Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Streamer Spotlight: PleasantlyTwstd

For many JRPG fans, the Final Fantasy series was a gateway to the genre. And that’s true for Twitch streamer PleasantlyTwstd, whose first JRPG was (relatably) Final Fantasy VII. That sparked a lifelong fascination with the genre: the stories, the artwork, the mechanics.

But she also plays some of the trickiest games around, Soulsborne in particular, with a view not only in analysing game design, but in making games more accessible. That ties in with her community, known for its diversity and cosy vibes – all sipped down with a glass of wine!

Read on as we discuss JRPGs, art, and being black and queer on Twitch.

When and why did you start streaming?

I’ve been on Twitch for three years, and I got on Twitch initially as escapism from work. I used to work a desk job but I started watching Twitch, there were a couple of communities I got a lot more involved in. A lot of people were like “you seem like you’d be fun to stream with” and I thought “no I couldn’t stream, I’m black so that’s not gonna be something I’ll be doing as I’ll just get harassed the entire time!” Something came over me one day and I thought maybe I’ll give it a shot?

I love it, I absolutely adore it. 

What games do you prefer to stream? 

I prefer to stream a mixture of JRPGS – JRPGS are my life source – but I also really enjoy streaming what I, lovingly, call try-hard games: things like Dark Souls 3, Sekiro, Dead Cells, Hades. It’s an interesting blend because usually I commit a full month to a JRPG and then the next month I’ll do a series of the try-hard games. I’m actually playing Breath of Fire III right now and I am enjoying it so much because it’s my all-time favourite JRPG and so many people have never heard of it, I was like I’m going to educate everybody on this then! 

You play a lot of retro RPGs, how do you choose what you’re going to play?

It’s twofold. The first way is I make my community do it, we’ll raise money for charities and then I’ll give them a list of games saying what are we playing next? The other way, and this is partly why they’re so retro, is I find games that I’ve always been interested in that I never got to play growing up. I didn’t have a lot of consoles, we didn’t get a computer until I was almost 13, I got a PS1 and a PS2 but we still couldn’t afford to get a bunch of games. So I’ve had all these games that I grew up knowing about but I could never actually get my hands on. Now I’m an adult and I can waste money how I please! But then I have too many games to pick from so I say “hey we’re going to raise money for charity and you’re going to pick!” The PS1 had so many strong RPGs, just looking at the roster is absolutely absurd. It’s really interesting because so many people know Final Fantasy and that’s it, but the world of JRPGs is so huge! 

What is it about JRPGs that you love so much?

I love that I can get into a fantasy realm and I can follow the story of a bunch of ragtag teens and go out and do whatever I want. You have your linear story, but being able to play an array of characters in a team and have different capabilities, skills, magic really draws me. Another thing about JRPGs is the art. I love the visuals and designs because there’s a certain care that people have with JRPGs that you don’t see with other games. There’s just something different about when you go to a JRPG and you look at the box art, the cut scenes, you listen to the music. There’s something about the JRPG package that to me feels like – and I say this cautiously – a more cohesive and put together project than the Call Of Duties that are out there. With JRPGs you’re there for the journey and you’re there to watch the character growth and you grow with the characters.

You also review games, what was your favourite game from last year that you reviewed?

Final Fantasy VII Remake was my game of 2020. The original was my first JRPG, and I remember very fondly being 11 years old and playing it. And then I got into the Twitch scene and got into fights as I said very openly “you know the original story of FFVII is kinda garbage”. And people did not like hearing that! It’s riddled with plot holes, there are a lot of things that happen that make little to no sense. Playing the remake I was curious to see how they were going to handle it and they did a really good job of bringing back all the stuff people knew about VII and throwing it into a blender. 

I really would appreciate it if they got someone to learn how to texture black hair – Barrett’s box was not quite right but we’re just gonna leave that on the shelf… Visually speaking [the game is] absolutely stunning. My favourite scene from it is the Honeybee Inn, anyone who didn’t like that scene is just wrong, I don’t know how else to explain that! They took the original and said “you know what we need to handle this with care because this is a fan favourite, if we don’t do this right we’re going to get literally eviscerated”. I am so excited to see what happens with the second iteration because I need to see if my theories are correct, I have money on the line! 

You’re also an artist, how would you describe your style? 

