Nati on meeting Gild, being raided by her idol and moving to the US cover image

Nati on meeting Gild, being raided by her idol and moving to the US

Nati speaks exclusively to

Natalie "Nati" Barnes is one of the fastest growing Apex Legends streamers. Her dedication and grind is paying off. January saw her break into the top 50 most watched streamers in the Apex Legends category.

While Nati currently lives in the UK, and was born and raised in the North of England, she has a passionate desire to move to the United States. Now, she is working on jumping through all the hoops required to earn a VISA and move to the US.

Waiting for her is her long distance boyfriend, and professional Apex player "Gild." spoke to Nati about her relationship with gaming, how she met Gild and her desire to relocate across the Atlantic.

Nati's gaming journey started with Minecraft

For Nati, gaming has been a lifelong passion. While playing on a Nintendo DS as a very young child was her very first gaming experience, it was Minecraft where Nati really fell in love with gaming.

"I had a friend in primary school, we played Minecraft on online servers together. She stopped playing but I was just so addicted! I would wake up at 6 a.m. I play until like 8 a.m. I'd go to school at 8:30 a.m, come home and I'd game until I had to sleep.

"I would just play Minecraft with people and the social aspect of it really got me more than the actual game, but Minecraft is definitely the start of my gaming."

Nati went from Minecraft, to Fortnite and now plays Apex Legends as her 'main' game. It's not just the games she plays that have changed over the years. Her set-up has changed significantly too.

"And I used to play on a laptop when I first started Fortnite. I had a really, really bad mouse. It was literally a five pound mouse. It was so horrible. I even used a book as my mouse pad.

"My internet has always been awful. Back then, since I didn't have an ethernet cable to my laptop, I think I was at like… I would go from 200 to a thousand ping. It was horrible. Then I'd have like 20fps through the whole game. Eventually I upgraded to a PC and moved to games like Valorant, League and of course Apex."

KittyPlays was a big inspiration

Like lots of young gamers in the UK, Nati grew up watching gaming content online.

"I used to watch someone called Kitty Plays. She was a full time streamer and I was sitting in her chat all the time. It was kind of something that was in my mind was, oh, I want to be like Kitty Plays one day, You're a kid and you're like, oh, I want to be just like her one day. And I never really thought it would go anywhere."

For Nati, she never saw herself working in a traditional "9-5" job. Streaming and working in esports suits her perfectly. The ability to work to her own schedule and be on her own terms is a major attraction.

Her success in 2024 has been remarkable. So much so that Nati recently had another interaction with her childhood idol, Kitty Plays.

"[KittyPlays] actually raided me the other day. It was very weird because I don't really see her as a normal streamer like I do everyone else. She's been a very big part of my life, I grew up in her chat. I would sit there and be really close with her community, she had a really close community. I was really young at the time, but it was still a very big part of me maturing and growing up."

Someone has found a relationship through Nati's chat

Streaming can be a very difficult job. You are working alone, with the jobs of an entire team to do. Performing, marketing, finances, sponsorships, social media are all standalone roles in themselves. But for Nati, the community she has built is a key reason why she is continuing to pursue her goals.

"I know it's a cliche and everyone's says, oh, I love the community I built, but my community is genuinely crazy. I remember when I used to do 'just chatting' streams, and it was very different. People would come in, ask how I was, and that was it. The conversation would end.

"They'd just be sitting there and watching me, there was no actual bond. But now, I just see everyone playing with each other and talking with each other and making new genuine friends. Someone has even found a relationship through my chat!

"It's just small stuff like that that makes me really happy. I see people waiting in my offline chat before I come online and they get really sad when I'm not online. Knowing that I have a whole bunch of people waiting for me to get online, it's just, it's a very weird feeling in a good way."

Nati has worked with brands like SecretLab
Nati has worked with brands like SecretLab

Nati's community created a padlet of things they love about her stream

It's really clear that Nati's community has her back. When she applied to a Luminosity Gaming recruitment call, her community curated a board of messages encouraging them to sign her. Plenty of streamers have supportive communities, but Nati's is on an entirely different level.

