‘Fierce Diva’ gamer uses streaming to help followers manage mental health and access vital therapy
Gaming can ‘nourish the soul’ and help queer people take care of their mental health, says gamer Michael Reynolds – also known as The Fierce Diva.
During the height of the pandemic, both Twitch and Facebook Gaming saw a boom in hours watched as people used the streaming platforms to connect during lockdowns. Viewership is dipping on both platforms as many restrictions regarding travel and in-person events are lifted – but people are still taking time to catch up with their favourite streamers.
Michael Reynolds has always known gaming’s potential to provide that “safe space” for people. He has established a genuine connection with his thousands of followers on Facebook as he banters back and forth and plays the ever-popular game, Fortnite.
His Fierce Diva personality is truly infectious as he chats about liking “tall, skinny, white boys” or hunting down other Fortnite players in a helicopter while screaming at the top of his lungs. But Reynolds is also working to give back to the community and help people with their mental health.
Reynolds tells PinkNews that gaming has always been a part of his life and some of his earliest memories are tied to video games.
“I remember my older sister getting ready for high school at the time, and I’m three years old, sneaking into her bed to play Super Mario Brothers,” he recalls. “I just remember falling in love.”
High-flying games like Call of Duty helped “bring all of my friends from around the world together”, he says.
“We had a play to come together, communicate with one another and bond as if we were still there in each other’s company. It was really special.”
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Reynolds began using gaming for “stress management” in college and even took his PlayStation 4 with him abroad as he travelled for his degree. He says it was a “really stressful” time talking to people who faced difficult hardships, and his “way to cope” was being connected to gaming.
Reynolds says he’s always “struggled” with “understanding where I fit”. When he moved back to rural West Virginia after university, he went through an “insanely deep depression” after getting “rejection after rejection”.
“I think my confidence had been just dramatically altered going through the failure of not getting into my field of study – something I was so passionate about.
“I wanted to be part of the solutions for the world’s problems. I wanted to feel like I was doing something good and something that meant something with my life, not just making money.”
Reynolds eventually found work, but he was still struggling with his mental health. He saw a therapist and was diagnosed with ADHD, which finally gave him “that validation” that he’s “not crazy” or “lazy”.
Being able to talk to someone about his mental health made him realise that he needed to do something that was “meaningful to me”. So he “jumped into the streaming thing”, and it’s safe to say it’s gone “incredibly well”.
Reynolds wanted to use his platform to “create a community” and “safe space” for people to feel like they could be themself.
“I wanted to create a place that mimics what my friends and I created when I first started playing video games. That place that we come to that’s nourishing for the soul, having an escape that you can use to cope with what’s happening outside.
“When you come in here, you know we’ve got your back, and this is that place where you can relax and hopefully feel better.”
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He also wanted to be there to support people’s journeys and do something “a bit more tangible”.
Eventually he found a tool through BetterHelp, an online counselling service, that would allow him to cover the cost of his followers’ therapy.
While he isn’t sure how many people had taken up the service to date, he says that he’s helped provide a “minimum of 50 sessions” to followers since September.
“I know for a fact that I needed therapy, and therapy was my solution in a tremendous and life-altering way,” Reynolds says. “I know that, if it could affect me that way, I’m tangibly doing good by my community and the people who need it the most.”
Gaming fans can connect with Michael Reynolds via his Fierce Diva community on Facebook.