Visualize a streamer. Great! Now hold that picture in your head. Chances are you conjured up an image of someone young with fluorescent hair. Or a person wrapped in the latest tech like an esports version of RoboCop. What you probably didn’t picture was SayHeyRocco. You see, Rocco is a baby cat puppet with two googly eyes, a snazzy array of hats, and a suspiciously absent lower half. He streams on Twitch, where he’s become somewhat of a cult figure in the Sea of Thieves community for his hyperactive personality, inclusive attitude, and love of cheesy fries.
In what can best be described as a first for me, I interviewed Rocco to find out more about his streams and how his parents (who wish to stay out of the spotlight) help out behind the scenes. The conversation was a slightly surreal experience, but one that gives a unique insight into the weird and welcoming world of Rocco’s streams.
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The Cat That Got the Stream
“The story starts a little bit sad, actually,” Rocco explains. “My family had to unexpectedly move from a home we thought we would be in for many years. We had to downsize a lot, and to help make ends meet, Dad had to close his recording studio. Our home was suddenly filled with a 10+ year collection of sound gear and soundproof panels. It was heartbreaking to see his life’s work just sitting around the house being unused. It felt really unfair, and we were just in such a dark place from it all. It was really overwhelming.”
Wondering what to do next, Rocco’s parents suggested making him a Twitch streamer — albeit with his permission, of course. So, Rocco’s dad got to work engineering a streaming setup that would be suitable for a puppet, while his Mom made sure that his hats were on straight and volunteered to moderate the live chat to keep the trolls at bay.
“I didn’t really set out with official goals,” says Rocco. “To be honest, I didn’t think anybody would even watch my channel. Mom and Dad and I just needed a place to get our energy out. We had to work together to make something from nothing. We had to turn our sad situation into a better one.”
Sea of Thieves was the first game that Rocco streamed on his channel back in March 2018. Since then, Rocco’s continued to play the game regularly, getting into all sorts of hilarious hijinks on the seas — from accidental collisions with runaway sloops to clearing out entire enemy crews in the Arena. What’s so refreshing about his approach to the game is his child-like enthusiasm for every new situation thrown his way, an attitude that serves as a nice contrast to some of the more cynical PvP-minded streamers.
“Content Creators can really be shaped by their community and I had no idea what kind of community I would even attract,” Rocco tells me. “The world can be a really big and scary place, and I really liked nurturing a positive space online where anybody is welcome to congregate and have a good time.”
Finding the Purr-fect Audience
Rocco’s audience has grown quite a bit since those early streams, with his interactions with the Sea of Thieves community expanding from Twitch to Twitter and in person get togethers.. For his continued support of the game, Rare have even immortalized the puppet with a rock painting on Chicken Isle. The painting depicts Rocco dancing with a bunch of chickens, a reference to one of his more ridiculous moments on stream where he held a chicken rave with his feathered friends. This recognition isn’t something that he ever expected from Rare, but it means a lot to him to be part of the Sea of Thieves community.
He recalls, “This year, Mom also worked some sort of witchy magic to get me into E3, and I was really excited because I knew for sure that Rare’s Joe Neate and Mike Chapman would be there. But imagine my surprise when I walked up to the Sea of Thieves booth and Drew Stevens (senior producer on Sea of Thieves) yelled “IS THAT ROCCO!?!?” I met so many new friends, gave so many big hugs, and thanked everybody for being nice to me. I also told them how much the game has affected my life both on and offline, and how important it has been to my family. Mom cried a little — it was embarrassing. Moms can be embarrassing sometimes, I guess.”
Though Sea of Thieves is still Rocco’s main game and the source of most of his following, he’s since branched out to cover other games too, with some of my personal favourite streams being his retro-themed broadcasts covering games like Spyfox, Backyard Baseball, and Pajama Sam.
“I love all sorts of games, be it cartoony and bright or dark and realistic,” says Rocco. “Any style of game is bound to look wacky with a cat puppet in front of it! There are not really rules to what I can and can’t play outside of Sea of Thieves, but I really love supporting games that get a little less notice. I recently started playing retro games and my community has been super into that! I think the nostalgia narrated by a sweet baby cat puppet makes everybody feel warm and good, and that’s very nice…”
Spreading Some Paws-itivity
Rocco hasn’t let all this attention go to his head, however. Instead he’s been using his platform to draw attention to accessibility issues in gaming — especially since befriending Craig Kaufman, the program director and community specialist for AbleGamers.
“Once my channel’s attitude of positivity and inclusiveness took shape, I realized I needed to figure out my mission statement,” Rocco says. “I always said ‘Everybody can be a gamer — even a cat puppet’ and to me that truly meant everybody of different races, gender, and abilities. Dad has friends over at Craig Memorial Hospital in Denver, so we all thought we could focus my fundraising efforts towards their Adaptive Technologies Department to get their patients set up with gaming accessories. As luck would have it, the same week we had that idea, Craigums (Craig Kaufman) from the AbleGamers Charity stumbled into my channel and we totally hit it off!”
He continues, “AbleGamers is this amazing charity that utilizes fun to bring inclusion and improved quality of life for people with disabilities through the power of video games. Bonus: they do work worldwide! The AbleGamers Charity can help people in Denver, in New York City, in London, LITERALLY EVERYWHERE! I still plan to do work with Craig Memorial Hospital directly, but it makes me feel good to know that I can help the AbleGamers Charity get a lot more reach across the world. They’re so awesome!”
What started out as a way of simply getting by during a difficult time in their life has since grown into a beloved Twitch channel. Rocco is using his platform to educate others and bring some attention to worthwhile causes, as well as entertain. Interested in finding out what he has planned for the future, I ask about any goals he might have.
“I’m in the process of setting up my new stream room, which has been a pretty uphill battle in many ways,” he replies. “The new setup would allow Mom and Dad to help me produce new and even bigger content, which would naturally lead into me hosting some awesome charity drives!” He adds, “I would love to eventually be partnered, not for the purple checkmark glory, but to boost my clout with larger brands to help raise both money and awareness towards the charities I want to work with. Oh! And I also have a goal to attend more conventions, and to try every type of cheese fry in the world.”