For Canada-based gamer Zach Laner, otherwise known by his username — Zlaner — gaming is a way of life. He grew up around gaming, playing with his dad and brothers at every free opportunity he got until that passion eventually led him to a career in 2019. Coming from a musical background, his stage presence was evident when he started on the Facebook Gaming platform, and in his own words, “The rest is history.”
Zlaner’s ability to seamlessly connect his talents to the gaming world shows the many different ways that gaming can intersect with other hobbies and interests. As a result of his success, he has even taken on other related projects such as designing his own controllers and merch. He discusses these convergences with Hypebeast, along with tips for beginner streamers, and most importantly, the five items he can’t live without.
Hypebeast: Tell me about who you are.
Zlaner: My name is Zach or Zlaner; I've been gaming ever since I was a kid. I did a lot of music growing up as well, from the age of 13 to 19. I started playing bar gigs when I was 14 and at festivals and college parties, and stuff like that. I think a lot of that helped me with stage presence and just being in front of crowds and audiences. In the background of doing all that, I was always gaming — probably a lot more than doing music. So it makes a lot of sense that my life kind of ended up going down this route because I knew it was always something that I wanted to get involved in. So I took a little bit of that experience with performing and started to do live streaming about four years ago. I started playing Fortnite, jumped over to War Zone, and met a lot of cool people throughout that process.
Talk to me a bit about your music career.
Z: I did a lot of writing, performing, and playing all throughout high school. I also ended up shooting a show right before I started streaming, called The Launch. It was a singing competition-style show, but a little bit different than The Voice and shows like that. On The Launch, you get to go work in the studio a little bit, you work on a song, and then you perform it at the end. We got second place and it was a great experience overall. I definitely don't write and perform as much as I used to, but it's still a massive part of my life for sure.
In what ways did that background prep you for streaming?
Z: Definitely in feeling comfortable on a microphone and in front of an audience, even though it's different in the sense that, you know, obviously the crowd isn't right there in front of me. It still translates pretty nicely.
How does gaming fit into your current lifestyle? I'm sure you still incorporate music and other hobbies, so how do you fit those into your gaming routine?
Z: Gaming and building my brand are definitely the main parts of my life right now and my main focus, career-wise. Music and any other hobbies have taken a bit of a backseat to that, which I'm totally fine with. It's what I truly love to do. There's no question about it. As a kid growing up — I'll put it this way, if I didn't make it a career, it would be a very bad addiction. I'd probably be wasting lots of time and not getting too much stuff done. So, luckily I was able to turn it into something because, in this day and age, it's crazy to me that you can even make a career of something like this.
What are you doing every day, outside of the game?
Z: Outside of gaming, I'm honestly not doing too much. I have two main focuses. I play video games all day, and I have two dogs and a girlfriend. When I'm not playing video games, I'm spending time with my family. That's basically it because I'm putting so much time into gaming and building my business.
Sounds like balance to me. So how did you get started on your gaming journey?
Z: I got started on my gaming journey when I was about five years old. My dad got me and my brother — and I think he got it more so for himself since he was a huge gamer — but he got an Xbox back in the day when it was just bumping and it was huge. And Halo was the game at that time. He got Halo Two with the new Xbox. But that passion kind of started a little bit later. I played a little bit of Halo Two, played a few video games when I was a kid, but then when Halo Three came out, that's when it took over. I hopped over to Call of Duty after that and I've been gaming ever since. There have been a lot of hours put into it for sure.
Can you tell us about the Facebook Gaming community and what it means to you?
Z: Facebook's been the craziest thing that happened to me in my career. I started streaming on there because of a friend of mine named Dimes, who I still look up to, to this day. He did a lot for me and shined a very massive spotlight on me at the time. We started playing together and he told me the good word about Facebook and streaming over there. So I built a page instantly and started building my fan base off of that. I mean, the Facebook Gaming community, what it means to me is everything. My whole fan base and everything that I do — I'm forever grateful. I’ve got the coolest fans ever. They go hard and they support me with everything that I do.
