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Streamer Spotlight: Cypher of Tyr

It’s not just video games that are played on Twitch, it’s also a great way to watch tabletop games. But what if you could combine the two? What if you could play D&D…in Animal Crossing?

That’s exactly what Cypher of Tyr has set up with Dungeon Crossing, where she plays on stream with the likes of screenwriter Gary Whitta (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Walking Dead) and Shannon Woodward (the voice of Dina in The Last Of Us 2). 

What’s more, she runs another D&D show called Rivals of Waterdeep, streams plenty of video games as part of Rainbow Arcade, and is an advocate for black and queer communities. 

Read on as we chat tabletop games, POC streamers, and why Ghost of Tsushima is her game of the year so far.

When did you begin streaming?

I started when Dragon Age: Inquisition came out because I’m a big Bioware nerd. I realised I could stream directly off the PS4 without having to invest in all this extra stuff, I didn’t know if I’d like streaming or if I’d want to do it beyond Inquisition, and then I got hooked! And as they say, the rest is history.

What games do you prefer to stream?

I usually like story-driven games. I do play a lot of The Division and the Tom Clancy games. I played Hatoful Boyfriend because somebody donated $150 last year to St Jude, and I was like ‘what is happening, why am I playing this game, why am I a pigeon?!’ I usually lean more towards RPGs and story-driven games, but I don’t shy away from mature games. As someone who writes, I like to have a story but I will also play Destiny or The Division and say ‘well, this is my catharsis for the day!’

What makes your stream unique? 

I do what I want to do, I play what I want, I don’t go after fads. While we have a positive community, we don’t do that “oh everything is rainbows and unicorns”. We have serious but adult conversations during stream – you are going to get a variety of things depending on when you pop in. It can run the gamut from “Oh my god it’s cute and it’s Animal Crossing” to talking about various varieties of sex toys, and talking about being queer.

How do you balance playing games with community interaction?

There are some things that are like comfort food. I can talk and I can chat, and not have to focus as much on the game. And when I’m playing a newer game or something where I really need to focus, like a racing game or something that’s very focused or tactical, I’m not interacting with the chat as much and then I feel bad about it. I want to interact with chat because I feel like people are coming in to hang out, especially with COVID going on. I am always in favour of games that allow me to interact with the chat, even if it’s verbally, not so much as typing. Gameplay is fun, but as my stream has changed and grown. People like discussion and Just Chatting way more than I thought they would. 

Tell me about Dungeon Crossing – how did you get the idea and how does it work?

So the idea for Dungeon Crossing came around because I was a guest on Animal Talking on Gary Whitta’s channel. Gary brought up D&D and nerdy stuff we like and he said he’d never learned to play and I said “well I can teach you” and then we both got quiet for a second and I said “well I can teach you in Animal Crossing, it would be dope!”

I already had a table with the D&D ampersand as a pattern, so I actually made up the basement like a stereotypical gaming basement with a table and chairs, there’s a thing for stacks of paper and someone had made a pattern for character sheets. We were tweeting about it and Sharron Woodward was like “oh my god I would love to do that!” so she got pulled in as well.

We’re using Animal Crossing as a vehicle so it’s cute and kinda gimmicky but it’s also a way to teach people about learning D&D because we’re not just running them through a pre-made thing, when things come up people stop and ask questions. If you don’t know about D&D or role-playing games, it’s educational but it’s also fun.

You also have your Rivals of Waterdeep show. How popular is tabletop gaming on Twitch?

It’s very popular and a lot of that has to do with Geek and Sundry and Critical Role. There are so many shows now that are not just D&D but Vampire: The Masquerade, Pathfinder, people doing their own homebrews. It’s very popular because Twitch is not just video games anymore. Especially now, with COVID, people have yet another option to get together, and they can do so in front of an audience. It revived a thing that people didn’t know was a thing folks did, because people actually watch you play D&D on the internet and they get very invested in our story and our characters. I think it’s yet another way to show the creativity of people on the platform. 

Do you feel it’s more of a performance with an audience watching?

