How a Journalist Is Using Twitch Streams of Impossible Games to Counter Sexist Jerks

How a Journalist Is Using Twitch Streams of Impossible Games to Counter Sexist Jerks

Jessica Body isn’t your typical Twitch steamer. The Chicago resident spends half of her days working as a multimedia editor at the magazine Popular Science, where she’s spent years helping craft health and science coverage, including at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. When she’s not working as a journalist, she’s better known as JessCapricorn, a rapidly growing Twitch streamer on a journey through some of the industry’s most notoriously difficult, knuckle-clenching role-playing games like Elden Ring and Bloodborne.

Body spoke with Gizmodo about the challenges and rewards of simultaneously growing as both a streamer and a journalist. What started as a sporadic way to escape from the stresses of the pandemic era has matured and provided Body with something she says she’s craved for her entire life: a community of like-minded people who care about games with the same passion she does. Now, Body is trying to use her growing community to promote inclusivity and push back against the internet’s darker corners that have given gaming a bad name, including trolls that sometimes lurk in the comments sections of her streams.

“I’ve found my people,” said Body, who’s three years into her streaming career with just over 7,000 followers on Twitch. Continue reading below to hear more about Body’s introduction to the social network, how she deals with harassment, and the ways she’s worked to develop her community.

How a Journalist Is Using Twitch Streams of Impossible Games to Counter Sexist Jerks

How did you get started with streaming? Were you playing games before?

I watched Twitch for years before I ever started streaming. I always thought it would be cool, I just never knew how to get started because it seems crazy when you watch people who have thousands of viewers. I started watching a smaller streamer who only had around 30 to 40 viewers play Twilight Princess, and I was like, oh, I see now how this works at a smaller scale. I can totally try this.

Growing up I mostly played Nintendo games. I also played a lot of World of Warcraft when I was in middle and high school. I just never found my community, especially being a woman. I never had female friends that game as much as I did or were as into it as me. I just never really found my people. A big reason why I started streaming was to build community. That’s still my goal. Now that I’ve found my people, this is the best thing I’ve ever done. This is what it’s like to enthuse about your hobbies with your friends!

What was it like in the early days trying to get started?

I actually was on the game show Cash Cab in 2019 and we won like $US800 ($1,111). I built the PC I stream on using my Cash Cab winnings. The episode is still out there somewhere, it was wild. I started streaming right before the pandemic in 2020 and right before the graphics card shortage, so I was very lucky. I played Bloodborne in the fall of 2020 which is what got me into the Souls games. Now I haven’t looked back, and those are my favourite games ever.

What were the early days like when you were trying to grow your audience while working full-time in traditional media?

The beginning was super sporadic. I didn’t really know that many people on Twitch so I didn’t have a well-established community right off the bat. I would stream after coming home from work or on days that we were working from home. I got more serious about scheduling probably right after I left New York during the pandemic times and was staying with my parents. Several of us at Popular Science were furloughed, so my hours were adjusted. That actually helped me because I knew I had some days to stream. I was literally streaming from my parent’s basement like a troll.

Definitely, all of the pandemic uncertainty and the furloughed period was when I really started to go in and commit that this was how I was going to spend my time. It helped occupy my mind.

Did you notice an uptick in people watching streamers during the pandemic as well? It seems like it was good timing for you.

At first, a lot of channels that I followed on Twitch were like, we’re not going to talk about the pandemic here. They wanted a space away from that where they didn’t have to worry about it. But then it became so real that people had to talk about it. I think I timed it in such a way that I didn’t really fully understand what Twitch was like before the pandemic. It hit right as I was taking up speed and that probably gave me a boost in the beginning for sure.

How has your channel evolved since then?

It’s crazy, I never would have thought I would do what I’m doing now, streaming three of four nights a week, because it is so time-consuming. I always knew that I wanted to stream games specifically though because I’ve always loved them. I played Pokemon Blue when I was a kid and had a GameBoy Colour and all of that. I’ve never not gamed. So I always knew that I wanted to build a community around that.

I also never would have predicted all the charity streams I’ve been a part of. Me and some friends have raised a ton of money for trans empowerment projects and abortion funds. I feel so lucky that we’re able to raise money for causes we care about.

What do you think of the type of audience you’ve attracted? Are you happy with the community that watches your stream? Do you have to deal with harassment?

