How streaming video games on Twitch helped me find pure, unapologetic joy in the midst of a pandemic
Streaming has offered Arielle Twist a way to document joy and share it with the world
Warm Blanket is a series of personal essays from Canadian writers and artists reflecting on the pop culture that has brought them comfort and coziness during one year of the pandemic.
My first console was the original PlayStation sometime in the early 2000s, and the first game I really remember playing was Digimon Rumble Arena 2, an obscure artifact of gaming. My siblings and I would take turns as our favourite Digimon, Gatomon, who was a cat with yellow gloves that could Digivolve, in a Sailor Moon-like cutscene, into an angel Digimon named Angewomon. She was beautiful — tall with blonde hair and a low, soothing voice. My siblings and I were in awe of the feminine majesty that was anime in the early 2000s. I remember wanting to be her.
Gaming has always existed in my life and has always been tied to my sense of community, whether it was going over to my friends' or cousins' houses for some Super Smash Bros. or playing BioShock 2 online with a boy I had a crush on. And yes, I know what you're thinking — BioShock 2 had an online component? It did, and I kicked ass with Barbara and the crossbow.
It also has been a consistent way for me and my siblings to connect and spend time with one another. Most recently, my youngest sibling and I have played the horror game Little Hope, part of the Dark Pictures Anthology. Going through the game together, we were screaming and laughing together in our apartment living room for hours. The second wave had just hit Halifax, and things had just shut down again following a fall of low cases, so we were vibing just trying to find things to do. We joked about how we wished someone could see how much fun we were having, and how we had all the equipment we needed to start streaming if we wanted to since the pandemic had forced us to get things like webcams, lighting and microphones in order to support our careers during lockdown.
I joked about quitting being an artist and writer and becoming a streamer, since the past couple years have been so devastatingly hard with interpersonal relationships and the competition, lateral violence and pressure these industries can create. And that's when I met Aretha Greatrix, or SimplyAretha on Twitch. Aretha is an Indigenous filmmaker, writer and streamer who had asked me to be a part of her all-Indigenous Among Us stream for Native American Heritage Month in November. This moment of playing with a group of all Indigenous streamers and game enthusiasts, along with a TikTok on my For You Page that asked, "If you're playing video games, why aren't you streaming?" pushed me to make the move to attempt it on my own for the first time.
I already had a Twitch account, which I had given the name MadameJuicy as a joke between me and a few friends, and I decided to start visiting the streams of queer and BIPOC content creators like SimplyAretha, TashaWho, EverdeenJones, M4TTW4RD, JustJaremi, and SummonerRed to name a few. I joined these channels' communities and started playing games with them on their streams, chatting and just playing and getting to know one another more. And the mix of anonymity, lack of industry nonsense, and geeking out, laughing, and chaos that came from these streams have been a momentous gift during the pandemic and the winter lockdown.
At the end of December, I decided that I would start streaming myself. Since the community had already become accustomed to my username, it stuck, and I started streaming on Twitch under the name MadameJuicy, Juicy for short (and maybe if you're nasty). I got a running start since I had already built up a group of friends in those communities, and I ended up hitting Twitch Affiliate in the first half of January and unlocking all five of my affiliate emotes by the end of the month — a feat I didn't think I could accomplish so quickly.
I knew that moving into a new and unexpected avenue of creation, the following I had built through my art wouldn't easily transfer over to watching me play video games, and some folks might even think that I was wasting my time instead of focusing on my career. Not everyone would get why I'm streaming video games instead of working on my next book or gallery show — but the answer to that is pure Indigenous and trans joy.
I am documenting joy, archiving my laughter and my friendships, and also sharing that with the world. I know that this joy is just as precious and vital as my pain and rage which has been documented elsewhere. This joy is a practice in its own right: I am an artist, a creator and a storyteller, and streaming lets me do all of these things while also building and loving my community. I am excited to see what comes next on this journey into streaming, and from Digimon to Dead By Daylight, Animal Crossing to Agony, I hope that you join me in laughing, screaming and accessing joy, unapologetically.
Read all 12 essays from the Warm Blanket series here.