LONG BEACH — Dawnya Davis used to sneak into her older brother’s bedroom to play Tomb Raider on a Sony PlayStation.
Today, some 20 years later, Davis, 40, a mother of two and owner of a successful dog-grooming business, is whisked worldwide and given the red-carpet treatment as a consultant and ambassador of the global Clash of Clans community, a mobile strategy game by Finland-based creator Supercell that involves millions of daily users.
On Thursday, Dec. 19 Davis was featured on the latest episode of “Steaming in Real Life,” an unscripted reality show series on Amazon chronicling the origin stories of gamers who “used to be just like us” and have now become some of the world’s most influential streamers on Twitch, YouTube and beyond.
Davis, known as ‘Pickles’ online, is considered a superstar in the Clash of Clans community and credited for creating tournament leagues that changed the course of the game over the past six years.
“Dawnya came to our attention because of her influence in the community,” said Amazon PR specialist Margaret Reeb. “She is a pillar among those who play Clash of Clans and was one of the first to organize tournaments for the game. She was an obvious choice for the episode.”
No Dip League
Davis is well known for creating the ‘No Dip League,’ a tournament-style platform that continues to have a profound impact on the Clash of Clans community.
“I made up a league based off boxing and NFL-style platforms, particularly the process of elimination and qualifying,” Davis explained. “In the old wars, you go across, then you could dip down and kill anybody you wanted on the map. But in my league, you have to go straight across to your equal or above, so it’s more challenging.”
Davis tested the format for six months with friends and family, starting with 40 clans the first year. The league has grown exponentially since.
“This season we have more than 200 clans with 600 applying to it. It’s the platform that Supercell used in their world championships.”
Davis attributed the popularity of the league to the difficulty of the platform.
“I didn’t say ‘let’s make it easy for everyone,’ I said ‘let’s make it really hard, when you’re all pro-gamers.’ People started playing the league and having a blast. It was put on YouTube and it piqued more interest and made their gameplay better. All of the players who were in the finals of the world championships each played my league for six seasons.”
The league now incorporates a staff of nearly 40 people to manage and organize the competition and is covered by 12 YouTubers and 12 Twitch accounts.
‘Pickles’ perfects P.E.K.K.A attack
In 2015, Davis made her first trip to Finland for Supercell and became a fan favorite during a live-stream competition watched by more than 25 million.
“I compiled a troop compilation that included a P.E.K.K.A., the most unpopular, slowest — they call it the ‘dumb’ troop,” Davis recalled.
“It was one of the first competitions. Reddit was involved and I got randomly picked to attack. I got what’s called a ‘6-pack’ with the P.E.K.K.A.S. You only get two attacks and I got two perfect.”
The perfect “three-star” attack made Davis an instant Clash of Clans celebrity, and she was subsequently featured on other YouTube channels, where she demonstrated her unique troop attacks.
“I became what was called the ‘War General’ at the time and taught them how to attack, and that’s when I realized I was good at this. We didn’t just win — we annihilated them,” Davis said.
“The P.E.K.K.A. is the troop that made me Clash-famous.”
The first official Clash of Clans World Championship was held Oct. 25-27, 2019 in Hamburg, Germany where team NOVA defeated MCES 3-1 for a $1 million top prize. Davis attended the event as a consultant and watched the competition in person.
YouTube content creators from China, France and India broadcast the competition live, with more than 40 million people tuning in, double the number that watched the Washington Nationals win game seven of the 2019 World Series the same week.
Supercell, the makers of Clash of Clans, Brawl Stars and Clash Royale, generated more than $1.5 billion in revenue and profited $635 million in 2018, largely driven by a booming popularity in Asia. As access to high-speed internet and smartphones continues to increase in places like India and China, the popularity and accessibility of free-to-play mobile games like Clash of Clans has risen accordingly.
“You’ve got every country and every race, from Germany to Myanmar,” Davis said.
Davis’ interest in gaming started years ago, when she would go into her older brother’s bedroom while he was away to play his games.
“I would sneak into his bedroom and play his game while he was gone. Then he would be mad,” Davis recalled, laughing.
In 2012, Davis’ daughter Violet, then age 11, suggested Davis try a new game called Clash of Clans on her mobile phone.
Davis picked the name “Pickles,” Violet’s favorite food, and began playing.
Early on, Davis discovered that tracking the troops across the screen during gameplay helped rehabilitate her left eye, which was at risk of amblyopia, a nerve condition that results when the pathways between the eye and brain aren’t properly stimulated.
“I was working to improve the vision in my eye and playing other games I didn’t like. They said I was going to get a ‘lazy eye’ if I didn’t use it. I got lucky.”
Today, neither Davis nor her daughters play Clash of Clans competitively. Instead, Davis serves more as a consultant and ambassador of the game, logging in sporadically to offer advice and inspire newcomers.
“I log in casually several times a day and play with kids and I give them tips,” Davis said.
“When I log in and say their name, they get all excited.”