Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
Kruzadar is one of the number of female gamers who have made their way into the historically male-dominated gaming industry, and here’s what she’s accomplished in her six-year career.
Kruz, whose real name is Madi or Madison, has been credited for opening the door for females to collaborate with male gamer groups and jump-starting the gaming content on TikTok, but she told Slice of Culture that there’s still more that needs to be done for women within the community.
“I feel responsible for educating people in this industry,” she said. “… There’s general rule-breaking, a stereotype that has infiltrated the industry and there’s a lot of things that don’t get educated with women in the industry.”
She’s been gaming since birth
If you’re wondering how Kruz got to where she is today — over 507,000 followers on Twitch, 351,000 subscribers on YouTube and 2 million followers on TikTok — this is what she’ll tell you.
“Pretty much since I’ve popped out of my mom’s vagina I’ve been gaming,” she said. “But my dad was the one who got me into gaming.”
The first console Kruz got her hands on was the NES — a home gaming console that was released by Nintendo in the early 1980s — where she played games like “Super Mario Bros.”
But it wasn’t until she was four years old that she heavily got into gaming — PC gaming. She watched her dad play “Doom,” “Asheron’s Call” and “EverQuest,” which are all MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) that were classics released in the late 1990s.
But Kruz said it was never a friendly battle with her dad — it was brutal.
“My dad whooped my ass (in games),” she laughed. “… He would go hard at me and he would shit talk me in ‘Quake III: Team Arena’ and everything… He never really went easy on me, which I’m grateful for, but it was very frustrating.”
“Quake III: Team Arena” is a multiplayer first-person shooter game that was released in 1999 and is part of the “Quake” series. The game allowed players whose computers are connected by a network/LAN or the internet to play against each other.
The PC game flashes blood and chucks body parts around the map, and Kruz used to sneak on to play when she wasn’t supposed to because she “really wanted to,” she said.
Video games were her escape
Kruz was bullied in middle school.
“I was not the most attractive person, I was good at sports, I could get good grades and that was kinda about it so it was a little harder to make friends,” she said. “Video games, I could always go and escape to.”
But as she got older, her parents used video games as her reward for completing other things like maintaining good grades, completing her sports drills and games. She said she’d “bust her butt” because she wanted to rush home after a game or practice and play “Assassin’s Creed” or “Skyrim” or grind out some more “Call of Duty.”
Then, her senior year of high school in 2015, Kruz stopped playing sports and decided to try gaming full-time, she said in a GFY podcast. After thinking of different variations, she got her name “Kruzadar” by playing off of her childhood nickname “Kruz.”
Kruz discovered Twitch through The Crew — which is made up of veteran YouTubers Deluxe 4, Deluxe 20, G18, ShadowBeatzInc, NobodyEpic, KYRSP33DY and SideArms4Reason — after they switched from the MLG streaming platform, which launched in 2013, and also through Haunt_Machine.
She used the money she got from Twitch streaming to help pay for college.
Twitch launched in 2011 as a spin-off from a video-streaming service called Justin.tv. In August 2014, Amazon bought the platform for $970 million; it skyrocketed from 45 million monthly viewers to 100 million by the end of 2014. At this point, there were 1.5 million streamers and 10,000 of them earned money from advertisements on their channels, according to Stuart Dredge, a writer from The Guardian.
By the time Kruz graduated from community college and earned her associate’s degree, she had two choices: move across the country and work at a computer science company or move across the country and pursue content creation full-time — she chose the latter.
Now following: Kruzadar
In 2015, the “Overwatch” beta released and Kruzadar was chosen to play on streamer Taylor Wood’s team against streamer ImCoty. She had made friends within the Twitch and Discord community, but was joining voice chat for the first time.
“I joined voice chat and I say, ‘What’s up’ and it just goes dead silent,” she said. “I literally remember going, ‘I’m going to take a piss’ because I was uncomfortable and it just hit that, ‘Oh my god, everyone thought I was a guy.’”
Kruz was a Twitch Partner — a streamer who is recognized and given monetization options from the platform for their content — for about six months before she moved in with her boyfriend, Taylor Wood, who used to be a full-time content creator, and his roommates including ImCoty and KryozGaming.
Through inspiration from The Crew’s manmade comedy-gaming and a dash of the growing competitive gaming, Kruz has become known for streaming various games like “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CSGO), “Word of Warcraft,” “The Witcher 3,” “Final Fantasy XIV” and “Call of Duty.”
