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April Bowler, also known as ThatGirlSlays, was a video game and tech streamer between 2016-2019. Since then she has gone on to become the Chief Operating Officer of H.A.G Entertainment, a media company dedicated to hip-hop, anime, and gaming. Once battling with the notion that streaming and playing video games might not be a good use of her time, she now acknowledges that her experience doing so is the major factor that put her in her current position in life and presented her with opportunities she would not have otherwise had.

April began streaming in 2016 after being introduced to the industry through Instagram where she created a separate and dedicated gaming account.

"I used to be pretty good at Call of Duty particularly and I created a separate account so I could upload my scoreboards and game clips. I knew my friends and family who followed my personal account would not care for that type of content so I wanted to keep them separate. Through that account, I started following strictly other gaming profiles and meme pages and that's where I first heard people talking about Twitch and Beam."

Beam, at the time, was one of the two leading video game streaming platforms. It was owned by Microsoft and later renamed Mixer. It was subsequently shut down as Twitch and Facebook Gaming began to dominate the market.

"My initial options were to either record videos for YouTube or see what this live streaming was all about. I ended up deciding to stream because I didn't want to spend a lot of time editing and uploading videos. Plus I always make myself laugh when talking to myself and I always talk to myself when I game so I thought audiences would enjoy that. Engaging an audience and having an active conversation, even with just myself, was never an issue I had to overcome."

Once the decision was made she bought the parts to build her first PC ever, designed the elements for her stream and went through many quality tests before going live for the first time. One of the issues she did have to overcome, however, was perfectionism. April took great care in the presentation of her stream. This hard work landed her on a stream team before stream teams were even an official function on Twitch within the first month of her streaming.

"I was invited to join a streaming team and gaming community. This was before Twitch had the actual 'stream team' function on their platform. The team channel operated with the goal of being a 24/7 content channel. Basically the streamers had timeslots and streamed directly on that channel. There were no stream teams or guest/temporary stream keys at the time so it was quite ahead of its time."

April never ceased to receive compliments on her stream quality so much so that she began consulting others on how to enhance their stream. In addition to designing her own graphics, she was able to put her web programming skills to the test by spending dozens of hours per week programming custom minigames and scripts for her stream. Simply put, she describes her favorite part of streaming as building interactive content or stream automations that would make her stream more enjoyable for both her and her audience.

First iteration of an interactive champion fighting game where viewers had a champion they would battle others with. The game also included an on-screen animation of the two champions fighting with health, mana and stamina bars. There were  also purchasable items, trophies, respawn timers, and more. Later the game evolved to be based off Game of Thrones characters where different characters had buffs, perks, weaknesses, and special moves based on the show character. This predated Twitch extensions.

"One of my favorite projects I developed for my stream was my interactive wheel spin game. I developed a custom API that whenever I received a sub it would add their name and sub tier to a database. Whenever I got to a good point in my game where I could take a break, I'd initiate the sub wheel. Sometimes there might have been only one sub in the queue, sometimes there would be 3 or 4 or more if someone gifted a bunch of subs. I would enter a command !wheelspin that would fire off a bunch of automated processes. I later added this command as a button on my Elgato Stream Deck making it even easier to activate.

"First the script would switch my scene to a loading screen where my camera was out of sight. This allowed me to move away from my desk and get into position. After about 15 seconds passed then it would automatically switch scenes again where now the camera is focused on me standing up at the back of the room with a wheel graphic on the side of the screen. The script would go through each sub in the queue and spin the wheel once for each of them. There were a lot of fun, interactive things it could land on. Anything from awarding them Slaybucks, which was my stream currency used for redeeming rewards (predating Twitch Channel Points), to me having to do the Robot Dance or an Overwatch emote dance, to giving the sub additional tickets in my monthly giveaway.

"Anything the wheel landed on was automatic. So if it landed on an Overwatch emote dance, for instance, the script would automatically pause any music I was currently listening to on Spotify, play the Overwatch dance emote video and audio on screen which viewers could see and hear, and then automatically resume my music when it was done. If the sub earned points, it automatically credited the points in their profiles, etc.

"After the wheel was done spinning for all the new subs that were in the queue, the script would automatically go to a credits-style screen showing the name of every new sub that was received. This scene also hid my camera and gave me enough time to reposition myself back at my desk. It's worth noting that my wheel spin also predated the StreamLabs wheel spin widget and was much better thanks to the automations and integrations."

Example of sub wheel spin with Overwatch dance emote.

That describes one of the many projects April included on her stream to enhance the interactivity. In addition to that, she started offering custom script writing services to others using the same bot and started making stream tech-focused YouTube tutorials for others to do the same.

Custom countdown/countup timer April created for OBS Studio. The plugin could automatically switch your scenes or sources when the timer was complete,  mute/unmute audio sources, and more. 

Custom dashboard April programmed to see her stream stats and initiate certain interactive elements like the sub wheel.

