Streamers on the Rise: How curiousjoi brand-built her EXP Lobby

By 06/27/2023
Streamers on the Rise: How curiousjoi brand-built her EXP Lobby

Welcome to Streamers on the Rise, where we find streamers who are growing their channels, content, and audiences in extraordinary ways. Each week we’ll talk with a creator about what goes into livestreaming–both on and off camera.

Curiousjoi grew up with three older brothers, and one of her core memories is walking by the TV and seeing them play Final Fantasy. “I was like, ‘I want to play that game,'” she says. Her brothers told her she had to learn how to read first.

So, she did.


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“I’ve just been playing it ever since,” she says.

Final Fantasy was a big part of Joi realizing how much she loves storytelling. Her brothers told her to learn to read because FF is a lore-dense, dialogue-rich franchise where you miss a lot by ignoring the story. Playing it led Joi to Japanese role-playing games, aka JRPGs, from which Final Fantasy takes a lot of inspiration. For Joi, who’s an anime fan, there’s something unique to JRPGs’ storytelling styles.

There’s also something unique about Final Fantasy and JRPGs’ fan communities. And the third community Joi is a big part of: one for fighting games like Street Fighter, which can be light on storytelling but are big on high-octane competition and collaboration.

“[T]he fighting game community is by far one of my favorite communities to be a part of, because even though the games are super competitive and it’s just you and one other person battling it out, I still feel like everybody helps each other learn,” Joi says. “Like, ‘Oh, what can I do against Ken?’ Or, ‘What’s the best combo route?’ It just always feels very connected.”

Since she’s at the crux of so many different communities, Joi–who has a full-time career outside of streaming–has put a lot of work into building a personal brand. She learned how to create an overall harmony of things like Twitch banners, Discord emotes, and videos posted across YouTube and TikTok from VTubers, who often theme their entire digital presence around their detailed models.

For Joi, building a strong streaming presence starts with marketing herself.

Check out our chat with her below.

@curiousjoi My precious bean always…. #myheroacademia #naruto #deathnote #sailormoon #spiritedaway #bakugo #deku ♬ Pink Venom

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: Give me some backstory about you. Where did you grow up? What’s your journey up till you got on Twitch?

Curiousjoi: I can keep it short and sweet, but I was born and raised in L.A., and I just have always been a fan of video games and the video games industry. I have three older brothers, and we would always play video games growing up. As the years went on, I ended up getting a job that wasn’t the most creative thing. That was about 10 or 12 years ago.

I needed an outlet to be super creative and I also needed people to help keep accountable for me because as the older you get, the less likely you’re able to beat games. I wanted someone to hold me accountable, anybody on the internet, and so I started doing more content creation because of that. It was for me a creative outlet for something completely opposite of what I do from my job and it ended up being something that I loved. I’m such a creative person and not having a creative thing, it was not the best. Then I ended up just creating and playing games and then ended up meeting a whole bunch of people. It’s been awesome.

Tubefilter: How did your community start growing? One thing I’ve heard from pretty much everybody I’ve spoken to is that it can be very hard to start from scratch on Twitch, so how did you hit the point when you went from testing it as a hobby to like, “Oh, this is a thing I’m going to keep doing”?

Curiousjoi: When I first created content, I started off YouTube, and then from there I just was trying to do so many different things. I’ve always had this background of doing JRPGs and fighting games because they’re my favorite genres, but then I thought that I didn’t want to be put in a box, and so I started talking about everything I liked, whether it was like Marvel or DC or anime, and then I was like, “This is a lot to talk about. That’s too much.” Then I burned myself out. I realized that I needed to do something where it’s just more, I pop on and then that’s it. Just to be able to continue creating without being too overstressed.

I went to Twitch, and when I went to Twitch, I ended up telling other people that I had an audience on YouTube. I was like, “Hey, I’m over here on Twitch.” The growth didn’t really start until I started focusing down on what I wanted to do, because I learned from the mistakes of trying to talk to everyone about everything that I like, and I like way too many things. Then I just said, you know what, I’m going to focus more on JRPGs and fighting games, and if I play other games, it’s because I just love gaming.

