How A Professional “Sims” Player Stays Sane While Being “A Woman On The Internet”
The former BuzzFeed producer talks about mental health, her gaming career, and the “100 Baby Challenge."
In the male-dominated gaming industry, women are left with a choice to either lean in or push through creatively to make a space for themselves. Kelsey Impicciche, a 29-year-old former BuzzFeed video producer and YouTube content creator since 2012, has done both to excel in her career.
Impicciche got her start as a fellow for BuzzFeed producing viral content for their channel—like blindfolding people to guess Oreo flavors or having women try Disney Princess hair for the day. In 2017, her success as a producer, and an avid video game player with a strong background in The Sims, led to an opportunity with BuzzFeed to help create BuzzFeed Multiplayer, a YouTube channel centered around the gaming community.
Although she was usually paired with other producers for Multiplayer, Impicciche pitched her first solo debut series in 2018 during a Season 3 break for her popular video series In Control with Kelsey. This new solo series, Single Girl Tries The 100 Baby Challenge, centered around the idea of trying the popular YouTube Sims challenge, which was created by Sims player, Amiisay, in 2012. In it, the matriarch of a household has 100 babies all conceived by different sims (with other various rules that dictate gameplay).
The premiere episode, which now has close to 21 million views on YouTube, blew up practically overnight in December 2018. Impicciche had an inkling that the irony of a "single girl" (a title she now uses as an identifier on YouTube) playing a challenge where her sim is a mom to 100 children would do well, but was unprepared for its quick success. "I was hopeful because the title sounded really strong but we were still so shocked," she tells HelloGiggles.
After over five years with BuzzFeed, Impicciche is now focusing on creating inclusive gaming and video content for the community she formed during her time on Multiplayer on her own YouTube channel, Kelsey Dangerous. Players will still get all of The Sims content they were getting before, just in a new home, as Impicciche explains. "I feel like this move is like a homecoming because I've spent all of this time [at Buzzfeed] building my own home for myself on the internet and growing my own audience, and now I get to just make things for them," she says.
For this week's Self-Care Sunday, we sat down with Impicciche to talk about 100 Baby Challenge, her career journey, and how she's putting her mental health first as she embarks on this new path.
HelloGiggles (HG): What was it like to start creating video game content on YouTube?
Kelsey Impicciche (KI): I definitely felt my whole life that I wasn't really a gamer. I grew up in the time of Gamergate. I'd watch all of these female gamers and nerd icons attacked online and doxxed. That definitely developed a fear in me when I first started to make gaming content on YouTube. I always made it a point to set myself up as a beginner gamer even though I grew up playing video games. I just always set the bar super low so that no one would call me out. It was a defense mechanism.
I think that's also why I focused my attention on games that I already knew and enjoyed playing. Even now, I still approach it from the angle of "I'm not an expert. I'm just a person that's enjoying this game." That way I don't care if I'm wrong or I'm bad at it. It just helps me get my feet under myself and has led to me organically being referred to as a "gamer" by my community of fans that I've developed over the years.
HG: What was the process of starting video game content at BuzzFeed like?
KI: BuzzFeed hadn't really touched on [gaming] before but I knew there was an audience of millennial women who could really connect with the content. I kept thinking, "There's something there. I know there's something there." So, once I was given the opportunity, it was really just a lot of trial and error with different videos to see what our audience would react to.
My main goal was to create a channel that could still represent some of the competitive aspects of gaming but mainly emphasize a holistic approach to it. I didn't want it to be a place for gamers who were the best and funniest or whatever, I wanted it to be a place where people who enjoy gaming could come together and talk about their experiences, wherever they come from. We found out pretty quickly that our audience loved The Sims and since I had a really strong background in playing that game, it all started to work out from there.
HG: What was it like to pitch the 100 Baby Challenge as your first solo series?
KI: Towards Christmas break in 2018, I had been binge-watching a bunch of Sims-related content on YouTube and came across the 100 Baby Challenge. It had existed within the Sims community for a while and the challenge was notorious for taking people years to finish. From a producer perspective, the idea of it was also really great. The number 100 is very popular online because people really love the idea of tackling a large amount of something. It's very exciting to them. Also, the idea that it's a sim who is having 100 babies, each with a different partner, brought a scandalous aspect that audiences enjoy as well.
So, I took those learnings that I had from being a producer, combined them with the challenge, and pitched it to my boss. I kind of joked to him that if no one really likes it, it wouldn't matter but if they did, we could do it for years. So, I filmed it and remember turning the camera off and thinking, "I don't even know what that was. I hope it was okay." It was the first video that I did on my own since I tried a Let's Play on my personal YouTube channel. I did a bunch of stretching out of the baby bump on my sim and put a photo of me making the most uncomfortable face for the thumbnail image and released it out into the world. Then it blew up.
HG: How did "single girl" make it into the title?