With a stream game, or if you’re at a convention? Definitely. When people are watching you in a finite time every week, you can’t just sit there and not be invested and engage and respond so there is definitely an acting component. Usually people who have done improv, or acting, or voice acting will find it easier to transition into remembering people are watching us right now. People expect you to bring the story and these characters to life and if you don’t do that people aren’t going to get invested in what you’re doing. 

Are people of colour under-represented in streaming in your view?

It’s under-represented in who gets a spotlight. There are plenty of us who stream but a lot of black and POC streamers don’t get a lot of highlight. [Twitch] haven’t always been great at having us in the front page carousel. This is a trickle-down of all the things we’ve been taught, that white is default. Just give us a fair shot like everybody else, give me a fair shot on the front page that isn’t tied to a special event, just put POC, more black streamers, more out, queer streamers on the front page.

Is it doubly more difficult being both a POC and queer?

I think it is because there’s this default. I think people see a black face or a brown face and think “this isn’t for me, that’s a black streamer, I can’t relate, I’m not going to be welcome here.” Which is just stupid.

I think it is difficult, especially if you don’t fit into a palatable, marketable ideal of blackness. If you don’t speak proper, and don’t talk about what it’s like to be black in certain spaces. People also push back and say “I don’t wanna watch someone just because you tell me to” and it’s like nobody says you have to go look just for black streamers, but if you look at your follow list and it’s all white people maybe, just maybe, you’re missing out.

So for those that aren’t in the spotlight and those that don’t get brought up by other people, I think it’s going to be difficult, unless Twitch changes up how they promote people instead of just defaulting to whoever has thousands of viewers at the top, because that’s never going to give other people more exposure. 

Cypher of Tyr
What’s your main goal as a streamer for the future?

What I’d like to do is more RPG content on my channel, because right now all the RPG content I’m doing outside of Dungeon Crossing is elsewhere. So I want to do more, but there’s also the component of trying to schedule a game, especially a streamed game, it’s a whole lot! And then I want to be in a position where I’m getting enough subs to pay people for their time. 

What’s the best thing about being a streamer?

The best thing is finding and building community, because there’s a lot of people I wouldn’t know if not for streaming. There’s a lot of people I wouldn’t be friends with, that I wouldn’t have had the chance to visit. I truly am lucky enough to have a global community and a lot of that wouldn’t be possible without streaming. Games come and go and people get bored of a certain game. Right now the hot thing’s Fall Guys, but what about when that gets old for people? That’s why I think I’ve gotten more response and a better response when I do Just Chatting and hanging out vs gameplay. 

What advice would you give to gaymers wanting to start streaming?

Do it for yourself, for fun and don’t go into it with “I’m gonna make money, I’m gonna be rich, I’m gonna be the next big streamer.” I think a lot of people, especially with COVID, started streaming because there was time on their hands that they normally wouldn’t have, but it’s not what they expected. It’s not just turning on your PlayStation or your Xbox and putting on a headset. You have to be entertaining, you have to be personable, you have to engage people. You don’t have to go out and buy fancy DSLR, lights, camera, because you’re gonna spend all that money and then when you don’t get that audience you think you deserve because you spent all that money, you’re gonna be real mad and real disappointed.

What’s your game of the year so far?

So far Ghost of Tsushima would be my game of the year right now. I don’t know if I’d say Fall Guys just because I’ve only played it a couple of times and while it is fun, people are crappy and cheating and hacking a super cute game where you’re basically a little jelly bean!

I spent a year in Japan and [Ghost of Tsushima] reminds me of that year. I grew up watching the old samurai films and turning on the black and white Kurosawa mode just makes me think of sitting and watching these movies with friends, or when I was in cinema class when I studied abroad. It hits that sweet spot of “ok I’ve had combat, I’ve slain a bunch of things, now I’m gonna go wander peacefully in this beautiful field”. For me, it gives me a lot of good memories.

To find out more about Cypher of Tyr, catch her streaming on her Twitch channel, Cypher of Tyr.

Don’t forget you can vote for your Streamer Of The Year at the Gayming Mag Awards right here!

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