The trademark pink hair of video blogger Panser of TradeChat and WoW Insider's weekly news recap should be declared a valid form of crowd control. Less enlightened viewers seem to find themselves sheeped in her v-log comments on a regular basis, bleating about her eye-popping pink coif, the peaches-and-cream looks that propelled her to the finals in the Maxim Gamer Girl competition, and (oh dear, guys, don't get out much, eh?) her gender.
But it's Panser's bona fides as a gamer, not her pink hair, that make her updates one of the liveliest, most informed sources of WoW, League of Legends and gaming news on the web. A lifelong gamer with five active level 90 WoW characters and what she refers to as a "small problem with alts," Panser crunches through the weekly WoW news like a bag of Skittles, full of fun and flavor. Ready for a peek over the TradeChat rainbow?
Panser: I was always a very good student in school, so I decided to go to school for sciences because I thought it would help me get into veterinary school. I didn't have anywhere to go during the breaks in classes, so I had to get an apartment, meaning I also had to get a full-time job. I was able to juggle a full course load as well as a 40+-hour-a-week job for about a year and a half until I realized I didn't want to go to vet school anymore and all my hard work was for naught.
After withdrawing from school, I went from working constantly and getting four hours of sleep per night, to having -- le gasp -- free time. That was when I started to get really into video games, particularly Halo 3. I played about 6,500 ranked games and reached level 48 in Team Slayer before I strayed to other games. I dabbled in a few other shooters before finally giving WoW a chance and becoming a full-fledged addict.
About a year into playing World of Warcraft, I got really angry at an auction house mogul who has undercut every single item I posted by one copper. I decided to make a (very bad AMG) rant video about how to "properly" use the auction house. That was the first ever episode of what is now known as TradeChat.
Was vlogging something you'd done before at all?
I had always been interested in YouTube, and I think that my rage about the auction house came at a lucky time. When I started TradeChat, there wasn't really another channel like mine. WoW parody artists were at their prime and machinimation videos were pretty popular, but there wasn't really anyone doing updates. It was just sort of luck on my part, finding an unfilled niche.
Well, you've obviously done much more with the opportunity than drifting along on luckydos, because you make your living today from TradeChat, isn't that right?
I am fortunate enough to be a full-time YouTuber. I produce three scheduled shows weekly, and usually another three to five bonus videos. I have a few promotional deals and sometimes I am lucky enough to get booked to speak at a convention. I also run an Etsy shop where I sell things I craft in real life, but for the most part, my livelihood is dependent on the kind viewers who don't use AdBlock.
That's huge! So there you are, toiling away, trying to make your show really big ... When did you know you'd made it? When did you realize that you were living the life, so to speak?
I actually never tried to make my show big. The majority of the people I have collaborated with were "smaller" channels than mine at the time. The only goal I have ever had was to improve the quality of my videos.
I don't honestly think I have made it. I just feel like I work hard and I am really happy when people comment and like the content I produce. I am not rolling in money. I make about as much as someone who works a 40-hour-per-week job, and I get taxed far more harshly! I think that living the life has much more to do with happiness -- and seeing as I am in a healthy relationship, in a home I love, close to my family and can "go to work" in pajamas, I certainly have nothing to complain about.
When did you realize you were a dyed-in-the-wool gamer?
I have always played video games. I remember when we got an NES when I was 3. It is one of my first memories. When I was 6, I got a Sega Genesis for Christmas and I played the crap out of Sonic. I also remember playing Jazz Jackrabbit on PC. At some point I got a PS1, but all the games we had were for "the family," aka Tiger Woods, Nascar, Need for Speed,and Madden type of games. I didn't care; I still played them. I was a monster at racing games as a kid.
When I got a little older and moved in with my dad, he was the coolest and would get me a new video game every time I beat one. I remember in one summer hundred-percenting three games (Sled Storm, ATV Off-Road Fury 4 and Spyro: Ripto's Rage), and he changed the limit to one game per month. I had a DS in high school, and I beat all of the Mario titles.
It's funny though, because despite gaming being something I spent so much time doing, I didn't identify myself as a gamer until I started playing Halo 3. I think it was the competition that I was so addicted to in Halo.
And when did you get into World of Warcraft?
I started playing WoW during the beginning of The Burning Crusade. My first character was a tauren druid. I really, really loved playing her. When I started WoW, there was no XP in battlegrounds so at 19, 29 and 39, she was a resto twink. I really miss "real" twinking; it's not the same now. She was my first max-level character and the first toon I raided with.
