30 Sep

“My goal is to leave my legacy in gaming and to leave everything my wife and I built so that my kids can have their own,” -@Dareala318sycho (Patrick), posted on Twitter 2/23/21.

On an autumn night, a couple entered their front room after a hard-fought video game of “Apex Legends,” their favorite game to stream and broadcast live for viewers. At the time, they had been streaming on the platform Mixer, which they’d just discovered was going out of business, leaving the two to reevaluate their streaming hobby and consider other platforms.

A square marble table sits to the left of the swirling black “FAMILY” wall ornament above the TV, though this isn’t where Patrick and Relanda Lee play their video games. Here at their home in Natchitoches (area code 318), the couple can often be found playing tabletop games like Monopoly or Uno with their kids. When not covered in cards and game boards, this table is where Patrick indulges in Relanda’s home cooking, which almost always includes a healthy serving of creamy mashed potatoes.

It was time to expedite their gaming ambitions, skip the reevaluations, and jump right into the world of competitive gaming known as esports. Patrick, still energized by the adrenaline-inducing gunfights of “Apex,” eagerly looked toward the future in which he and Relanda would make a career out of esports, starting a team and building a roster of players and streamers. “It’s gonna be fiya!” he optimistically concluded, using the slang term for “fire” (pronounced “fai ah”).

“Fiya House Gaming Esports Coming soon!!” -@Dareala318sycho (Patrick), posted on Twitter 5/4/21.

In esports, there are a variety of roles to fill, from competitive players to streamers and content creators, and the staff behind the scenes. Given her role as Hiring Manager at Pilgrims Pride poultry production in Natchitoches, Relanda is familiar with the process of recruiting. Patrick, who works late shifts at Wendy’s on University Parkway, prides himself on “customer service,” a helpful skillset in an industry largely dependent on effective communication online.

To them, FiyaHouse is yet another close-knit home. “We want our players to not think of this as a team but as a family,” Patrick says of the five streamers they’ve now recruited for games like Warzone and Fortnite.

In addition to plans for roster expansion across more games, Relanda details her vision for a “retro and new-school” arcade where FiyaHouse can host tournaments. She already has the business license for FIYA HOUSE GAMING ARCADE LLC, a prospective Natchitoches arcade venue built from “the ground-up.” Between work, family, and FiyaHouse, she admits, “It’s a lot, but if you want it, you have to work for it.” One day.

“Wondering what questions she’s gonna ask? I think I’m freaking out again?” -@Dareala318sycho (Patrick), posted on Twitter 8/20/22.

I heard about FiyaHouse from a shoutout Tweet listing Louisiana esports organizations, and I decided I wanted to meet the team in-person. I was nervous, too, but the atmosphere of Papa’s Bar & Grill put me at ease. We were all too excited to eat.

An old country song echoes beneath the voices of a handful of patrons; a collection of football helmets lines the shelf to the left of the TV, which displays a compilation of recent sports highlights. With the components of a conventional sporting ambiance at his back and rustic melodies overhead, Patrick makes a plea for their foray into the innovative world of esports, "Natchitoches just gotta notice us."

Patrick has lived in this town his whole life, 37 years to be exact. This is where he met Relanda at age 14. “I didn’t go to school that day,” he explains how he carelessly missed the bus. “I went to my sister’s and I saw her and it was love at first sight.” He also admits the two did not speak much prior to his nervous request for a date.

In what could have been the quick end to their story, Relanda would then move to Texas and stay there for the next four years, but fate is patient. She would eventually move back and find herself working on Kesyer Avenue, where she and Patrick would once more cross paths.

Sticking her head out the door of Jackson Hewitt Tax Service north of Keyser’s humming cars and west of the rippling Cane River, she shouted “Patrick! Patriiiick!” Unaware, Patrick moseyed alongside friends, likely attributing the faint calls to another car or buzzing mosquito. Finally, a friend gestured for him to turn around.

Today, both Patrick and Relanda wear a nostalgic smile that says, “And the rest is history.”

“Happy anniversary to us. We made it through these years” -@MrsBoutThat318 (Relanda), posted on Twitter 3/30/22.

“Our kids are gamers, too,” Relanda adds. The couple’s two teenagers, Nataiya and Timothy, are already looking forward to representing their parents’ esports team. “My

son and I were having a talk about it yesterday, and he told me he wants to be a content creator under FiyaHouse,” she says.

Although the FiyaHouse team is a strong team of two (Patrick and Relanda), the growing organization of now eight total has welcomed more specialists to drive its success behind the scenes, or behind the screens.

“Welcome our newest member of the family” -@FiyaHouseGG, posted on Twitter 8/3/22.

To create a look and logo for the growing team, Patrick and Relanda turned to Michael “ApparelMerp” Perdomo for a FiyaHouse design. For social media, he created an achromatic Wraith (a character from the video game Apex Legends) lunges towards the viewer with glowing white eyes and splashes of red framing her ominous pose. Perdomo’s designs are often dark and shrouded in shadow, with purposeful pops of bold color that give off a sense of dynamic life, like certain bioluminescence.

For the official FiyaHouse jersey, he uses a midnight black base with crisp red lines, the team name across the chest boldly drawn in white. Beneath this is a subtle, somewhat transparent flame sketch that evokes the passionate idiom "fire in the belly.” Patrick and Relanda have that motivation to build FiyaHouse to its fullest potential.

“Okay everyone, to those members of FiyaHouse please make sure your clips are in... Deadline is today!” -@FiyaHouseGG, posted on Twitter 10/1/22.

“It’s not about the moment— it’s about the opportunity to take the moment,” Patrick believes. At this moment, in the middle of a restaurant filled with relics of traditional sports and patrons entertaining the meals under their noses, FiyaHouse Gaming goes humbly unnoticed, but only for now. “It’s about to come,” Patrick hints at the breakthrough of this Natchitoches family’s esports organization.

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