Right before skins — custom wraps on guns — resurged popularity for “CS:GO,” Deluxe 4 said he would browse through Twitch streamers, watch 10 seconds and leave because no one caught his eye.
“So, I get to Madi’s stream,” Deluxe 4 said. “She has no face cam, she’s playing on Dust II — the map on ‘CS:GO’ — and she’s playing with a lobby of boys. It’s her and all the boys, and the guy says something about the round and she starts going in on him.”
“She started firing back and giving people shit and it was a lot of stuff that (The Crew) would say in our games in Search & Destroy, messing with our friends.”
D4 typed in the chat and said some people knew who he was so he decided to “shut up” and just watch. And he kept returning to her stream.
“She was showing me her side of being a girl in gaming in the same stuff that I was in and I was able to relate,” he added. “…With Madi, I just saw her as one of the guys and I didn’t see her for her gender, I just saw her for her.”
Kruz said D4 started watching her streams before she even knew it. She had been a fan of The Crew since “COD: Black Ops 2” in 2012 and “CrewCraft,” their YouTube “Minecraft” series, in 2013, and was shocked when D4 knew who she was.
Eventually, Kruz began to join The Crew’s lobbies in “CS:GO” and “Call of Duty.” In 2020, she began to make more frequent appearances in their nightly streamed games on “Among Us” and “Call of Duty.”
Great S&D games tonight my dudes pic.twitter.com/7LIC0etQrB
— Madi / Kruz (@Kruzadar) March 20, 2021
Kruz + The Crew
“(The Crew) started as friends, grew as friends, and then we had a lot of content creators try to poke our bubble,” D4 added. “… I think Kruz is the first person to really burst our bubble and start playing with us.”
For Kruz, The Crew was the first group she associated herself with outside her own.
Aside from the “Among Us” lobbies, these content creators have played together on “Scribble It,” “Codenames” and they even had a shared “Minecraft” server called “The Purge Server.” Creators like I AM WILDCAT, Daithi De Nogla, MYSTIC7 and PeteZahHutt also joined the server.
“Madi has opened up so many doors for us internally, as The Crew, where we can now start to branch out,” D4 said. “She’s been that bridge for us to link with another group of friends or another group of people who we give a shot now insteading of shutting the door.”
Aiming to eliminate the struggles of a female gamer
Despite the progressive shift away from stereotypes that only men play video games, women continue to be discriminated against within the community.
In June, more than 70 people in the gaming industry, mainly women, stepped forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault, The New York Times said. A 2019 Bryter’s Female Gamers report found one in three female gamers has experienced abuse from their male counterparts; 33 percent said they’ve been sent inappropriate content or messages.
“The thing I tell a lot of people, especially if you’re gonna be a girl (gamer), it sucks that it has to be this way, but if you’re not super strict and you’re not super blunt with your audience … there’s dudes who take things the wrong way,” Kruz said. “People think I’m a bitch all the time because I don’t let dudes say certain things in my chat, but if I am not this way, guys think I’m coming onto them.”
D4 said it’s true that male content creators have it easier than females because they have to put up with a lot of “bullshit.”
“For Madi, it’s almost on a nightly basis that she’ll get somebody that’s a hater or wants to get a rise out of her and, for (The Crew), we don’t deal with that on a daily basis, but for her she does and, at some points, I just want to tell her to just take a break,” he added.
In a separate incident, Kruz has witnessed and been a victim of prejudice against women through TikTok.
The content creator studied the social media app and relevant articles before hopping on and introducing her unique gaming content to the platform. She created and popularized the circular- facecam-over-funny-gameplay format on TikTok, and she said the social app themselves thanked her for it.
But early on, when she was being recognized by millions for her creation, a group of about eight males tried to discredit her for it.
“They were using my exact format and saying they had came up with it,” she said. “… (Some) people know some will believe men over women in this industry… and those eight accounts were a prime example of it.”
But Kruz still posts everyday, streams everyday and continues to be present and outspoken in the community.
On March 18, Kruz placed second place in a $10K #CodeRedLive Twitch vs TikTok Among Us Tournament with BoomTV eSports.
.@Kruzadar with the crazy IQ solo win! Going from 6th place to 2nd place in one game!
— BoomTV (@boomtvesports) March 18, 2021
She’ll also be joining The Crew’s renowned “Pixelmon” server.
When asked if she was happy with where she is in her career, she replied yes, but said she feels she has one other responsibility.
“I wanna make sure (women) know there is someone they can look up to that is going to be blunt as hell and is not gonna put up with the bullshit,” she said.