"I would open it and just see all these messages every morning about how I have impacted their life and why LG should pick me."

Nati on her chats support when she applied to join Luminosity

"I've been trying to apply for LG (Luminosity) for a while. I need an organization to move to the US, and you know... an org is something every streamer wants right? My chat are very into it. [Signing] came up and they decided to make a whole board. They all commented things that they liked about me as a streamer.

"I would open it and just see all these messages every morning about how I have impacted their life and why LG should pick me. So, I could send this padlet to LG because they really wanted me to be considered. They genuinely do care about it. One of my community members called Steeb did a giveaway of a SecretLab chair just to get LG's attention. Another one gave away, I think, $200 in cash, or something."

Support helps Nati push through tough days

For Nati, seeing this huge and consistent support can be overwhelming. Having personal connections can help avoid the trap of only focusing on your numbers.

"They really wanted me to be in the US first of all, but they just want me to be happy and achieve my goals. And seeing them all write it down and take their time to go and write something about me was really nice.

"I almost cried when I was reading through them. I think being a streamer can be really hard. I'll sit in bed sometimes and see my numbers are low. People say not to care about your numbers, but I just care about being successful, going upwards and keeping on growing. I want to break the goals I have set for myself.

"So whenever you see them low, it's easy to think, oh, should I even be in this industry? What is happening? You start just having a mental freak out. It is your job after all, and it can be very inconsistent. But knowing I can go back and look at [the Padlet] makes me realize there are people out there that really care for me"

Parasocial Twitch chatters are a major downside of streaming

However, not everyone in a Twitch community brings positivity. The internet can be a strange place, and female content creators experience that more than most. Nati explains how even with clear boundaries, she still has to deal with some incredibly difficult situations.

"I think it's important to keep boundaries with everyone. Especially if you're a girl, there are some weird people out there. Really, really weird people. The things that I get tagged in, the things that I get sent, people trying to post my address on social media. I've had crazy people try to hack into everything to try and 'expose' me in some way.

"I've had a stalker for quite a while. It's not the pretty side of streaming, you know? You never know who's in chat and who's watching. You don't know the people you're talking too. They're behind a little name with a color. That's all you see of them. I try not to reply to many DMs and little things like that, because I've had such bad experiences with people being very parasocial or weird."

Nati has passionate desire to move to the US

Nati has been very open about her desire to move to America. She feels it is the place to be in the esports industry for sponsorships, opportunism and more. Waiting for her in the States is both significantly better weather, and her long distance boyfriend 'Gild'. In the US, the opportunities are "endless" says Nati.

"A lot of orgs, sponsors and brands won't work with you unless you're in America. I know a couple brands that I've had to not work with because I'm not in the US. That's the business side of things.

"But it's also just that my boyfriend is there. My friends are there. The weather here (in the UK) sucks! Weather is my big thing. I know it can seem small, and people often say "oh you don't want to be in the heat"... no trust me, I really do. I want to be in burning 40 degree heat every day of my life.

"I'll happily live in the Sahara Desert! Texas is beautiful for the weather, and it also has nicer people. I don't really like the UK culture as such. I don't really like the way that people act and like the way that people joke and the way that people are to each other."

Nati at the Split 2 Playoffs
Nati at the Split 2 Playoffs

"They took my laptop away from me"

Plenty of gamers, Twitch streamers and content creators have to deal with a fair amount of skepticism from their family. Older generations can't quite grasp the opportunities and possibilities that are possible online. Nati's family has slowly come around to the way she wants to live her life.

"When I was very young playing Minecraft they would take my computer away from me... they didn't like it! We'd go out for meals and I would just want to go home. I wanted to go back and talk to my friends that I'd been talking to all day.

"They didn't like that I was shutting myself off. They took my laptop away from me, but they eventually ended up giving it back about a year later. That's when I started playing Fortnite and streaming. I didn't tell them about it for a little while. But I told them when I got accepted to the Epic Games partner programme.

