Image courtesy of Narcissa Wright
For years, if you were following the speedrunning scene for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker, you were intimately familiar with Narcissa Wright. She discovered the infamous glitch that allowed speedrunners to escape the opening forest area without beating the Deku Tree, regularly broke world records, and over time, became one of the public faces for speedrunning—Zelda or otherwise. Yesterday, Wright received an “indefinite suspension” from Twitch, essentially banning her from streaming on Twitch for the foreseeable future.
“Based on review of community reports about your activity or content,” reads a statement shared by Wright on Twitter, “we have issued a Community Guidelines strike on your account for Reason: ‘Nudity or Sexual Behavior/Attire’ and indefinite suspension from accessing or using Twitch services.”Wright told me she couldn’t pin down what exactly prompted Twitch’s ban, wondering if it could have been related to reading healthcare documents with gender reassignment surgery imagery; “questionable things” like watching the anime Hunter X Hunter, after already getting in trouble for watching another anime with sex scenes, Berserk; streams where the “shape” of her nipples were visible through a shirt. In other words, Wright figures she’s been on Twitch’s radar for a while now, and admits to “probably” breaking Twitch’s terms of service.Twitch declined to comment, their usual response to questions on community management.Her streams have changed substantially over time, and no longer focus on what Wright originally became known for: speedrunning Zelda games. Around the same time Wright came out as transgender in 2015, a public transition that regularly lead to vile harassment, she experienced lingering pain in her hands. The pain was most acute after long, demanding sessions with her fingers, which made her bread and butter, speedrunning, a real problem.“I don’t have health insurance right now. I’m trying to get that settled,” she told Kotaku in 2016. “I walked into a physical therapy place, but they told me I need a doctor’s note and insurance. I want to get that figured out in 2016. In the meantime, I’ve been doing stuff like hand exercises—just trying to stretch my hands and take care of them. I also took a two week break from console gaming, and that’s helped a bit. But I still can’t do those long sessions.”
Wright didn’t entirely walk away from gaming—she streams casually, and briefly held the world record for speedrunning Breath of the Wild in 2017—but putting speedrunning largely on hold meant she had to become more creative when it came to streaming, finding new sources of inspiration and fun. Sometimes that meant vlogging, other times it meant painting.Her relationship with streaming has only grown in the months and years since. Some of her streams will go on for hours without sound or meaningful interaction with the people watching. A recent stream from May 12, for example, is nearly five hours long, and largely features Wright staring at the computer screen in various positions and eventually sleeping.“When I'm not ‘online’ I feel like it's not even real, in a way,” she said. “I'm just like, wired in.”Wright speculates one of the reasons Twitch banned her was because of all the bandwidth she was taking up on the service, without making a lot of money for Twitch. (Her numbers have understandably dropped post-speedrunning.) Her streams could go for more than 24 hours, with Wright occasionally letting the camera roll on for hours, while she idled or walked away. She called this a mixture of “content” and “non-content,” a form of experimentation.In April 2016, Wright briefly shut down her Twitch account, following harassment."I've been so unhappy on the internet and it sucks because I feel like the internet is my home," she said on Twitter at the time. "I feel like I can't be myself without getting shit on constantly. I feel like I have to constantly apologize for being myself."
This part—getting shit on constantly—hasn’t changed much. You can’t read the comments on Wright’s videos without coming across rampant abuse, transphobia, and other toxicity, and whole corners of the Internet dedicate huge amounts of time to documenting everything she does. Many comments cite her lack of speedrunning, wishing she’d return to what she was known for, as justification for their words, but that’s obviously bullshit. It’s just a cover.“I probably could have handled things more elegantly to begin with,” she said, “but the amount of venom that can be seen online kinda gives me a feeling of despair at times.”But in the midst of this harassment, she’s doubled down on streaming every move, as she works to find a public identity for herself, albeit increasingly an online one, beyond speedrunning.“The more you put yourself out there the more fodder malicious people have to use against you, is one downside,” she told me, before citing concerns with copyright, storage space, and how so much of what now define her is based on the whims of large corporations.Streaming isn’t just a side gig for Wright—it’s the whole gig. Her work is supported by a few dozen backers on Patreon, but it’s not enough to feel stability. Sometimes, a big donation during a stream comes through, giving her some room to work with, but it’s not reliable. She made a little bit off cryptocurrency, but her current situation is a “shitty patchwork of income.”
“I'm not bothered by this suspension,” she said. “I'm just gonna move to YouTube for now. My income will be hurt by this but I feel like I'll manage or be okay maybe? Hopefully. I'm an optimist.”Earlier today, Wright streamed Breath of the Wild on YouTube for a few hours, testing a new setup. She hasn’t ruled out a return to Twitch, but for the moment, Wright remains banned.“I feel young,” she wrote on Twitter this afternoon. “And pretty. And powerful."Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you have a tip or a story idea, drop him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Have thoughts? Swing by Waypoints forums to share them!