As a longtime fighting game fan, I was excited to get to know Alanya, who is a prominent member of the fighting game community. When we sat down to chat on a weekday afternoon, the thirty-minute call breezed by, probably because of the nearly endless stream of entertaining tales that Alanya shared regarding her experiences in streaming and the FGC. I left the conversation as a genuine ARUUU fan—and with the understanding that Alanya’s career has taken her far beyond the world of Tekken.
Like many #GSQUAD members, Alanya originally got into gaming through her family. “I have two older brothers,” said Alanya, “so by default, I kind of started playing the games they were playing.” When her brothers’ lives became too busy for video games—one of them is currently in medical school—she turned to Twitch to find new gaming partners. “I started streaming so that I could find like other people to play games with.”
Overtime, Alanya’s following gradually expanded, but her big break didn’t come until she traveled to Las Vegas for Evolution Championship Series 2018. “I just went there for fun,” said Alanya. “The only people I had ever played like Tekken with was with my brothers and stuff, casually.”
To her surprise, Alanya soon found herself on-stage for a streamed match against JeonDDing, then considered one of the best Tekken players in the world. “I got two rounds off of him, and I popped off,” said Alanya. “Ever since then, like that video on YouTube got like, over a million hits, and like, I just blew up after that.”
At the time, Alanya wasn’t sponsored; her sponsor in the VOD above is simply “ARUU,” a play on her own gamertag. On the other hand, JeonDDing was—and still is—a representative of esports organization UYU. “All my friends were like, ‘so when are you going to join UYU?’” said Alanya, “and I jokingly said back ‘like next week’—and then they reached out to me the next week! It was such a crazy experience.”
A month after EVO 2018, Alanya officially joined UYU as a content creator, and the rest is history. With the help of fellow #GSQUAD member NoisyButters—”she’s been my mentor”—Alanya quickly developed considerable skills as a streamer and entertainer. Today, she continues to represent UYU alongside a number of other sponsors.
Alanya’s battle with JeonDDing made waves far beyond Las Vegas. Shortly after the video went viral, she even got her own writeup on a Turkish news site. Alanya, who was born in Columbus but went to school in Turkey, is proud of her Turkish heritage, even emblazoning her Twitter bio with the Turkish flag. “When Turkish people come into the stream, I'll always speak to them in Turkish,” said Alanya. Sometimes, hearing a sudden burst of Türkçe can be a surprise to Alanya’s English-speaking viewers, who aren’t always aware that the American-sounding streamer has a Turkish background.
Alanya’s Turkish connection is also the source of her gamertag, ARUUU. “The national animal for Turkey is a wolf,” recounted Alanya. “I was like, ‘okay, well what sound does a wolf make?’”
While Alanya’s streaming success has given her access to a slew of exciting opportunities, she was open about the difficulties she has faced during her career. Jealous about her rapid rise to success, not all members of the fighting game community were quick to welcome Alanya into the fold. “When I joined the FGC, I had some pro players and some actual tournament organizers, guys who ran tournaments like majors, attacking me online,” said Alanya.
Though she had played Tekken for years before EVO 2018, some haters openly questioned how genuine her interest in fighting games was. “It was really disheartening to have these well-known players and people talk poorly about me,” said Alanya,” because I had just competed and got discovered through competing.”
But what truly opened Alanya’s eyes to the disadvantages faced by women in the FGC was the creation of a Reddit thread by a hater critical of her enthusiastic cheering at an event. “That was a big shock for me, because I realized, like, if it was a dude cheering for me, that wouldn’t have happened,” said Alanya. “But because I was a girl, my voice was considered annoying and disruptive.”
“As a woman in gaming, you by default have to become desensitized to it,” said Alanya of this gender-based criticism. Nowadays, she’s learned to tune out the haters by reminding herself how many people enjoy her content on a daily basis. “For every person that hates you, 10 people are going to like you.”
Though she still loves Tekken, Alanya’s goal for 2020 is to expand her repertoire as a variety streamer. “I love streaming fighting games and the FGC,” said Alanya. “But for my whole life, I’ve enjoyed so many games that it’s hard to just keep myself in one category.”
Fortunately, Alanya’s personality and gaming style is perfectly attuned to streaming. Playing video games as a kid, she always had an audience in the form of her brothers, so interacting with her viewers comes naturally. “Some people hate backseat gaming, but I genuinely love it,” said Alanya with a chuckle. “Whenever I played games, my brother was always backseat gaming—like while he was eating dinner or something. He would always tell me, like, ‘no, go left, go left.’”
No matter what the future holds, Alanya is exactly in her element on Twitch, and she has plenty of momentum going into the new decade. With a bunch of awesome sponsors, a band of loyal followers, and some truly hilarious content, things are looking up for the Turkish Tekken connoisseur.
“The reason why I started streaming is so that I could talk about my favorite games and play with people,” said Alanya towards the end of our interview. As far as I can tell, this mission was a massive success.
This article was written by Alexander Lee, an esports journalist, lifelong Nintendo fan, and proud cat dad. Follow him on Twitter @alexleewastaken, and check out more of his work on his website www.alexlee.work.