"When I was very young playing Minecraft they would take my computer away from me... they didn't like it!"

Nati's parents weren't always supportive of her gaming, she explains.

"I needed my Mamas permission because I was under 18 at the time. She was like, what's this? She didn't understand it. It was all very new to her. I explained the whole streaming thing and she was just like, what do you mean? You're talking to people online? No, you shouldn't do that.

"Then my Dad found out, and he was also very confused and didn't like it. They didn't ban me from it as such because they knew that I was just going to do what I wanted to do. I've always been very strong minded, but they didn't really support it at all."

Turning down a Law degree to pursue streaming

"They thought I was on my PC too much. They thought I was skipping out big things in life to go on my PC and game all the time. I wasn't studying because I was gaming, stuff like that. They didn't understand it until the paychecks started coming in.

"I told them, I was like, I just earned this much money by sitting here and playing a video game and they were like, what? And it kind of hit them, I guess."

Nati passed up the opportunity to take a place at University studying Law to continue to pursue streaming. She was eventually able to quit her job because she was making so much money. Making a reliable and consistent income has helped her parents to understand and support her passion.

Nati meets a Wattson cosplayer at the ALGS Playoffs in London
Nati meets a Wattson cosplayer at the ALGS Playoffs in London

"If I never brought in any paychecks, it would have been a whole different story. There would be no, no gaming under their roof. But I understand it from their point of view because they're older and they don't understand. Gaming is just such a new concept, especially all this online stuff.

"My Mama is now the most supportive person ever. She likes every single one of my Instagram stories, my Twitter posts, to get me impressions, she'll sit in my stream and give me a viewer. She'll really go out of her way to because she just knows how much it means to me."

Nati met Gild through gaming

While no-one's parents want to see them move across the world, Nati's parents are supportive of her desire to relocate to the US. Her family are aware of how important the move to the US is to her, especially to be able to live with her boyfriend full time.

Gaming has been incredibly important to Nati, and that is how she first met her now boyfriend, Zach (Gild).

Nati and Gild
Nati and Gild

"We've been friends for years and years and years. I'd hang out in his stream often. We knew each other from LAN's. I'd see him at LAN and we'd hang out. It was a random day and I asked him to play Minecraft. Funny how it was Minecraft! We had our own world, and we just chilled and hung out.

"He confided in me about something really important, which was a really nice thing to do. That's when I realized I really like this guy. We saw each other at LAN's, it was a really slow burning process. We eventually just decided we should date. It was the London LAN where we made it public by being together.

"He confided in me about something really important, which was a really nice thing to do. That's when I realized I really like this guy."

Nati on how she got together with Gild.

"I won't say where, but I remember we were just sat next to each other and he just said to me you're the most beautiful person I've ever seen. I was like, "oh okay!" I didn't know how to react! He's always been an angel to me. I just knew, this guys the right one."

Nati admits that long distance relationships can be difficult. The couple try and spend time together in person as much as possible, as well as gaming together online.

Nati and BabyNikki at the Split 2 Playoffs in London
Nati and BabyNikki at the Split 2 Playoffs in London

Watching your boyfriend compete is both horrible and exciting

Moist Esports have had a fantastic Pro League split. But despite their success it is still difficult to watch your partner compete in a high level sport or esport.

"People don't understand this. Okay, I don't feel the same things as he does. But, I feel sick when they're doing badly. I get excited and have this crazy amount of excitement when they are doing well. When things aren't going well it is horrible.

"You care so much about your partner that it's like, you want them to be happy. And if you know that they're not happy, you just feel how they feel, you know? If you know that they're happy, you're so happy and you're so proud of them.

"I remember when I was at LAN with NRG. They were just not doing well at all, and we all just knew it. , it's a very horrible feeling. Obviously it's really nice to see your boyfriend up there playing video games for a living. But it's also the most stressful experience ever. Like, oh my god, I wouldn't wish it on anyone."

Nati is hoping to continue to build her stream and search for an organization, so she can secure a United States visa. You can tune into her Twitch channel here.

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