Twitch streamer BrookeAB can’t stop smiling. The gamer lights up the studio as she walks onto set, having traded in her hoodie and biker shorts for a carrot-colored top, sheer cropped jacket, and white biker skirt. A swath of flaming orange eyeshadow dances across her eyelids while tiny tangerine orbs top her fiery coffin nails. The look — from our gaming-meets-glam photoshoot — is an elevated reimagining of Phoenix, an agent Brooke, as everyone calls her in chat and IRL, often plays on Riot Games’ Valorant. “This is sooo cool!” she says, sitting in half of a hollowed translucent blue sphere, her fingertips grazing its edges. Her zeal to deliver the perfect shot sets the room ablaze, but if you didn’t know any better, you’d think she just clutched a crucial round in the game.
The 23-year-old is like many Gen Z stars: bright, effervescent, and willing to broadcast the day-to-day details of her life to complete strangers over the internet. Brooke plays video games for a living, one of those jobs — like superhero or princess — that only kids would dream of as a viable career. Streamers like her know, though, that the job is like any other. Along with the fantasy come long hours, pressure to perform, and a list of grievances about what can be a toxic workplace culture. In fact, Brooke’s life as a streamer includes obstacles that would be more at home in a horror movie than a fairy tale.
Last October, Brooke publicly revealed that she was the target of a massive stalking and online harassment campaign that, at its worst, included graphic death threats to her and her family. The “emotional nightmare,” as she described on Twitter, culminated in the FBI and law enforcement across multiple states identifying some of the people responsible for the onslaught of hateful DMs.
The next morning after her West Hollywood photoshoot, Brooke is only just beginning to open up about what happened. As we sit in the red- and black-accented living room of the 100 Thieves content house in Los Angeles, she’s perched on the edge of a leather couch, her hands clasped and her voice soft, yet steady. To this day, the harassers are still at it — including the stalker who started it all. Understandably, Brooke is reluctant to reveal too much about her private life; stalkers have used details as small as her last name to doxx her whole family.
“I’m past the point where I let it affect me so much that I couldn’t do anything, but it’s such a struggle,” she says. “It really is.”
In a saturated pool of influencers and creators vying for the viral crown, Brooke’s ability to rise from the ashes with a mission and a message makes her a beacon of inspiration. Just like the entry fragger she plays, she’s run into battle and back — respawning triumphant to reclaim control over her life.
Kaftan blazer; Tres Rache turtleneck; Serpenti Naxos skirt, $130, available at serpentiapparel.com; Vivienne Westwood ring; Dalmata earring.
Brooke grew up in Oregon, hiking through majestic mountains and enjoying family trips to the picturesque Pacific Northwest coast with her family. But, she was an indoor kid at heart; from a young age, she discovered her love for video games by watching her older sister play GameCube and PlayStation 2. “I didn’t really love playing games myself,” she says. “I just always pulled the chair behind her to watch, and it was really fun for me.” After that, Brooke began expanding her game pool. From Neopets and Minecraft to Call of Duty and Halo, gaming played a major role at every stage of Brooke’s life, so it was only natural for her to start streaming on Twitch in 2018 while studying psychology at Western Oregon University.
At first, streaming was fun, but it wasn’t serious — her gamertag, BrookeAB, was almost an afterthought. “I was like, ‘I don’t need a crazy name.’ I’ll just put my initials in and call it a day,” she says. “So I did BrookeAB and I regret it. I should have thought of something way cooler.” She quickly settled into a regular grind: going live often and for long sessions between classes, chatting with fans, and laughing her way through Fortnite, then the game du jour.
One day, after a year of streaming, Brooke posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing an $8 “pouty girl” beanie from the merch store of popular YouTuber Corinna Kopf and was surprised when Kopf extended an invite to play. That Fortnite lobby happened to include Turner “Tfue” Tenney and Mason “Symfuhny” Lanier — Kopf and Tenney were dating at the time, and were trying to set Lanier up with Brooke. It worked.
The rest is history — and forever archived on YouTube. During the stream, it’s evident that Brooke and Lanier liked each other, and she agreed to go on a double date with him, Kopf, and Tenney if Lanier clutched a dub (he did). Soon after, Brooke and Lanier started documenting the early stages of their budding relationship, vlogging adventures to Disneyland and sharing details of their first kiss, which Lanier openly admitted was his first ever. As the two creators streamed and posted, viewers became more and more ravenous for videos of young love unfolding in real time.
The girl from Oregon suddenly catapulted into the spotlight, and her audience skyrocketed from double digits to 10,000 live viewers, quite literally overnight. Brooke’s rapid ascent caught the attention of 100 Thieves founder and CEO Matt “Nadeshot” Haag, and in October 2019, the gaming and esports organization signed her as the second woman to join its creator arm. “I spent a little bit of time watching her streams, and she was just always such a positive presence,” Haag tells me over Zoom. “To watch somebody as positive and as forthcoming as Brooke was just a breath of fresh air.”