What would you tell people about the Facebook Gaming platform if they are not familiar with it themselves?
Z: It's a great platform to get started on. They offer so many different ways for smaller creators to actually make it a career. Because something a lot of people don't know is that when you're starting out, it's really only the top one percent that is actually able to make this a career. The cool thing about Facebook is that they have so many different promotional things for new streamers to be able to actually make it and be able to get tips from different fans coming in. An example of that is, they sometimes have things like free stars, which is the currency on Facebook Gaming, to be able to tip your favorite streamers, and they'll just give those away and allow people to tip their favorite streamers, which is really cool.
What is your favorite thing about the platform?
Z: For people that are trying to get started in gaming and get into the platform, something that I personally love about it was that there was a lot of space still to be taken up. A lot of the other platforms are already very saturated. There are so many different creators in that massive ocean. So that was one thing that I saw as an advantage. I thought, 'Hey, Facebook's trying to build their thing, and they're just starting out. I'm trying to do my thing and I’m also just starting out. Maybe we can grow together.'
What do you love about Facebook Gaming, personally?
Z: I love the connection that I've been able to make. Obviously with all of my fans, but also the connections I've been able to make with other creators on the platform. I have so many great friends and people that I've met throughout the last couple of years streaming on the platform. That is priceless to me. Facebook Gaming is also a more personable platform since the usernames are people's real names as well.
Since the Facebook Gaming platform is all-encompassing, how has it made connection easier?
Z: You have everything all in one place. It's a one-stop shop in the sense that you don't have to outsource your schedules or anything to other social media platforms. You can post straight to your page, you can go live directly from your page, and you can upload stories, events, fundraisers, and charity streams. There are just endless amounts of things you can do that are all built and integrated straight into Facebook.
Can you tell us a bit about your gaming setup?
Z: Yes, definitely. I love the fact that I'm very fortunate to be able to work from home. I just got a nice desk. When I first started streaming, I started with a very bare-bones setup. I always try to tell people when it comes to streaming and content creation, that when you get started, you really don't have to start with much. I started with a single PC, a single monitor, and I was reading the chat off of my phone and trying to interact with everybody that way. Now, I have a few monitors. It looks like a bit of a crazier setup now, but I've integrated these things over time. I reinvested a lot of the support that I was getting back into upgrading that setup. So now my space has turned into a little bit more of a command center, but it's nice.
What's your favorite part about your setup?
Z: I like my PCs. I got some pretty killer PCs. I think they're pretty high-powered. They get the job done for sure. I run a dual-PC setup, so all of my gaming gets done on one PC and all the streaming gets done on the other.
I know a lot of gamers are really serious about their chair.
Z: Oh, definitely. I've gone through a few gaming chairs for sure. The one I have now is very nice. It's a Herman Miller chair, one of those ergonomic seats. I've tried a bunch of different chairs throughout the years and I love this one.
So what are the five items you can't live without?
Z: The first item out of the five that I can't live without is this controller. I do use the mouse keyboard for some games, but this particular controller right here is the one I use every single day. I use it all the time. I definitely can't live without it because I can't play without it. It's a scuf gaming controller. I actually just recently released my very own one with my own logo and branding. The cool thing about scuf controllers is they allow you to use these bumpers that are on the back and they give you extra control.
My second item is my glasses. I literally can't see if I don't have these on, so pretty important. The third item that I definitely can't live without is my four-liter jug of water. I have one of those on streams with me all the time. My main community would know me for having that. I'll just pick that thing up and, no glass needed, just chug it all day. I try to stay hydrated as much as I can. The fourth item that I can't live without is peanut butter. I am a peanut butter addict. I don't think there are too many people out there that eat it as much as I do. I've just got endless amounts of jars in my pantry. And my last item is definitely my phone. I can't live without it. I'm checking emails, I'm checking socials. I'm always on my phone.