At the moment I’m the lead artist for Into the Mother Lands which is on Twitch, we ended right before Christmas. I created all of the character concepts and designs for that. My styling is complicated because I started out drawing Sonic the Hedgehog, then I moved on to people when I started watching Sailor Moon. I realised very quickly that I didn’t like the “traditional” anime style because I can’t deal with people having 82 inch inseams and no leg meat! My art is a hybrid of anime but also realism. The anime aspects of it are the clothing, the hair. Anime hair is a way of life! I went to school for character concept and design, I wanted to be a video game character creator. But that was also during the time when we started getting into heavy shooters in the industry. I got my degree at the dawn of the Gears of Wars, the Call of Duties, the Halos. I was invested in drawing much more fantasy-driven things. 

What can people expect from your stream?

I’m almost always drinking three things at once: I always have my cup of tea, your standard issue hydration (because we stan hydration in this house), and I always have a glass of wine – hence why [my community] is the wine cellar. You can expect real talk, honesty, fun, loud hyena cackles, a lot of game dissection. I like to take the time to actually step back and say “ok I’m going to look at my build for a second and think through this”. It’s not quite teaching the game but I like breaking it down. People will watch my channel and go back to games with newfound knowledge. I imagine my community, if it were a bar, would be one of those speakeasies you find in the not-so-great part of town where it’s hidden away but when you go in everything’s nice, everything’s comfortable, everyone there’s very welcoming and warm, there’s great drinks, there’s great convo. And that’s the energy I want to maintain. And we do that while playing a couple of video games.

I’ve also been told by a lot of people, ironically from the Soulsborne community, that I have a very cosy vibe…

How do you create that cosy atmosphere playing Soulsborne games?

It’s a completely different mindset of gaming. I am very analytical and if you are somebody who reacts before you think, that’s what Dark Souls trips up a lot of people on. So it’s easier for me to maintain that “cosy vibe” because I also don’t get ragey at games. I view it as a consistent and ongoing learning process. 

One of the things I want to destigmatise is that games can’t be for everyone, especially in the Soulsborne community. The idea that if you’re not good at these things it’s not meant for you. That is some of the most useless advice under the sun. It’s condescending, it’s rude, it doesn’t help the player improve, and it just exists to make the person saying it feel superior. I find a lot more value in making games accessible. Video games are meant to be enjoyable, they are meant to be something you actively opt into for your own entertainment. I don’t like this mantra that you have to be the best person or runner. I just want to be the best player I can be, and have a good time doing it.

I scream and yell at people about accessibility in gaming all the time and I get the polar opposite response of “that was their vision and you should respect that”. When I want to add accessibility options I’m disrespecting the developers’ decision, but when I say the developers did a really good job on a game and you don’t like it we should disrespect their vision and change it to what you want? This is the reason I’m angry on Twitter all the time! 

How do you find being an out LGBT streamer? 

Shockingly enough, especially being an out black streamer, most times my feedback is very positive. A lot of people find solace and happiness in seeing a black queer person in this space. I’ve found that in general it’s been very positive for me and I think part of that comes from the fact that I’ve only been out the past five years, I struggled with accepting I was asexual for a long time. Now because of my experiences, I make a tireless effort to say I’m queer, I’m black, I’m asexual, I’m fem-identifying and our existence is ok. I’ve got plenty of folks who are happy to be in the community because they feel safe, they are better people because of all the diversity we have, people who literally see hope now in engaging with things like Twitch. I think that’s my ultimate goal: fostering that safe space, helping out charity and giving other queer folks – out queer folks, not-out queer folks, POC queer folks – that strength and realisation to be like “you’re enough”.

What’s the game that defined your childhood?

That’s going to be Sonic The Hedgehog 2. That’s a no contest thing. Sonic 2 is the start and end of all my stuff. I am a monster-sized Sonic fangirl, I know entirely too much Sonic lore. But it was Sonic 2 that was the starting point of gaming, drawing, speedrunning, the whole thing! And the one that reaffirmed it further would be FFVII.

Your community is called the wine cellar, so what is your favourite wine?

My favourite glass of wine is a red blend Paso Robles called If You See Kay. It is absolutely stunning, a tiny bit of spice, very fruity, but it’s not sweet, really full bodied and not heavy but very easy to drink. Trouble is I drink it too quickly and that’s how you end up drunk on stream! 

To find out more about Pleasantly Twstd, catch her streaming on her Twitch channel.

Streamer Spotlight is a weekly column from Ed Nightingale about highlighting LGBT+ streamers who are creating communities that are diverse and progressive.

Ed Nightingale

[He/Him] Ed is a London-based blogger and freelance writer, covering music, film, theatre, games and lifestyle. A lover of culture, he can usually be found in front of the silver screen or a laptop - if you can play it, watch it, or sing it then he’s probably got an opinion about it.