Getting a call from the former esports champ was the first moment that Brooke felt like she really made it. “Like, wow, people genuinely want to see more of me,” Brooke says. “Wow, okay, I can do this for real.” The second was when she quit her minimum-wage job at the corporate office of a tanning salon and headed down the West Coast straight into 100 Thieves’ content house, where she still streams from and lives with Haag, Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, and all their significant others, including Lanier.
The move opened doors for Brooke as she became one of the faces of 100 Thieves, and joined the tight-knit group of women in the top echelons of the Twitch scene. It was also the start of the most terrifying period of her life.
I have my anxiety and my depression, but I’m still a happy person and I don’t have to let those things dictate how I feel every day.
The stalking began in 2019 when Brooke announced she was moving to California. It started with a single, almost laughable message: “You’re gonna cheat on your boyfriend when you’re in LA.” Looking back, it sounds almost absurd that Brooke’s nightmare started with something as banal as a cheating accusation by a stranger. When she first saw the DM, Brooke dismissed it and still does: “I live with Mason,” she tells me. “I’m with him every day.” A couple taps, a quick block, and it was out of sight, out of mind. But then the DMs snowballed. “It went from the messages being like, ‘Oh, you are this horrible person for cheating on your boyfriend’ to ‘Here’s your parents’ address. I’m chopping your mom up into pieces and mailing her to you in a box,’” she says.
One person became two, then three distinct harassers. Eventually, a handful of people were coordinating massive attacks, creating countless new accounts with obscure names for the sole purpose of hating Brooke. She recounts receiving hundreds of DMs a day, across multiple platforms — Twitch, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter — that ranged from accusing her of being a bad person to revealing they had her personal information and threatening to kill her and her loved ones. Brooke once did the math with her mom to try and calculate how many accounts she’d blocked over the years. It was tens of thousands.
Sara Wong dress; Miista shoes; Zara earrings.
When she first approached police about the harassment, she was told to call back when the stalkers were on her property. So Brooke then asked platforms like Twitch, which has a harassment and misconduct policy, for help. Instead, she says she received a link directing her to an expert who could help scrub her personal info off the internet. That wasn’t an actual solution, she notes, since the stalkers already had the information. “I’m making you [Twitch] money, and you can’t even give me a thoughtful answer,” she recalls. “I feel like I asked for help so many times. I’ve talked about it on stream. I’ve tweeted about it. Like, can you guys do something?” A Twitch spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of Brooke’s case, citing privacy concerns.
She started to take breaks from streaming to take care of her mental health, but things came to a head last summer. In July 2020, the situation became so overwhelming that she disappeared from social media and streaming without explanation. “I wouldn’t get out of bed. I wouldn’t eat. I wouldn’t sleep,” she says. “I just literally laid there because I was just so exhausted.” When she speaks about her mom driving 12 hours from Oregon to LA to pull her out of bed and take her home, she catches her breath. “I’m sorry,” she says, holding back tears.
After a month hiatus, she updated fans on Twitter that she had been “working through something incredibly painful and frightening on a personal level,” only to expand in October that the FBI and law enforcement had intervened. The FBI identified and began monitoring the majority of the stalkers, particularly the ones making the most violent threats. The efforts helped, she says, but as soon as one harasser would stop, another was ready to step in.
Brooke is adamant there were consequences for the people involved, and she is clear, as she recounts the past two years, that she doesn’t want anyone to think they can get away with any level of stalking. But it’s unclear if anyone was ever charged. When I ask Brooke what the stalkers’ consequences were, she hesitates. It turns out the majority of the keyboard warriors threatening her life were under the age of 18, and privacy laws protected the minors’ identities, meaning she still doesn’t know who was behind the hate. Now, Brooke has mixed feelings. On one hand, she doesn’t want to ruin a kid’s life. On the other, she’s been through hell.
“Why are you being protected over me? I don’t know anything about these people, and these people knew everything about me, and tormented me and harassed me and threatened me for years,” she says. “And I get it because they are kids, but it’s just so frustrating.” There is one consequence she does want them to feel the full weight of, though. “My life is completely different. I have PTSD. I have severe anxiety. I have depression. All of these things, and that’s because of you.”
I don’t think there’s ever gonna be bulletproof protection.
100 Thieves Founder & CEO
Brooke’s story is just one of many. Sixty-eight percent of US gamers have reported experiencing “severe harassment,” including physical threats and stalking, while playing online, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center for Technology and Society. While men streamers have their own experiences with stalkers, like Destiny, who, in 2013, was famously DDoS’d for weeks, it’s women who are often subject to the most serious threats of rape, assault, and death. Last July, Twitch star SweetAnita, who doesn’t publicly share her real name, tweeted a screenshot of her stalker openly threatening her life with a weapon in her chat. The following month, another popular streamer, Janet “xChocoBars” Rose, tweeted, “I often think about how I will prob die by the hands of my stalker and no one can do anything about it until it really happens.”