When I raided, I was balance spec, which was hilarious because no one was moonkin at that time. Looking back, BC was so different than the WoW we play now! I remember having a million mana potions in my bag for raids, and I think I put oil on my weapon to increase my mana or spellpower ... Oh yeah, and spellpower was a thing! I miss The Burning Crusade.
Let's talk about some of the other shows in your career. You were on The Tester in 2010 and King of the Nerds earlier this year. What was that like?
Oh god, it was awful -- moving on! LOL, kidding!
The Tester was a whirlwind experience. Everything was filmed in less than 10 days. It went by so fast, it is hard for me to really explain what it was like. It was like riding an emotional rollercoaster while sleep-deprived and starving, haha!
King of the Nerds was pretty weird too. When they contacted me about auditioning, because of the odd experience with The Tester, I immediately declined. When they told me the prize was $100,000, I felt like I had to do it because my dad was battling stage IV thyroid cancer that had spread to his esophagus and lymph nodes. He had already had two surgeries and radiation, and his doctors were not giving him many options.
I obviously made through the casting process and by the time I got to the show, I had really psyched myself out. I had it in my head that I HAD to win. I felt like if I didn't and, heaven forbid, my father passed away that it would be all my fault. I was a complete emotional wreck. We couldn't call home at all for the 35+ days we were there. I wasn't eating or sleeping well. My sole purpose to be there was to win.
While I was there, the experience was not a bad one, despite how much of a wreck I was on the inside. I made friends (Moogega, in fact, will be coming to the WoW Insider pre-BlizzCon party with me, woo!), and I had a lot of really fun times.
Watching the edited version of what happened on TV was a horrible experience. Everything was sooooo out of context, lacking context or just plain not what happened. Somehow I went from being friends with almost everyone, to being the useless, villainous brat that everyone hated. It was awful. I heavily contributed in every team challenge and won two one-on-one challenges. The "fight" I got in with Joshua was because of a comment he made about my father; it was never about him voting for me. (Not to mention, I was over it the next day!) Celeste and I were friends; we played video games and listened to kpop together almost daily. I dyed Jon's hair for him. Alana and I bonded over pizza and raunchy jokes.
Ouch -- sounds like a real blindside.
I was genuinely hurt seeing the portrayal of myself on TV. I didn't know how to handle the hate and vitriol being spewed at me on Facebook, Twitter, my videos, email, Tumblr, etc., etc., etc. It was really tough. I expected an exaggerated version of what happened for entertainment; I didn't expect everything about my dad to be edited out and those emotions being shown out of context and used against me.
Since the show, I've remained friends with several of the cast members, and my dad has gone into full remission. My only goal was to help my father get better, so regardless of how I was portrayed on TV, I am still happy with the outcome. I wouldn't recommend anyone do unscripted television, though.
Of course, you knew we'd have to ask you about being a Maxim Gamer Girl finalist, too. You got a rep for being the real gamer who was among the most covered up, didn't you?
This is another situation that I don't even know how I ended up in! LOL! Maxim contacted me about entering this contest, and I was so flattered that I figured "hey, why not!?"
It was very obvious early in the contest that I was much different from the other girls. I had bright pink hair and tattoos, along with a long public history of being a part of the gaming community. I was pretty disappointed that I didn't win, but I got a lot of positive feedback, which softened the blow. Looking back, I don't really think that is the image I want associated with my name anyway, so it's probably best I didn't win.
So looking forward now, Panser, will we seeing you at BlizzCon this year?
I will, of course, be attending the Wowhead/WoW Insider pre-con party! I am also looking forward to meeting fans; everyone was so awesome in 2011! I am really anticipating the announcements too! Ahh, everything! I want to do ALL THE THINGS!
What about the year ahead? Any new projects cooking that you can share anything about?
Other than my regular content, I don't have any huge plans coming up. I have a WoW Pop Culture video written up that's been begging to be filmed forever. I will likely start making videos about Hearthstone once it goes live for everyone to play. (I hate teasing those not in the beta; it's why I've only made a few videos about it so far!) I plan to make content about Heroes of the Storm, as well.
Other than that, I just take life one quest at a time.
"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn) and a 70-year-old grandma who tops her raid's DPS charts as its legendary-wielding GM. Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.