As a longtime casual viewer of the Smite Pro League, I was familiar with Melissa’s work going into our interview. But I still wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. During her seven years in esports, Melissa has worn many hats—player, caster, content creator—and worked under the auspices of a number of organizations.
I was pleased to find that the Melissa who answered my Discord call was the same Melissa who I felt I knew through the SPL. Straightforward, honest, and matter-of-fact, she was more than willing to open up about the circumstances behind her esports success.
Growing up with three brothers—and as the only girl in her neighborhood—Melissa fell into gaming naturally. “It was pretty much like, play games or be bored all the time,” said the streamer. At first, she focused almost exclusively on the Halo series, honing her skills by playing countless hours of Halo and Halo 2. But as her abilities neared professional levels, Halo was entering its decline as an esport. “I was actually looking to maybe take things a little bit more seriously with Halo, but then MLG removed it from the pro circuit.”
After graduating from high school, Melissa enrolled in college, where gaming briefly took a back seat to her other interests. But this phase didn’t last long. “I actually had a group of friends from high school, and they knew how bummed I was about Halo not really panning out and stuff,” said Melissa. “So they just introduced me to Smite. And that was like the next big game for me, because the game felt a lot like a first-person shooter, even though it had MOBA aspects.”
Charmed by Smite’s skill-shot-oriented meta, Melissa dove into the game wholeheartedly. In late 2015, after establishing herself as an above-average player, she began to stream regularly on Twitch, joining the Dignitas stream team soon after. After Dignitas, she spent time on Luminosity Gaming’s streaming roster before joining Hi-Rez Studios to work as a caster and analyst for the Smite Pro League. She continued to work in this capacity for Hi-Rez until one month ago, when she announced her exit from the SPL in order to focus on new opportunities within the world of esports.
I'm leaving Hi-Rez Studios/Skillshot - long read, but enjoy:— Taco (@thebesttaco) September 16, 2019
Though Melissa is well aware of her status as a woman in a predominantly male community, she says that she’s never felt discriminated against in person, and has never experienced bias from another esports professional. “In Smite, I never had an issue with a player from a sexism aspect,” said Melissa. “If anything, it was actually literally just the Smite subreddit that would tend to talk about my accomplishments as something sex-oriented.”
As a streamer, Melissa did have some fans who enjoyed sleuthing into her personal life, particularly whenever she interacted with other Smite personalities on stream. “Any time a girl plays with someone on stream, you instantly get, like, the fan-fiction ships from the chat,” said Melissa.
In one case, however, that ship actually set sail—and it’s been on a successful voyage ever since. I’m referring, of course, to top Smite streamer Mattypocket, with whom Melissa has been in a relationship since 2016.
Like everything else in Melissa’s life, her relationship with Matty is rooted in honesty. The couple first met early on in the Smite meta, but for the first few years of their friendship, they weren’t much more than friends-of-friends, each doing their own thing and streaming on different schedules. But when Melissa joined Luminosity Gaming in 2016, she shifted her streaming schedule to later in the day, where it happened to overlap with Matty’s. Since they were both top Smite streamers at the time, it was only natural that they began to play together. “It’s hard to find another good Smite player at that time of night,” said Melissa.
At first, Melissa was up front about the fact that she wanted their friendship to be purely platonic. “I had just come out of a year-and-a-half, two-year relationship, and I told myself I was never dating another streamer or Smite person again.” But she realized her feelings had changed when she started playing more PUBG on stream and spending less time with Matty. “I realized I wasn’t having as much fun playing those games anymore—I was having fun when I was playing Smite with Matty,” said Melissa. “And that was when I realized that I actually had a crush on him.”
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My favorite part about work events is the photos I get sent afterwards - photo taken by @maenos #photography #photoshoot #work #games #igdaily #igers #me #instagood #gucci #latina #smile #happy #cheesin #womensfashion #longhair #makeup #cute #curlyhair #style #look #designer
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And so, in typical fashion, Melissa approached Matty with her feelings. “I was just up front about it—I didn’t really feel like beating around the bush,” said Melissa. “I just told him. I was like, ‘look, hey, I think I like you now from us having played games together.’”
Melissa and Matty tried to keep their relationship low-key for the first few months, but when fans saw their interactions at an official Hi-Rez event, their relationship became common knowledge. Fans of the pair, who had been shipping “tacopocket” for months, were overjoyed by the news.
Although Melissa’s future is unclear, she’s confident that the skills that she has developed as a Smite caster will come in handy as she moves on to the next stage of her career. “I just want to start trying to broaden my own horizons and see what else is out there,” said the streamer.
Melissa’s MOBA game sense is sure to carry over into titles such as League of Legends and Dota 2, and she’s been spending the last few weeks cutting her teeth on Rainbow Six Siege, slowly learning how to be a better player and analyst in the first-person shooter. “Also, the new CoD just dropped, and I’ve been feeling pretty good about that one,” said Melissa. “I’ll probably end up streaming a bit of that and seeing what people think of it, but that one feels like a shooter that I could actually get pretty decent at.”
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Left is current, right is 1-year ago - I say it all the time but consistency w/ dieting & exercising is the BEST way to get results! 😊 Every time I scroll through my older posts it always amazes me how many little changes took place in every pic - it never ceases to amaze me how the human body can actually be sculpted & I can’t get enough of trying to become the best version of myself 💪 - When I first started lifting, I just wanted to lose some weight & feel a bit stronger, but almost 2-yrs later & I am just so in love w/ what the gym has done for my body & mental health 🥰 I also wanna just say thanks to all of you guys for the never ending outpouring of love/support for me & my fitness journey! Hope you guys enjoy your Thursday & I’ll be dropping some shoulder work in a few, so be ready! 🤙 - Outfit: @gymsharkwomen 🦈 - #transformation #bodytransformation #bodybuilding #girlswholift #girlswithmuscle #strongwomen #strongnotskinny #swole #arms #flex #gymshark #gymsharkwomen #gymsharkliftingclub #pose #grind #dedication #progress #progresspic #peach #bangs #glowup #gymmotivation #fitness #fitgirl #fitnessmotivation #fitnessmodel #fitnessaddict #lifestyle #motivation
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And whether she picks a shooter or a MOBA as her next esport of choice, Melissa is fulfilled by another important facet of her lifestyle: fitness. “I definitely think I’m going to have a bit more time to buckle down and keep trying to push fitness into gaming crossovers,” said Melissa, “because I do think that it’s something that everybody should try to do for at least an hour or two of their day, just because I know what it can do for someone’s self-confidence, and I know that, in this industry, there are a lot of people out there who tend to struggle with how they see themselves.”
At the end of the day, Melissa’s openness about her lifestyle is a core aspect of her brand as a streamer and esports personality. With Melissa, what you see is what you get—and what you get is pretty great.
“I am a person that’s very straightforward,” said Melissa. “I’d like to just throw everything out there and show people, ‘hey, this is who I am. This is what I’m about.”
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.