Mari Takahashi

The Professional Ballerina Turned Professional Gamer

After decades as a devoted ballerina, Mari Takahashi found herself dissatisfied and started making YouTube videos. That was eight years ago. Today Takahashi (online name: AtomicMari) can say that she was the first female member of the mega-popular YouTube channel Smosh Games, where she stars in Maricraft, a sub-series with a focus on Minecraft gameplay.

When did you realize what you wanted to do in your life?

“I’ve been a ballerina since the age of two and a half. It’s the only career I set my eyes on. But it wasn’t what I really wanted to do, which is a desperately scary realization when you’ve dumped your entire life into just one thing. I had no intention of switching careers, but when I turned 25, I started stepping outside my comfort zone. First, by traveling internationally, ice climbing and camping. From there I started making YouTube videos and ultimately (unknowingly) set myself on a path I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams.”

What is your biggest accomplishment to date?

“Being named a ‘Top Influencer’ by Forbes takes the cake.”

What’s something you’d like people to know about you or your job that they probably don’t?

“The gaming industry oftentimes gets a bad rep for being intimidating, unfriendly or aggressive—especially in news and media. I think more women should know that the industry is awesome. It’s inclusive and supportive and there’s plenty of room. Come join us.”

What are you most grateful for?

“I’m grateful for this generation—its innovation and evolution and how it has completely shattered the mold. I am just one generation off from the notion that you have one job for your whole life. That’s how I was brought up and how my life trajectory was going. And then, I made a hard pivot at 25 years old. This generation teaches and motivates us to make changes if we’re unhappy, at age 20, 40 or 60. The tools are just a Google search away. How incredible is that?”

What does being a woman mean to you today?

“It is exercising and expressing gratitude. The female experience is entirely different from any other generation—since the dawn of man. We are given the toolsets to accomplish what has been cemented as ‘not appropriate for us’ for generations. There’s still much work to do, but we are experiencing the tipping point. We’re living it. We’re driving it.”

What advice do you have for other women working toward their own dreams?

“Rather than seeing our gender as an obstacle or crutch, flip the script and use it to your full advantage. The gaming industry is still predominantly male dominated. I’ve used that to corner a market. Embrace the qualities that make you unique, distinctive and dynamic—as a woman, as a human being.”

Snack food you can’t live without?

“Cucumbers—which is probably not a typical answer. My grandmother owns a cucumber farm in Japan. I ate a lot of cucumbers when I was growing up. It’s a whole story. Anyway, the answer is cucumbers.”

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