After years crunching numbers at a prestigious mutual fund in Jakarta, Indonesia, Citra Cantika felt she needed to make a change. She resigned from her position and began live-streaming herself playing action games under the moniker Cantika Gaming. As a devout Muslim, she went on-air wearing a hijab. “I have been Muslim since I was born, and my faith hasn’t changed one bit,” she says. Even though Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, Cantika found herself as the first streamer to wear a hijab as part of her identity as a gamer and Facebook Gaming Creator, as well as who she is as a person of faith.
On International Women's Day, Cantika joined other Facebook Gaming Creators to inspire and empower the next generation of women to follow in their footsteps. The common thread between creators across the globe, who streamed from Vietnam, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and the USA, is their love of gaming and a shared belief that everyone can be a part of this community. In a series of live streams, creators shared their tips on how to be the ally, as well as insights into their personal journeys in gaming and what it means to be a part of the global Facebook Gaming community.
Cantika is one of the most popular streamers in Indonesia, but she started her journey streaming to a handful of friends. Her decision to stream wearing a hijab wasn’t universally well received. “I experienced some negativity," she says." I felt they responded to me differently compared to when they watch other streamers."
While some in Indonesia had never seen a streamer wear a hijab on-air, the country is no stranger to gaming itself, both online and in real life. Indonesians are obsessed with badminton, for instance. The country of 260 million has won 32 Olympic medals, 19 of which were for badminton. On the digital side of things, Indonesia, the largest island nation in the world, is heavily investing in the future of esports. The country launched its first esports tournament at the 18th Asian Games in 2018, and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recently pledged to support digital gaming competitions across the region.
But this wasn’t always the case. “When I was younger, video games were still frowned upon,” says Cantika. “People thought it would distract children from school and promote violence.” Still, Cantika found herself playing games at a young age, thanks to the support of her brothers and parents. “My parents, especially my father, had a different perspective on video games and believed they could help you develop a better mindset,” says Cantika. “Maybe that’s one of the reasons why he bought me a SEGA.”
Growing up in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, Cantika found herself chasing gold rings in SEGA’s seminal platformer, Sonic the Hedgehog, before moving on to PlayStation, where she dove into Resident Evil and other action games. She also played a bunch of different PC titles at a local internet cafe owned by her father. “Every day after school, I would always play games with my brothers and with visitors to the cafe,” she says.
Conquering digital villains doesn’t guarantee anyone a career in gaming, so when Cantika went off to university, she traded bonus stages for balance sheets and wound up studying accounting at Trisakti University, a private school in Jakarta. After graduation, she hopped from one accounting firm to the next but never really found her place at any one of them. Her last stop was at the Indonesia Mutual Fund and Investment Association. “After a couple of years, I felt bored,” she says. It was time for a change.
She left her position at the firm and returned to her childhood passion — playing games. This time, she started live streaming her adventures. “At first, there were only a few people watching me,” says Cantika. “It was like 20 people, and they were all my friends.” Like many fledgling content creators, Cantika kept at it. She streamed PC action games every day and began growing her own audience.
It wasn’t long before she caught the attention of certain viewers who were taken aback by how she presented herself on camera. “I think it was because there weren’t many streamers who wore a hijab at the time,” says Cantika. “They’d say, ‘Why is a girl wearing a hijab playing games?’” Cantika was the first streamer in Indonesia to wear a hijab, but she certainly wasn’t the last — she would eventually inspire other practicing Muslims to wear a hijab while streaming.
Two months after Cantika left her job at the accounting firm, a friend suggested she look into Facebook Gaming. “I did some research and thought it looked promising.” She submitted her application and was soon invited to join the FB Gaming family as an official gaming creator.
Today, Cantika streams to an audience of 1.6 million, making her one of the most-watched creators in all of Indonesia and one of the most popular streamers in Southeast Asia. She still likes to stream action games primarily, and PUBG specifically, especially now that she’s affecting her community of Indonesian gamers. “Most of the reactions I see now are positive,” says Cantika. “I believe that if you put love and fun into your live streams as I did, it becomes something positive.”
As for anyone looking to follow in her footsteps, Cantika has a few words of advice: “Keep going and don’t give up. You might find it difficult at first, but once you’ve found the right momentum, you’ll make it.”