Custom source slideshow April created for OBS Studio which predated any native slideshow that OBS Studio and StreamLabs OBS later offered.

Giveaways were a big part of April’s channel. She programmed a very intricate giveaway system that featured on-screen announcements, timed drawings, weighted entry points, and more.

The undercover introvert that she is, April actually enjoyed this work more than streaming itself.  At one point she started streaming some of her programming work but eventually stopped with fear of her code being copied. With this unique skillset, and outwardly appearing very extroverted, many organizations had their eyes on bringing her on as an asset to their team.

"Lo approached me in August 2018 after joining my stream community about being an ambassador for his community, Heartbreak Gaming. This was the predecessor of H.A.G Entertainment and our current group, The Official Hip-Hop/Anime/Gaming Community. He was essentially looking for "pretty girls" that would wear his hoodie on stream and talk about his community. I decided to give it a shot and then I went on a month long backpacking trip to Croatia. When I returned he had completely rebranded Heartbreak Gaming to Hip-Hop, Anime, and Gaming.

"At first I was hesitant to get involved with the new brand because I wasn't very well-versed in hip-hop or anime. Lo assured me that he just needed someone to lead up the gaming side of things so that's what I did. I initially went in with the focus on building up our gaming community offering community game nights, game-related discussions, streaming to the community, stream and PC-building advice, etc. Little did either one of us know that I was going to take on a much larger role and very quickly."

From April to June 2019, April was hired on as a streaming personality for Airport Gameway, a gaming lounge with locations in a few major airports across the country. Around the same time she was invited to join an all women’s stream team and gaming organization. April decided to not continue these pursuits after seeing how the H.A.G community was growing and realizing that whatever effort she put into growing a brand or a community should be directed towards her own.

"Lo and I had a serious conversation. He asked me what I liked about those other organizations and encouraged me to see the potential to develop that but for myself."

In May 2019, April and Lo formalized their partnership by forming an LLC with both parties listed as equal partners. A little more than two years later, in August 2021, April left her corporate, Fortune 100 job which she held for over 10 years to pursue H.A.G Entertainment full time. Over that time period, she stopped streaming to focus more on business development and the many hats entrepreneurs must wear when nurturing a small business.

"H.A.G Entertainment has opened so many opportunities for me. I was able to realize my true potential that was not being leveraged at my previous job. On any give day I act as the project manager, creative director, graphic designer, web designer and developer, sales associate, book keeper, business development associate, video editor, live stream producer, community manager, social media manager, event planner, contracts writer, partnerships manager, and so much more."

April credits her experience streaming with opening the door for her connection with a variety of gaming organizations including Lo and thus H.A.G Entertainment. She credits her prior work experience with giving her the diverse skillset to be a good asset to any company and an even better leader and visionary to run her own company. And she credits H.A.G Entertainment for giving her the platform and structure to put her skills and passion to use and build her legacy.

"I always knew I was very smart and was very ambitious but I've always lacked direction. I've had past independent business pursuits I let fall by the waist-side because I was so caught up in the American dream of owning a home and having a 9-5 that would cover it. I bought my first home at 22-years-old and always felt trapped at my job feeling I couldn't take the risk to do something on my own because I didn't want to lose that income.

"Lo has been a great partner for me and so many people in the H.A.G community have been incredibly supportive and encouraging me to believe in myself, take risks, and know that people have my back. Streaming and H.A.G have taught me to see the value in myself and understand you can turn a hobby into a business if you have the right mindset, strategy, resources, and team."

No stranger to change and taking risks for the betterment of herself and brand, in 2022, April will make another very large transition in her life to further H.A.G Entertainment.

"We're going fully mobile! Since we host events all over the country, we figured it would be a good investment for us to adopt a more nomadic lifestyle. We've decided to sell our home and purchase a bus which we are converting into an RV. H.A.G Entertainment will be on the road full time hosting events and offering other media and marketing services as we travel across the country. We hope to connect with our community members spread across the country as we continue to grow."

She describes the hardest part of the transition to this new lifestyle to be having to sell most of her belongings including her iconic gaming setup and stream equipment.

"It's been hard for me to let go of some of these things because it reminds me of a different future I once saw for myself. At one point I saw myself becoming this big time streamer so in a way it almost seems like a failure to me giving it all up. I always have an issue with thinking negatively and Lo and others always try to help me see the positive. Selling my belongings is not due to the failure of not achieving some goal. Quite the contrary.

"My goals (and potential) have evolved and are far greater than what they once were. So these are actually steps necessary for moving on to a new chapter in life that will better help us to pursue further success. What I've developed is something greater and beyond just ThatGirlSlays, the streamer."

April hopes her story will one day motivate others to ignore the naysayers, take risks, go outside their comfort zone, and believe in themselves. We are all faced with critics and some of the hardest ones we have to battle are our families or even ourselves.

You can keep up with April and H.A.G Entertainment by getting involved in the community on Facebook and  Discord.

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