KI: My boss suggested that I add "single girl" to the title. I thought it was hilarious. The juxtaposition of being a single woman but also the parent of 100 children, all parented by different partners, was just so funny to me. There's also a technical side to it. Videos perform really well with "single girl" added to the title. Especially when the content is centered around dating. Our audience had already known me from my other Multiplayer videos as being someone who comments on how hot certain sims are and I get all blushy when they would talk to my sims. So, it added this funny dichotomy of single people gaming.
HG: How did it feel as the show progressed to have your relationship status attached to the project?
KI: At first it was just a funny thing and then as the show progressed, more and more people started to ask me questions about my relationship status and why I was still single. It's not like I'm not out there dating, but predominantly for the last couple of years, I have been single and so the title has stuck. Also, if you're doing a show, you don't really change the title of it even if your situation in real life has changed.
It is weird to be identified that way, which I don't like to admit to, but at the same time, I don't really care. It doesn't impact me at all. I've mostly started to use it to connect my various content together. That way when people view my content on Multiplayer, they are hopefully suggested videos from my personal channel. It's also just a super relatable thing to be. No one in their life has ever not been single. You aren't born into a relationship. It helps make the content reach your audience in a more personal way. So, I pick and choose when I think it's appropriate to use it now. It's more of a business decision than anything else.
HG: Streaming as a woman is already hard enough. Do you find adding your relationship status into the mix has opened you up to unwanted feedback from men online?
KI: If you're a woman on the internet, you're already getting marriage proposals and date offers. Pretty early in my career, I was at a convention doing cosplay with friends and someone walked up to me and told me he'd like to take me on a date. I had to let him down but then I made the mistake of getting anxious doing that thing that women sometimes do when they say, "We can be friends, though!" and he followed me around for the rest of the convention. It was so uncomfortable for me and for my friends. This was all before I was even calling myself single online.
I will say, I don't get a lot of crazy, inappropriate comments online... A lot of my fans, though, do feel entitled to know more about my personal life. I think to a certain extent that is true since I've opened up that door a little bit on my end but since I'm still dating and figuring out who is my person, I don't publicly want to be attached to a rotating cast of characters. If I start being more serious about someone down the line, that might be something that I'd be willing to share with them. Otherwise, that just puts unnecessary pressure on a new relationship and it's also just unnecessary.
HG: What are you looking forward to the most now that you're focusing on your personal YouTube channel?
KI: I'm looking forward to a more intimate connection with my audience. I don't think content-wise a lot of my work will change but the big change is that I'll be able to own it all. I don't own anything that I made when I worked with BuzzFeed and it always made me very aware of what I did for them versus what I would save for my personal channel. In that sense it's very freeing but the autonomy BuzzFeed gave me to go off and create was what made me feel so confident to go off on my own. The money aspect is also very different since it's all coming from me. I'm able to decide on some more personal video-related content that probably wouldn't have made sense for Multiplayer.
HG: After the past year of working remotely, are there elements from your work-life balance that you're going to carry through now that you're shifting to freelance?
KI: I've definitely learned how to structure my day. I'm an extrovert and also a pretty active person. I'm my happiest when I'm running around all of the time which makes working in the same place that I relax a bit difficult. So I've done my best to develop my habits. I work out every morning when I feel like it and I try to move my body. I'll take my dog out for walks frequently during the day.
I also feel like I'm more tuned in with my emotions and mental well-being than I used to be because I used to just wake up at 5 a.m. in the morning, workout and then head to work. I've been very lucky to be able to work from home because on days when I'm mentally checked out or feel like I'm banging my head against a wall, I can easily adjust. But that's really hard to do when you're in an office and having to adjust your mood based on your emotions. The pressure of having to get something down on a company's time is definitely lifted and I can change my schedule to best fit my mental health. Those daily emotional check-ins with myself are definitely something I will be keeping with me moving forward.
HG: Do you have any advice for people who need some motivation with their mental health practices?
KI: I used to work out every day and since switching to remote working, it's closer to three days a week. What's helped me the most is being honest with myself about what time of day makes the most sense to be active and then scheduling my day around that. It's important that whenever you carve out that time, though, you should make it sacred. If someone asks you to do something, you say "No, that's my sacred time" and recognize that it's your time to do something that is going to make you feel good.
For me, it's not about looking a certain way or meeting a certain goal, it's about doing something that is going to set yourself up to feel really good for the rest of the day or week. Working out, for me, helps me feel refreshed and mentally prepared for the day ahead. When I'm not feeling motivated, I trick myself by saying, "just do it for 15 minutes" and then after 15 minutes, if I'm miserable, I stop but most of the time, I realize I can keep going. The important thing is that you enjoy it and you're having fun.
HG: As you start your journey as an independent creator, do you have anything you want to say to your future self?
I'm so proud of you and enjoy the journey.
I think it's easy as a human, and also as a content creator, to set goals and feel proud of yourself when you have reached the end of them. My main goal now is that I feel happy while I'm in the middle of them. Wherever the future Kelsey is when she reads this, and whether or not she has reached the end of the goals she has set out for herself, I just hope she's enjoying the journey she has been on thus far because I believe in her.