Autumn leaves. Hot chocolate. Warm blankets. Drizzly rain. Red wine by the fire. Plushies to cuddle. Heartwarming games. That’s right folks: it’s time to get cosy.
2020 has been the year of cosy games (thanks lockdown), with the likes of Animal Crossing and Spiritfarer taking the Twitch world by storm. It’s what German streamer Café Ela specialises in: cosy, comfy games, and positive vibes. And that positivity extends beyond the games she plays. She’s passionate about accessibility, supporting marginalised communities, and learning from the stories of others.
So get the kettle on, pour a cup of your favourite brew, and settle in at Café Ela.
When and why did you start streaming?
I started streaming in 2016, super casually. I was just about to move to England at the time to start my masters degree so I had a couple of months off. I was really isolated and a bit lonely so I decided to start streaming to give myself a little bit of a project to learn English better, become better at speaking and having conversations in English.
What games do you prefer to stream?
I love cosy, comfy games. My preferred games are Nintendo games, mainly because I think they have this very cosy but also positive, pick-me-up vibe. I love Pokémon, I love Animal Crossing. But I also love simulations like The Sims and Stardew Valley. The occasional indie game. Just everything that’s giving you a bit of a wind-down experience from your daily life.
Where did the café idea come from?
I really love drinking coffee! It was always my ritual to make myself a cup of coffee and then start my stream. At some point I started to call my community the coffee club just out of fun and that’s how it all evolved. I’m really in love with the theme because it’s just really embodying this cosy wind-down feeling, so I went with it!
How do you create a cosy vibe for your stream?
I think a lot of it has to do with the personality you want to be on stream. I’m very chill and laid back in my daily life so that’s what I want to embody on stream as well. I admire anyone who can do these really high energy, upbeat streams but I just couldn’t do this! I always prefer [relaxed] streams myself that I can have in the background, that I can listen to, that are providing this accompanying feeling. I don’t need to be the centre of attention, I just want to provide the good vibes. So personality for sure: how you speak, how you talk, what tone you have. But on the other side you can embody [cosiness] by the colours of your branding, I always have a warmer picture on my webcam, have a plushie in the background and a blanket. Also the music you play on stream, of course DMCA free! I work with an awesome composer called JoshJayPiano and he composed some piano low-fi songs for me that I play in the background usually. That also suggests this really comfy café feeling. I feel like it’s a combination of small subtle things that are coming together to form a bigger picture.
What do you love most about comfy cosy games?
I think for me working a full time job, it is just so nice because you’re not competing with anyone. It just provides this really uplifting sort of feeling that you can accomplish something but in your own way. With Animal Crossing for example, you can really create your own world and wind down from your daily chores. That’s why I love them so much.
How does playing comfy games impact your stream and your relationship with your viewers?
I can focus more on chat when I play a game where I don’t need to pay attention 100% of the time. For example if I were playing a competitive game I couldn’t look at chat at all. But if I play a game where I can play at my own pace, I can always make sure I pay enough attention to the people who come to the stream and just try to create a good balance between the gameplay and having conversations on the side with chat.
Are those conversations important for you to have?
Absolutely. I think that’s my favourite part about being a streamer and the reason why I still stream. Having these conversations has opened me up to a perspective you never get to see, you get to have this glimpse into other peoples’ lives. For example when there’s a mum in chat and she’s telling how difficult it’s been to deal with the kids this week, or when we get political and I get to gain perspective from people of colour, when I get to gain perspective from LGBTQIA+ people as well. It’s my favourite part, being part of these conversations not so much as someone who thinks they can contribute a lot, but more like this listening hub where people get to tell their stories and I get to listen to them.
Picture the scene: it’s a rainy November evening, you’re sat inside wrapped up in a blanket by the fire with your plushie, controller in hand. What are you playing?
