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Meet local Twitch streamer Ivan Tajonar (aka Vantaj)

Ivan Tajonar, also known as Vantaj on Twitch, poses next to Mario, a character from popular Nintendo games in this undated photo.
Courtesy of Ivan Tajonar
Ivan Tajonar, also known as Vantaj on Twitch, poses next to Mario, a character from popular Nintendo games, in this undated photo.

In the last quarter of 2021 Spanish-speaking streamers generated more than 605.6 million hours watched on Twitch, according to a report from Stream Charts. Ivan Tajonar, known as Vantaj online, was one of them.

From San Diego, Tajonar has been streaming on Twitch since March 2020 when the pandemic began and currently has more than 3,000 followers on the popular streaming platform.

Tajonar streams himself playing mostly Nintendo games like "Pokémon Unite," "Mario Party Superstars," as well as other games like "Fortnite" and "Overwatch 2."

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KPBS spoke to Tajonar before TwitchCon about streaming and what he's looking forward to most about the convention. Below is the interview, lightly edited for clarity.

So what made you gravitate towards Twitch or what made you want to start streaming?

Ivan Tajonar: Well, one of the main reasons I started streaming was because the pandemic, right. Like, a lot of people started doing it because of that, because you couldn't go out and just finding something to do. And something that really gravitated me to Twitch's website was the community most of all because I was already part of the community as a viewer. I viewed a lot of usually events, not as much as specific streamers, but more like events, speed runs, tournaments, stuff like that. And I really liked that platform. That's why I started streaming there.

You bring up the idea of community. What are some of your favorite ways that you interact with your audience?

Tajonar: I mainly broadcast for the Hispanic community. I broadcast in Spanish. And I really like that connection of forming your own community, not only like the Twitch community as a whole, which is a totally different monster, but your own community and your own channel. And you get to know people, you start getting regulars, which is pretty cool, and they talk about their hobbies, and then you have common interests. And that's really interesting. Creating that own community is great.

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You play Nintendo games. What is your favorite game to play?

Tajonar: Right now I play a lot of Pokemon Unite, which is a mobile game for both Switch and phones. And I really like how it integrates with my community. A lot of people also like playing it. Since it's a team game — it's five versus five — that's where you get to know that team play thing of getting better together, and learning from other players and also teaching other players how to improve in the game. It's great. So it would be that and also Mario 64. It's also one of my favorite games.

What got you into the Nintendo games?

Tajonar: My whole childhood, ever since I'm three years old, I played Mario, and it's been part of my life for forever. Everything Nintendo, a lot of Pokemon, I'm a big fan.

There's a lot of controversy about Twitch, especially in regards to kind of the uglier side, like the hate. How do you combat that in your streams and just on the platform in general?

Tajonar: So, I feel the best ways to combat that is to, first of all, get loyal viewers, once you have that trust with the viewers, getting moderators for the channel, that's really important. They can filter those type of activities from random Internet people.

And also, Twitch is aware they've been trying to do something about it in last year, especially because as you say, there's been a lot of sometimes like even bot attacks where they will start spamming something. So the best way to combat that is having bots to moderate the channel automatically, like filter certain words if they see something ... and having your own third party features you can get from other platforms like StreamElements or Streamlabs, etc, where you can put those automated filters and a team of moderators.

And also trying to not panic once it starts happening. I know it can be scary, but trying to not panic and because what those hateful people want is a negative reaction from you. So trying to not panic and being trustful of your moderator team.

What would you say is the best part of being a streamer?

Tajonar: I would say it's just really fun. You can do so many different things. It's a place for almost everyone. You don't need to be a gamer to start streaming, really. You can just start your own talk show or doing silly things. I've seen people where they just play this browser game called GeoGuesser where it's a browser game where they put like a Google Images photo and then you need to automatically think, okay, where is this in the whole world?

I think the most important part is having fun. Like, you need to enjoy talking to the camera even if no one is replying back to you. And if you are either funny or good at the game you're playing, or you give good advice, you slowly organically grow.

You create friends. I created a lot of new friends in this community and that's amazing. I met people from the internet with this platform and they're now my really good friends. So it's cool.

What I hear from a lot of people is that the community and making friends is a really integral part of the platform, you have internet friends, then you plan meetups and you meet them IRL (in real life). So the IRL part transitions into the convention. What are you most excited about for TwitchCon?

Tajonar: Meeting those content creators that I look up to that I admire. I mean, there's some of the Latin American community coming to TwitchCon, which I'm really interested in meeting because they usually live really far away, but also a lot of English speaking content creators are going to be there. So I'm also excited to go to meet and greets.

And meeting also like some Twitch friends. I'm actually even going to meet up with friends that I know from other parts from Mexico and from the United States as well. So that's pretty cool.

So who are some of your favorite streamers?

Tajonar: I would say I really enjoy watching a streamer called PaymoneyWubby. He's really funny. He doesn't play that many video games. He's like more of a "Just Chatting" variety stream where he does original stuff. I also watch a lot of Pokemon Unite streamers, mostly in Spanish, but I also do watch some other streamers in English, like Lutano. I really like Lutano. Inder is another. There's another streamer from Spain called JUJALAG that I enjoy watching a lot. He's really funny.

I also enjoy watching my own friends they're not as big, but I enjoy watching and just chatting and creating that community as well.

 What's the back story behind your Twitch name 'Vantaj'?

Tajonar: I made this playword with my last name, which it includes (Taj) and the meaning of the word advantage, right? So I just made a playboard with that, and I created that name when I was 15 years old, and it just stuck.

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