When 20-year-old Payal Dhaare started her YouTube channel in 2020 during the first nationwide Covid lockdown, she had very little idea about livestreaming gaming content on the video platform. But two years later, Payal’s channel, PayalGaming, has become one of the biggest success stories, with nearly 2.55 million subscribers.
“I was in my first year of college and I used to play PUBG with my friends on my mobile. I wanted to livestream, but I didn’t get time in the first year. To be honest, I didn’t even know that livestreaming my content was a career possibility. Focusing on gaming seemed like a risky choice at the time,” Payal told indianexpress.com recounting how she started the channel. There was also the added risk of convincing her parents, and that her hometown Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh did not have the best internet connectivity added to her woes.
But things changed after the first coronavirus lockdown. At the time, PUBG Mobile (PlayersUnknown’s Battlegrounds) was not yet banned in India and was the most popular mobile game for teens and younger audiences. Payal first started posting clips of her gaming sessions on Instagram where she soon managed to gain 100k followers, and once her followers and friends convinced her to switch to YouTube to showcase her gaming skills in real-time, there was no looking back.
“Instagram was easier for me so that’s why I posted there first. But then my audience wanted to see me play live. Even my friends encouraged me to put up livestreams on YouTube, which is how I started on YouTube,” she said. She initially focused on PUBG and didn’t have a personal computer setup like other big gamers.
“I used to livestream and upload from the phone. Now I have a proper PC setup with dual monitors. I’ve learnt over the two years and I also keep asking audiences for recommendations,” Payal said.
Gaming livestreams typically involve players posting themselves playing a game at a stretch, sometimes for hours. “I had to do a lot of research about livestreams, what sort of content people prefer, and how livestreams work. I would get nervous initially, given so many people were watching,” she added. In fact, Payal says, she didn’t even show her face on YouTube earlier on. But she gained confidence as she began interacting more with the audience, and then started appearing in her videos as well, which is integral for success in these livestream videos. Payal’s channel also manages to stand out because she is a woman gamer in a space dominated by men.
Payal’s success also represents how YouTube has come to occupy the gaming-related views in India. According to YouTube, the first half of 2021 alone saw 90 million hours of games being livestream on the platform globally and over 250 million uploads. In fact, YouTube’s list of top 10 channels in India includes five popular gaming channels. YouTube’s numbers also show that in India, the gaming audience is expanding outside of the metropolitan areas.
For Payal, however, success didn’t come easy. She had to convince her parents since she decided to relocate once her channel took off. She said she made the choice because she needed a place where the internet was better — which meant 30 kilometres away from Chhindwara. But as her follower base grew, so did the hate comments on her livestreams, something which initially did rankle her.
“It was in fact easier when I had fewer subscribers because, in the beginning, everyone shows support for a new streamer, they also appreciate and motivate you. But once your growth is very high or is too fast, then the haters also arrive and so does the negativity. I have faced a lot of this criticism as well. A lot of it is around how ‘oh she’s a good-looking girl that’s why she has followers’,” Payal said, adding that there has been body shaming as well.
When PUBG was banned, Payal had to switch to PC-based games such as GTA and she wasn’t sure if the audience would welcome it. She also streams for around three-fours live, which is never easy. She’s even done a 10-hours livestream once. And while she still focuses on GTA, the popularity of BGMI (Battlegrounds Mobile India) is what proved to be a hit with her followers.
Success on YouTube has also ensured financial success and brand opportunities beyond the platform. But Payal, who has now shifted to Mumbai, is also keen on exploring other content formats and going beyond gaming. But is she worried about BGMI getting banned and impacting her channel? “Losing a game like BGMI will be challenging, but like last time, we are ready with other plans. Instead of relying on BGMI, I play other games too, say Valorant, GTA RP, and Fall Guys and I have started loving New State too. Well, with no BGMI in the picture all these games will keep featuring on my channel in the same routine,” she said.