It wasn’t until I had this central focus and started marketing myself to this very specific thing where everything started changing. Then I stopped doing the whole push for Partner and I stopped doing all that stuff. I wanted to, of course, grow, and all this stuff like that, but I just said I’m just going to focus on providing the best broadcast I possibly can and then everything just started changing from there. I’m not the biggest creator on the planet, but I do see that I’m able to get so many opportunities with just how I’ve marketed myself and structured myself to do everything on Twitch and other platforms as well.

Tubefilter: I’d love to hear a little bit about the strategy behind your marketing. I feel like that’s a really interesting perspective and I haven’t really talked to a lot of other people about branding for Twitch, like self-branding for Twitch.

Curiousjoi: Yes, because I don’t do streaming full-time, it’s something that I had to make sure I stood out against the people that– Not against, but just stood out along the people that do content creation full-time who are able to be on all the time and who are able to be streaming as frequent as they possibly can.

I ended up just focusing more on my social media presence and then making sure that when I’m not streaming, I’m chatting and getting to know other people in the communities and just always being in the know of the news because I always loved E3 and I always loved Summer Games Fest and all this stuff like that. I was always just taking that time to just make sure that I tweeted something or did some form of content because not everything has to be live to be considered content.

Then me just being very specific, I wanted to make sure that if you went on any platform, you know that that content is mine because of how it’s presented. When I very first started doing content, I made sure to have a media kit. I realized that a lot of creators don’t have media kits and it was one of the first things I started doing when I started applying for the press at like Comic-Con, or anything like that. I was like, “I have to make it seem like I am the biggest hugest content creator even though I don’t have that many views.”

I always am such a big stickler of making sure every little piece of art or image or anything like that is in sync with all platforms and making sure that it looks and represents what I want to overcome. People don’t realize this, but my current layout and how things look is based off of Final Fantasy, which is one of my favorite franchises of all time. When Final Fantasy VII Remake came out, I was like, “I love the minimal aspect of that.” I wanted to bring something I love into how I started marketing myself without just it being blatantly a situation like that.

Then a big inspiration with all the stuff I’m doing now with my branding has been VTubers, because they’re very good at making sure everything is buttoned up in their stream schedules and stuff like that. That stuff inspires me to do more of branding aspects because, I don’t know, I just think marketing is the biggest thing over like how many viewers you have. I know a lot of people don’t see it that way because you don’t always get all the best opportunities if you don’t have thousands and thousands of viewers, but I think once you get the marketing down, it definitely helps.

Tubefilter: That coherent self-image is incredibly good. I have several friends who are VTubers and they’re really leagues ahead on designing everything around their specific aesthetic, their specific theme, and coherent with their models. It’s such skilled branding.

Curiousjoi: Yes. I always have to make sure things are up to date. I was like, “It’s been a year.” At the end of every year, I try and change something. Even though I love my layout now, I try to just change one little thing, whether it’s updating my About page on Twitch or just changing my logo a little bit. I just always think you can improve on something that you already feel is perfect.

Tubefilter: I think you’re the first person I’ve spoken to for this column who has a full-time job and is fitting streaming around it, in between it, and throughout it. Basically, why do you still have a job? Why is it important for you to work and do streaming?

Curiousjoi: It’s important for me to do work and streaming because I do love my job and I am still at that point where I feel I’m unable to take that leap to full content creation because everything is so up in the air and I am a person filled with lots of anxiety that think of the worst possible thing that can happen.

I was like, “I need my job.” I was like, as much as it would sound great to be a full-time content creator, I don’t think, especially living in L.A. and it’s just because I was born and raised here, it’s hard to make that jump because like, hey, one day I had a really good month, but the next month may not be that great. I like having that comfort and then I just really like my job so it helps.

Tubefilter: It’s cool that you enjoy your day job. I think a lot of people feel it always has to be one or the other. Seeing somebody who truly enjoys their career and then also has streaming is a really cool thing.

Curiousjoi: Yes. My job knows that I do stuff on the side. They make fun of me about it. They’re like, “Oh, you’re the famous Twitch streamer.” I was like, “Yes, I would like to think so, sure.” [laughs]

Tubefilter: What is your current streaming schedule like? Do you have a streaming schedule?

