Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Video game aficionados will likely know your work under the streamer tag, KamikazeKitten. When did you first become interested in video games, and what led to your work as a streamer?
Isabelle Briar: I actually started playing games when I was just a toddler. I was two years old with an NES controller in my hand. My earliest memory is playing Mario Kart with my mother. For me and my family, gaming was how we came together. That included board games and video games alike. So, my interest in games has been lifelong. As for why I became a streamer, that’s a bit more complicated. I have a degenerative genetic disease, and five years ago I was determined unable to work anymore. I, a hearty workaholic, felt set adrift. I don’t idle well, and I was bored. Worse, the hours I was now gaming, my friends were in college or working, so I became very socially isolated. An online friend suggested I try streaming, which at the time I felt sounded “really f--king dumb” as I told him. But, after three months of doing nothing by myself, I was at my wits' end and willing to do anything to occupy my time. So, I signed up on Twitch, downloaded xSplit, and started streaming.
BD: For those who may be unfamiliar with video game streaming, how would you describe streaming and the process of working with Twitch?
IB: I would describe it as interactive television. It’s the simplest way to create an understanding for someone who doesn’t understand the world. I tell them to imagine watching a TV show, like a game show, but the contestants and host can hear and reply to you. As for working with Twitch, I don’t honestly talk about that much. We’re self employed, and Twitch is mostly a portal for our content; we create and they showcase.
BD: Streaming involves the creation of a community of sorts for both moderators and users. How do you strive to create a welcoming and safe space for users? Likewise, does this pose a challenge, or do you find that users are generally respectful of others?
IB: For me specifically, I have a very high “outsider” viewership. Over time, I realized that most of my crew were disabled, mentally ill, lonely, trans, queer, or somehow ostracized by society. As an admitted former bully, I originally battled trolls with trolling (fight fire with fire) but found that merely created an antagonistic atmosphere for everyone, including me. It started to wear us all down emotionally, and I finally created a zero tolerance policy and went about retraining myself and my community in how we handled toxicity. From then on, we no longer fought the trolls, we just ignored them. If ignoring them didn’t work, we simply threw them out. Suddenly, the chat and stream became this really energetic and positive place with good vibes. When I realized how things were changing, I decided to formalize the movement we’d started. I started a team for streams like mine, safe havens in a world of anonymous bullying. Places where racist jokes, ableism, and other invalidating behaviors and comments were silenced. The effect was tremendous. Suddenly, me and my mods consolidated like a barrier against the tide of toxicity, and we were winning. As we learned and grew, we got better and better at it. It got to the point where someone could come in, and immediately drop a racial slur, and be banned before any viewer could even see the comment. It was amazing, and it felt like a real victory.
It definitely poses its challenges. Trolls can be determined and relentless. They get clever, and work hard to get around our barriers. This just means we expand our measures, but it means I personally spend a lot of time trying to stop death threats, rape threats, and threats of all manner of violence from flooding my social media. It’s exhausting. But the results are beyond worth it. Hearing how my community helps people makes me keep fighting.
BD: How would you describe your experience within the gaming industry, and how do you foresee the industry changing in time, if at all?
IB: It’s been interesting, because in the five years I’ve been partnered with Twitch, I’ve watched the entire culture of gaming change. I’ve seen this shift in content creation effect game devs on every level. Games that aren’t stream friendly don’t sell as well, and game developers have obviously taken that to heart and thought about streaming not just in the design and presentation of a game, but it’s very mechanics. Games like Jackbox Party Pack 3 and Streamline are great examples of games that have embraced streaming culture and tried to make something better. And, it’s working. The interaction of streaming is the very appeal, and being able to include viewers in games easily without fuss and hard work is invaluable. The easier it is for the streamer, the better. I think we’ll keep seeing this shift happening, and I would bet money that game companies that refuse to participate will suffer for it. There’s definitely still a market for anti-social gaming, but it’s quickly sinking in number.
BD: In addition to your work in video games, you are also a voice-over actor. What can you share with us about your voice-over work, and do you feel that you have a “signature sound” or a vast range for a wide variety of voice types?
IB: I started doing voices as a kid. I was incredibly good at mimicking people’s voices - their intonation, inflection, accent, all of it. As I played games, I would simply emulate the voices I listened to. It quickly became a skill I was confident in, and while streaming a dev approached me about voicing his game. From there I worked on several projects, most of which were small and never came to fruition. It’s hard to focus on my voice work in the current living situation I have, since I work from home. I also made a decision to spend last year focused on my stream, and I did. This year, my goal is to get my setup for voice work ready, so I can start taking on projects again. I’m good at child voices, energetic voices, and computerized voices. My range is pretty good, I’d say, and my accents are fairly well practiced. I’m very good at emulating what I hear, so when I need to do an accent, I’ll just sit and listen to a native speaker on the internet for several hours 'till the specific changes in speech are in my head. I did the voice for Trixie in S2 Games’ MOBA, Strife, for example, despite having never done a southern accent previously.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are working that you would like to share with our readers?
IB: I have a few tepid projects I might work on, but I’m insistent on the quality of my work, so until I get my audio properly set up after my move, I am not working on anything.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about your work as KamikazeKitten or in voice-over?
IB: I’d say that if they’re looking for a community that is inclusive and supportive, we have that. There needs to be more of a stand against the bullying that is so rampant in these online communities, and be less accepting or passive in the tolerance of toxic people. By allowing these people a platform, we condone their behavior and perpetuate it. As for my voice work… keep an eye on some animes. You might hear a familiar sound.