How a Twitch streamer is transforming the Brazilian League of Legends scene

Gustavo “Baiano” Gomes is determined, as he puts it, to save the Brazilian League of Legends scene.

One of the biggest streamers in Brazil, Gomes has accomplished a lot in 2023. He was the most watched co-streamer of the 2023 Mid-Season Invitational, with a peak of around 150,000 concurrent viewers. He also organized the fifth edition of his unofficial tournament, the CBOLÃO, during which he raised 200,000 Brazilian reais (around $39,000) to assist nongovernmental animal rescue organizations.

Gomes’ rise has been fast and his success paved by a unique trait. As Luís Santana, a Brazilian journalist who works for the website Mais Esports, puts it, Gomes differentiates from others due to his capacity to create shows that are informative yet playful. By doing so, he closes gaps that developer Riot Games can’t.

“Baiano is a phenomenon,” says Santana. “He is for League of Legends what Gaules is for Counter-Strike.”

With a loud and wholesome laugh and the charm of a person with dreams, Gomes now aims to expand his work by connecting Brazil with other League of Legends communities. That is, if he can find a decent work-life balance.

From Bahia to the world

Gomes’ success might be rare in Brazil, but his story began in a way that is unfortunately common in the country. Born in Bom Jesus da Lapa, he grew up mostly in places where access to the internet was a luxury. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statics, the average monthly income in his state, Bahia, is around 1,000 Brazilian reais — the equivalent of $200 USD.

Gomes grew up in a lower-middle-class family. Health problems in his family led to debts that caused a lot of pressure; gaming was his refuge from real-life problems.

Transforming a passion into a profitable career was a challenge. As a professional League of Legends player in Brazil, where support and investments were close to nonexistent in the early 2010s, money was only a promise. Although Brazil is a big market when it comes to game sales, convincing his parents to let him follow a career in the gaming industry was not easy.

When Gomes pivoted his career to streaming, he also faced setbacks. The biggest one was seeing his one-year contract with Facebook Gaming terminated by the company after only one month. Believing he would have financial stability for a period because of the contract, Gomes rented a house with a couple of friends, paying six months of rent in advance with the first — and only — payment he received from Facebook. From there, he had to cut expenses. During this period, Gomes says he barely had money for food.

In 2020, his life changed. Living in São Paulo, Gomes seized the opportunity to organize an unofficial tournament and broadcast it on his Twitch channel. The event, named CBOLÃO — a play on CBLoL (the Campeonato Brasileiro de League of Legends, Brazil’s League championships) — had no funding, and Gomes had low expectations. However, the event found more than 1 million unique viewers with a peak of around 100,000 on Twitch, raising 125,000 Brazilian reais (around $30,000 USD in 2020) to help fight COVID-19. His initiative was acknowledged and supported by international names such as T1 CEO Joe Marsh and the European caster Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere. After years, success had finally hit Gomes’ door.

Understanding the culture to save the Brazilian League of Legends scene

Now an established streamer, Gomes’ plan begins with finding formats for new shows and adapting them to the Brazilian audience. “The geniuses that appear in each ecosystem are those capable of adapting something to their community, to their region,” Gomes says.

When it comes to Brazil, the first element is the more casual, laid-back approach to creating content. CBOLÃO portrays this spirit, putting skilled players together in competitive, high-level matches, while at the same time running a show full of memes and jokes.

For Gomes, the affinity between Brazilian viewers and personalities on stream is the secret to encouraging engagement. “In Brazil, you’re either a world champion or the public needs to sympathize with you,” he says.

Gomes puts this into practice on his own streams, where he constantly shares anecdotes from his life. The trajectory of Gomes’ life and all the experiences he had make him unique but at the same time relatable, since followers can easily find points of connection. “Sometimes I share with my chat that I’ve been in a famous bar in a certain city and they say, ‘I can’t believe Baiano has been here,’” Gomes says.

Based on this approach, he has created shows such as Depois do Crime, in which Brazilian professional players have a place to discuss the game and talk about themselves, opening a new space for fans and players to interact. On the show, players can talk about what they think about the current season or their opinions on the teams that are competing in CBLoL while they also play around with each other, teasing their adversaries. By creating spaces like this one for players to connect with the audience, Gomes strengthens the bonds between the Brazilian community and the game.

Gomes has also extended that playful nature to other types of content. In 2022, during the League of Legends World Championship, where the Brazilian team Loud was going to play, Gomes started a campaign called “#RobsDay,” referring to the inconsistent play of a competitor named Robo, as a way for the public to support the team. What he didn’t imagine was that viewers would pile on his joke, turning the hashtag into a mini phenomenon. #RobsDay also reached other regions, where organizations such as Cloud9 took up the cause.

The push and pull

Despite his success, Gomes says he struggles to find a balance between his work and personal life.

Because a streamer’s success is usually built around their personal image, taking time out to rest and not harm their monthly income can be almost impossible. Gomes’ health issues — from anxiety to ongoing complications from a tumor — have meant he’s needed to take some time off, though. To assist in making this possible, Gomes has created the Ilha das Lendas project, a collective of ex-professional players who participate in his shows commenting on national and international LoL matches.

“Creating a project like the Ilha das Lendas is way more difficult than being a streamer because I need to teach everything I know to all these people,” says Gomes. But he says having a team allows him to step out as needed to try to find that balance.

Having that team also allows Gomes time to spend on new ideas, such as his desire to develop a project with international connections. “My idea is not to draw viewers from other countries, but to engage with influential figures from these other countries that can connect with the Brazilian community,” says Gomes. He sees unifying the global League of Legends community not only as possible but as the future that must happen.

When talking about what is next, Gomes excitedly says that he has many projects in the works for the Brazilian community. He says that he might slow things down eventually, but for now he has too many plans to worry about that.

“I always keep in mind that it’s thanks to my viewers that I was capable of buying a new house for my parents,” he says.