Curiousjoi: I do. I stream every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I only stream three days a week because it’s all I can allot to it. I tried doing more, but I was like, this is a lot. I figured Wednesday being the middle of the week because I didn’t want to have too much time in between not streaming, but weekends, of course, are the easiest because I don’t have a bedtime to go to work or anything like that. I’m primarily focused on Friday and Saturday, and Wednesdays are just a quick and short, like, “Hey, what’s up, how’s it going?” Just so that way people don’t miss you too much.

Tubefilter: How do you structure your longer streams, your weekend streams? Do you have a specific structure of things that you do? I’m very curious about how you manage, because you play a lot of different games.

Curiousjoi: Usually during the week, I try to pick games that are easy to jump in and out of within a four-hour bracket. That’s when I typically play fighting games during the week. When I’m playing through a JRPG, which has hours and hours and hours since I don’t stream that often, people always make fun of me. They’re like, “Why are you streaming 12 hours on Saturday?”

I was like, “It’s literally the only day I can really focus!” I try to stick my long story games on the weekends because I have time to do it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to beat games like Persona 5 or Final Fantasy XVI because I just don’t have the time. I can’t play. I could play them off stream, but I feel like I want to enjoy those experiences with the community, so I just wait for the weekend to really buckle down and play longer hours while everyone else catches up during the week.

@curiousjoi KILLER BEEEEEEEE!!!! #streetfighter6 #stateofplay #cammywhite ♬ original sound – Curiousjoi

Tubefilter: I just covered Chipotle doing a thing for Street Fighter with Twitch, and that made me realize how big the fighting game community is on Twitch. What is it like being part of that community? It seems like it’s a really passionate community.

Curiousjoi: It is. I’ve been playing fighting games since I was little, and the fighting game community is by far one of my favorite communities to be a part of, because even though the games are super competitive and it’s just you and one other person battling it out, I still feel like everybody helps each other learn. Like, “Oh, what can I do against Ken?” Or, “What’s the best combo route?” It just always feels very connected.

I started going to offline events and it’s just such a fun experience to just watch all the top eights for every single fight or every single game. I don’t know, I have so much fun hanging out with them, and I feel like when I am not streaming, I’m on Twitch watching fighting games, I also feel like I’m learning myself, because I do want to get better. Since I don’t have the ability to play constantly, it’s like, “Okay, I can learn while I’m watching.”

The fighting game community is also very fun because it’s competitive, so they do have the beef and everything like that with people, which is entertaining the watch from time to time, but it never really gets too out of control. I just love it.

Street Fighter has been around for so long, so it’s so nice that everybody’s coming together to play Street Fighter. I know a lot of it is probably because of the pot being a million dollars, but…

Tubefilter: That helps!

Curiousjoi: Whatever gets people to play the game, right?

Tubefilter: I know you’re also really into JRPGs, like you said. What makes you passionate about those?

Curiousjoi: I just have a very strong love of storytelling, and I love having stories being told to me, and there’s just something that connects me with Japanese storytelling versus Western. I do love a good Western, but sometimes it’s just like, “Oh, okay.” It’s usually always first person and all that stuff like that, and I very much love the turn-based style, like the PlatinumGames style action, and everything.

It grasps me more because I also really love anime, and I think the storytelling in JRPGs is very close to anime. I don’t know, it just resonates with me. I can never explain what got me into Final Fantasy being one of my favorite franchises. I just remember walking in front of the TV where my brothers were playing. I was like, “I want to play that game.” Then I’ve just been playing it ever since.

Tubefilter: That’s such a classic memory though.

Curiousjoi: They told me I had to learn how to read first.

Tubefilter: What’s your favorite anime?

Curiousjoi: My favorite anime is Cowboy Bebop.

Tubefilter: Oh, it’s so good. What did you think of the Netflix adaptation?

Curiousjoi: I actually did not mind it. I appreciated the fact that they tried to have scenes from the anime and live-action and so there were some scenes and some shots where I was like, “Wow, that’s just like it was in an anime.” I definitely appreciated it. I’m not typically one to just spew a lot of negative things. I always try to find the positive stuff of things even though I do have constructive criticism on stuff, but I just always try to be positive as I possibly can.

