“Hi, I’m Sunny,” reads one profile on egirl.gg, a new website that connects gamers to so-called “egirls.” For a rate of five dollars a game, Sunny, 24, will play Fortnite with you. “Come game with me. Maybe I’ll sing, too.”
In her egirl.gg profile, Sunny wears pink lipstick, a septum ring, and a pout. One image depicts her gaming setup: two monitors, a glowing pink keyboard, a high-end gaming mouse, and a smattering of Pokémon miniatures. I commissioned her for a round of Fortnite, and once we dropped onto the map, Sunny's demeanor became serious and her gameplay seriously good, as she quickly built protective fortresses from which she trained a shotgun on enemies’ heads. After I died, she dutifully revived me.
“I like gaming and I like making money. Easy,” she said.
Under the tagline “Never Battle Alone” and against a purple background, egirl.gg hosts hundreds of profiles listing mostly women’s pictures, game rankings, customer ratings, and rates per game, which range from $1 to about $15. The girls whose profile pictures aren’t screenshots from an obscure anime are often sticking out their tongues or posing in cosplay. Kawaii emoticons pepper the listings, which also include audio samples so that potential customers can assess how they’d sound over in-game voice chats. There are a couple of “eboys,” too, who often adopt the appropriate cutesy language alongside pickup lines like “Don’t blame me if you fall in love.”
As long as there have been online games, there have been transactional relationships in them. Sugar babies and sugar daddies exchange high-level gear for companionship in World of Warcraft. Games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have “boosters”—paid highly-ranked or professional gamers who “boost” the in-game ranks of scrubs. And for years, women have advertised themselves as companions, boosters, or both over the gig website Fiverr. But egirl.gg centralizes that process, and focuses on companionship rather than rankings. Since it launched last week, it’s attracted thousands of applicants.
After Brian Xiong, a 25-year-old student at UC Berkeley, sold his Chinese fantasy novel translation company, he wondered what to sink his fresh chunk of cash into. He’s been a World of Warcraft player for 12 years, and more recently has fallen deep into the competitive strategy game League of Legends. “I don’t have many friends who play games,” he says, adding that at Berkeley everyone is too busy studying to queue up and rank up.
“It’s hard for me to find anyone to play games with. That’s part of why I created this site.”
Xiong did what any lonely and well-funded college kid would do: Hire a full-time IT team based out of China to make a website that connects lonely gamers to semiprofessional playmates. Studying how Fiverr facilitated these transactions, Xiong added an in-app messaging and payment system, plus game-specific listings: Minecraft, Overwatch, League of Legends, DOTA 2, etc. He even tapped a couple of women listed on Fiverr and active participants of the subreddit “Egirls” to help fill out the egirl.gg roster. It immediately began attracting clientele, in part because gamers on Twitter and Facebook couldn’t stop memeing about it.
“They play games with you, they listen to your problems,” says Xiong. “It’s therapy too.” Xiong says egirl.gg’s moderators conduct a strict review of every profile submission, checking pictures, audio, and descriptions to ensure that nothing is overtly sexual. One potential egirl said that her first audio clip was denied: “OK, honey, it’s time for your dick-flattening appointment!” Xiong initially said that the site checks applicant IDs to verify applicant information, but later acknowledged that it does not actually do so.
Over egirl.gg, I connected with Fudge, who charges $6 per Overwatch game. Three pictures cycled on her profile: One of a bright-eyed girl with drawn-on devil horns sticking out her tongue, another of her in sparkly gamer headphones, and a third of her smiling cutely from behind her cell phone. “Hey <3 I’m fudge,” her description reads before noting her impressively high Overwatch ranking and the times when she’s online. Once she accepted my request, we connected through the Overwatch game client.
“I’m going to pocket you,” she said, choosing a healer who would focus on me throughout the whole game. I chose the shield-bearing tank Reinhardt, noting that I was just OK with him and considered him one of the harder characters in the game. She rushed to agree: “You need tons of gamesense for him! Reinhardt play is underrated as shit!” Throughout our games, Fudge effused about my gameplay, even when I wasn’t doing particularly well. “I don’t care what anyone says. We won,” she said after we were completely decimated one match.
Fudge started selling her companionship on Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive last November on Fiverr. Now, on egirl.gg, she says she’s completed about eight orders so far. She’s only made a couple hundred dollars total as a gaming accomplice, but as a college student living in a dorm, she says it’s a great way to earn cash for what she'd be doing anyway.
When Fudge isn’t in school or playing games for money, she works in a store selling videogames. She sees some similarities between the two gigs. “You have to get people to buy stuff,” she says.
Sunny, the 24-year-old who offers herself as a Fortnite teammate on egirl.gg, also has a part-time job selling games at GameStop. She says that, in many ways, she was "meant for this."
“I definitely don’t do the whole ‘cutesy’ act,” Sunny said in the middle of our $5 Fortnite game. “Most girls have the cutesy, kawaii, uwu”—she made oo-woo the sound associated with the smiley emoticon—“what-am-I-do-wing, Im-sow-aiw-headed thing.” She recalled that one of her friends on egirl.gg upped her rates after playing a couple League of Legends games with a client who sucked.
Sunny was describing the stereotype of the "egirl," but in many ways, it's an outdated one. For a long time, “egirl” was a slur used to degrade and undermine women who enjoy videogames based on their appearance, suggesting they were attention-seekers who milked money out of men who didn’t know any better. Over the years, it’s evolved. On TikTok, an “egirl” is now anyone who dresses with an anime-washed emo style. Younger women who might not play games are reclaiming the term, and they’re bringing women formerly victimized by it on board.
“Now it’s something really empowering,” said Orissy, 22, after an Overwatch match, using an adjective that came up often in egirl interviews. “Girls took back that word and it’s more an aesthetic than a personality or an insult for a girl who plays videogames.”
Meno, who’s had five or six clients on egirl.gg, says that she’s trying to make “egirl” a positive term. Her work on the website has helped her leverage the slur for her own benefit. Not everyone views it that way, though. She’s had to bat away unwelcome advances from clients who are expecting more than a girl who queues up for a match of two: Propositions, over-generous donations, requests for nudes, even being their girlfriend. She has to block them.
In the past, I’ve paid women on Fiverr to play Overwatch with me (for journalism), and frankly, it was great. The women were hyper-competent, offering coaching and praise and cushioning against the unpredictable waters of online gaming. While some of that professionalism has transferred over to egirl.gg., because of the new website’s novelty, there are a lot of novices. Women who had the same gig on Fiverr in the past proceeded confidently and immediately instituted a vibe of lighthearted competition and joking; conversation was more forced with newer egirls. This is skilled labor—both athletic and emotional labor—and with the right person, egirl.gg’s services certainly enhanced my online gaming experience. At the very least, it's an easy to connect with a friendly stranger for a couple rounds of Fortnite.
Asked how she would spend the money I spent on her time through egirl.gg,spends the money she earns on egirl.gg, Meno didn’t pause. “I buy more videogames.”
CORRECTION 3/27/2020 7:00PM ET: This story has been updated to reflect that egirls.gg does not check applicant IDs, as founder Brian Xiong had originally claimed.