I’ve definitely found a community that I’ve wanted to create, which is wild. I’ve been doing it for like three years, but it’s still wild to me. There are still always toxic people and scary people. There are people who have stalked me on Instagram and tried to bring up personal details. I have basically zero tolerance for that stuff. They just get banned.

The classic misogyny stuff is also always going to be there. It’s especially rampant in games like Bloodborne, which is funny because that’s my favourite game. That’s what I’ve built so much of my community around. People will come in and say “Woman, turn off the game, not for you.” In the beginning, it got me down, but now it’s kind of funny. I’ve built a moderation team and community that shuts that down very quickly. We have rules and are very inclusive. I want everyone from every background to be able to play any game they want to play.

Are there some platforms that are worse in terms of sexism and toxic behaviour than others?

I also multistream on TikTok and that is 100X worse, probably because it’s mostly children. It’s so much worse. I don’t even look at the chat when I stream on TikTok, I just wait for people to come over to the Twitch chat. There are really no moderation tools on TikTok. There is an active corner of queer streamers on Twitch that are actively pushing back against misogynists.

How do you maintain your privacy or set boundaries while you are on stream? Is there anything you try to avoid talking about?

I mostly play it by ear. I would never say what neighbourhood I live in. I’m careful to not talk about a restaurant I went to or provide any other information where people could track me down. It’s a lot of location stuff.

On the personal end, I wouldn’t talk about the specifics of someone I’m dating because that opens up a whole can of worms. That’s really where I draw the line. I might be a little more candid than other streamers but I’m still pretty careful.

Do you ever worry about viewers developing parasocial relationships or getting too invested in a weird way?

I’ve definitely had people complain that I’m not giving them special treatment. I actually think people are pretty aware of it on Twitch, so much so that it’s turned into a meme like, “not to be parasocial, but…

I think it makes it a little better if you acknowledge it. I hang out with one of my mods in real life sometimes, and there is that weird hurdle to get over. We know that we only know each other through chat so there is the hurdle of starting to talk through DMs and then seeing someone in real life. People do get parasocial but I would say that it’s better than it was.

How did you choose your mods and figure out how to form the rules around your community?

I remember the first time I realised I needed a mod. I was playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and someone kept trying to tell me what to do. I told him there were rules against backseat gaming and then he said, “OK, mum.”

The people that I modded, in the beginning, were other streamers I knew who had opposite stream schedules. As I grew, I needed more mods so I made a Google Form for mod applications and I went through those and was able to pick around 12 or 15. The rules we enforce are pretty simple: no telling the streamer what to do and the obvious stuff like no racism, no misogyny, and no transphobia. No hatred.

How have you managed both the time commitment and mental separation of growing your streaming channel while still growing a career in media?

I was made an assistant editor for science at Popular Science right when the pandemic started and when I was streaming. It was really difficult covering science and health during the pandemic. It was a lot for me to watch the news all day and then cover it. I felt doomed all the time. In that sense, it was really good for me to stream because it was such an escape and a way for me to enthuse about games and make progress.

Bloodborne was such an important game for me to play pre-vaccine during the pandemic when all of us felt like we had no control over anything. Learning the game and progressing was one of the few things I could control. Through all of that trauma of being a news editor covering our science during the pandemic, I really needed streaming.

I’m tired a lot, and I don’t get enough sleep, but the streaming is so fulfilling and I would sacrifice so much in order to continue to do that. It’s not like I’m depleted at the end of the day. Streaming makes me tired, but it also fills up my cup a lot more.

Would you ever consider investing all of your time into streaming?

It depends. I think if I made streaming my main gig it would take a little bit of the sparkle away. I always want to stream more. I also know I won’t don’t necessarily have power over what my job will look like. Media is a fickle industry. I feel very lucky where I am right now. If I ever were to lose my job I feel lucky that I have this streaming community to fall back on.

How do you think about the overall environment when it comes to inclusivity for women now compared to when you were younger and couldn’t find a community? Is it better now?

I don’t know. The internet lets people find their evil little echo chambers. Just look at all the Gamergate stuff. But maybe they are a vocal minority. I would like to think that streamers like me that are trying to make inclusive positive communities are actively counteracting the scary people and the people that are misogynistic. I think we are offering people a safe haven from those other spaces online. So, I’d like to think it is better but I know there are also more bad actors out there so it’s tough to tell.