I know some people probably see that as like, “You like everything!” I was like, “No, if you hung out on my stream, you would clearly see I don’t like everything, but I just don’t want to spend my days worrying about what I don’t like and just focus on what I do like.”

Tubefilter: I get it, wanting to be a place of positivity. I liked Netflix’s more than I thought I would. I feel like if nothing else, the casting was perfect.

Curiousjoi: Of course. Because Spike Spiegel was one of my first crushes, and so I was like, “Okay, I’m all right. I think the cast is great.” [laughs]

Tubefilter: I would watch John Cho in anything.

Curiousjoi: I love John Cho. He’s perfect.

Tubefilter: He is. Okay, sorry, back on topic. I wanted to ask about fighting games and JRPGs because they’re these simultaneously tight yet sprawling niche communities, so that’s really cool that you’re at this intersection with all of them.

Curiousjoi: I always wonder if it’s weird for me to like both of them, but then I realize since I grew up in the Super Nintendo era, both fighting games and JRPGs were booming. I was like, “Oh, it makes sense.” A lot of people in my community are super mixed or some people like JRPGs, but they’re not the biggest fans of fighting games. They enjoy watching fighting games at least, and vice-versa. It wasn’t as weird as I thought it was, after I started thinking about it. I was like, you know what? Final Fantasy IV and VI came out and Street Fighter II was on there with Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct, so it’ll make sense.

Tubefilter: Even if it were weird, it’s for you.

Curiousjoi: It’s what I like and that’s all that matters. 

Tubefilter: Exactly. I feel like that’s important, especially considering you have a really strong idea of your personal brand as a streamer.

Curiousjoi: I always hear people–because it is always a dream to be able to do full-time content creation–and people are like, “If you played X, Y, Z game, then you’ll probably get more numbers and you’ll be able to generate more revenue.” I was like, “Yes, but if I feel like if I ended up doing that, then it’s not what I want.” I’d rather grow as slow as possible doing what I want. Especially since currently, it’s not my full-time job and I want to be happy doing it. I don’t want to be like, “Oh, well I can only play this game because people are only interested in this game.” It’s like, “No, I want to play this game because I want to play this game and not because I feel like I have to.”

People are always like, “You’ve been doing this for so long.” I’m like, that’s because I just genuinely love video games.

Tubefilter: I went back to your Twitch channel while you were talking about Final Fantasy and you can really see the echoes in your branding and how you’ve designed your whole presence.

Curiousjoi: People are like, “Who did you get to do your stuff?” I was like, “I did it. I make everything.” I think the only thing, my brother helped me with making the neon borders  I edit my videos, I make all of my assets. I ended up getting an artist to do the art, because I was like, at the end of the day, I can’t keep taking a selfie of me in my chair. That’s not fun. I took that from the VTubers. I was just like, “Okay, well you guys have really cute art. Let me make art for the things that I like.” Then started implementing that and stuff instead of my face every five seconds looking exactly the same.

Tubefilter: Do you have any plans or goals or projects for the upcoming year or so that you want to talk about?

Curiousjoi: Plan is to Platinum Final Fantasy XVI. [laughs] Does that count as a plan?

Tubefilter: That’s a very valid plan.

Curiousjoi: Yes, I’m not sure. I just take things as they go and I don’t really have, “In this so and so years I want to accomplish this.” I just want to keep being blessed with the opportunities that I’ve been getting and then doing the best I can to make any company that I work with happy. I think that’s just a good goal to continue having. I think that’s all I really want.

Tubefilter: Perfect. Is there anything else that you would want readers to know about you or your community? Anything else you wanted to talk about?

Curiousjoi: My community is called the EXP Lobby. It used to be called Team Explosion, but then with how the world has just been, which is not the best, I didn’t want to go off pitching the word “explosion” to everyone. Me and my community got together and I was like, “I need something that has the same feel.” Then we got together and came up with the EXP Lobby, and it’s EXP because you gain experience in JRPGs and then you meet in the lobby for fighting games. It was just like, well, that’s perfect.

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