I’m playing Stardew Valley. I think Stardew Valley is just one of my games of the decade. It never fails to pull me out of a hole when I’m in one. It never is not fun to play. I think Stardew Valley is definitely the game I will play on that rainy November evening. I play it very intensely for a month and then I don’t touch it for half a year and then I play it intensely again! But I enjoy it every time.
How do you find being an out LGBT streamer, what reaction do you get?
I think, overall, very positive ones. With the story sharing, I think it makes people feel connected and it makes people feel valid which is very important to me personally because I’ve been someone who has not felt valid up to a year and a half ago. So being part of the community has done nothing but great things for me and my community. Everyone feels like they can really be themselves. Of course you get the occasional troll, I honestly don’t pay attention to that though. I personally have a very good experience with it but I hope that in the future Twitch is going to take efforts to make the platform even safer for LGBTQIA+ folks.
You’re passionate about accessibility too – how can streamers ensure their content is accessible?
I made a thread a couple of months ago already about how to make your Twitch stream more accessible. Definitely use closed captions, just for people who have hearing disabilities or cognitive disabilities and who vibe with the text a little bit better. Or also people who might not have headphones. It’s obviously not a disability but what has shown is that when we make things more accessible, it will be more accessible for everyone. In your panels don’t use pictures in your text because if someone has a visual disability their screen reader can’t read that. Contrast is a big issue on Twitch because their branding colours on the dark background are nonaccessible. You also want to really consider the heading and the font size and also the formatting. Don’t lump everything together, if someone has dyslexia the letters are probably really hard to read anyway and if everything is so small it’s even harder. I’ve also been reading more into the topic of ableist language and I’ve been trying to replace words that I usually use for others. For me that’s not a big effort but it can really make a difference.
What have you learned about yourself through streaming?
Particularly within the LGBTQIA+ community, I learned to value myself and speak up for myself. I’ve always been a shy person, avoiding spicy topics. I think I’ve really learned how to speak my mind and how to become louder about important topics that are going on in the world by having the privilege to have a platform. I think it is very important to speak up when things in the world are not going right. I’m definitely not at the point where I have done everything I can, but I hope I can improve further and uplift marginalised voices and speak on important topics.
Is there pressure to be engaged in those topics?
You’ve got that responsibility, as much as it’s easier to just stay out of things. Especially with the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer, I realised who of my friends are actually going to speak up on this and use their platform as privileged white content creators and who didn’t. I unfollowed people and took note of it and didn’t want to be one of those people that stays silent once again. Even though I’m not in the US, racism exists everywhere and I think that’s why it’s so important to let people know on which side you’re standing and not to keep it performative. As my wonderful Rainbow Arcade team leader Cypher of Tyr says “don’t be an ally, be an accomplice”. Even though I have so much to learn, I’m very determined to become that.
What’s the game that defined your childhood?
It was Pokémon. Absolutely 100% Pokémon. I got a Game Boy Colour with my brother, I didn’t know what it was at the time but I wanted one because if my older brother wants one it’s cool right? Then we got Pokémon Yellow in English, but I didn’t speak any English at the time. I figured it out later when I got the German translations for the Red and Blue editions. Pokémon has just been accompanying me all my life. I’ve been into the games, I’ve been into the cards, collecting the plushies, it just fills me with joy still and it’s definitely the most defining game of my childhood.
What’s your game of the year so far?
I kinda have to say Animal Crossing, I mean I played the most Animal Crossing. It has been an amazing release. But can I give an honourable mention to Spiritfarer? Spiritfarer has been enchanting me, it’s been evoking emotions I didn’t know before and to pick up this topic of saying goodbye and grievance is so courageous. It’s such an ambitious project to put that into a game and convey these immersions to the player. I think the graphics are stunning. The gameplay is so fun. I think it’s such an amazing game, Thunder Lotus outdid themselves on this one. I cried my eyes out and I’m not even through yet, I’m scared of continuing!
Lastly, what’s your coffee order?!
I do love me an oat milk latte!
To find out more about Café Ela, catch her streaming on her Twitch channel.