Jane M. Wagner’s inspiration for her directorial debut, Break the Game, arrived in true millennial fashion—by falling down an internet rabbithole. In 2015, a casual game of Diddy Kong Racing led to a YouTube search, where she eventually discovered Narcissa Wright, a well-known speedrunner who mastered the art of completing video games in record time.
Speedrunning takes digital competition to the next level. The goal is to beat a game as fast as possible, by finding glitches and exploiting loopholes that developers never intended for their audience.
“Speedrunning is so alluring because it’s a weird mixture of science, sports, and art. These dedicated gamers work together as a community to figure out how games are programmed so they can reverse engineer them and break them apart,” Wagner told Bushwick Daily. “Speedrunning has all the drama of watching a sport, while also being an interactive performance.”
While Wright was clearly celebrated in the speedrunning community, Wagner’s searches also revealed a harsh reality for the streaming superstar. Upon googling Wright’s deadname, the Bushwick-based filmmaker found a surge of hate-filled comments surrounding the gamer’s recent gender transition.
“Some of Narcissa’s haters like to claim that they only harassed her because she stopped speedrunning for a bit, but I’m going to call bullshit on that,” said Wagner. “The reason why they harassed her is because she came out as trans and their feeble attempts to justify their hate speech as constructive criticism is dangerous because it normalizes their behavior.”
Cyberbullying fueled a vicious, mental-health cycle for Wright, which had a deep effect on her well-being. But despite losing followers and encountering regular harassment, she was determined to make a comeback.
“After a year of lurking in Narcissa’s stream, I saw a video where she vowed to surpass everything she did in the past by making a comeback with Breath of the Wild,” said Wagner. “Ever since I discovered her stream I had thought about making a documentary but was too scared, but watching Narcissa leap into the unknown and throw herself into something gave me a new sense of courage and motivation. So, I DMed her on Twitter and our journey together began.”
Break the Game is two years in the making, with the documentary currently in post-production. As all independent filmmakers know, it takes a village (and sizable budget) to tell a story properly. Which is why the women are crowdsourcing their community, determined to complete this project in time to hit the festival circuit.
Wagner details her inspiration with this piece, “My goal as a director is to tell intimate films about visionaries and artists who society overlooks, people who break the mold or break boundaries in some way.”
While Wright’s journey may feel peripheral to those unfamiliar with speedrunning, her openness and vulnerability transcends the digital space.
At its core, this film shares a story of identity, and how it shapes our relationships. Not only does it give viewers a glimpse into speedrunning subculture, it takes a deeper look at the legendary gamer, Narcissa Wright. Her transition. Her career. And her journey of navigating the world—online and IRL.
Check out their Kickstarter to donate and learn more.
All images courtesy of Break The Game.
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