By day Sierra Myst is researching digital communities for a PhD in Sociology and Legal studies. By night, they’re a beautiful blue drag alien streaming sci-fi games on Twitch.
That PhD is certainly coming in handy in developing a welcoming community that thrives on healthy discussion. Sierra also played a part behind the scenes in the Queer Black Excellence x Rainbow Arcade Summit earlier this month that saw the LGBTQIA+ Twitch team exploring all things queer on Twitch.
But how does Sierra combine gaming and drag? Why is Bugsnax the game of the year? And why are they blue?
Firstly congrats on the Rainbow Arcade summit, I know you were a big part of that and it was a big success!
Thank you so much, it really was. The idea came together from the fact we’ve lost a lot of conferences and opportunities for us to all meet up, especially as Rainbow Arcade really grew and came into its own this year. I know a lot of us were looking forward to having time together at TwitchCon. So what if we did something that was focused on that and turn it into this whole big event? It really took off which was great.
It makes sense to use the team as a resource and highlight different streamers.
Definitely. And at the same time Justin was working with Tanya on the Queer Black Excellence event and it just made sense to bring the two together into this great two day summit. For me it was such a proud moment to think about how we were going to be marketing the event. Featuring over 40 or 50 LGBTQIA+ creators in one single event was just phenomenal to me, to get to hear all their expertise.
So when and why did you start streaming?
I actually started streaming back in 2017, I was starting my PhD so I was using it as a way to keep connecting with people. It was very much a hobby at that point. And then it grew from there and at the same time I was starting to think about doing drag. It wasn’t until about just over a year ago I was like ‘I could totally do these two things together’. From there it just took off.
Drag is certainly huge on Twitch!
Drag itself is becoming a really big mainstream source of entertainment, the growth of shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Dragula are happening around the same time that streaming is becoming bigger. It’s an obvious thing that we would start to see drag queens on the platform as well. Drag is traditionally seen as an in-person activity that happens in a bar, so with COVID, all of a sudden you had all these queer artists who were out of work because they couldn’t perform. There was this influx of all these digital performances and I think that’s brought a great spotlight to the drag artists who were already on Twitch, who were here performing in their own way, which is playing games and interacting with their community.
So where did your interest in drag stem from?
It’s kinda the story of everyone who started drag in the last few years. I was watching Drag Race and became really interested in the characters, the makeup, the looks. My interest in games comes from the stories, the characters, the fantasy elements. And drag is just like fantasy but in real life. I think I take that to the far end by painting myself blue!
How did you come up with your drag style?
When I first started I just painted myself as your everyday Caucasian woman. But I had always known that I wanted to take it in a more extreme direction. I’ve always been drawn to science-fiction and high fantasy aesthetics. So the next step for me was to start painting myself blue and calling myself an alien.
An obvious next step!
I really like combining this aesthetic, it’s got all of these elements of beauty influences, but I like to push it just that little extra bit into that realm of completely alien, to really try and mix those two areas.
Have video games inspired your looks?
Not specifically. Every time I’m in drag on stream people come in and say ‘oh you’re the singer from The Fifth Element, oh you look like an avatar, oh you’re from Mass Effect’. I wouldn’t say that any of those things specifically inspire me. My favourite colour is blue! It’s that simple. I’m always drawn to the blue characters in video games. I’m a big Star Wars fan and the Chiss are a species from Star Wars who come from an ice planet. I don’t think Sierra’s a Chiss but certainly I love the idea of blue people!
Do you feel like your streams differ if you’re in and out of drag?
That was something I was scared about when I first started. I was getting exhausted because I wanted to stream more but putting the makeup on is a really intense process. I want to keep streaming and building this community but I can’t sustainably keep doing drag four times a week. So I made the decision to do it less. Everyone has been fine with it. I think part of building a great community on Twitch is building people that are there because they genuinely like you as a person.
Does the audience differ?
