The video game industry is growing…rapidly. As mobile devices make it possible to turn any user into a fortified gamer, millennials are turning to YouTube to learn new techniques of beating their counterparts. One influential player that seems to be taking the market by storm is Mari Takahashi.

The only woman part of the popular Smosh Games clan, Mari has busted down the door for female gamers to be taken seriously in an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men. Her secret to success: have fun and be authentic.

With over six million subscribers to the Smosh Games channel and over 235k subscribers to her personal brand, AtomicMari, it’s safe to say Mari’s genuine nature and feminine appeal is engaging gamers across the globe.

MiLLENNiAL caught up with Mari at Defy Media studios in Los Angeles where we spent the afternoon playing in the pixelated world of Smosh Games.

From Ballet to Video Games

Born and raised in San Francisco, Mari is the child of two accomplished parents. Her father was an engineer and her mother, a prima ballerina. Following in mom’s footsteps, Mari trained as a dancer and joined a ballet company in her late teens.

“I put 30 years into dancing, 10 of them being professional… I had this awakening pretty late that I don’t have to do this for the rest of my life,” she tells us. “I thought it was always you find your craft, you master that craft and you do that for the rest of your life.”

But being a child of the 80s and 90s, she developed a love for video games at the age of seven, playing Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter everyday after school. This outlet became an escape and ultimately an underlying passion that would later surface as a career.

Smosh Games Brings On Mari Takahashi

Mari was introduced to Smosh in 2010 during her off-season as a dancer. Smosh Games emerged in 2012 when Ian, Anthony and Mari combined forces with Jovenshire, Sohinki, and Lasercorn.

Millennial Magazine - mari takahashi

As Mari explains, “Smosh is a group of friends having a great time creating content that happens to be funny.” From sketch comedy to video games to having lunch together to vlogs and field trips, she was quickly accepted into the crew, and fans began to appreciate seeing a girl on the channel. “Our young audience loves to see a female gamer among Smosh Games,” she says.

In September of 2014, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) found that 52 percent of gamers were female. “One of the reasons this statistic may be changing is because of mobile and how connected you can be with a game. Not only women, but also children are starting early with games and that leads into console and PC games.”

Females in the Video Game Industry

While many women may feel underrepresented in the industry, Mari counters this thought, “I always think there is a place and an entry way for women. In my experience, I never felt like there was this gatekeeper that has kept me from doing anything I want to do in this industry. I’ve never felt victimized in any way.”

Some of the most notable virtuous and strong female characters seen in video games over the last 20 years include Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield (Resident Evil), Kitana and Sonya Blade (Mortal Kombat) and Cortana (Halo).

Millennial Magazine - Mari Takahashi Playing Video Games

With the growing number of female players, Mari adds, “More than thinking that I have an impact on female gamers, I’d like to just think I have an impact on gamers.” This has become an ingrained millennial philosophy, as equality and opportunity have never presented an issue for the generation.

Millennial Magazine - Mari Takahashi Quote 1“It’s not about gender. It’s about the video game. The more we make it about gender, the more we have this divide.”

The Evolution of Gaming

Just like music and movies, Mari points out how gaming has created genres for itself. From first person shooter to action-adventure and fantasy, there are now over 80 known classified categories for games.

With the rise of virtual reality, another level of experience is starting to emerge, but according to Mari, she doesn’t believe the highly anticipated technology will be ready for at-home consumers for at least another 10-15 years, although she has high hopes that the industry will prove her wrong.

The Woman Beyond the Game

Aside from video games and dance, Mari is also an avid adventure junkie and enjoys aerial and circus arts, rock climbing, and travel. She has summited Kilimanjaro and even ice climbed in Bolivia.

Millennial Magazine - mari takahashi

Millennial Magazine - Mari Takahashi Quote 2“I honestly believe we are the coolest generation.” With the sense of freedom to pursue what makes her happy, Mari has grown from a disciplined ballerina into an easy-going gamer. “I can honestly say that with Smosh this is a career path that I found on my own and growing up I didn’t think this was possible.”

Millennials have come of age in a renaissance period where changing professions and obtaining a variety of skills sets is highly respected and encouraged. “I can go and discover other things, and its not looked down upon in this generation, if anything its this notion of go be free and find what it is you want.”

To learn more about Mari Takahashi, follow AtomicMari on Facebook and Instagram. Be sure to also tune into Smosh Games on YouTube as they post daily videos of their eclectic ventures in gaming.

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