As the leading livestream gaming platform, Twitch has worked to respond to community calls for better safeguards and improve its hateful conduct and harassment policies and tools. This past April, the streaming site announced it would ban users who harass others, even if the harassment takes place off its platform, and after a summer of hate raids plagued its platform, Twitch released a phone-verification feature in September to prevent unverified accounts from chatting. Last week, the platform launched a suspicious user detection tool to better identify users attempting to evade channel bans. “At Twitch, we strive to create safe, inclusive spaces where our Creators can flourish and build positive, healthy communities,” a Twitch spokesperson said in an email statement. “Safety is never an end state, and as long as the reality of malicious actors online persists, we will continue working to launch new safety updates and hold ourselves accountable through transparency reporting.”
Toxicity is endemic in gaming, and the way to a real solution to the harassment problem is unclear and feels impossible to achieve, says Haag, the 100 Thieves founder. “The internet has connected all of us in ways that I don’t think anybody could have ever imagined 30 years ago, and what comes with a lot of positivity is also negativity. I don’t think there’s ever gonna be bulletproof protection.”
Marina Leight top; Zilver skirt; Zara boots, $79.90, available at zara.com; Layers Of necklace.
Brooke has found ways to cope with the trauma and the ongoing harassment in order to keep doing what she loves. She started to see a therapist. She’s on medication for anxiety. And for every bad person out there, there are hundreds who have offered kind words and supported her. She specifically pointed to her boyfriend as a real source of comfort. “It’s hard to find the words to support her through those hard times,” Lanier says via email, “but I just tried my best to be there by her side, get her flowers, distract her, and just remind her how much I love her and everyone around her loves her.” (He declined to comment on Brooke’s stalking experience, citing safety concerns.) Brooke has also put in safeguards to protect her mental health and create boundaries between herself and her audience, including deleting her Discord server, where she used to spend hours responding to individual messages from viewers.
She also keeps much of her personal interactions with Lanier offline. While they appear on each other’s Instagrams and still shoot YouTube videos together for work, those early months of documenting every moment of their relationship for others are long gone. “It’s hard when your relationship starts in front of everyone, and they’ve been there from the beginning, the second you met. People feel like they’re entitled to information about you and about your life, but they’re not,” she says. “So I’ve definitely stopped sharing as much, bottom line, and just tried to be more private.” Their relationship might not be as public-facing, but the love is still there. “I love how much effort she puts into our relationship and how much she cares about me and how much she cares about everyone around her,” Lanier says. “Brooke has helped me experience life, and I love her.”
I just want to help these women that need help. … If I could retire happy and be proud of one thing, that would be my one thing.
Her private life stays largely behind the scenes, but Brooke is unabashedly open and honest about her mental health struggles. While painting Bob Ross-esque landscapes on stream, she openly tells her chat she’s having a bad day, and on the particularly difficult ones, she gives herself permission to take a break. “I have my anxiety and my depression, but I’m still a happy person and I don’t have to let those things dictate how I feel every day,” Brooke says. “I still have those days when I’m not getting out of bed. But on the days when I’m feeling great, I want to be the best version of myself.”
One unintended upside to going public with her story has been hearing from other women who have had similar experiences. She now knows that her ordeal wasn’t personal — it was systemic, and reflective of just how difficult a time women gamers have online and IRL — and her harrowing experience has given her a direction. Brooke’s life goal isn’t to have the most Twitch subs or grow a multimillion-dollar business. She knows she’s privileged to have the connections and resources to find some form of resolution, so she wants to pay it forward. “I just want to help these women that need help,” she says. “Like, that’s my number one. If I could retire happy and be proud of one thing, that would be my one thing.”
For those around her, Brooke already is the voice of change in the gaming space. “I doubt she sees herself as a role model, but for so many women on the internet seeing the things that she has gone through, the shoes that she’s walking in, the path that she’s going down, she’s just the perfect example of who you should aspire to be like,” Haag says.
The stalking is still happening, but BrookeAB The Streamer is in “yes-mode” and ready to expand beyond gaming and add more beauty and fashion content to her arsenal. She recently shot a commercial for TikTok and attended New York Fashion Week, which she, of course, vlogged. But even though she’s made a living in front of the camera at home, she’s less interested in appearing on the big screen. “Through 100 Thieves, I have learned that my acting skills are so bad. I’m like, ‘What’s the line?’” she laughs, as she leans over and cups her hand behind her ear. She’s also cherishing the relationships she’s made through streaming. This past Saturday, she invited 20 of her closest creator buddies — who, despite the competitive nature of their business, really are friends — to celebrate and pamper them for a special girl’s night. The vlog is coming soon.
Brooke The Person, though, is all about taking care of her mental health and being the joyful woman that got her to where she is today. Despite everything she’s gone through — the death threats, anxiety, depression, and sleepless nights — Brooke is choosing happiness. “I know that I can be a positive light, and I know that I am that person,” she smiles, with the same light from our photoshoot. “I want to take care of myself and just continue to grow the relationships that I have and the people around me and just stay ‘heal-py’ — ‘heal-py?’ (laughs). Healthy and happy.”
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090. If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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