I had a certain group of people who were there for the makeup. Then I’d do my ten minute brb to go put the wig on, come back, show off the look and everyone’s like “yass queen slay” and then they’d leave. Then it’s the people who are there for the games and the community. I think from choosing not to do the makeup on stream anymore, I’ve solidified and grown that part of the community which is what I’m interested in. I don’t know if this is a drag queen hot take or something, but I’m not super interested in people who just come in and say “yass queen slay”! I am there to build a community in the fullest sense of the term and I think to do that it has to be a little bit deeper.
What games do you prefer to stream?
I would think of myself as a variety streamer but I am particularly drawn to science-fiction games. Anything Star Wars related. Anything sci-fi I’ll play at least once. I’m also a big fan of management and simulation games, so I’ve done a lot of Sims, Parkasaurus, Spiritfarer. I played Bugsnax recently and that game gave me so much joy. So I’m on this hunt for more ten hour wholesome happy games!
How do you balance playing games and fostering a welcoming community?
It adds on to extra work outside of the stream. It’s one thing to go live and have people show up and work to make sure they have a good time there. But to bring people in, you have to bring that to all the platforms that you touch. For me I found Twitter really useful – I think about my Twitter a lot, probably more than people should! It’s making sure that it’s not all self-promotion so people know I’m actually human, making sure there’s stuff about me so that I’m actually connecting with people. I genuinely want those connections.
What can people expect from your stream?
I think they can expect me to be blue at least once a week! They can expect a welcoming community that’s interested in having engaged conversations about the games we’re playing or about what’s going on in the world. I spend a lot of time reading and trying to educate myself in everything that’s going on. We have very in-depth, frank conversations about gender, labour, work, politics, while we’re playing Bugsnax! That’s been some of the most rewarding stuff that makes me feel like I’m using my platform positively to help educate people, to make people feel comfortable and feel safe in a space. If people want to come in and have a good time and see a pretty blue woman, but also get into some topics, then I think they’d have an amazing time with me.
What’s the best thing about being a streamer?
I’m really here to have conversations with people. It’s a live platform, it’s got a chat box, I’ve got a mic. That’s what I’m here to do, to talk to people and meet people and have these conversations. If I just wanted to play games in drag I could make a YouTube channel. The most important thing and the best thing about Twitch is that I’m getting to have conversations with people.
What have you learned about yourself through streaming?
That I look really good blue! This has been the first opportunity for me where I’ve been able to lead these discussions with people and see the impact in real time. I’ve learned that I can make a difference, that actually having a platform and using it actually does something. I see that with our community members and they come away saying ‘I learned something here, this really helped me’.
What advice would you give to gaymers wanting to start streaming?
I think that’s sometimes a hard conversation to have with people, because even though the LGBTQIA+ community on Twitch is so small and niche, it’s also so big and saturated. I think it’s really important to think about what you bring to the platform, what you stand for, what are your values and how can you bring those into the stream. It’s very easy to say ‘I’m just going to stream DBD’ and people will show up. But there’s a tonne of queer people who stream DBD, so how are you different from them? And it’s probably in your individuality, so how do you bring that out and build that into the stream itself?
What got you into gaming?
I actually used to play games with my mum, we had a Super Nintendo and we would play Mario Kart together and Donkey Kong Country. I liked playing games with people, I’m not a big solo game player. That experience of playing with friends or family was really important for me. What really did it for me was I discovered MMOs. There was this old Star Wars MMO, Star Wars Galaxies, and that changed my life! It had all the things that embody what I enjoy about games and Twitch: you could play with people, you could group up to do common goals and activities, you could build cities and communities together. Honestly that defined my whole gaming and streaming thing.
What’s your game of the year?
It has to be Bugsnax. It’s like Pokémon Snap but not on rails and I think that’s a really compelling one-liner. It’s this beautiful puzzle game with adorable creatures and colourful, memorable, amazingly voice-acted characters with great queer representation: a non-binary character, a gay couple, a lesbian couple. It’s all there. Their queerness isn’t a trope or anything, they’re just queer and existing. The fact that this game has such a playful aesthetic, thousands of children are going to play this game and they’re going to see queer relationships – and not just a gay cis relationship – normalised. And I think that’s incredible.
To find out more about Sierra Myst, catch them streaming on their Twitch channel.