into video gaming when I was really young. Even my mom, she still plays video games. I texted her the other day and was like, “Did you download Lies of P?” and she was like, “Yeah, but I really like Lords of the Fallen.” And I was like, “What?”

She’s a big Soulsborne, like Elden Ring, player. She just bought a PS5 and was like, “When are you getting a PS5?” I was like, “Mom, I play retro games on Twitch. OK?”

I know you started your Twitch channel in 2019. What prompted you to start streaming?

I was working in an industry where I didn’t have a work-life balance. And after I left it, I was like, Oh, I want to get into content creation. And I got into a different industry. It allowed me time to create content. So I was like, I think I’m gonna start on Twitch. I have a degree in advertising. The first thing I wanted to do was create a concept for my channel. And I knew I had to have like a tagline or a call to action. So that’s where the name AshSaidHi comes from, because I wanted it to be like, Oh, that friend, they told me to tell you hi. It sticks in your brain a little bit. And so it’s like, “Oh, don’t forget to tell your friends Ash said hi.” That’s how I always wanted to end my videos.

I started on Tetris 99 and Breath of the Wild. Those were the first games I broadcast on Twitch. But I have this big backlog of video games. Why don’t I start getting into retro games? And that’s how it it really snowballed. I got into a retro games, and the community was wonderful. They taught me the ropes, I met a lot of friends — friends that I still have to this day. It changed my life for the better in so many different ways.

I really, really love being a creator on Twitch. The magic is in the sense of community that you get when you meet people and they share the love of the same things. I met like people who were into Amiga 500 gaming, and Commodore and NES and Super Nintendo and all that kind of stuff. I knew I found my people.

Do you stream full time?

It’s what I mainly spend my time doing. It’s always a funny question because when people say “stream full time on Twitch,” they imagine it means eight hours a day, five days a week. But I think it means that I put all my focus on it. I do a lot of sponsorship work and a lot of offline work for my channel. So technically, yes.

How long did it take to get to the point where you could spend that time on Twitch and the business behind it?

I started in 2019 and then I got Twitch Partner in November 2020. And I was like, OK, wait a minute, people really like what I’m doing here. I have an engaging community, I try to never miss a message in chat — I literally have chat up on like three or four screens.

Once I hit Partner, I found out about the Twitch Ambassador program, because I saw somebody with a check and I clicked it. I applied and talked about all the skills that I had learned. And I talked about why I was passionate for what I do. They called me back a few months later and were like, “We want to invite you into the program.”

I was announced March 2021, and at the time, they also had a billboard in Times Square. I’m originally from New York, but I no longer live there. They put my picture up on that billboard. And at that point, it kind of gave me a kind of sense that there’s credibility to what I’m doing, which is really important for me. I flew up from where I live back up to New York, and I told my mom and she was freaking out. It was such a surreal moment. For me, in my hometown — the crossroads of the world — here is a picture of me. Then it snowballed from there. I knew I wanted to take it seriously.

One of the things that I do that helps me sustain my business is sponsored broadcast. Because of my professional background, and the way that I communicate — I work on trying to build good bonds with developers or marketing people. I make sure that I do my due diligence, to be on time and to be mindful in the moment and be professional. Whenever I’m called upon for a job, I put a lot of pride into what I’m doing. I knew things were getting serious when people started paying me to play video games.

I love that it allows me freedom to be able to travel to things like TwitchCon. And it allows me to go spend time with my mom, or to just take time to relax, like I can have that work-life balance and not have to request this time off or things like that. And my mom is really proud of me. When I talk about it to my family members, they’re always so happy for the things that I’m doing.

It’s cool to hear you talk about that work-life balance, because I think sometimes when you hear about people doing Twitch, it can be grinding out streams for 12 hours straight. It’s nice that you’re able to have a balance.

That’s key, right? I can’t do my best work if I’m not taking care of myself. I understand why that’s the mindset of constantly streaming, like you’re not discoverable if you’re not live sometimes. That’s the conundrum. But I do feel like if you put your time and effort into things like, I’m going to start writing a little bit, or I’m going to start making short video that I can post on social media so people can get a sense of who I am. Even when I’m not broadcasting, people can find AshSaidHi. When I’m not live, those things helped me bridge the gaps.

What have you learned since you started streaming about carving out that engaging community you mentioned earlier?

I learned to be authentically myself — be present in the moment. I always tell people this when they meet me in person, that you’re meeting the Ash that you see on camera. I’m always talking about my mom and my dad and how they got me into video games. I feel like I’m sharing the best parts of myself — what I grew up with.

I talk about food all the time on my channel. If you meet me, I know all the places in New York where you could get some good food, you know what I’m saying? Like, that is like a big part of who I am. I love Star Trek, I love Nintendo, I love drawing, I love all of those things. And I love sharing those things with people. Being excited about the things that we love... I think that’s key — being able to share the things about you would that you could connect with people.

I think that that’s also the magic of Twitch — connecting with people. It’s a people platform first to me. We go on there, we play video games — whether it’s playing video games or cooking, exercising, ASMR, chatting or whatever it is on Twitch. People go there to connect with people. People go to Twitch to connect about the things they love and find other people that are into the things they love. That’s how I built an engaging community.

What should people know about your career as a streamer, or about Twitch itself?

I would love to share the power of community on Twitch. There is the Twitch Women’s Guild, which is incredible, because not only does it connect women and empower women to be who they are on Twitch, but it’s a place where we cheer each other on. It is a safe space for us to kind of talk about the things that impact us in our daily lives as broadcasters.

I did a Creator Camp with some of the women that are in that group and it was incredible. And I also did a show called Streamer Strategies. I try to do a show once a month where we talk about different strategies that you might be thinking about for streaming. The first one I did was creative monetization. But the next one I did was collaboration. I feel like a lot of really wonderful opportunities come from being able to connect with other people like that. And it’s such a great program. It’s one of the best things that Twitch created because it gives us a space to learn. And it gives us a space to speak about our experiences. They also give a lot of tools to us to help us extend our skills.

Especially for women, Black people, people of color, things like that solidify the fact that we belong in this space. And I think that it is so important to inspire people who feel like they don’t know if they belong, right? Because we see so much of that. I’m really grateful for all of those opportunities that I’ve been given. I just want to make sure that people know how awesome those kinds of tools and resources are, because without things like that, you question whether or not you can do it.

How many times have you worked on something and people are like, “Oh, can you really do it?” They’re questioning your intelligence, or they’re saying, “You just got by on, like, certain qualities.” But no — there’s so many hardworking individuals that get a space because of things like that. I just love that space for us.